When a job teaching theater became available at ETSU in 1999, Melissa Shafer knew it would be the perfect fit for her.
Shafer taught at several schools before settling down at ETSU, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Rollins College and Loyola University New Orleans.
“About ten years prior to coming here I went camping in the smokies and said to myself if a job ever came open in east Tennessee I would go for it because I thought, and I still think this is one of the most beautiful regions in the country,” Shafer said.
She first became interested in theater in high school. She took art in high school and had intended to take art throughout college, but changed her mind when her art teacher approached her and asked her to help design the set for the drama department’s performance. Shafer said the social aspects of drama are what drew her in.
“Theater really is a collaborative art,” she said. “You’re working with a group of other people like other designers, directors, actors, technicians and craftspeople to create something, and it really is kind of a neat social group endeavor. I tell students all the time that theater is a team sport.”
Shafer is a professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance here at ETSU and serves as the department’s lighting designer. As the lighting designer, Shafer is responsible for helping focus and adjust the lighting for the different productions put on by the Department of Theatre and Dance. Shafer also does freelance work and has done many shows throughout her career.
“I’ve probably done well over 300 shows,” she said. “For the bulk of my career I was averaging 10 to 12 shows a year.”
Currently, Shafer is working on a freelance project to update and enhance the lighting at the Gray Fossil Site and Hands On! museum.
While Shafer serves as the lighting designer for the Department of Theatre and Dance, she has recently began directing plays at ETSU. She is currently directing the department’s production of “Middletown,” and while the position is new to her, Shafer says she enjoys directing and hopes to continue to do it in the future.
“The director role is kind of new, but it’s putting together that 34 years of 300 plus productions and kind of stretching me in new ways,” she said.