Former Samford University theater professor Barbara Sloan recently released a book, “Theatre is My Life!”
The book is meant to be read daily, with each of the 366 entries containing quotes or passages from plays, along with Sloan’s thoughts.
Sloan, a Vestavia Hills resident, said she loves diaries and has read one every year for the past 12 years. However, she realized that one did not exist for theater lovers, so she wrote it herself.
“It’s somewhat spiritual in nature,” Sloan said of the book.
Just like diaries that include scripture or inspirational words, theater can also be “sacred,” Sloan said. While set in the present as the viewer sees the play unfold before them, plays can transport the viewer to different times and places and introduce them to people they might not otherwise meet, Sloan said.
Readers of the book will get a bit of theater history, some personal memoir, a bit of philosophy and more as they engage with the various play quotes and scriptures, Sloan said.
Much of the writing came from Sloan’s extensive theater calendar, which she uses to track the days plays debuted, the births and deaths of famous playwrights, and more. Compiling the book involved a good bit of research, she said.
“It really made my memory a lot stronger,” Sloan said.
Sloan’s path to theater began while she was a student at the University of Montevallo. She earned a degree in English, but was part of several productions, starting with “Of Thee I Sing.” Sloan also served as a College Night leader, helping to produce a play written, composed and performed entirely by students, along with overseeing other parts of the university’s intracampus competition.
Sloan fell in love with theater and spent her career designing costumes, building sets and more.
“It probably really saved me,” Sloan said. “If I had just remained a writer, I would have been isolated.”
Theater brings people together, Sloan said, across many differences.
“I think it’s the camaraderie,” Sloan said. “If you work in theater, you are an honored individual.”
From 1976 to 2001, Sloan taught at Samford and taught others the joy of theater, hoping to inspire that love in them. One of her favorite classes to teach was outside the theater major, which taught theater appreciation, which included many non-majors.
Being a costume designer also gave her a different perspective, one that she could pass on to students.
“As a costume designer, you have to walk in the shoes of each character,” Sloan said. “You honor the playwright and the playwright’s vision.”
Sloan said when she reads a play, she looks for clues about what a character might be wearing, things that other readers and performers might not pick up on. Anything that can reveal a character’s personality should also come through in what they wear, she said.
Sloan also worked at American Village, creating costumes and training interpreters as the village’s creative director. She also served as the executive director of the Seasoned Performers, the state of Alabama’s only senior adult theater group.
She also continues to volunteer locally at various theaters and is currently finishing a children’s book on theater etiquette.
“Theatre is my life!” can be purchased on Amazon.