Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film Director Paul Steger announced Oct. 5 that he would end his tenure as director on June 30, 2016, and return to the faculty in fall 2016.
“I have been honored to serve in this capacity for so many reasons,” Steger said. “But mostly because of a talented and passionate group of faculty, staff, students and colleagues across the college who have challenged and supported efforts to make the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film a premiere training program.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be an integral part of our efforts to advance our programs and our reputation for innovative ideas, projects and engagement, but also feel it is the right time for me to step down and look forward to being a part of the future of the Johnny Carson School, albeit in a different capacity.”
Charles O’Connor, dean of the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing arts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will name an interim director and a national search for a new director will begin soon. O’Connor said he also plans to hire an artistic director to guide the development of the new Nebraska Repertory Theatre, which re-launches next fall.
“The Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film is in a better place because of Paul’s leadership,” O’Connor said. “He has taken it to a whole new level since he took over as director of the school in 2005. Under his leadership, the school hired excellent faculty and continues to grow as one of the top training programs for actors, directors, designers and filmmakers in the region. I’m sure the faculty, staff, students and alumni of the Carson School will join me in thanking Paul for his outstanding leadership over the last decade.”
Under Steger’s direction, the school’s degree programs were re-accredited through the National Association of Schools of Theatre; the Temple Building was renovated to create the Studio Theatre, new scene shop and a renovated lobby area; the innovative Carson Film Series and Carson Lecture Series were launched; an aggressive guest artist program brought Hollywood professionals, such as Academy Award-winning Editor Mike Hill and Director Donald Petrie, to Lincoln to work with students; and the $2.25 million endowment for the Carson Opportunity Scholarships was established, thanks to additional donations from the John W. Carson Foundation through the NU Foundation.
“Paul is an excellent teacher and consummate professional,” O’Connor said. “We could not have asked for anyone better to lead the Carson School. We are fortunate to have him stay on with us.”
Virginia Smith, professor of theatre, said Steger was “in the yoke” with faculty, having previously taught at UNL years before becoming chair in 2005.
“He was a fantastic ‘comrade leader’—a leader we could talk to and who helped us to develop our ideas about how the School should change,” she said. “We are happy for his desire to go back to the classroom, and we are happy he will still be beside us helping us to evolve all of our dreams for the School.”
Steger received his master’s degree in directing from Western Illinois University and his bachelor of arts from Saint Louis University. He taught at UNL from 1990-1998. He also taught at the University of Oklahoma, Webster University’s Conservatory, the North Carolina School of the Arts and Florida State University before returning to UNL.
He is a member of Actor’s Equity and the Screen Actor’s Guild and has extensive film, television and theater credits in the Los Angeles area. He has directed more than 40 productions for the educational and professional theater, including River Stage, Nebraska Theatre Caravan, Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival, and the St. Louis and Nebraska Repertory Theatres. He is a Certified Teacher of Stage Combat and a member of the National Theatre Conference.
“I look forward to teaching acting next fall and to direct again,” Steger said. “While being in administration has been gratifying, I have missed being able to pursue my professional projects and am eager to return to the classroom.”