Andrew Fry is just as comfortable on stage as he is in front of a class. Fry is a lecturer in the School of Engineering and Technology where he also serves as the Director of Industry Partnerships. When he’s not teaching or meeting with local business leaders, Fry is performing. He’s been featured in over 55 plays in theaters from Renton to Olympia in the last 17 years with the majority of those shows here in Tacoma.
Fry has been involved with acting and theater in some capacity since his days at Clover Park High School in Lakewood. “I was always in choir, and I just really enjoyed it — the singing, dancing, memorizing lines,” he said. After graduating, he moved on to UW Seattle where he pursued a degree in psychology. While at UW, Fry took acting electives which furthered his love of the craft.
Fry is an affable guy with a seemingly endless supply of energy. Indeed, that enthusiasm seems to guide him in different directions. “I always had some kind of affiliation with TV which began with a job as an audio tech and editor with KIRO while I was still in school,” he said. “I actually ended up taking a year off in my junior year to work with ‘Evening Magazine,’ but ended up going back to school afterwards to finish up my degree.”
Following graduation, Fry started his own video production company. He also dabbled in technology, an interest that led him into the field of software programming for companies both large and small. Fry eventually took his skills to Microsoft where he worked as a project manager for the original Word for Windows programs.
Fry didn’t act much during this period. He was busy building a career and raising a family. That began to change around 2001. “My company had just gone public and I had an opportunity to take on a new position with what was then proposed as the Institute of Technology here at UW Tacoma,” he said. “My role was to create connections with industry both to help the students and grow the Institute itself because it was still pretty small.”
At the same time, Fry’s daughter was recruited to act in a local production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” and Fry was asked to audition for Jacob. “I was thinking, ‘You know, I do have a background in performing and I’m not shy’,” he said. “I also figured that if I had to take my kid to rehearsals I might as well do it.”
Over the last 18 years, Fry has been in from three to six productions per year. From classics like “A Christmas Carol” to lesser known plays like “The Pillowman,” Fry makes it a point to seek out a range of characters. “The more range I can play, the happier I am,” he said. “Though in my time on the stage, I’ve definitely played my fair share of odd characters,” he said. “When my kids were younger they would always ask me ‘Dad, why are you always the bad guy?’”
One of his favorite shows was “Little Shop of Horrors,” which he noted has some stark differences from the film. “When you come see the production, you really have to put the movie out of your head,” he said. “By the end of the play, everyone dies, the plants take over the world, and it’s wonderful.”
Fry’s ability to perform and put himself out there translates to what he does at UW Tacoma in many ways. “I’m energized by teaching and getting up in front of a class, I really am,” he said. “There’s a reward that comes from both teaching and acting, when you give a good performance there’s an appreciation for the work you’ve done.”
Fry understands his role as a teacher isn’t to entertain, it’s to instruct. However the appreciation that comes after performances is similar to the response he has from students that have taken his class. “I had a student that was a veteran who decided to get a degree in IT,” he said. “The first two classes he took just bored him to death, but he told me that he stayed in the program because of my class. I just started tearing up hearing because I want learning to be the best experience it can be.”
Pillowman Wins Awards
The cast and crew of "The Pillowman" were one of 12 companies from across the country to compete in the NationalTheatre Festival AACTFest19 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The production took home three awards including: Outstanding Achievement in a Supporting Role, Outstanding Achivement in Set Design and a National Award of Excellence for Ensemble Performance.
One of Fry’s favorite courses is “Managing Technical Teams.” The class requires students to make a contribution to the community utilizing technology. “Over the years, students helped the Fisher House Foundation, worked on the Northwest Harvest website, and made website changes for Tacoma’s Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital among other community based projects,” he said. “If there is one theme through all of this, it’s making connections. I connect industry to faculty and students to industry. It’s all about connecting with people and making a contribution — that’s really what drives me.”
Fry noted that the flexibility in his job at UW Tacoma has created a space for him to explore acting, which he’s extremely grateful for. “I love working with the University for a lot of reasons, but I have appreciated the flexibility that I have in this position to explore my own passions,” he said. “It’s like the best of both worlds for me; I teach four courses per year, and do about the same amount of theater productions.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or email@example.com