Rick Chudomelka began his teaching career in 1954 in Missouri public schools, chartering Campbell High School’s Thespian Troupe in 1960. During the next few years he directed thirty-three plays and ten musicals.
Mr. C, as his students called him, was named director of theatre at the Beebe Campus of Arkansas State University in 1965. As a one-man department he designed and directed 137 plays and musicals until his retirement in 1998. He often said his goal was not to create Broadway in Beebe, but to open doors to a whole new world for young people.
Mr. Chudomelka’s interest in the classics inspired him to found the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival at the university in 1965. More than two thousand high school students from all over the state attend annually, many seeing their first live theatre production. A two-week residential summer theatre workshop for high school and college students as well as high school faculty was offered each summer from 1974 to 1989 and involved more than three hundred students and teachers.
In 1991, he began hosting the state Thespian Festival. He continued coordinating Arkansas’s festival through 2011, and has brought students to the International Thespian Festival since 1996.
Mr. Chudomelka’s work with the American College Theatre Festival earned him the Gold Medallion Award of Excellence from The Kennedy Center in 1977. He was honored as the charter member of the Arkansas Thespians Hall of Fame in 1998. He has also served as state director, twice, and on the Arkansas Thespian Board and on the EdTA territorial board. In 2006 he received the EdTA President’s Award.
In his own words: “I take pride in my humble accomplishments, but more pride in the accomplishments of hundreds of students that passed through my life. I am appreciative of my long association with EdTA and with the ASU-Beebe campus, where we built a million-dollar theatre two years before a new gymnasium.”