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Sandra Pastuzka/The News Herald/July 1988

Dr. George Popovich’s innovative use of theatrical expressionism earned his group of Henry Ford Community College acting students a performance berth at the American College Theatre Festival in Indiana. Henry Ford’s production of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, which tells of life in an insane asylum, was one of 11 selected to be presented at the annual event, which honors college theatre work.

A Festival judge critiqued a November performance of the drama and recommended that the community college group be invited to participate. The judge praised the direction, concept, special effects, and actors in the performance. The Henry Ford group was invited to perform a section from the play for the American College Theatre Festival’s “An Evening of Scenes.

“Instead of presenting the story in a realistic sense, as it was presented in the movie, Popovich chose to follow more closely the format of the book, which tells of asylum life through the eyes of Indian Chief Bromden.”I choose to go back (to the book), add to the script, and punch up the chief’s hallucinogenic sequences,” Popovich said.

He accomplished that through innovative staging techniques, including lighting effects, laser beams and stylized ballet movements that helped bring the hallucinations to life, he explained. The sets, including a nurse’s station designed to look like a prison-control tower, further illustrate the chief’s thoughts. The student actors were intrigued with the psychedelic qualities of the special effects,” Popovich said. “It seemed to excite them and inspire them,” he said

By incorporating expressionistic theatre into the schedule of shows HFCC actors do, Popovich hopes to expose his students to as many different approaches to theatre as possible.

“They found the whole experience rather refreshing,” he added. “Most are not familiar with any theatrical style except realism.”

Other theatrical styles Popovich has used at Henry Ford are farce and melodrama, and he hopes to do some experimental theatre in the fall, he said. In addition to directing shows, Popovich teaches technical theatre, history of theatre, makeup, beginning and advanced acting , and theatre production.

A playwright himself, Popovich staged one of his original scripts while working on his doctorate at Ohio State University. In addition to his doctorate, the native Californian has bachelors and masters degrees in English from California State University and a masters in theatre from the University of Texas.

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