finney1Jackie Finney,
Professor of Theatre

email: [email protected]
Phone: 434-791-5710
Office: Pritchett

Way back when he was in high school, Professor Jackie Finney played Curly in “Oklahoma!” During rehearsals, an Averett professor visited the school to do a workshop on makeup for the production.

That eventually led to Finney enrolling at Averett. “Once I was here, I got interested in all kinds of theatre, and I soon realized that theatre was always to be a part of my life.”

Finney is aware, though, that theatre is a tough profession, so he works to give students the best possible advice: “We help our students discover their strengths and realize the challenges. We look at contingency plans.”

Finney recently had a Biology/Theatre major who was thinking of dropping Biology because she felt more involved with Theatre. His advice? Try to keep both. At least take as many Biology classes as possible, just to be well rounded.

“We work to personalize the program for each of our students,” he says. “We even have an end-of-year review with every Theatre major, one at a time. We ask how are you doing, how are we doing — what can we do for you? What are your aspirations and how can we help you?”

The department also helps find theatre work, even for current students. “When touring companies come through town, we try to get our students placed as workers on the crew. They help set up the show, and they learn a lot … including about life on the road. We’re at a point now where some of the professional companies call ahead and hire through us before they reach town.”

Technical theatre people, actors, stage managers … they’re all in the Averett Theatre program (not everyone is meant to play Curly). “We have what I call real students here,” says Finney, “not just J. Crew cutouts. Our students study all the aspects of Theatre, and they bring such a variety of different backgrounds and experiences to the program that we all benefit. The rich diversity of the students is one great feature of this university.”


Master of Fine Arts, Theatre Design, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Bachelor of Science, Theatre, Averett College


10+ years at Averett


Theatre Design, Scene Design, Lighting Design


Averett University Faculty Member of the Year 2005-06

Community Involvement, Volunteer Activities and Professional Affiliations:

Work with Little Theatre of Danville

Work with Danville Area Association for Arts & Humanities

Member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference

Member of the United State Institute for Theatre Technology

Member of the Virginia Theatre Conference


breen1Richard Breen
Professor of Theatre

email:  [email protected]
Phone: 434-791-5711
Office: Pritchett

A funny thing happened to Professor Richard Breen in the fourth grade — he took third place in a talent show, and it changed his life. He was only in the fourth grade and it was just a third place finish, but he was hooked. He knew then that his life was, with caps, On The Stage.

And so it is. He says that his parents were always supportive of that life for him, even back in grade school, and now — as an adult — he has “the best of both worlds: I get to teach Theatre to young people, and in the summers I get to go play.”

When he says, “go play,” he means that he performs on various stages around the country, honing his craft. There are times when he performs at Averett, as well, and the students all benefit from that experience.

“It’s a great way to teach,” he says, “when students can learn by direct observation.” They also observe and learn when the Theatre Department takes them each year to Broadway shows. The trips to New York City are treated as a formal class project — the students study the shows in advance, write papers about the productions, etc.

Performing on Broadway is not the only measure of success, adds Breen. Theatre graduates succeed in many other ways: “Some have graduate studies as a goal, some want to teach, many plan to work in the technical end of Theatre. And we have a lot of double majors — students who have another field of expertise, just for career safety.”

He adds that his biggest challenge often is not simply to develop his students’ skills, but also to get them to believe in themselves. “As they gain self-confidence, they begin to explore, to take chances, to discover. It’s a wonderful, creative process.”

The Averett Theatre students share one important thing with Professor Breen: They feel that Theatre is their home.


Master of Fine Arts, Theatre, Western Illinois University

Bachelor of Arts, Theatre, Averett College


25+ years as a professional in theatre, acting and technical theatre; 10+ years teaching Theatre at the university level


Acting, Audition Process, Outdoor Drama, Regional Theatre, Living History Drama/Acting (particularly Victorian Era in America), Environmental Acting, Stage Makeup, Improvisation, Public Speaking, Communications, Voice and Diction, Dialects


Who’s Who Among American College and University Professors, 2003-05

Advisor of the Year, 2002-03

Irene Ryan competitor with American College Theatre Festival 1987

Community Involvement, Volunteer Activities and Professional Affiliations:

Member of The Virginia Theatre Association (11 years)

Member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference (20 years)

Member of Alpha Psi Omega (Dramatic Fraternity – 25 years)

Sound Technician at Sacred Heart Catholic Church (4 years)

Work with Chatham Hall on Dance Show (11 years)

Assist local dance company with recital (2 years)


Giuseppe RitortoGiuseppe Ritorto
Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre

email: [email protected]
Phone: 434-791-5712
Office: Pritchett

Having parents that immigrated to the United States from Italy and then becoming chefs, “Nothing is more dramatic than watching your parents argue over the ingredients of their marinara sauce while an opera record of Pavarotti is blaring in the background!” it was only natural that Giuseppe discovered the theatre! Giuseppe’s first experience with theatre and music came when he was in middle school, where he heard the honors choir sing a medley of The Phantom of the Opera, this ignited a fire for musical theatre that still burns to this day! While his taste has changed and grown, he has a love for Political Theatre, Theatre of the Oppressed, New Works, and the contributions of the LGBTQ+ to the theatre and the arts. He considers himself a true generalist of the theatre, having worked professionally as a: performer, lighting designer, sound designer, musical director, and technical director for 10+ years; he continues to let his passion burn for the theatre. He earned his B.A., Theatre Arts from Catawba College and his M.F.A., Musical Theatre Writing from New York University. Some of his favorite productions include- Pippin, The Rocky Horror Show, and The Women of Lockerbie.


Master of Fine Arts, Musical Theatre Writing, New York University

Bachelor of Arts, Theatre, Catawba College


15+ years as a professional in theatre, acting and technical theatre; 6+ years teaching Theatre at the university level


Musical Theatre Performance, Musical Theatre History, Acting, Audition Process, Directing, Musical Direction


Metrolina Theatre Association Awards– Best Musical Direction, Urinetown

Community Involvement, Volunteer Activities, and Professional Affiliations:

Member of The Virginia Theatre Association (6 years)

Member of the Southeastern Theatre Conference (15 years)

Member of Alpha Psi Omega (Dramatic Fraternity – 15 years)