Dr. Peter Pantina
As featured in the September 2023 newsletter
- Who are you and what significant contributions have you made to the organization?
I am Dr. Peter Pantina, an Adjunct Professor in St. John’s College. This fall, I am teaching the First Year Seminar in Theatre for incoming students. I have been teaching at St. John’s for a little over 20 years, and have taught Discover New York Theatre, Public Speaking, Global Literature, and several other courses. Prior to my teaching at St. John’s, I was a high school administrator, English teacher, drama teacher, and play director.
Of course, I was a student several decades ago. In my years at St. John’s, I acted in every one of our productions. We did serious plays in the old days—Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Brecht’s Mother Courage, to name a few. Since returning to the university as a professor, I have attended many Chappell Players’ productions, especially to support my students who acted in them or worked backstage. One year, several of my students were officers. They invited me to the CP dinner, and we had a great time!
- How was the transition from college to the real world? How was life after graduation?
Immediately after college, I was fortunate to secure a wonderful teaching job at Carle Place High School, teaching Drama, English, and Public Speaking. In my time there, I directed 30 plays and musicals. Some examples are: The Crucible, Cyrano de Bergerac, and Twelfth Night (plays) and Pippin, Oklahoma, and Cabaret (musicals).
- Did being involved in the Chappell Players prepare you for life after college? How so?
Without a doubt, my involvement in Chappell Players was the single most important influence in my teaching life. It gave me the confidence to direct plays and musicals, which was to me, the most significant aspect of my work with high school kids! It also gave me the courage to explore work in professional theatre, working on production teams of award shows (such as the TONY Awards) and other events, as well as doing background work in film and TV. I am a proud SAG member!
- What is your favorite CPTG memory or performance?
My favorite Chappell Player role was that of Feste in Twelfth Night! I loved the Shakespearean dialogue, the ensemble acting, and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment. By the way, in those days, beards were not permitted on campus, so to grow a beard for the play, I had to get a “beard pass” from the dean to show to security!
- Have you been able to remain involved with theatre as much as you hoped/wanted?
I don’t think it’s possible to be too involved in theatre. Nevertheless, I have been able to be a background artist as a SAG member. I have appeared in Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, Rescue Me, and other shows.. I've worked on production teams of many, many award shows. I've been a theatre teacher and director, and even a playwright. I have written and produced several plays including Frank and Franklin, a Presidential Comedy, and a musical Evangeline, both at Adelphi. At the present time, I am working on two plays which I hope to produce in the next year. My play A Day in Moscow/A Night in Ukraine centers on a Russian soldier’s experience in the Ukraine war.
- Do you have any advice for Chappell Players going through college or those who have recently graduated?
My advice to Chappell Players and recent alum is: no matter what you do in life, keep theatre in your heart and find time for theatre! Also, there are innumerable opportunities in New York stage, TV, and film. Find the confidence and courage to work in theatre