College honors Theatre professor’s dedication and service to craft

Elizabeth van den Berg
August 26, 2014

Elizabeth van den Berg’s passion for theatre and her commitment to sharing that devotion with students and audiences alike just earned the Theatre Arts professor McDaniel’s Special Achievement Award. 

For nearly 25 years, van den Berg has coached and cajoled her students in acting and directing while introducing them to a global perspective in her popular world theatre classes. She has said that theatre reflects life and encompasses all of the liberal arts. She challenges her students to understand life to reflect it and use all of the sciences, literature, politics, history and more in the process. 

Van den Berg has directed student theatre and often puts her own spin on productions, including once giving Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” an Asian twist. Her exploration was the result of her own fascination with Théatre du Soliel in Paris, melding Kabuki, Indonesian and Bejing Opera styles with Western style in productions of Shakespeare. Her students – some of whom had auditioned using a British accent – had to re-think the play and reach beyond their comfort zone, which only made the consummate teacher smile.

Off campus, theatres in New York, San Francisco, D.C. and beyond know her as actor, director and voice coach. She is both artist and teacher – internationally recognized for her dialect wizardry. Her students are quick to point out that van den Berg makes an important distinction between accent and dialect, the latter being not only how to say something but what words to use and actually owning it. Too animated to merely sit face-to-face teaching dialect, van den Berg’s interactive style puts her coaching from the sidelines while the actor rehearses on stage. 

She’s been recognized nationally by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) as a “Teaching Artist,” in honor of her outstanding commitment to her students and to the art of Theatre. For more than 16 years, she’s been volunteering in one capacity or another with KCACTF. 

In 2009, van den Berg went national, putting her name and the McDaniel name in KCACTF’s eight regional festival programs and more prominently in the Kennedy Center Playbill during the annual National Festival. After more than a decade involvement with KCACTF, she became chair of region two – which put her in close contact with Theatre Arts department chairs and faculty from 80 colleges in D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. As chair for the past three years, she has orchestrated the regional festival with more than 1,200 students, faculty and theatre professional attending.  

While vice chair from 2009 to 2011 and with the help of a McDaniel student, van den Berg designed the region two website and served as its webmaster. She traveled and judged other regional festivals as chair and vice chair, since the previous chair was unable to travel – and now has close friends and colleagues in Higher Education theatre across the country. The National Chair for KCACTF calls her “an exceptional human being…who freely gives of her time and expertise, and for that is universally admired.”