“My personal philosophy is the audience is the most important thing in theater, otherwise you can just watch a movie or read a book,” said Thomas Miller ‘20.
Miller, a double major in Theater and Art History, did not know that he would find his passion in directing when he first came to Muhlenberg. First performing his freshman year of high school, Miller soon found at Muhlenberg that rather than acting, directing was his calling.
“I don’t like talking on stage. I realized that this is a big thing for me. I can be present and move and be a clown or whatever. I can juggle, but that doesn’t require require talking. I can do Rocky because you have to lip sync. You don’t have to speak,” said Miller.
Miller’s directing style is to particularly bring out the weird within his productions. He believes that theater should not appear natural, as it is not natural. He likes to put an emphasis on presentational meaning that acting is not as natural as it is on a stage.
“My philosophy is how do you make a striking image and make the audience feel that little weird butterfly in their stomachs,” said Miller.
As a Muhlenberg student, Miller has taken two directing classes, directed two Red Door plays, assistant directed a studio production called Wasp as well as a Main stage production of My Fair Lady.
“Directing most of the time sucks, but gives a feeling of fulfillment,” said Miller.
Even though Miller does not like speaking on stage, he has found other ways to perform without necessary speaking; he has participated in many of the semesterly performances of Rocky Horror Picture Show and is a member of the Muhlenberg Circus as a juggler.
The first time he auditioned for the circus, Miller did not get a spot on the team, however, he noticed that during his freshman year there were seniors who were jugglers, and that he had a chance to get into the circus as a juggler, after they graduated. He spent half a year learning how to juggle and would practice for five hours each day—eventually Miller became a member of the circus in the Fall of his sophomore year.
“I like to say that it [learning how to juggle] is the first and only New Year’s resolution that I’ve actually stuck to,” said Miller.
Now, Miller teaches a juggling workshop every Wednesday.
The greatest challenge he has as a director and teacher is figuring out how to work with people in an effective manner and with budgeting time.
“I think the biggest challenge is figuring out how to work with people, but through that I have become a better collaborator and educator,” said Miller.
Besides being a Theater major, Thomas is also an Art History major. When he was a senior in high school he took AP Art History and he “accidentally” discovered that he was good at the subject as he earned a five on the exam. Since earning a five transfers to a college credit, Miller originally planned on minoring in history. However, after his sophomore year he realized he completed the minor, so he decided to declare it as a major and after the current semester, he will only need two more credits for him to be finished with his Art History major.
His two majors connect as it is important to have a background in history while directing.
“It is a lot of historical context. If you said France in the 1920s, I would have a general idea what kind of setting or style context that could be whether it is cubism or surrealism,” said Miller.
“That translates into theater,” Miller continued, “being that you have evocative styles or stylizations of art and you can draw on the general history of what is happening in this world at this time and how did people express themselves.”
In arts as a whole, Miller is most proud of his work in the circus as an educator.
“The people who show up to the juggling workshops seem to have a great time. I like explaining things and correcting and helping with their technique. They seem really proud with their accomplishments,” said Miller.
At this time, Miller is not yet sure if he wants to pursue a career in directing or go into the museum route with arts education. In terms of art, he believes that you should make something for your own fulfillment.
“If it doesn’t spark why,” Miller asked, “why are you doing it?”