George Dearani

Paterson, New Jersey

Social issues are at the heart of George Dearani’s career in theatre education. Through twenty-five years as a teacher and theatre director in New Jersey, Mr. Dearani devoted himself to making his students and audiences aware of these issues and positive ways to deal with them. In his words, “theatre education has become, for me, a means to an end. It is the medium I choose, and foster in the classroom, which allows us—through improvisation, character analysis, and research—to better understand that which we are not.”

Mr. Dearani has tackled racial and gender bias, religious discrimination, AIDS awareness, and other sensitive subjects in his role as drama director and Thespian director at Rosa Parks School for Fine and Performing Arts in Paterson. The work is the focus of the theatre troupes he founded: the Positive Impact Ensemble, or PIE, and the Equity Ensemble.

He studied acting in New York while attending Seton Hall University. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he taught school during the day and studied and acted Off Broadway at night. He earned his master’s from Montclair State University even as he started the drama program at Passaic County College. As the first drama director at the newly opened Rosa Parks School, he was instrumental in arranging for the adoption of the school by Paper Mill Playhouse, inviting artists to lead master classes with his students. A colleague commented on the participation of several students in a Playhouse production: “Their joy of appearing in the show was only exceeded by George’s pride at their accomplishment.” Several of Mr. Dearani’s students have won awards and gone on to earn professional roles on stage and in film.

Mr. Dearani described the work of PIE, the accomplishments of which he said he is most proud, this way: “We demonstrate, through stereotyping and ethnic slurs, the pain and destruction that we as people are capable of doing. Hopefully, by having the audience confront the words and issues, and then afterward, discuss them, we can begin to focus on a change.”

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