Anthony Chase knows Buffalo theatre


Photo courtesy of Anthony Chase

Anthony Chase has been involved in the theater community for more than 20 years, both as a performer and as a drama critic.

Are you going to the theater tonight? Ask Anthony Chase to save you a seat.

Chase, assistant dean of the school of arts and humanities at SUNY Buffalo State, spends about 300 nights a year in the theater. His love for it began at an early age, and he said his family has always had an interest in the arts. His parents met in the theater, and he recalls them both performing ballet when he was a child. He then went on to also do theater and dance.

As time went on, he got more and more opportunities, one leading to another. He says it “just kind of happened” and theater became his career.

Chase earned his B.A. in English and Theater Arts from Trinity College, and his Ph.D. in English from the University at Buffalo. At UB, he got a job in the publication office, where he realized his writing was valuable. He then started writing about theater and became the founding theater editor of Artvoice, the alternative newsweekly for Buffalo.

Chase is now the Theater Talk Host during Morning Edition on WBFO, Buffalo’s NPR News station, and teaches theater history. He will also teach a graduate course on Shakespeare this summer.

His career keeps him busy, as he says he’s always going to shows. Soon, he’ll head to the Big Apple to see Rocky on Broadway.

Chase said Broadway has an incredible history and it’s “thrilling to see actors like that in person.” He also was recently in Washington, D.C. for a show and often visits Los Angeles and Chicago, too.

“As a theater critic, there’s value in what you know and what you have seen,” Chase said. People tune in to listen or open up the paper to see how he analyzes a show.

He said his listeners and readers trust that he has an educated opinion, and that comes from his schooling, experience and objectivity. He added that it’s helpful to have seen an actor, a director or a show before to facilitate depth of knowledge before he critiques them.

“I feel responsible to inform potential audiences,” Chase said.

In addition to filling the seats in the big theaters, Chase said he also tries to see all the shows that Buffalo State puts on, and he enjoys doing so. He likes seeing the work of both the students and faculty.

Chase said the college has a growing theater program, and not all schools can say that.

He doesn’t spend all of his time watching the shows.

Sometimes he’s in the spotlight too. On Apr. 3 in the Social Hall, he will be playing the role of a psychopathic serial killer in a comedy called All in the Sauce.

He will also be playing Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest in spring 2015.

“Acting is something I like to do,” he said. Though he enjoys acting, he says the difficulty is timing, so he has to decline some roles.

From critiquing to acting, Chase said the industry is changing all the time. Broadway theater has become a lot more corporate, with musicals such as Cats, Wicked and Disney musicals; there is a greater diversity of playwrights and there are now gay characters and themes in plays.

“Theater is always a reflection of society,” Chase said. “The changes that have been seen in America and the world, I’ve seen in the theater.”

Locally, he said he’s seen Buffalo’s theaters grow in numbers as small independent theaters have become stronger. As the industry changes, he hopes his students go into the field having knowledge of the theater that they’ll carry around for the rest of their lives.

He said he hopes his students form knowledgeable opinions coming from an educated place and embrace the diversity among their views. He loves when his students debate.

Chase said, “I hope that theater history will help them look at the world more analytically and with a greater artistic appreciation.”

In front of a class, a microphone, a stage or the spotlight, Chase said, “I’m motivated by my great love for the theater and my admiration for artistic people.”

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Twitter: @LiveWithColly