By: Alex Spindler
Professor Stephen Skiles of the newly-developed Xavier Department of Music and Theatre is not new to the Cincinnati theater scene. In fact, he was a founding member of the distinguished Cincinnati Shakespeare Company back in 1994.
Now, 20 years later, Skiles returns to the troupe in its most recent production of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” as Mr. Brownlow.
Xavier Newswire (XN): As an actor and professor, how has this production of “Oliver Twist” been for you?
Stephen Skiles (SS): Coming back to the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company required a significant adjustment period.
Almost 20 years ago, we were just a rag-tag group of 22-yearolds who were excited to do theater.
Returning to ‘Oliver’ meant being an outsider coming into an established company’s routines. Still, it has been an incredibly rewarding experience as an actor.
XN: What have you done to incorporate your experiences as an actor in “Oliver Twist” into your role as a professor of theatre at Xavier?
SS: In my 10-12 years as a high school and college educator, I have never stopped working in professional jobs.
I feel like it is important to remind myself of the experience that’s necessary to make it as an actor.
Also, I enjoy making contacts and bringing in professionals as assets and contacts for the students.
Simultaneously, I stretch and update my skills as an actor in the process.
XN: What advancements are the Theatre Department making towards establishing a strong foundation in the Cincinnati arts community?
SS: When I first started teaching at Xavier in 2002, I saw the potential for a Theatre major supported by the theater scene in Cincinnati.
In doing “Oliver” and spearheading the collaboration with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company for our co-production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” I am beginning to see the department flourish.
Our main goal is to bridge the gap between the educational and professional aspects of a theater program, and I feel like we are accomplishing just that.
XN: If you could say only one thing to the student body of Xavier to persuade them to see “Oliver Twist” these next two weekends, what would it be?
SS: Aside from the cool images and great performances, “Oliver” has something more.
In the play, the characters look beyond themselves to help a lonely orphan find happiness. Xavier talks a lot about mission and service for and with others.
In that way, the student body at this university can truly relate to the hero’s struggles and can find a deeper meaning in the motivations of Dickens’ words.
It is a faithful play with a strong moral undertone.
If you’re interested in seeing Skiles perform in “Oliver Twist,” ticket information for the show can be found at http://www.cincyshakes. com