Theater director to take final curtain call

Mary Jo Spletzer

Stark professor directed more than 100 plays

“Doubt,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” and “The Mikado,” – just four of the 138 plays Phil Robb directed at Kent State Stark campus over the past four decades.

That count now totals 139 after this weekend’s production of “Alice in Wonderland,” which will be the grand finale to his 38-year career directing plays at the Stark campus.

Robb didn’t always know he wanted to teach or direct. He originally thought he would take a shot at acting.

“I was going to try to become an actor, but I was inducted into the army,” he said. “When I got out of the army, I was kind of at sixes and sevens at what I wanted to do because at that point in time I was a little too old to take off and go to New York.”

Robb said his father influenced him to get into education.

“My father told me ‘If you want to be immortal, become a teacher so that what you pass on gets passed on,’ so I thought, ‘well, why not,’ and I went into teaching.”

After receiving his master’s degree from Kent State, Robb taught in New Mexico for a couple of years. When the school closed he came back in 1971 and was hired at the Stark campus.

Robb said his students have been the motivation for him as a director over the years.

“I always have loved plays, and the kids are always an inspiration because they come with new ideas and they challenge me and I learn something every time I do a show.”

Sophomore theater major Emily Dottavio said she admires Robb as a teacher and director.

“He has been a major part of my life and I thank him a lot for that,” Dottavio said.

Robb said his favorite part of directing is watching the story grow into a finished production.

“I love the process of starting at the beginning with a cast who doesn’t really know what we’re going to do with the show and then watching it week after week as it grows and matures and becomes a performance,” he said.

Robb said he couldn’t pick a favorite play he directed because he always says the one he’s working on is his favorite.

“I love all 138 of them,” he said.

After doing four shows a year for a number of years, Robb said sleeping in and getting a chance to enjoy his granddaughter are some of the things he is looking forward to in retirement.

Grayden Provance, a student working on his teaching license, at the Stark campus, has worked with Robb since 2000.

“He’s a wonderful director, a very great guy and it’s always been an honor and a privilege to work with him,” Provance said. “He’s built this program and reached out to a lot of people. In my opinion the theater should be named after him.”

There’s one thing Robb will miss most about teaching and directing: “The kids. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

Contact regional campus reporter Mary Jo Spletzer at [email protected].