Ann Kessler, a professor of theatre and Chair of the Theatre Department at Valparaiso University, has always had a love for the arts from a very young age.
“I started out as a dancer and that’s what got me into theatre. I always loved working with costumes, which evolved into me getting my degree in Design,” she said.
While growing up in Flint, Michigan, Kessler was always surrounded by the arts in one way or another.
“I came from a big family who was involved in playing church music, family band type stuff, so I’ve always been involved in the arts that way.” She said.
Kessler was nominated for all her work in promoting the arts in the Valparaiso community, and the list of ways she is able to do this is extensive.
After freelancing for several years, Kessler moved to Northwest Indiana in 1994 to teach at Indiana University Northwest (IUN). Once her teaching contract with IUN expired, Kessler sent her information to Valparaiso University on a whim and has happily been a part of their staff since 1996.
“I love Valparaiso University for so many reasons, but my students are definitely the number one reason I enjoy teaching there so much,” she said.
Along with her design work, Kessler also oversees the costume studio, which is staffed by students who create costumes by scratch and perform alterations on the items. Together with her students, Kessler constructs each show with fierce dedication.
That is not the end of Kessler’s list of titles – she also works as the Director of the Valparaiso University Dance Ensemble.
“It’s amazing seeing students transform when they finally get to put on their altered costume. That has to be my favorite part; seeing their faces and eyes light up when it all comes together.”
One of Kessler’s current projects, which she was been working on with the Flint School of Performing Arts, has been in the design works for over 25 years.
“I affectionately call it the never-ending Nutcracker ballet.” She said. “This show has a cast of over 100 dancers in it and I’m excited to be redesigning the snow costumes from 15 years ago that will be featured in their Nutcracker performances this season,” she said.
In addition to teaching and designing, Kessler is also an avid community member of the wonderful town she resides in – Valparaiso.
“Valpo is a very friendly town for those who like to walk and commune with nature,” Kessler said. “Coming from a larger town, I always appreciated Valpo for all its greenery, parks, and its proximity to the lake. I love how much Valpo has grown and the presence downtown makes it feel like a true destination with great food, music, and people.”
Along with spending time with her husband of 30 years and three children, Kessler also enjoys walking, doing yoga, gardening, and spending time at the lake. She has also spent the last couple of years volunteering at a local animal shelter, which came from her sincere love for dogs.
Kessler expressed her advocacy for the field of theatre and how it can be a stepping stone for finding your talents and how you can give back to your community, too.
“Theatre makes you look at the world in a different way. It helps you connect with people emotionally and opens your mind to new questions and new ideas,” she said. “As you study the ancient roots of theatre up to modern-day theatre, you can see that it’s always been there as a voice for the people to speak their truth and their emotions.”
For Kessler, following her passions led her to a profession of design and teaching that she enjoys immensely. To learn more about Kessler and her many accomplishments and passions, please visit https://www.valpo.edu/theatre/about/faculty-and-staff/ann-kessler/.