Alumni Spotlight | Joel Bishoff (Theatre '86)

Joel BishoffWas there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?

There were two -- Howard Stein who was our guiding light and passionate inspiration as Chairman of the Department; and James Hammerstein who became my mentor. After being my teacher and my Thesis adviser, he took me under his wing and I assisted for him, then became associate director with him, and finally he produced my shows until his untimely death. I take them both with me in every rehearsal I attend and every class that I teach.
How did attending the School of the Arts impact your work and career as an artist?

It was my first exposure to some of the most important artists of the day (Jerzy Grotowski, Alan Schneider, Nikos Psacharopoulos, Bernie Jacobs, Gerald Schoenfeld, Harold Prince, Joe Papp etc) who treated us with kindness and encouragement. I graduated in 1986, but almost every job I have every had has come from the branches of that tree.
What were the most pressing social/political issues on the minds of the students when you were here?

The AIDS crisis was the most pressing social/political and artistic issue at that time. We grappled with it personally and professionally. In the political arena, divestiture from South Africa was at the forefront of the protests on campus.
If you could revisit any piece you created during your time at the School of the Arts, which would it be? Why?

Pretty much all of them! It would be nice to apply what I know now to my first baby steps then.
What was your favorite or most memorable class while at the School of the Arts?

I loved my Shakespeare classes with Bernie Beckerman and Frank Kermode.
About Joel Bishoff
Directed the original production of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change which ran for 12 years and 5,003 performances, (the second longest running musical in off-Broadway history) as well as productions in North America, London’s West End, Tokyo, and the Mandarin language production in Shanghai and Beijing; directed the original production of Over the River and Through the Woods off-Broadway; the Japanese language production of Annie in Tokyo and Japan (now in its 15th year), The Kiss at City Hall at Pasadena Playhouse, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife at Laguna Playhouse, Sylvia (starring Cathy Rigby) and Too Old for the Chorus at La Mirada Center for the Performing Arts, Fully Committed at Coyote Stage Works, Musical staging for national tour of The Sound of Music starring Marie Osmond and New York City Opera starring Debby Boone. Joel was the Executive Coordinator of the award winning Showtime series Huff. He has also taught at the Graduate Acting Program at UCLA, American Music and Dramatic Academy, and American Academy of Dramatic Art. An MFA graduate of Columbia University, he is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.
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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.