April 19, 2019 | 73° F

Theater Arts extraordinaire Joseph Mancuso retires after teaching at Rutgers for 30 years

Photo by Rutgers.edu |

Joseph Mancuso started his journey at Rutgers in the Fall of 1987 when he was first offered a position teaching Theater Appreciation. Over the last 30 years, he has balanced personal endeavors with his commitment to educating students on the world of the arts.

Joseph Mancuso, a professor in the Department of Theater Studies in the Mason Gross School of the Arts, has announced his retirement after teaching Theater Appreciation at Rutgers for nearly 30 years.

Although he is best known for his time at Rutgers as a professor, Mancuso served as the Executive Director for the Union County Arts Center and co-founded the theater group, Shoestring Players.

He served as a producer and director for various New York-based productions, some of which include the works of Carl Sandburg, like "Lessons on How to Behave Under Peculiar Circumstances." It premiered at the 28th St. Playhouse in New York City. 

Mancuso said that his journey at Rutgers started three decades ago.

“I came to Rutgers halfway through my undergraduate studies in 1977 ... Three years later I was developing a professional theater company, Shoestring Players, with my colleague and friend Professor Joe Hart," he said. "Our offices were on Douglass campus, where the opportunity to teach Theater Appreciation occurred in the Fall of 1987.”

Mancuso also taught a variety of other theater classes at the Mason Gross School of the Arts. He has had a longtime affiliation with Rutgers, but his career was not limited to University affairs. He affirmed that though he was involved in various other projects, it did not hinder his time teaching students. 

“Over the years, my career took me on several other artistic adventures beyond Rutgers," Mancuso said. "Yet I was always fortunate enough to be able to keep the Theater Appreciation on my schedule without interruption."

Mancuso has had the benefit of watching both the City of New Brunswick, and the Rutgers campus grow. One of his concerns about students today is the influence of new technologies and the strains it causes.  

When asked about the University's divergence from 1987, he said, “It’s been thirty years, back then Rutgers was a much less stressed out place. No cell phones, no email, no social media, no 24-hour news. Everyone worked hard yet there was also down time to recharge, play and create.”

Some of Mancuso’s concerns for the next generation of students include the exhaustion caused by technological advancement and the lack of focus caused by distractions like social media and smartphones.

“It concerns me now how stressed out students seem these days," he said. "My hope is that we will somehow learn to adapt to the demands of technology and instead use it toward its original purpose of making it work for us.”    

Overall, Mancuso looks back at his career with fondness.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to teach here for three decades and for tens of thousands of students,” he said. 

Mancuso said that one of the things he valued most about teaching at Rutgers was giving students the impetus and drive to learn and value the arts, along with exposure to experiences like the theater in their lives.

“I have met many of you again after graduation in far reaching places and under diverse circumstances," Mancuso said. "I feel blessed to learn each time that so many of you have opened up your lives to a rich experience of the arts." 

Justin Chang

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