The resistible rise: Ed EmanuEl

Brianna Campbell / The Collegian Online

A professor, playwright, director, Pulitzer Prize nominee, winner of various awards and honors: the resume of California State University, Fresno’s Dr. Edward EmanuEl stretches endlessly. Yet, this semester
will feature his final effort on a faculty that he has served for decades.

EmanuEl will partially retire at the end of this semester with a bang. He directs his final production in the John Wright Theatre, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui: The Gangster Play,” a clash of 1930s, fedora wearing gangsters brandishing wood cut-out guns and dancing, stiletto-clad chorus girls.

EmanuEl arrived at Fresno State in the fall of 1969. His 40-year-long career spans 80 academic semesters, not counting summer sessions. A typical four-year student would spend only eight semesters at Fresno State.
EmanuEl’s achievements are vast. This year alone, he received Fresno State’s Provost Award for Teaching Excellence and Creative Activity. He has been awarded international honors for his playwriting and has guest directed in countries across the globe.

A spotlight summary on the theatre arts Web site estimates that EmanuEl impacted some 22,000 students through the acting and directing, dramatic literature, theatre history, screenwriting and drama appreciation courses he taught — the equivalent of the total number of students currently attending Fresno State.

Despite retiring as the director, EmanuEl will continue to be a professor on campus, Ashley Nathanson-Rossette, theatre arts major as well as assistant costume director for “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” said. “He will be missed,” Nathanson-Rossette who took dramatic literature with EmanuEl said. “He’s a fascinating guy and a fun teacher,” she explained.

EmanuEl’s “fascinating” and “fun” characteristics can be seen on opening night, Dec. 4, through his interpretation of the play, written by Bertolt Brecht.

With sleeves rolled, EmanuEl gathered his student cast, asking, “The essence of a show is?” To which they responded emphatically in unison, “Communication!”

The actors’ costumes and props, consisting of wooden guns, red silk scarves representing blood, fedoras, gloves, etc served as secondary methods of attention getting, EmanuEl explained to the cast. The primary way to engage the audience, he continued, ought to be by communicating the story through their expressions.

“He likes taking risks,” Terry Miller, fellow long-time theatre faculty said of his colleague. “He’s fearless in taking on big, complicated projects.” Confirming that statement, EmanuEl’s cast is comprised of more than 20 students, all onstage throughout the duration of the play.

“I love this cast and the production,” EmanuEl explained. “Whether anybody else will or not remains to be seen.”

In regards to the final show being his favorite, EmanuEl said in all honestly, “Every show I direct is my favorite.”

“He’ll do some teaching in retirement, so general education students will still enjoy the expertise, humor and enormous energy that have made his Drama 62 class a favorite,” Miller said. “Those qualities will be missed by our majors, though.” Miller feels that EmanuEl’s impact on the theatre department both as a director and as an instructor will not quickly be forgotten. “Literally and figuratively, he will leave big shoes to fill,” Miller said.

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