The UMass Department of Theater is proud to share that Professor Milan Dragicevich is one of two recipients of the 2021 College Outstanding Teacher Award from the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. This highly-competitive award is given to faculty members within the college who demonstrate excellence in teaching and honors their instructional accomplishments. Students have a strong role in determining the winners for the award. Their recommendations for a faculty member heavily influence the committee’s decision.
Dragicevich teaches many classes for the department including Stage Movement, Acting Shakespeare, Performance in Detonated Language, and Actor/ Director Collaborations. From the beginning of his career, he felt drawn to teaching. “I intuitively felt I had an exciting way to present lost knowledge, especially in earlier historical eras, where students from centuries past had access to a way of viewing the world that might be important today. I want to build a bridge between classical training and contemporary adaptation, incorporating the diverse range of backgrounds, voices, and cultures today,” says Dragicevich.
His style of teaching greatly impacts his students in a way that develops their self confidence while bringing new meaning to the material. Former student Luke Bosco '20 says “acting, contrary to common belief, is not putting on a character like a mask. It is the stripping away of the ego and the self, removing your own mask, and in doing so, discovering a genuine and unspoken human connection. Milan understands this, and through his amazing work, his students begin to understand it too.”
Dragicevich’s teaching philosophy focuses on inspiring students to connect with the material and challenges them to ask the best of themselves. He also understands that achievement is not measured with a rubric, but with breakthrough moments. This is especially shown in his Stage Movement course where students show progress through their confidence and strength in the physical training exercises. Bosco recalls a time where a classmate was nervous about a certain exercise. To help, Dragicevich confided in the student about how that exercise intimidated him as well, then continued to do the exercise alongside the student for the rest of the semester. A student who is committed “can soar, can really grow and acquire skill and new insights which lead to artistry,” says Dragicevich.
Dragicevich’s work outside of UMass Theater as a performer/playwright has often intersected with his work at UMass. He has engaged students as actors for productions, creating opportunities for students to grow more as performers. In 2016, his play REFUGEE was produced in the UMass Theater department and later premiered at an international theater festival in Serbia called the Joakim Interfest, in 2018. “It was an amazing bridge between University training and professional real-world application,” mentions Professor Dragicevich. This was the second time he brought students to the festival. His time as a professor at the UMass Theater Department has influenced many students as he encourages them to be the best possible version of themselves and helps them grow as artists.