MCLA

Curtain Call

Director Bonnie Bishoff announces retirement


10/21/2009

It's a theme pulled right out of today's headlines. The Fine and Performing Arts Department's fall production, Two on an Island, deals with two young people trying to establish careers in the midst of difficult economic times. Running now through Saturday, October 24, this Elmer Rice play showcases a cast of 25 MCLA students.

"It is exactly what young people are experiencing right now, trying to get into the right jobs, against all odds," explains Bonnie Bishoff, the production's director. "I almost set it 'tomorrow,' but decided to stay with the 1930s so it reflected the cycles of economic hassles."

But this year's play is even more significant to Bishoff: It signals the end of a long and successful career with MCLA.

"I have spent the better and best part of my life here," Bishoff says.

She and her husband, Bob Bishoff, a professor in the English/Communications Department, moved to North Adams in 1978 when Bob began teaching at the College.

Bonnie directed a show on campus in 1979 and was added as an adjunct instructor soon after. She ultimately was hired as a full-time instructor in 1985.

Over her three decades with the College, Bishoff touched the lives of many.

 "There are no words for the myriad experiences and deep friendships with students that I have been blessed with," she says. "I am still in touch with so many of them, even from the early '80s. Many have gone on to do breathtaking work in the theatre."

Others work in television and film.

"We have people working on Broadway, on national tours, lots on TV in commercials, music videos and guest starring on such shows as Law and Order," Bishoff says. "A large number of them are in New York City, acting in various theatres. Some are working in film as actors.  Several are modeling. Many are doing professional regional theatre around the country."

Bishoff says the opportunity to do what she loves for the past three decades has been "an incredible blessing."

"So many heartbreakingly talented people don't ever get a chance like this," she says. "I have spent enough hours doing this job to represent a normal lifetime. There have been a lot of sacrifices, working day and night, but it met a driving need that I have always had to create."

Bishoff says she will miss her interactions with the students, mentoring them, and watching them develop, as well as directing the plays they are in.

"I work all summer on the fall show before the semester ever begins. Not having a show developing in my mind is going to be like having a big empty hole in my brain and heart," she says.

Two on an Island, the story of two young theatre hopefuls trying to make it in New York City during the Great Depression, begins at 8 p.m. in the Venable Theatre. Tickets are $2 and may be reserved by calling (413) 662-5123.