After earning her Master of Arts degree in history and criticism of cinematography, as well as her Master of Fine Arts degree in theater, Marylou Gombar taught high school for a few years before finding her niche as a community college teacher. There she taught acting, introduction to film, directing, and more for 29 years.
“I liked the enthusiasm of the students at the community college level and their willingness to work extremely hard on extremely difficult productions,” Marylou says. “I would direct one play a year, and it was my goal to use the students at the school and not import any outside actors.”
She strived to create a successful collaboration from start to finish. “I believe very strongly in the collaborative effort,” she explains. “We would collaborate on picking the play. We would read plays and pick the one that seemed to fit the best.
Part of the collaborative process was fostering good working relationships among all involved. “I used to always say that I wanted to create a fine production, but if in the end we didn’t end up friends and love each other a little more, then the whole production would not be worth it to me and would be failure. And I meant it. Most of the time it worked.”
Like all great teachers, Marylou’s passion left a lasting impact on thousands of students. Now retired, she still keeps in touch with many of her students.
“Marylou started as my theater class instructor, to my director, and then to a beautiful friendship,” comments former student Scott Derrell. “I am truly blessed to have her in my life.”
“Marylou is an amazing person to work with. She is highly intelligent, and she is a compassionate person,” adds former student Elena Hanley, who pursued a degree in teaching and is now a teacher herself. “Her attributes of sharp wit and cultural literacy contribute to what she brings to the classroom and the theater. When working on a play, she has a clear vision of the outcome she is after and directly communicates her vision.”
For those interested in getting involved in community theater in their area, Marylou advises seeking out the various community theater groups. “Go down and audition, or take classes at the community colleges, or take classes at the local community theaters,” she suggests. “Just go and do it!”
There are many benefits to being involved in theater, Marylou says, offering a personal example. “I took a year off and studied painting, and you’re all alone. When you do a play, you have a whole team and group of people, and you all go up or down together, and it’s much more supportive … to work together, I think.”
She adds, “I think the unity of a group effort and a group being as strong as its weakest person and everyone knowing that, and everybody working together for a common goal, was very important to me. I think that’s the important thing about theater – a group effort.”