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Theatre Alum Shares Advice and Wisdom with Theatre and Dance Students

Story By:
Laurie O'Hara | Writer/Editor
Theatre Alum Shares Advice and Wisdom with Theatre and Dance Students
Justin Moriarty ’01 Zooms with theatre and dance tech students at the Redfern Arts Center.

Alumnus Justin Moriarty ’01 made a virtual return to Keene State this semester to speak with theatre and dance tech students about his career successes, which included being the lighting director of Sara Juli’s Burnt-Out Wife, a Redfern Arts Center presents dance-theatre-comedy production. Since graduating with his bachelor’s in theatre with a design and technical theatre specialization, Justin has immersed himself in the industry. He is currently a lecturer and technical director of the Theatre and Dance Department at Bates College.

Justin discovered his theatre major at Keene State. He came to college planning to study business and computer programming, but after a theatre class with Professor Céline Perron where Justin directed a play, he was encouraged to switch majors. “I never realized you could do behind-the-scenes live production at college and have it become a career. I wasn’t an actor in high school or involved in theatre, but DJing, live music, and dance shows were always an interest of mine,” he said.

As a student, Justin gained skills and experience by working at the Redfern Arts Center and the Colonial Theatre. The biggest thing he remembers having an impact on his experience at Keene State was the community. “We all supported each other and had a creative collaborative process that honored everyone for their role in the production as equal contributors. That has been something that stood out that I am always trying to replicate,” he shared.

In addition to his responsibilities of technical direction, backstage production, and stage management at Bates College, Justin is the production manager for the Bates Dance Festival, an active member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and a freelance lighting designer, which is how he got connected with Sara Juli. “We have a very collaborative relationship where she looks to me to help make decisions on the piece. We had always hoped Keene State would be a venue for Burnt-Out Wife and it feels awesome to share my work with my alma mater,” he said.

Justin also spends a lot of time mentoring students at Bates College. “I spend a lot of time with students helping them figure out their trajectory given their interests. Forming those relationships and guiding them through coursework into internships and opportunities beyond graduation is the favorite part of my job.”

Before Burnt-Out Wife opened at Keene State, Justin did a virtual presentation with theatre and dance design and tech students and shared his wisdom and knowledge with current Owls. Theatre major Jayne Bernardi ’22 said, “My favorite thing about talking to alumni in the industry is getting an idea of what things could happen after I leave Keene State. It gives me an idea of what my own path might look like. Justin reminded us to be open to all kinds of opportunities and be flexible about our future because you might just find the place where you fit.”

“I was taught how to be a professional at Keene State, how to be with people in space together creating this amazing thing that can change the world,” said Justin. “Focusing on those interpersonal relationships is where I found all the reward and all the benefit. Students who want to go into this industry should know that relationships are where it’s at. The people you meet become your network and that’s everything.”

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