Emma Stoltzfus — Staff Write
The end of the 2018 spring semester will also mark the conclusion of Professor Josiah Wallace’s six years teaching at Dordt College.
A fixture in the theater department, Wallace will be leaving Dordt to help build a theater program at John Brown University, a private Christian school located in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
Part of Wallace’s new position will be to build the school’s theater program. Although they have adequate facilities, involved students and offer a theater minor, JBU does not currently have specific theater faculty or a major.
Wallace will be moving his family to Arkansas in June just a few weeks after a last appearance as “Froggy” in the community theater production of The Foreigner.
“It’s exciting and a little bit daunting, as well,” Wallace said, “but we’re going to make that jump.”
Outside his office, you can see and hear students hanging out and studying in the theater pod. But inside is no less exciting: Wallace’s office is as colorful as his background. Swords, theater posters, masks, set dioramas, a desk on stilts, three mismatched chairs and a miniature caricature of himself taped to the computer monitor fill the small office.
He was raised in Japan, apprenticed in Italy, lived in Hawaii and had twelve siblings.Wallace’s first experience in acting was in eighth grade at an international school in Japan. He lived there until he left for Seattle Pacific University and his family moved to Oahu, Hawaii.
While Wallace attended the university, his family started adoption and foster agencies and cared for children in need of homes. There were eventually thirteen children in the Wallace family
Across the Pacific, Wallace found his niche in the theater arts.
“I didn’t love school in terms of the academic end of things,” Wallace said. “I loved the social end of things and the art we were creating in the theater program.”
The future theater professor became an active part of the department and joined Seattle Pacific’s touring group.
His work with the traveling theater increased his passion for the theater arts.
In his senior year, Wallace took a directing class that was instrumental in pushing him down the path to becoming a theater professor. In the class, he once took so much delight in the way another student had composed a scene that he laughed out loud in the middle of class. This led to his realization that he loved taking enjoyment in other people’s success and helping them reach that goal as a teacher.
After he graduated, Wallace continued to be a part of the theater group. When the director left, Wallace was hired and worked with them for two more years.
“As I was [working as a director] it hit me that I want to do this more, but I don’t have a degree to technically justify this in the future.”
Wallace met his wife Bethany in the Seattle pacific theatre group. Two years after they got married, the couple moved to Hawaii. For a year, Josiah and Bethany helped with Wallace’s parents’ ministry, took care of the youngest siblings and taught theater to homeschooled students on the island. In addition, Wallace did some construction work on condos around the island.
Wallace and his wife then moved back to the “mainland” in Seattle, Washington. There, Wallace almost immediately accepted a position as the director of outreach for the Taproot Theatre Company—another traveling tour group that performed throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Wallace enjoyed the work, but began considering a slightly different career course.
“I still kind of thought, ‘You know, I want to teach college students,’” he said.
Nine years after he graduated from Seattle Pacific, Wallace struck out to attend Baylor University in pursuit of a Masters of Fine Arts degree in directing
“It was rough those first few months to get back into academic mode,” he said. “Grades don’t exist in the professional world—you either succeed or you fail.”
During his education, Wallace attended a four-week intensive apprenticeship in Italy learning commedia dell’arte, an Italian comedy theater form that features four “basic” character types represented by masks.
After receiving his masters, Wallace applied for and received a job at Dordt.
He has now been a theater professor at Dordt for six years, teaching a variety of courses on acting, directing and other theater-related subjects. On the side, he runs an Etsy shop where he sells his handmade commedia theater masks.
“[Stage combat is] one of my favorite classes to teach.” Wallace stated, “It’s fun. We just did a sword-fighting final performance on Tuesday.”
Wallace first really began looking at his new job when he met up with a Dordt theater and digital media alumni currently working at JBU. While talking in his driveway, the alumni and his fiancée told Wallace about a “Josiah and Bethany-shaped hole in Arkansas” and how they thought he’d fit in well at JBU.
“On a whim, I sent in an application for the job,” Wallace said. He received a response and went down for an interview along with his wife.
It went well. Bethany Wallace is currently house-hunting in Arkansas for the couple and their three boys.
As for the hiring process to replace him, Wallace says it’s currently at the phone and Skype interview stage and is moving fairly quickly.
While excited for this next step, Wallace says he will miss his students at Dordt.
“I keep being reminded of things—every day—that I will miss,” he said. “The impressive work students are doing on productions, talking about what they’re doing next year and how I’m excited for them but sad that I don’t get to continue mentoring them through those projects.”
Wallace is currently teaching the last few classes of his career at Dordt College and preparing for his new position at John Brown University.
“I tell my students often when they’re creating new work: ‘If you’re not a little scared, then it’s not worth doing.’ I can apply that to my future as well.”