Carmel Grad Stays Involved in Musical Theater in Carmel
We all knew someone like Bill Jenkins in high school. He was the inquisitive kid who always wanted to know how everything worked and why. Even as teenagers, we could predict that someone like Bill, full of questions with a razor-sharp mind soaking up knowledge like a sponge in water, was headed for big things.
If you knew Bill at Carmel High School, you may not be surprised to learn that he became one of the youngest department heads ever at Ball State University (BSU). While building a world-class arts program in Muncie, he works alongside the movers and shakers of the entertainment industry, like Broadway and TV star Sutton Foster. He has also helped launch the careers of BSU graduates into prime roles on television shows like the The Good Wife and national touring Broadway productions like Wicked.
Bill’s Carmel roots run deep. His uncle, Dr. Robert Hartman, was a well-respected superintendent of Carmel Clay Schools for 25 years and was pivotal to the development and growth of the current Carmel Clay School system. A cousin, Mark Hartman, served on the school board for several years. For Bill, it made sense that he would look to the field of education to make his mark.
During a phone interview between academic commitments and being “on duty” caring for his 3-year-old, Bill says, “Carmel is an incredible place to grow up! That’s where my interest in theatre and the performing arts really began.”
Bill fondly recalls, “I spent lots of time in the Ambassadors show choir and all the productions. Playing the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady is a favorite memory. I gained great experience working with teachers like Linda Johnson, Tam Tudor and Ron Hellems. The strength of that department was something that always inspired me.”
Hellems, Director of Vocal Music and Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at Carmel High School for 23 years, remembers with a chuckle, “Bill was a complete and total character in high school. He was always very energetic and a natural leader. Early on, it was clear he would one day be in a position of leadership.”
It’s interesting to note that Hellems is now an Instructor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at BSU, hired by Bill in 2010.
In 1991, Bill entered BSU where he eventually completed a Master’s degree in Communications and Bachelor’s degree in Acting. He earned his MFA in Directing at Illinois State University in 1999.
After teaching at the University of North Dakota for one year, he returned to BSU to accept a position in the theatre and dance department. During his third year, he was asked to fill in as interim department chair.
“I was dumbfounded that Dean Robert Kvam of our college was asking me, a 29-year-old untenured assistant professor, to take over the program the size and scope of this one. He showed a lot of confidence in me,” Jenkins states.
As that year progressed, Bill focused his energies into making the theatre and dance department as strong as he could in anticipation of the incoming permanent department chair. With his colleagues’ encouragement, Bill applied for the open chair position and was awarded the appointment.
“At the age of 30, I found myself as a full-time department chair. Eleven years later, here I am!” Bill proudly states in such a way that is testimony to the fact that he loves his work.
In 2002, Bill helped implement what is now a hallmark of the BSU Department of Theatre and Dance, the student showcases. During these annual academic forays, BSU students audition for casting agents and directors in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Bill recently directed at Actors Theatre of Indiana (ATI) and consulted on their upcoming benefit performance with Sutton Foster, two-time Tony Award winner and star of ABC Family’s Bunheads. ATI will present her one-woman show, “An Evening with Sutton Foster,” at The Palladium October 5. For more information, visit www.actorstheatreofindiana.org/suttonfoster.php.
Sutton, a strong believer in what BSU is accomplishing through Bill’s program, describes him warmly, “Bill is like family to me. He is so welcoming and wonderful. I just think he’s a smart educator.”
Bill Jenkins is creating a remarkable department at BSU.
“I think of my uncle, Dr. Robert Hartman, as I do my job. He was trustworthy, admired, honest and a very kind human being. As a leader, he provided a lot of inspiration to me,” says Bill.
“I’m truly grateful to the people and community of Carmel who helped me. It’s wonderful to watch Carmel’s arts community flourish. It not only makes the quality of the community even better, it helps advance the artists’ careers and the quality of productions. I’m happy to see Carmel take the lead!”