CLEMSON — Becky Becker plans to bring an increased emphasis on new and innovative artistic works to the Clemson University performing arts department.

Becker, the incoming chair of performing arts, arrives at Clemson with an extensive background not only in teaching and scholarship but also in developing new theatrical works.

“I’m a big supporter of new plays and musicals,” said Becker, most recently a professor of theater at Columbus State University in Georgia. “New works in the arts are incredibly important. They can create a high profile for an organization. More than that, it’s so important for us in the arts to continue to innovate so our disciplines move forward.”

Becky Becker

As the new chair of performing arts, Becky Becker oversees the leadership of the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts, shown here with its new curbside entrance. Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Diversity and inclusion also are top priorities for Becker.

“The more we can work to create an environment that is diverse and inclusive for students, staff and faculty, the richer we are,” Becker said. “It only makes our work better.”

Richard E. Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, said Becker’s wide-ranging experience will prove valuable for the department’s broad-based curriculum.

“As a noted scholar, teacher and stage director, Dr. Becker will be a dynamic leader for our innovative performing arts department,” Goodstein said. “In addition, her commitment to diversity, global engagement and promoting new artistic works will be a great asset to the College and Clemson University.”

Becker, as performing arts chair, will supervise not only the University’s music, dance, theater and audio technology programs and ensembles but also the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts.

“It’s an amazing arts venue,” she said. “I want to seek out more diverse and innovative programming at the center. I think that’s something Brooks Center directors are working on already.”

The process of connecting with a company to develop new works at the Brooks Center would be particularly valuable to students, Becker said.

“Experience with a new play, a new musical, a new symphony really helps students as they continue with their careers,” she said. “A lot of times when students leave programs in the arts, they are involved in developing new works.”

Becker has considerable experience in developing original material for the stage. Last fall, she directed the world premiere of a folk opera, “Eddie’s Stone Song,” in collaboration with other Columbus State University professors. Becker also is the regional chair for the new playwriting program affiliated with the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

Becker had served as a professor of theater at Columbus State since 2006. She was also coordinator of the International Studies Certificate and assistant director of the Center for Global Engagement.

Becker received her B.A. in English and B.S. in Communication Arts (Theatre) from Minot State University in North Dakota, her M.A. in Theatre Arts from the University of North Dakota, and her Ph.D. in Theatre from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

‘An excellent team’

Becker has been working with Dean Goodstein and outgoing performing arts chair David Hartmann to gear up for her first fall semester at Clemson.

“They’ve been very supportive,” Becker said. “I feel like I’m joining an excellent team. It’s exciting.”

Becker said she was attracted to the performing arts department for the variety it offers. At Clemson, undergraduates study one of three concentration areas in the performing arts – music, theater or audio technology – while learning about them all.

“I love the interdisciplinarity of the performing arts department,” Becker said. “It’s pretty rare to have a department that is music, theater and audio technology. It’s an excellent way to prepare students for real-world work situations because they leave with a lot of skills.

“Beyond that, Clemson has an excellent reputation, so that really drew me.”

Students from all disciplines flock to the performing arts department’s 32 theater, music and dance ensembles. In fall 2017, more than 800 Clemson students from 30 majors – including bioengineering, economic and math education — took part in those eclectic groups.

A veteran stage director, Becker hopes to direct some productions at Clemson soon.

Becker also plans to teach at least one class every semester. This fall, she’ll lead a class in stage directing. “I love to keep the connection with students,” she said.

Global engagement

Becker, a longtime leader of study abroad programs, developed a summer internship program at Columbus State in which students from a variety of disciplines –  including arts, psychology and business – spent several weeks abroad.

Her interest fits in well with the emphasis on global engagement and cultural awareness within the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities at Clemson.

“An internship abroad will help students develop their cross-cultural communication skills more deeply,” she said. “It’s really helpful also for students to learn in an interdisciplinary setting. Each student brings a different perspective. A large part of becoming a culturally competent person is to learn from different perspectives.”

Becker’s published work may be found in Theatre Journal, Feminist Teacher, Theatre Symposium and other publications.

Becker and her husband, Mark Jarzewiak, moved from Columbus in early June to a new home between Clemson and Seneca. “I’m about 10 minutes from the Brooks Center,” Becker said.

Becker’s twin sons, Jaz and Ian, both live in Atlanta. But Becker and her husband brought two cats and two dogs with them to Clemson. “We are big dog lovers in particular,” Becker said, quickly adding with a laugh, “but obviously, we love our cats, too.”