By Tressa Eckerman, Senior Staff Writer
Professor Doug Paterson, who has taught at UNO for more than 30 years, has received the 2011 Leadership in Community-Based Theatre and Civic Engagement award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education on Aug. 11 at a ceremony in Chicago.
According to the Association for Theatre in Higher Education website, the award is designed to honor someone for “a high level of commitment and longevity; this award for Leadership in Community-Based Theatre and Civic Engagement is reserved for an individual or theatre company that has worked in the field of community-based theatre and civic engagement for a minimum of 10 years.”
A member of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education since 1986, Paterson was nominated for the lifetime achievement award, which he was told was very competitive because of the “many wonderful people” who have been involved with community theatre over the years and have helped develop it together. Every year, an awards committee gives out 10 awards, including three lifetime achievement awards, one of which includes the community-based theatre award Paterson was given.
Paterson was hired at UNO in the spring of 1981 after spending the 1970s helping develop community-based theatre in rural areas, particularly in South Dakota, where he is a founding member of the Dakota Theatre Caravan and The Circle Theatre. He says their ultimate goal was to represent rural communities at a time when shows like “Green Acres” were mining the area for laughs. The Dakota Theatre Caravan produced “Diner Theatre” for nine years, which continues yearly.
Since then, he has helped form several groups like Omaha Public Theatre in Our Neighborhoods (OPTIONs), and he has traveled the world to many countries including Australia, Brazil, India, Palestine, Liberia, Iraq, Canada, Croatia and Israel to help set up workshop residences and presentations.
In the future, Paterson says he can see himself teaching at UNO “until I’m 80.” He is currently working on directing “The Government Inspector” for the UNO theatre and teaching different classes.
As for his award? He feels that it is a wonderful award and is honored to represent his peers. The lifetime achievement is a major honor for Paterson because of what it represents.
“An award,” he said, “for something that’s such a joy and pleasure.”