Yuba College’s Theater Department welcomes a new addition to their faculty: James Gilbreath. Gilbreath started teaching at Yuba College in the Summer of 2015, so far completing the production of “Almost Maine” in the fall of 2015 and en route to completing his latest production, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
Gilbreath has been heavily involved with theatrical arts for many years and continues to be an active member of the arts, contributing to the Yuba College Theater Department. Before this time lies decades of experience and effort to become a teacher that makes a difference for the young actors in the Theater Department.
In high school, Gilbreath was already working on his career to becoming involved with the theater arts. He and other selected students were chosen to work on plays, such as “The Invisible Man.” He found that this was an enjoyable activity and his interest in theater grew.
After he graduated high school, Gilbreath continued on to youth theater. Soon after he shifted to improvisation, which is a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is being performed. He worked for a company that traveled to different schools that also practiced improv. Gilbreath also had the chance to teach others how to improv as well.
Gilbreath then moved to the United Kingdom where he found many opportunities for improv due to the popularity that form of theater was reaching. In the UK, Gilbreath did many shows involving improv and he began working for other companies that created plays from improv.
Gilbreath worked as an improvisor at schools which benefited him because there is a large theater and education culture that he enjoyed being a part of.
“One day I got tired of waiting by the phone for people to pick me [for shows]. So I got more into the idea of doing shows myself. I created a company and became a director,” he explained.
Thus Empire Studio was created. In East London, the Empire Studio’s venue would be found as a rather basic theater with a small space just above a pub. Gilbreath found promise in this space and created his own theater out of that, directing and producing shows of his own.
Throughout his journey, Gilbreath never lost interest in theater education and curriculum. He always enjoyed the aspect of creating new work and having an actor-led company, so he decided to shift gears.
Gilbreath went back to university and got a degree at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, which was one of the premier training schools in the UK for stage acting, directors, and technicians. At this time, Gilbreath found more exposure to theater arts, and soon after obtained his bachelors and masters degrees.
After university, Gilbreath found even more to learn under the teachings of Philippe Gaulier, a French master clown, pedagogue, and professor of theater. Gilbreath began the practice of clowning and worked with Gaulier, who taught him to find the spirit of the play in the actor.
With that spark of interest in education and curriculum still within him, Gilbreath landed here at Yuba College to share his teachings with our students. He shares his experience at Yuba College: “I love it here! I think the students come to learn and are open-minded with the will to try new things. I think that the actors are very playful,” he explains. “The best thing actors bring are themselves. One of the big things here is that actors are supposed to be diversified in the characters that they bring, but if you work with these actors their qualities are the same and they show their quality that is sellable to them and are the most successful.”
As a new member of the Yuba College faculty and Theater Department, Gilbreath’s aspirations to bring difference to our school are undoubtedly strong and persistent. He shares, “I want more students to be involved in theater program and that takes a while to build it up. I hope to let that grow so that we can have different strands and different levels of acting happening at the same time so that when they leave here they are prepared to transfer and have the foundation skills necessary to do that.”
Through his experience and studies, Gilbreath established his primary method of teaching which involves individuality, character, and a variety of angles for his students to learn in hopes that from his teachings, they can move onto bigger and better things with a confident stride.
Because Gilbreath was taught in two distinct approaches in his years of study, he applies both approaches to his own curriculum to provide a balance of psychological and physical aspects to increase student potential to be ready for future projects in theater.
What Gilbreath is bringing to Yuba College is clearly assuring to students and actors so that they are capable of achieving greatness on and off the stage. With the teachings of Gilbreath, the Yuba College Theater Department can thrive in a new light.
Note: This article was featured in the Spring 2016 edition of The Prospector.