IU Theater Department chairperson says bloom where you’re planted

Linda Pisano says hello to every person she passes as she walks around the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, chatting with the students about their lives and classes.

She’s a natural-born teacher who also happens to be the department’s chairperson.

“I’m a teacher in my heart, so any way that I can provide meaningful experiences and meaningful change is important to me,” Pisano said.

Pisano assumed the role of department chair July 1. Madison Colquette also arrived a month later as the new dramaturg, a revived and complex role in the department. The two are ushering in a new era of the IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance. This is Pisano’s 21st year of teaching, and her 17th year on IU's faculty. 

Pisano knows exactly when her love for art and performance began. She said she remembers being a 6-year-old, working in her parents' antique shop in northern Utah. On Saturday afternoons, her mother would tune the radio to the Texaco Radio Station, which broadcast the Metropolitan Opera in New York. With only audio, Pisano had to visualize it herself, designing operas while in first grade. 

Pisano began as a child actor, but found a love for design, particularly costumes. Costumes became her best way to completely inhabit a performance.

“I act vicariously through the costumes,” she said. “So, instead of just one role, I get to figure out the embodiment of every single character onstage.”

Linda Pisano, chairperson of the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance, goes through costumes Sept. 26 in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre, trying to guess who created which piece. The department is currently putting together multiple productions in the upcoming months. Claire Livingston Buy Photos

In high school, Pisano said she sported Doc Martins and a mohawk. The youngest of six, Pisano joked that her parents didn’t even know she was alive, let alone cared about her rebellious behavior. They just figured she was creative. 

Pisano has advice for all young students, and not just the ones in her department.

“I’ve been telling students the three things they should do, and they’re probably getting sick of hearing me say it, but here it is: You should be brave, you should bloom where you’re planted and you should be kind,” she said. 

Pisano recognizes the great shows IU has put on in the past, but thinks the department could be more diverse in the playwrights they choose to perform. She compared her driving goal as chairperson to that of a science lab — the productions and classes should complement and build off one another. 

“I think my driving goal is to bridge our production season more closely to what we do in academics, in the classroom,” Pisano said. “I’m trying to clearly define that relationship between what we’re studying formally and what we’re putting onstage.” 

Colquette was still in her first two months of being in Bloomington. Coming into an incredibly close-knit family as the outsider, Colquette feels both welcomed and excited in her new endeavor. 

“I feel very supported by my colleagues, and especially by Linda,” Colquette said. “I’ve been very impressed and grateful for the support she’s given me. I’m slowly piecing together what this position is and how all these different pieces fit together, and she’s been super patient as I acclimate to this new position and this city.”

Showing support is a personal goal of Pisano and her new department direction. 

“What do I want?” Pisano said. “I want to make people feel like they can do anything.” 

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