Alumnus Cleo House Returns to Direct Summer Play

COMMERCE, Texas – As a student in the 1990s at Hooks High School near Texarkana, Cleo House acted in the University Interscholastic League One-Act Play production of “The Trip to Bountiful” and was told he had “‘that certain something.'”

UIL judge David Crawford of Tyler Junior College said this to House, which meant a great deal to the fledgling actor. “That little comment reaffirmed in me I was doing the right thing and I haven’t looked back since,” he said.

House went on to pursue his dream of a career in the theatre. A Texas A&M University-Commerce and Texas Tech alumnus, House is an assistant professor of theatre at Penn State Berks. He is back at A&M-Commerce this summer directing the University Playhouse production of “Treasure Island.”

The cast of A&M-Commerce students, staff members, and public school students is presenting the Ken Ludwig adaptation of “Treasure Island,” which begins its second week of shows at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 10, in the Performing Arts Center.

House, who had been in the Playhouse’s summer production as a student, is excited to be back at his alma mater teaching a course and directing the play. “It had been a fantasy of mine to come back and direct a show,” he said.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in 2000 and spending a semester teaching at Commerce High School, House did graduate work at Texas Tech where he received his master of fine arts in acting and directing in 2004.

He then began a career in teaching, professional acting, and directing.

At Penn State Berks, he teaches acting, theatre history, and makeup and helps with three productions a year. As a professional actor, he played one of the three witches of “Macbeth” in a traveling show, which was presented at the world famous Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Co-director of that “Macbeth” production was Teller of the Las Vegas magic show, Penn and Teller. “I learned about magic and how precise it is,” House said. “Magic is really trickery,” he said.

“Treasure Island” will have a lot of stage magic, he said.

The production is for audiences age 10 and up due to gunfire sounds, sword fights, and scary situations.

“People will be in for an exciting night of theatre,” House said. The play focuses on the search for a huge treasure that a pirate has buried on an island. Michael Knight, A&M-Commerce theatre faculty member, has designed a large ship for the set on the Main Stage.

The A&M-Commerce show is only the second Texas production of the Ludwig adaptation of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s epic book, “Treasure Island.”

The Alley Theatre in Houston presented the adaptation last year and one of House’s friends there told him about the play. When it came to choosing the script for the University Playhouse summer show, “‘Treasure Island’ was my first choice,” House said.

Choreographing the sword fights was Dr. John Hanners, head of the theatre department with House choreographing the knife fights.

The production lasts about two hours, including an intermission. Shows are at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 10, through Saturday, July 12, as well as a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, July 13. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, and $5 for students. For reservations, call the Playhouse Box Office at (903) 886-5900.

ALUMNUS DIRECTS PLAY — Cleo House, an assistant professor at Penn State Berks and alumnus of Texas A&M University-Commerce, has returned to direct the summer play, “Treasure Island,” which begins its second week of shows at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 10. House got interested in the theatre as a Hooks High School student. He earned a bachelor’s degree from A&M-Commerce and master’s from Texas Tech. In addition to college teaching, he is a professional actor and director. “Treasure Island” performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, July 10-12, and 3 p.m. Sunday, July 13, in the Performing Arts Center.