In 1979, Mark Cole ’73 debuted as an instructor in Oswego’s department of speech and theatre. He agreed to a one-year commitment. Thirty-five years later, the curtain falls on his final exit from a remarkable performance. He says he doesn’t know exactly how retirement will play, but he will continue to write and perform.
Teaching and acting come naturally to Cole, whose family is replete with musicians and educators. He earned an M.F.A. in performance at New York University in 1978, finding it “tremendously energizing” to study in the heart of American theatre.
Cole brought that energy to Central New York, where, in addition to his Oswego contributions, he has enriched the arts as a playwright, actor and director. He played Fool in Syracuse Shakespeare Festival’s February production of King Lear, Rev Sholdeur in the 2013 independent film Impossible Choice, and many other critically acclaimed roles. His Poe/Play, a biographical piece, has been produced at high schools, festivals and professional venues in New York City and London.
Oswego alumni remember participating in or attending productions of Twelfth Night, Antigone, Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure and other Mark Cole-directed hits. Integrating his interest in local history, writing and performing, he created The Glass Coffin: a Ghost Story, On the Terrace of the Pontiac Hotel, and Speaking of Sheldon, for the 2011 sesquicentennial of SUNY Oswego, when Robin Curtis ’78 joined the Chamber Readers to bring to life the words of founder Edward Austin Sheldon.
Cole, who served as chair from 1995 to 2009, developed and updated theatre department courses and upheld the practice of participatory learning. He worked collaboratively to produce an annual Renaissance Madrigal Banquet, a dramatic portrayal of campus life for incoming freshmen and the summer theatre institute.
Assessing his career, Cole says he’s glad the one-year commitment stretched to a satisfying 35 years of helping students learn and love theatre by taking chances and embracing process.
“For me, a course, a production, a workshop is never about what I’m going to teach,” Cole says. “It’s about what I’m going to learn.”
—Linda Loomis ’90 M’97
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