All about the theater, Grossmont College’s Jerry Hager retires after 32 years of teaching

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The stage is dark save for a lone spotlight illuminating a figure sitting at the edge of the set. Upon closer inspection we see that it is a disheveled looking man, his body bent from old age. He is wearing a tattered coat and pants and holds a moth eaten Stetson hat in his bandaged hands. His dirty spectacles fall from a face that is tinged with sorrow and he stares forlornly at the crowd. 

The stage is dark save for a lone spotlight illuminating a figure sitting at the edge of the set. Upon closer inspection we see that it is a disheveled looking man, his body bent from old age. He is wearing a tattered coat and pants and holds a moth eaten Stetson hat in his bandaged hands. His dirty spectacles fall from a face that is tinged with sorrow and he stares forlornly at the crowd. 

The place is the Grossmont College Stagehouse Theatre, and the broken old man is performance artist and former Grossmont College Theatre Professor Jerry Hager performing his one-man show “Invisible” to a rapturous audience.

From performing, to directing, to writing, to teaching, Hager has made a long and prolific career out of bringing unconventional characters to life. 

A student of the “movement” school of acting, which is a type of theatre where the story is told primarily through physical movement over words, Hager incorporates styles of miming, (including Commedia dell’arte, clown, pantomime), and mask theatre to form his own unique brand of thespianism. 

Hager said that Movement Theatre is an important form of art that teaches actors to better understand human behavior and interaction.  

“Movement is one of the cornerstones of storytelling – in theatre, an actor must convey an array of information non-verbally, including emotion, gesture, posture, movement, expression, and so on” he said. “In Movement Theatre, we break down and rebuild a new understanding of how we move through non verbal information. The more we “play” and explore, the more we discover, the better we understand, and from that understanding we create new tools in physical theatre that can be used in storytelling.”

Hager brought his skills and expertise to Grossmont College, where he was a professor of Theatre for 32 years, retiring from the position last year. 

He admits that he fell into teaching by accident. 

While performing at Seaport Village, where he worked as the Resident Mime Artist for 26 years, Sandy Sheller, a fellow performer and at the time part time professor at Grossmont, asked Hager to fill in for her when she had to take maternity leave for her first child. Despite having no teaching credentials Hager showed up and was hired on the spot. After teaching for some time Hager was able to qualify for a lifetime teaching certification at the Community College level.

“I taught a lot of different subjects related to Movement Theater,” Hager said, “from Theatre Mime Class, which dabbled with corporeal mime, mask, commedia del Arte, clown, and pantomime illusion, to acting classes, breaking down the use of the body to build a character, to stage production, where imagery plays such an important role in storytelling.”

Hager also helped create several original programs for the college’s theatre department, including the Annual Grossmont College Elementary School Tour that tied in to literacy and an annual high school outreach touring show. 

Hager enjoyed his time at Grossmont and he said that the theatre department is a passionate place where artistry and imagination is encouraged.

“The department is made up of mostly working actors and artists who engage themselves in their own pursuits of theatre and as well as teach the craft to our student community,” he said.

While Hager may have retired from teaching theatre, he is still planning on being active as a performer. 

He will be reviving his a his one-man play “Invisible” at the White Box Performing Arts Theatre in Liberty Station on March 11 for a fundraising event with all proceeds going to the Arts for Learning San Diego and arts education for students. The play will feature Hager performing in different masks as a colorful cast of characters lost in a world they don’t belong in. 

“The play is a tribute to life and about breaking past the boundaries of stereotypes and preconceived ideas,” he said.

Even after all these years, Hager is still passionate about the craft of acting and the power of art and imagination.
“Imagination is the most powerful gift that has been awarded to us human beings, and we are the only creatures on the Earth that can act upon our imagination,” he said. “We must as artists feed the soul of our human spirit. We must tell the stories that make us laugh, think, and cry. The world needs the artist if only to remind us of our humanity.”

18 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Jerry , thanks for ALL the
    Hi Jerry , thanks for ALL the great memories at The Fair ! I’ve been folling you since day one ! Hope your human partner is doing well didn’t see him at the Fair this year 1st.time , take care Todd the Mod

  2. Hi Jerry , thanks for ALL the
    Hi Jerry , thanks for ALL the great memories at The Fair ! I’ve been folling you since day one ! Hope your human partner is doing well didn’t see him at the Fair this year 1st.time , take care Todd the Mod

  3. Hi Jerry , thanks for ALL the
    Hi Jerry , thanks for ALL the great memories at The Fair ! I’ve been folling you since day one ! Hope your human partner is doing well didn’t see him at the Fair this year 1st.time , take care Todd the Mod

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