NIU theatre department finds new chairperson

By Dashaun Hits

NIU will get a new chairperson in the theatre department this summer.

John Hancock Brooks Jr., an associate professor in costume design from Loyola University, will become chair of NIU’s theatre department July 1.

Brooks will replace former chair Al Tucci, who left NIU last year for a post at University of Arizona at Tuscan. Patricia Ridge has been serving as acting chair of the department since Tucci’s departure.

“I accepted the position at NIU because the department is in a point poised for positive growth and opportunity,” Brooks said.

However, Brooks said he will miss being director at Loyola because he has been there for 16 years.

The new chair has a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virg. and has a master’s degree in fine arts in design from Pennsylvania State University. He has also studied at DePaul University’s Goodman School of Drama and the American Academy of Art in Chicago.

During Brooks’ 16 years at Loyola he has cast and designed over 40 productions including “Barried with a Child,” “Master Harold and The Boys,” “Man and Superman,” “Gypsy,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Cabaret,” “Crimes of the Heart” and “Our Town”.

Brooks said his first year will be a learning process. The next step will be discussing with faculty and students what is needed in the program.

Besides Brooks’ experience at Loyola he has also been active in professional groups. He served as university division chair for the Illinois Theatre Association from 1984-1985 and is now treasurer of the organization. He is currently a central trustee of Local 829 for the United Scenic Artists and has also served as an officer in two locals.

Brooks said art should be an art form that challenges and stimulates the audience and at times provokes discussion and controversy.

“I love what I do and I’m looking forward to making theatre a vital part of NIU,” he added.