When Peck School of the Arts Theatre Lecturer Jim Tasse entered a classroom a few semesters ago to find his acting students sitting on a large red mat in the corner of the studio, he had a moment of déjà vu. “It brought me back to when I started here in 1978, on a September morning,” he says. “We were all sitting there in the same corner in the same room. I distinctly remember that.”
After spending time in the Navy immediately after graduating from high school in Marshfield, Wis., Tasse wanted to study journalism and politics in hopes of becoming a foreign correspondent. But he found himself intellectually excited by the plays of George Bernard Shaw and Sophocles, and “fell” into the Professional Theatre Training Program at UW-Milwaukee. Tasse was a member of the program’s first class.
“It was the cusp of theatre training at the time,” Tasse says. “It was very much grounded in classical theatre, movement-intensive with a heavy dose of speech training, all oriented with developing our physical skills.”
Tasse says the program provided a strong foundation for the Milwaukee theatre community: “Actors who have studied here, stay here or come back to work here.” After graduation, Tasse worked at the Indiana Repertory Theatre and various theaters in Texas. He eventually returned to Wisconsin and acted and directed with Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, as well as several other local companies.
In 2003, he began teaching in the Peck School’s theatre department and became an adjunct faculty member in 2006. He teaches acting for majors and non-majors, as well as directs productions. Many current theatre students cite Tasse as being one of their major influences to join the department, and/or are inspired by his way of working.
“I’m interested in stories that surprise me, that shift me to a different place. Stories that I don’t know if I should laugh or cry at; stories that don’t preach to me but engage me,” Tasse says of his theatrical interests. “It’s amazing how teaching what I thought I knew redefined my work as an artist, how the teaching speaks to the art of acting and directing.”
Tasse recently performed the role of Kent in the Year of the Arts presentation of The Tragedy of King Lear in November 2012.