By Adrienne Stazzone
Thirty-one years, 33 theatrical productions, an infinite number of memories and, behind it all, one incredibly passionate and devoted man.
Dr. Patrick Chmel, former chair of the Fine Arts Department and associate dean of the School of Fine and Performing Arts, will retire at the end of the academic year, a bittersweet event for the professor and all who have had the pleasure of working with him.
“I’ll miss so much that moment in September when everyone comes back and welcomes the incoming freshman class: the adrenaline rush of the new beginning, the moment when all dreams are possible,” he said.
Chmel has played an integral role in encouraging the arts throughout his career at Rider, fostering the development of the acting scholarship program, the renovations of the Yvonne and Spitz theaters and the addition of the dance concentration within the fine arts major on the Lawrenceville campus. Over the last two years, he has laid the foundation for the new School of Fine and Performing Arts, a branch of the Westminster College of the Arts.
“I’m convinced this is an assimilation that, ultimately, will be of great benefit to all aspects of life on the Lawrenceville campus,” he said. “It’s Rider’s own renaissance. The arts will flourish.”
In addition to these accomplishments, much of Chmel’s success can be found in the impact he has had on his students and on Alpha Psi Omega, the co-ed national theater fraternity.
Junior fine arts major Joanne Nosuchinsky, who serves as the secretary of Alpha Psi Omega, has been cast in three Chmel productions: Urinetown, Proof and, most recently, Cabaret. While she considers these “her best and favorite roles to date,” her most treasured scene took place not onstage, but in Chmel’s kitchen when Proof was still in rehearsal.
“Since the cast was small, Chmel invited us all over to his house for breakfast,” she said. “He cooked; we ate and talked about Proof, past shows and his career. It was a great bonding experience and a wonderful way to relax during a stressful rehearsal period.”
Nosuchinsky, along with dozens of Chmel’s students, colleagues and family members, gathered to show their gratitude for him at his April 3 retirement reception. Held in the Cavalla Room, the party featured skits, musical numbers and monologues, bringing to life the professor’s personal and professional contributions.
Chmel’s career, which he noted has been “a great way to spend [his] life,” is a constant reminder that often, the biggest successes come from what first appear to be catastrophes. A flaming set and bomb threats that forced the evacuation of the theater are two such examples.
“With every near disaster, there’s been the constant euphoria of accomplishment, show after show,” he said. “It’s the most frightening moments that often become the most memorable.”
Truly excited about the world of theater, Chmel plans to stay active with the art after retiring.
“I’ll stay in the area, do some adjuncting and some guest directing,” he said. “I plan some pretty heavy involvement in area charity work and, of course, I’ll stay tuned to the development of the new school and the theater program. I’ll be their biggest fan.”
Whatever his next role may be, Chmel’s contagious passion will continue to leave the Rider community applauding for years to come.
“It’s a great time to retire,” he said, “knowing the best is yet to come.”