Prof Path: Chris Kauffman

Theatre Arts Prof. Chris Kauffman ’92, professor and chair of the theatre arts department, had an affinity for the performing arts since high school—he was in a rock band at the time. But it was during his undergraduate experience at Gettysburg College that he discovered his interest in theater arts.

“Some of my best memories from college are in theater production,” Kauffman said. “It really is about strengthening and living in that sense of community and family between students.”

Kauffman went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts from Brandeis University in Massachusetts, then moved to New York City, where he lived for 10 years. During his time in the city, Kauffman freelanced as an actor and director, and ultimately found his interest shifting more into the process of bringing a theatrical performance to life, rather than performing.

He had been in living in New York for about eight years when he returned to Gettysburg for a visit. He said hello to his former professors, and to his surprise, small talk turned into a big invitation—an invitation to bring Hotel California, the first show he co-wrote and performed in, to Gettysburg’s Kline Theatre stage. He happily agreed. Kauffman returned once again a few years later to lead a workshop at the College, and later in 2002 as a visiting professor for a semester. When afull-time position opened the following year, he described the opportunity as a welcomed transition from his time in New York back to his roots in Gettysburg.

Photograph of Kauffman preforming his show Hotel California
Kauffman (right) performs his show Hotel California in New York City

Since becoming a faculty member at Gettysburg College, Kauffman has directed more than 25 plays and musicals, as well as developed a variety of courses for the theatre department—all of which he views as highlights of his career.

Beyond Gettysburg, Kauffman has co-authored, and occasionally performs in, three award-winning, interactive comedy pieces: Hotel California, Nharcolepsy, and Cabaret Terrarium, all of which have been performed in New York City and throughout North America. He has also directed Williamstown Theatre Festival’s educational outreach program for six summers with his wife, Emily Windover, who is also a theater artist. The program, called The Greylock Theatre Project, paired youth from challenging home situations with professional theatre artists to make and perform their own plays.

Photogrpah of Kauffman with his daughters
Kauffman and his three daughters enjoy time together outdoors.

Over the years, Kauffman has learned that being involved with the art of theater is a rehearsal for life and a building block for community.

“As actors, we put ourselves in other people’s issues to imagine how we might behave if we had other peoples’ problems. We experience conflict,” Kauffman said. “It teaches a lot about empathy and working through conflict.”

He carries this notion with him, and it influences his approach to life outside of the College, too. Kauffman, his wife, and three daughters—ages 15, 12, and 10—live in an intentional community in Adams County, Hundredfold Farm, which was founded by Prof. Emeritus Louis Hammann ’51 and designed with social cohesion and teamwork in mind.

The community fosters 10 homes and shares 80 acres of land with a mission of sustainability. To Kauffman, living in an intentional community enables him and his family to do a lot of community work together. They enjoy taking long walks, raising chickens and other animals, and working in their garden.

“It is a neat community,” Kauffman said. “It has its challenges and conflicts, like anything, but it is where I like to be—surrounded by people, where we are working through things together, just like in the theater.”

Photograph of Kauffman directing
Kauffman directing at Gettysburg College’s Majestic Theater.

Kauffman’s three daughters have taken after his wife’s interest in theater, participating in past performances of A Christmas Carol at Gettysburg College’s Majestic Theater, as well as theatrical productions at their schools. He attributes his daughters’ passion for theater to one of his goals as a teacher and father: to always stay true to himself and to be excited and passionate about everything he does.

In living this goal, Kauffman hopes his excitement and enthusiasm is something that’s passed down to his daughters and students.

“Whatever they do, I hope they do it with enthusiasm and appreciation for the process and journey,” he said.

By Merlyn Maldonado Lopez ’22
Photos courtesy of Chris Kaufman
Posted: 05/03/21