David Callaghan, Professor of Theatre, recently finished his 24th year on the Faculty currently teaching courses in musical theatre performance; acting scene study; audition techniques; and directing. He was Department Chair for 16 years (also Interim Dean for the College of Fine Arts in 2008-2009) and in that period the Theatre Department doubled its enrollment; developed a Senior Showcase in NYC for BFA majors produced by The Growing Studio; received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST); and moved into the 20 Million Dollar Center for the Arts Complex. David grew up in Central NJ near Manhattan, the Tony Award winning McCarter Theatre in Princeton and the famous “Jersey Shore,” attending Rider University in NJ as an undergraduate; Western Illinois University for his MFA degree in Directing; and the CUNY Graduate Center on 42nd Street in NYC for his Ph.D. in Theatre and Film. Currently, David is the Head of the BFA degree program with a Concentration in Musical Theatre and BFA degree Coordinator at UM.
Prior to his teaching career, David worked professionally in Philadelphia before residing in NYC where he worked on the casting staff at Manhattan Theatre Club and Meg Simon Casting, among others. David enjoyed opportunities to work on the original Tony Award winning productions of Terrence McNally’s LOVE! VALOUR! COMPASSION! and August Wilson’s SEVEN GUITARS on Broadway. Other projects included working on new plays by playwrights such as John Patrick Shanley and A.R Gurney (premiere of SYLVIA Off-Broadway) for MTC and Seattle Repertory Theatre; as well as independent films and TV pilots such as “Cosby” on CBS.
David also directed professionally around the U.S. including 3 seasons at the Surflight Theatre and off-off-Broadway; with professional credits as an actor at Equity theatres such as the McCarter Theater in NJ and Mt. Gretna Playhouse, PA. While in NYC, David was also fortunate to work as an Assistant Director on the NY and Italian premiere productions of THE RULES OF CIVILITY with Judith Malina’s famous avant-garde company The Living Theatre in a converted storefront Theatre on E. 3rd Street in “Alphabet City.”
That experience led to David subsequently publishing numerous articles on the company’s work, including an essay in the March 2008 AMERICAN THEATRE magazine. He is also a founding member and peer reviewer of the SDC (Society of Director’s and Choreographers union) Journal’s Peer Reviewed Section and was co-editor of the JOURNAL from 2017–2019. His essay on the avant-garde director Richard Foreman was recently published in a new volume on Avant-Garde Directors in the 1970s for the series “Great North American Directors” with Methuen Drama Press.
David has also frequently participated in panel presentations on actor training and directing at the national ATHE theatre conference and is an active member of their Directing Focus Group. In 2018, he was a member of ATHE’s conference planning committee for its conference in Boston. David is a member of the Alabama Conference of Theatre; Association of Theatre in Higher Education; Musical Theatre Educators Alliance; an Equity Membership Candidate with AEA; and an Associate Member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SDC).
At UM, David feels fortunate to have directed a wide variety of plays and musicals including CARRIE, CHICAGO, SPRING AWAKENING, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Annie Baker’s CIRCLE MIRROR TRANSFORMATION, ASSASSINS, INTO THE WOODS, SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM, TO GILLIAN ON HER 37TH BIRTHDAY, Brian Friel’s MOLLY SWEENEY, RAPTURE, BLISTER, BURN, Anton Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS; MAN OF LA MANCHA, GODSPELL, Larry Kramer’s seminal AIDS play THE NORMAL HEART, 2 productions each of COMPANY, CABARET, RENT and the 60s rock musical HAIR, and the AL premieres of FAT PIG, A CLASS ACT, SIDE SHOW, HIGH FIDELITY, HEATHERS THE MUSICAL and THE LIGHTNING THIEF. David also co-produced and directed the Alabama premiere of Jason Robert Brown’s PARADE in collaboration with Magic City Actors Theatre at the Virginia Samford Theatre in 2009. David is excited to be directing the AL premiere of the musical version of Pierre Marivaux’s TRIUMPH OF LOVE in the Meadows Black Box Theatre in spring 2024 at UM.
Additional recent projects at UM include a workshop presentation of the new musical SALOME VERSUS JOHN by NYC based lyricist Rebecca Aparicio and composer Stephen Anthony Elkins; an alumni cast staged reading of THE NORMAL HEART, both in April 2022; and a lab class-based production of Craig Lucas’ RECKLESS in fall 2022. David has also enjoyed supervising our recent student-directed play festivals. Off campus, David has been active as a freelance director in nearby Birmingham, having worked with Opera Birmingham and on 4 productions with Red Mountain Theatre: the Pulitzer Prize winning musical NEXT TO NORMAL with Kristi Tingle-Higgenbotham, Abigail Barlow and Davis Haines; the premiere of the play TWO HENRYS by Kenneth Jones; MY FAIR LADY with Kristen Campbell, Kyle Holman and Nick Crawford at the Dorothy Day Jemison Theatre; and a staged reading of the new musical SAM’S ROOM as part of their annual Human Rights New Works Festival. David will soon finish his 2nd term as a member of the Board of Directors for Red Mountain Theatre as well.
Before coming to UM, David taught in visiting positions at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA) in NYC and at Illinois Wesleyan University. He was the proud recipient of the 2002-2003 College of Fine Arts Distinguished Teacher Award, as well as the UM National Alumni Association’s “Outstanding Commitment to Teaching” Award in Fall 2004. In 2007-2008, he was selected as the University’s nominee for the Carnegie Foundation CASE Professor of the Year Program.
David’s favorite show is always his current one, and when not in a theatre he enjoys yoga and cooking; seeing films; traveling (especially to his favorite location NYC); keeping up with family, theatre friends and UM alums around the world; and maintaining a social media presence for his dog “Chunk”!