Meet the Arts NC State Directors

Arts NC State is pleased to present the “Meet the Arts NC State Directors” series. This spotlight features Joshua Reaves, director of  University Theatre. Discover how “breaking a leg” into theatre led Reaves to finding a home and having a part in creating better humans.

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Joshua Reaves, director of University Theatre.

Joshua Reaves savors quiet but he also lights up a room, er … theatre.

What is your name?

My name is Joshua Anthony Reaves. I’m the oldest of four and we are all J.A.R initials. There was a lot of “Justi…Jessic…Jen… I mean Joshua!” screamed about as I grew up.

Position at Arts NC State?

Reaves in Titmus Theatre. Photo by Nick Purdy.

I was first hired as a freelance artist – almost 14 years ago – by the dance director to light the dance program’s concerts. Then 10 years ago this fall, I was permanently hired as lighting and sound designer at University Theatre. Soon thereafter I served many roles: interim director twice, assistant  director of production, and associate director. Two years ago I became the director of University Theatre.

Background/interest in the arts that led to today?

Reaves performing in The Good Doctor at Garner Senior High, 1999.

Hmm… not sure what led to it, the arts always felt like home, felt natural. I remember being in every class play in elementary school just because I enjoyed it. But it was in high school that theatre began to feel like a safe space, a place I could be myself, relax and do anything.

Reaves performing in The Good Doctor at Garner Senior High, 1999.

I started with acting in high school but was encouraged to try everything and found my love for technical theatre before leaving for college. I began undergrad set on being an actor but soon transitioned to design and technical theatre. The arts, specifically theatre, well more specifically, community and educational theatres like University Theatre, encourages everyone to try it all. If my high school teacher hadn’t encouraged me to turn on a light board, I would likely not be where I am today.

What are three words that you would use to describe University Theatre?

Reaves with University Theatre staff Andrew Korhonen and Emilie Wood.

Welcoming, encouraging and supporting.

What are you excited about with regard to University Theatre and the 2021/22 season?

I try to find hope and blessings in every terrible situation and the events of the last year or so have been terrible. However, it has given all of us at UT a chance to step back and reexamine what’s important and why we do this, particularly on a campus where we are not training the next generation of professional theatre makers. I go back to why I started doing theatre. I felt at home. I could try anything. I think our programming this season reflects this mindset.

If you had to name one thing that you are most proud of in your career, what is it?

Reaves with his wife, Athena, and two children.

I was on vacation at the coast a few months ago. It was somewhat secluded but there were others on the beach too. My daughter, who is nine years old, happened to be playing near a small boy. He was maybe 3 or 4 years old and he appeared to be scared of the waves. Piera, my daughter, saw him wanting to go in but clearly apprehensive. She immediately engaged him in active play. Not inviting him to the ocean but simply playing with him – meeting him where he was and on his level. He dropped his guard and opened right up. With his finger pointed at her like a ray gun and she grabbed her chest and fell backwards into the water screaming “you got me!” I approached his mother and asked if my daughter was okay or if she was bothering her son. “Oh no she’s amazing, a natural!” I replied, “well, she’s a child of two theatre teachers”.

My new proudest moment in my career had nothing to do with my career. It was the lessons my job taught me, the empathy it takes to be a theatre artist, the confidence to engage strangers and the desire as an educator to support and lift up others that has shaped my parenting; and therefore, shaped my children. I was so proud of my daughter that day, so proud that my work has helped her become a better human.

Any favorite line from a theatre performance?

Hmm… there are so many! I listened to musical theatre in high school and college and Rent had just come out when I was in high school. I could list so many lyrics from it but my favorite one is below. I also love one from Wicked and to not leave out non-musicals, here’s one from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

  • “Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.” – Rent
  • “It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap!”  – Wicked
  • “We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off.  Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.” – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

What is the strangest job you’ve ever had?

Wow, so many. I started working at a very young age with my father, who did everything. So I’ll just list a few:

  • Army surplus sales man (I mean kid)
  • Funnel cake fryer
  • Produce shop worker
  • Door-to-door salesman
  • Residential (and commercial) Construction
  • Office administrator
  • Manufactured Marble vanity top fabricator/installer
  • Auctioneer assistant 
  • And all the theatre stuff.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Be a better piano player, like expert level, and no one knows I can play. I want to sit down in a hotel lobby or maybe some place with a piano sitting in a public space, begin fiddling around on the keys and then all of a sudden break out into something amazing. When I’m done, I just get up and walk away.

When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?

Working from a home office at times has allotted me more time in the morning. Instead of driving in to work on those days, for 25 minutes, I find myself in the morning sitting on the back deck with a cup of coffee and either my guitar or a Sudoku book. I love the quiet, especially late fall/early winter when there’s a bite in the air. In a job that is so outward facing, quiet alone time to reenergize is always welcomed!