Lauren and Jake Josef

lauren and jake josef

“It's really like you're creating a team and trust between the whole group — a dynamic where we can be ourselves and come as we are.”

For those in performing arts, little else compares to the excitement of opening night. Weeks of hard work culminating in palpable buzz as house lights lower. Veterans of the theater, instructors Lauren and Jake Josef know the feeling well. For more than five years the couple has been working alongside Exeter students building toward those moments of anticipation.

“My favorite part of the job is working with the students because it's way more than just putting on a show,” says Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance Lauren Josef. “It's really like you're creating a team and trust between the whole group — a dynamic where we can be ourselves and come as we are.”

Several times a year it’s all hands on deck as those assembled teams produce mainstage, black box or staged reading performances. Past shows include James and the Giant Peach, The Wizard of Oz and Lost Girl. The productions provide Exonians the chance to not only take the stage, but also the opportunity to work behind the scenes.

“Without the backstage crew, you don't have the performance,” says Technical Director Jake Josef. “The tech students get to bounce between whichever area interests them each day. They could be working on costumes one day and jump over to carpentry or painting or prop building the next. Another day it might be sound and electrics work, our students get experiences in all those areas.”

The Josefs met at James Madison University before relocating to Chicago where Lauren pursued performing as Jake found work in the scene shop at DePaul University. The couple moved back eastward in 2015 and Lauren took a part time job in Exeter’s theater department before transitioning into a full-time role as an instructor. Jake joined a short while later just as the Academy’s state-of-the-art performance space, The David E. and Stacey L. Goel Center for Theater and Dance, opened.

Having performed and worked at theater venues all over the country, the Josefs relish the opportunity to teach in a space with limitless possibilities. The Goel Center’s 2018 mainstage debut, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featured contributions from over 120 student actors, dancers, musicians and backstage crew members.

“The building for us is a giant playground. We can pick which theater we want to do a show in because we have so many of them. We get all the latest and greatest lighting equipment, sound equipment and tools,“ says Jake. “The space caters to folks who have a vast theater background and see themselves going into theater professionally, but also people who just want to try it out. That's what we're trying to create here,” adds Lauren.