Ben Clawson '07

Ben Clawson 07’s top advice for current Theatre students is, “when you graduate, consider why you wanted to do this. Find a way to do it under your own power. Don’t just get any job, consider how to make your dreams happen on your own.”

That sense of independence has taken Clawson far in his career as an independent playwright, actor and producer. Clawson established the Strangedog Theatre Company with fellow Montclair State Theatre alumni in 2008. The company has staged numerous original works around New Jersey since then. These plays are all written, produced, and acted in by members of the company. Their work has been seen at local venues, such as Luna Stage and Tierney’s Tavern as well as further, larger ones like the Union County Performing Arts Center.

The establishing members met while studying Theatre at Montclair State. Clawson recalls working with them on school productions and building strong friendships while they were undergraduates. Having fun with his friends while working with them is one of the most rewarding things about being involved with Strangedog, Clawson said. The group has a camaraderie that’s translated easily into collaborative work and success.

While he was a student at Montclair State, Clawson pursued a well-rounded schedule of courses. In addition to Theatre, he was interested in Political Science and Film. He took a number of credits from both of these departments. Theatre was what influenced him the most, though. With a strong faculty and challenging coursework, Ben remembers these classes as being the most academically satisfying part of his time at Montclair State.

Theatre was balanced out by life as a campus resident, which Clawson recalls as his most socially satisfying experience. He made Montclair State’s campus his home for four years, building relationships with fellow students, faculty and staff. When asked for his fondest memory of those years, Clawson said that his best times were had among friends in Bohn Hall, Blanton Hall and the Village Apartments.

He worked as a Student Ambassador for Undergraduate Admissions. Performing this role, having to connect with potential students and their families and maintain a charismatic presence while speaking with them about Montclair State University proved to be excellent practice for the stage.

After graduating, Clawson and his friends wanted to stay involved with theatre.  This led to the development of the Strangedog Theatre Company. The group, facing the daunting challenge of building a theatre company, worked together to meet the challenge. They wanted to produce original plays and they did it. Today, the company puts on a new play every few months. It is also hosting the first annual Strangedog Beer-Battered Play Festival in March 2013, where work from new playwrights will be staged and judged. Omnivores, a play written by Clawson and directed by fellow Montclair State alumni Artem Yatsunov ’08, will premiere in February 2013.

“Each play is another lesson,” said Clawson. He continues to write and produce, learning something new with each successful play.