Jim Cermak started his career at Concordia as the technical director of theatre in 1972. He was in charge of designing and constructing the main stage productions for the theatre as well as supervising the construction shop and overseeing costuming and lighting. With the growth of the program, three staff positions handle those functions today.
Cermak soon began directing shows on the main stage and supervising a large crew of students who managed the box office, promotions and the physical maintenance of the theatre space. Under his guidance as managing director, the program expanded to include four main stage shows, student-directed one act plays, directing scenes and recognition as a premiere example of educational theatre in our region.
Cermak’s services were also utilized for various Homecoming shows, Orientation welcome productions, several Concordia Christmas Concerts, and he developed May Seminar and Exploration courses for students interested in theatre.
During the summer, Cermak directs the Gooseberry Park Players, a program founded in 1983 that gives youth the opportunity to experience the theatre. Many of those involved in Gooseberry have become students at Concordia.
As Concordia’s technical director, designer and director, Cermak was responsible for 136 productions that involved 5,200 student actors and technicians. Concordia audience members numbered 183,744 and 60,800 people have seen Gooseberry productions. “Those are remarkable numbers, but Jim would quickly tell you that the numbers aren’t really that important, the individual students are,” says Hank Tkachuk, professor of communication studies and theatre art, who arrived on campus in 1972 along with Cermak.
For most of his time at Concordia, Cermak collaborated on productions with his wife, Helen, who died shortly after retiring in 2009. They met in graduate school at what was then Southwest Missouri State University, spent some of their early life together touring in USO shows and were married in 1969.
Cermak’s last theatre season at the college featured some of his favorite productions and concluded with his direction of “Camino Real” by Tennessee Williams. The college hosted a gala celebration of Cermak’s 40 years as director of the theatre coinciding with the final performances April 14.
Cermak will make his home in Butternut, Wis., but plans to stay involved with Gooseberry for a while and has received many offers from colleagues and former students to visit and share his knowledge.