Professor Emeritus Theatre Arts Department 1960-1979
"Did you ever fall in love with a 39 pound midget?" This is but one of the many lines delivered by FC drama instructor George Archambeault that keeps audiences at South Coast Repertory Theatre laughing nightly.
Playing Kit Carson in William Soroyan's "The Time of Your Life" at S.C.R., Archambeault is resuming his professional acting career after a 14-year absence. "I just wanted to see if I could do it again," he said. "I was scared," chuckled Arch, as his friends and students call him. "But this play has come at the right time. It is making the transition easy." The transition he refers to is that from drama teacher to professional actor. Arch retires at the end of this year (1979) from a 30-year teaching career, ten of those years at Fullerton College.
His teaching career began in Northern California after his graduation from San Francisco State University. "I majored in music and minored in drama," Arch recalled. The music major was due to the strong influence of his naturally musical father. "My father was a tailor by profession, but should have been a musician. He had his own orchestra by the time he was 14. But his mother, my grandmother, convinced him to become a tailor instead so that he wouldn't leave home." His father's love of music continued, though. "I remember him coming home from work each night and listening to symphonies."
“And we had a family orchestra. My father played trombone, my brother played trumpet and violin, and I played piano and clarinet." I taught music for two years before I realized that my interest was in drama instead," Arch said. "Telling my father that I was quitting my music teaching job to go into theater was very hard to do. He was so proud to have a son who was a music instructor. But I reminded him that he had spent his life wishing that he had been a musician instead of a tailor. I wasn't going to that."
Arch says his acting ability also came from his father. "My father was a great story-teller and had a dramatic flair. Even his work as a tailor showed his creativity. You know, we were rather poor but we ate well and we were always dressed," he recalled thoughtfully.
Archambeault's professional training includes a master's degree in drama from USC, apprenticeship at the Pasedena Playhouse and being a member of the Los Angeles Stage Society. His experience has been on stage in California and Kennebunk Port, Maine. Television trivia freaks may remember him from parts in such series as "Gunsmoke," "O'Henry Playhouse," and "The Sheriff of Cochise." His two movie ventures, "Machine Gun Kelly" starring Charles Bronson, and "Hot Rod Rock," are still run on the late show periodically.
"But I prefer the stage," Arch emphasized. "I gave up acting for more security and stability in my life. I had a wife and children tos upport. It was really the best choice because I've been able to do all the types of theater I've wanted to do. As a professional actor you do the roles you can get, not necessarily the ones you want."
During his teaching years, Arch was at times jealous of his students' opportunity to act. "But then I realized that I had a greater opportunity to express myself creatively through directing and teaching. Once at a convention I was shocked to hear Lee J. Cobb say that you couldn't teach acting, that you could only teach people to make their talent effective," he said. "Our program here at FC is geared to prepare the theater student for professional work. It's good to go on to the theater to work after two years to gain experience. But it is advantageous to continue your education because all areas, psychology, philosophy, etc., are needed to understand and effectively create the roles you'll have. I do agree with Cobb that the talent must be there first, and then developed," he reiterated.
He feels that the facilities at FC would be good if there was access to it. "George Stoughton and I designed a classroom for acting technical classes as well as for performances and productions. But now it has become a community auditorium and there is no available time for us to use it. All our productions must be done in the small studio theater. Next year when the art department is being renovated, some of the art classes will be held here in our department. Our students are already having to practice their scenes, etc. in the halls, under stairs in the patio- any place they can find space," Arch went on, shaking his head. "It's particularly difficult for Todd Glenn, the technical instructor. Over half of the equipment he needs to teach his classes is in that theatre and unavailable to him."
These types of worries will be over for Arch at the end of next spring semester when he officially retires. "Last summer when my summer semester classes were cancelled, I had a very good preview of what it would be like to be retired. The days were so full and busy, that my wife Dorothy and I had to make dates in advance with each other," he noted. "We plan to travel and enjoy life. I'm not interested in building a career to make money. I'm going back to acting because it's fun for me."
As Kit Carson, Arch's acting is also fun for his audiences. And his students say that his acting matches his teaching. As Kit Carson, Arch's acting is also fun for his audiences. And his students say that his acting matches his teaching. Excellent! Bravo, Arch! Encore!
-Beverly Cliff and Beth Augustine (1978, December 1). A Theatrical Life of Transitions. The Hornet, pp. A6