Alum spotlight: Lisa Jackson-Schebetta (MFA ’06)

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Lisa Jackson–Schebetta, MFA Theater Pedagogy, Voice and Speech Track, 2006

Lisa’s actor/husband Dennis Schebetta moved with her from New York so she could attend the MFA program at VCU. Dennis actually ended up in the program himself. And this wasn’t the last time they’d be in the same college department.

After Lisa got her undergrad at Duke University in Theatre and Gender Studies in 98, she moved to NYC to act, “but I always had a love and passion for voice and speech.” When Lisa was researching MFA programs, she attended VASTA, Voice and Speech Teachers of America, where undergrad Chris Morris recommended Janet Rodgers at VCU.

About the time of her interview, her life had gotten complicated. Her father was near the end of his life and she had fallen in love with Dennis. “Janet was so warm and wonderful. She said, ‘I really want your energy here,’ so Janet let me defer for a year, which was a huge gift and made me even more certain that I wanted to go there.”

Lisa and Dennis at their wedding

So, she and Dennis moved to Richmond. About a semester after meeting Aaron Anderson, Noreen Barnes-McLain and Janet Rodgers, Dennis decided to get his degree in Pedagogy. “He proposed to me at VCU, and we graduated in May and married in June in my Mom’s back yard.”

Lisa and Dennis with VCU MFA alum Kari Hatfield and husband Justin Hatfield who married them

After graduating, they moved to Seattle, where Lisa got her PhD in Theatre History at the University of Washington. Then they moved to the University of Pittsburg, where Lisa served as Assistant Professor in Theatre Arts and in Hispanic Languages and Literature. Meanwhile, Dennis is still working as an actor and filmmaker, which included producing a short film that won some festival accolades.

two people smiling with commencement gear on
Diego Villada and Lisa when he got his PhD!

When she saw a job posting at Skidmore College in 2018, she knew “that’s exactly what I want.” In May 2020, Lisa was named Chair of Theatre. As she jokingly frames it, “the best pandemic chair the department has ever had!” 

Still from a video of Lisa introducing herself as the new theatre chair at Skidmore College. Watch here.

Meanwhile, when a tenure track opened up teaching acting, Dennis applied. They did a national search (Lisa wasn’t involved), and he was hired. When asked about the challenges of being Dennis’ boss, Lisa explains, “We met when I directed a play he wrote. We worked as pros before we became a couple, and we rely on that.” She concludes with a smile, “I’m a director, and he’s an actor, so he’s used to me bossing him around.”

“The colleagues from my VCU days continue to be the bedrock of my professional and personal fulfillment,” Lisa states. As a matter of fact, she and fellow alum Jocelyn Buckner are still working together. Lisa is President of the America Theatre and Drama Society and Jocelyn is VP. Lisa is also editor of Theatre History Studies and Jocelyn is associate editor. “The network continues to feed me.”

Lisa and Dennis and VCU MFA alums Boone Hopkins and Chandra Owenby Hopkins

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the May 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.