Confessions of a professor: Allan Carlsen
Name: Allan Carlsen
Started teaching: 2002
Hobbies: Acting and directing
What did you do before becoming a professor?
Prior to coming to Delaware, I lived in New York City for 17 years. I was a professional director and actor, and I still am.
What animal best represents you?
A black panther.
What is your favorite place on campus and why?
I have two favorite places. This table in Trabant that we’re at right now is one of them. It’s always open; I guess no one wants to sit here. I have an office, but I’m never in it. My second favorite is Willard Hall 007. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there, but it’s like a theater.
What is your favorite topic to cover?
How important theater is in everyone’s lives.
What appeals to you about your specific field?
I’m a people person. Not all actors are, but most are. When I was a kid I liked team sports because of the people. Theater is the quintessential collaborative art form. I get to work with all these art forms to produce performances that move people. And every day, I’m in front of at least 350 people, and I’m performing.
What is your strangest student story?
There was this young man, his name was Michael. This was five or six years ago. He was autistic. The first time I met him, he was pretty much in a corner. Then he came and sat in on a class with his helper.By the end of his time here, he actually took one of my classes. From the kid who was withdrawn, he would come out with these answers that were so profound.
Give everybody an opportunity. Open a door.
Where did you go to college, and what’s your favorite memory of that time?
I went to University of Pennsylvania, and it was a long time ago. I was in electrical engineering because someone told me I was good at math and sciences, and I was. And someone told me I was a people person, and could make a lot of money being in sales. I should’ve gone to Europe and figured out who I was. My best recollections have got to be from theatre I did there, and glee club.
Now, I’m not an electrical engineer, as you can tell.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
I would make sure my family wouldn’t fall apart. I don’t think it’s a curse, but ultimately, it’s a curse for a lot of people.
What are you listening to, watching or reading right now?
Every day, I listen to WFMT. It’s classical music. I’m a classicist. I’m reading the book on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I actually acted in that play. I also read The New Yorker.
What’s your weirdest talent?
My kids say I have no filter.
What was the worst job you’ve ever had?
When I was in high school, I did a lot of summer jobs. I worked where my mother worked at a factory. One summer I worked in the machine shop. We were inside, it was beautiful outside because it was summer. I had this apron on that’s supposed to protect me from the oil. All this oil would just spill on me and my skin reacted terribly. I had to shower the second I got home. I finished out the summer, but I didn’t go back.
Favorite place to travel?
Norway. My dad is Norwegian and I went back when I was your age. I’ve been back maybe eight times since then. I think it’s the most beautiful, virgin, unspoiled part of the Earth I’ve seen.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, and could only bring one thing, what would it be?
“The Complete Works of Shakespeare.” That’s a no-brainer.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
Thomas Jefferson. I played him in “1776” a long time ago. I had to do research, and the more I researched, the more he was like a mentor I never knew.
What’s your favorite place to eat on Main Street?
On a good night, probably Taverna. For awhile, my favorite place to go was Capers & Lemons, and still is, and Taverna is owned by the same group.
Tell us about your favorite college professor and why they made an impact on you.
I can’t remember the name but my favorite professor was an English professor who was an expert on John Donne. He somehow gave a confused kid an appreciation for poetry. He reached out to me, and he didn’t do it by showing me poems. He did it by talking about John Donne’s life. I learned all about Donne, Shelley and Byron. And I can’t even remember his name.