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Robert R. Scales, a technical production director whose professional and academic
involvement with theater in the United States and Canada spans more than 35
years, has been named dean of the School of Theatre.

“We are delighted Dr. Scales is here,” said then-provost William G. Spitzer when
Scales’ appointment was announced in July. “He has a good sense of quality and a
good sense of what is required to build a strong School of Theatre. We are all
enthusiastic about the fact that he has come, and we are looking forward for
great things to happen.”

Scales shares that enthusiasm.

“I think that every person alive has a bit of theater in them,” said Scales.
“Theater gives a person an opportunity to use their imagination, to use an
intellectual part.” Scales likened theater to athletics in the sense that one can
participate by either performing or watching, and he said the study of theater
opens many avenues, from acting itself to skills that carry over to other

Prior to coming to USC, Scales was theater consultant, vice president and
technical director for Theatre Projects Consultants Inc., a British-based firm
that oversees the planning of new performance facilities. He joined the company
in 1989.

From 1978 to 1987, he was technical production director at the Seattle Repertory
Theatre. In 1987, the theater’s scene shop was named the Robert Scales Stage Shop
in his honor.

Scales is no stranger to Southern California. In 1986 he was named theater
consultant and technical director for the McCallum Theatre at the Bob Hope
Cultural Center in Palm Desert, and he has been a consultant for the Ahmanson
Theatre Reconfiguration Study and for the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

As the new dean, Scales is preparing a mission statement that will define the
school and spell out its goals. Scales indicated that he intends to be a hands-on
dean, and changes are coming. One small but important change, he said, will be
improved communication among faculty. For starters, Scales would like to see all
faculty linked by computer.

Though Scales wants to see the school “run as nearly to the professional model of
a theater as possible,” he said it shouldn’t be afraid to make innovations and

“I’m interested in using theater to learn things, not just doing theater by
itself,” Scales said. “I would like to see the students who graduate from here
not be intimidated or bashful about working anywhere in the world.” Scales will
share his expertise with students this fall when he teaches an advanced lighting

Another innovation Scales has in mind is using space at the downtown Embassy
Residential College to supplement the theater program’s space.

“There are potentially some very exciting spaces [at the Embassy],” he said.
“There are at least three theaters and two rehearsal spaces and rooms that could
be studios for acting classes.”

Scales said he is excited about the fall season’s line-up of issue-oriented
plays. On the bill are William Saroyan’s Cave Dwellers, which deals with
homelessness, and Bertolt Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle. The Brecht play,
Scales said, speaks to the question of “whose land is it after a war? and whose
child is it if someone neglects or gives up a child?” two timely subjects that
have made recent headlines.

Throughout his career, Scales has served on the faculties at various
universities, including Yale, the University of Washington, the University of
Missouri at Kansas City, Hardin-Simmon and the University of Minnesota.

“The university setting is a wonderful place for theater to flourish, grow and
contribute,” Scales said. An effective theater- training program, he said, ties
together the roles of playwright, producer, director, designer, performers,
technicians, craftspersons, audience and critic. But, he added, it should also
“draw from and contribute to campus life, the city, industry, entertainment and
the many other campus schools and departments, such as cinema-television,
anthropology, engineering, architecture, literature, dance, music, fine arts,
history, sociology and psychology.”

As a way to make theater productions more attractive to members of the campus
community, Scales said the new season will experiment with earlier times for
productions. “We’re going to shorten the gap between [campus daytime hours] and
show time,” he said. Curtain time for some plays will be 6 or 7 p.m.

Another change, said Scales, will be Monday evening performances, when theaters
are traditionally dark. This will give colleagues in the theater world the
opportunity to attend USC productions.

Scales grew up in rural Oklahoma. “My theater experience came out of being in
church and dramatizing poetry,” said Scales, whose father was a minister. His
first role was Frosty the Snowman.

But while he did some acting during his college years, he was more interested in

His academic career began in 1958 as a high school drama teacher in Pueblo, Colo.

“I still know some of the kids from years ago,” Scales said. “One became an
entrepreneur. Theater was very useful in helping him get his product out and
making connections. He was doing a show.”

In the early ’60s, Scales was an assistant professor of theater at Hardin-Simmon
University in Abilene, Texas. He joined the faculty of the University of
Minnesota in 1965, where he was an instructor until 1970. Concurrently, Scales
worked at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis as a technical production
director/lighting designer.

In 1970, Scales joined the Annenberg Center of Performing Art at the University
of Pennsylvania as a technical production director. The following year, he was
named technical production director of Canada’s Stratford Festival Theatre.
During summers from 1977 to 1980, Scales served on the faculty of the Banff
School of Fine Arts as a production manager and instructor.

He is a member of the American Society of Theatre Consultants, the American
Society of Theatre Research and the Illuminating Engineering Society. He is a
United Scenic Artists Lighting Associate and a member of the Society of Motion
Picture and Television Engineers and the U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology.

Scales has worked as a special production coordinator and as a consultant with
numerous theater companies, including Cleveland’s Ohio Theatre, the Steppenwolf
Theatre in Chicago, the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and the
San Jose Repertory Theatre. He also has served as an independent lighting
designer for theaters in the United States and Canada.

In 1973, Scales toured Denmark, Holland, Poland and the Soviet Union as technical
director for Stratford Festival Theatre’s productions of King Lear and The Taming
of the Shrew.

He is the author of numerous journal articles, including “Sound in Regional
Theatre,” in Theatre Craft; “Technology’s Role in Theatre” in the Canadian
Theatre Review; and “The Balcony Scene at the Other Stratford” in Sightlines.
From 1979 to 1992, he was a contributing editor to Theatre Crafts International.

Scales earned his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in 1958, his
master’s degree in theater from UCLA in 1961 and his Ph.D. in theater from the
University of Minnesota in 1969.

In his spare time, Scales attends the theater and enjoys opera and concerts. He
also likes playing team sports, such as volleyball.

That team-sport concept is one he’d like to apply to the theater experience, by
exploring partnerships with colleagues at UCLA and other nearby universities and
sharing facilities or classes at a time when all institutions suffer from
shrinking budgets.

“Everyone around is doing their own thing,” Scales said. “I’d like to see if
there are a few places where we can enrich each other.” At the same time, he
said, “I’m interested in our program being unique. Hopefully we can stay one step
ahead, experiment and explore.”


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