After 30 years in the Orange Coast College Theatre department, professor Rick Golson is taking a final bow.
Well, unless he comes back to teach or pursues acting outside the college.
But officially, Golson said that after four separate stints at OCC over more than 30 years, and the establishment of OCC’s highly regarded repertory theatre, he made the difficult decision to retire.
Although he is looking forward to having a little fun and doing some travelling, Golson said making the decision to retire wasn’t easy.
“I love teaching so much and love the students so much, and everybody I work with is so great, that I almost feel bittersweet about retiring,” he said.
Golson said his tenure at OCC started when he was a student. He was also a classified employee at the college before becoming a teacher. He was laid off from teaching but came back to the college several years later and has remained here ever since
With 30 years of memories to sift through, Golson said one of the things that stands out for him is when, about 10 years ago, he, along with fellow theatre faculty member David Scaglione, put on a children's show about preserving the local wetlands and toured it to elementary schools.
“It was just a really good memory because I felt like I was doing something really good and I was doing it for the children and the students really got involved. It was just a really fun experience,” he said.
Golson considers himself very lucky to have been able to make a living all these years doing what he truly loves. In 1985 he co-founded the OCC Repertory Theatre Company along with his brother, professor Alex Golson and professor Bill Purkis.
Through The Rep, theatre students at OCC have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be part of a real repertory theatre — something that few community college settings provide. Even universities with repertory theatre programs are typically only available to students on an audition basis, he said.
In the OCC Repertory students learn to run a company — they put on plays they write themselves, they direct, act, produce and design — basically all the things it takes to put on a season of theatre.
“A lot of our students transferred and they said, ‘God, I had all this experience that the other students never got. I knew how to put a play on and I knew how to produce and do all these things.’ I’m pretty proud of that,” Golson said.
Graduates of the program have gone on to become professional actors, writers and directors, working at places like HBO and even winning emmys. One alumni, Sean Wellengard, who currently works in the OCC scholarship office, enjoyed his time at OCC so much that he returned and now lends his hand to the repertory’s budding playwrights.
“He went off and got his MFA in playwriting and then he came back and he has volunteered to help the students in their playwriting efforts, which is just fantastic. The students really love him,” Golson said.
Golson said he was originally drawn to theatre in high school when, as a member of the choir, he became involved in the annual musical production. That experience, along with the fact that his older brother, Alex Golson, wanted to become an actor, pretty much cemented the passion and enthusiasm that would lead him to spend the better part of his adult life working in theatre and teaching the craft that he loves to thousands of OCC students over the course of three decades.
While at OCC, Golson had the unusual opportunity of getting to work alongside his brother, fellow theatre professor Alex Golson, for 24 years.
“We always joked that Mom told him that he had to give me a job,’ he said.
For his next act Golson is considering doing some acting of his own.
“It’s funny. I’ve met a lot of people who’ve retired and now they don’t have to worry about making a living anymore so they decide to go out and try some acting and they’re getting parts right and left because they’re so relaxed,” he said.
Although he may be retiring officially, Golson said he won’t be sitting still for long and is already setting the stage for his fifth act.
“I still want to keep my hand in theatre. I’m planning on maybe coming back and teaching one or two classes. Maybe next spring or the year following,” he said.