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Phish, Star Trek, Nerd Performance Theater: Dr. Chryss Allaback Brings a Galaxy of Experience to the Pitt-Greensburg Stage

by Sophia Gatti

Photo Courtesy of Chryss Allaback

Dr. Chryss Allaback was hired in May as the Assistant Professor of Theater here at Pitt-Greensburg. She started teaching in the fall. 

Allaback has been involved with the theater world for over 40 years and has directed 35 productions. In addition to her work as a director, Allaback has been involved in all aspects of theater. She’s an actor and a writer. She’s worked backstage. She’s run three grassroots theater companies. And she’s collected years of knowledge as a drama student herself, including studying comedy writing and improv at Chicago’s famed Second City Conservatory.

“I had a feminist sketch comedy troupe when I lived in Chicago and an improv troupe called Mr. Fancypants,” Allaback says.

Allaback’s love of theater of all kinds runs deep. 

“Theater is about sharing humanity’s stories with each other, face to face,” she says.  “And there is power in that.”

At Pitt-Greensburg, Allaback hopes to share her wide-ranging joy for diverse theater with her students.

“I want to give students a wide variety of experiences in the theatrical arts, from working on the avant-garde and experimental, to traditional American drama, to some of the oldest scripts in history,” Allaback says.  “I also want students to have experiences in the many aspects of the art, from design to acting, to running the backstage, to stage and house management. There is so much more to the art form than acting and so many people are needed to make a great piece of art.”

Allaback’s diverse passions extend beyond the stage as well. She lives in Greensburg with her chocolate lab, Piper, enjoys live music, reads sci-fi and fantasy, and she sews. 

“Especially costumes for Halloween and for Comic Cons,” she says. 

And she’s also one of a select group of academics whose expertise includes the band Phish. She’s seen the band live 100 times, and was on the committee that planned the first-ever academic conference to focus on the band. 

“My paper from that conference was just published in the Public Philosophy Journal, and we (the Phish conference committee) have plans to edit a book next,” Allaback says. 

Allaback might also be one of the few academics to be an expert on both Star Trek and something she calls “Nerd Performance.” 

“I love Star Trek. I had a sci-fi theater company in Eugene, Oregon for several years and I hope to start one here sometime in the future,” she says. “And my entry on Nerd Performance will be in the next edition of ‘The Encyclopedia of Modern Theatre.’ I talk about sci-fi/fantasy theater in the U.S., but also about performances in things like tabletop role-playing games, cosplay, and live-action role-playing games.”

With her wide array of interests and experiences, Allaback has many plans to keep Pitt-Greensburg’s theater program–and the area’s love of alternative performance styles and subjects–expanding. And she wants the Pitt-Greensburg community to know that the theater program is for everyone, not just Performing Arts majors. 

“Anyone can come be a part of a theatrical production. Send me an email or stop by my office. It’s a great way to make friends, but also a way to gain valuable transferable skills for the job market,” Allaback says. “You can also get credit for it.”

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