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PR prof pens portion of bicentennial play

By Rebecca Harris | November 7, 2016

Bruce Hetrick, professor of practice in the IUPUI Department of Journalism and Public Relations, has 35 years of experience in the public relations field and has been teaching at IUPUI for nearly five years. This fall, he embarked on a new adventure: Contributing to a play to celebrate Indiana’s bicentennial.

The Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) production, called “Finding Home: Indiana at 200,” is the product of 30 writers’ work, including Hetrick’s.

Hetrick has worked with the theater in the past, creating PR, marketing, and fundraising materials in addition to co-writing sketches for the IRT’s celebrity radio show fundraiser. While he has never written a professional theater piece for production before, he drew on experiences in other areas to guide him.

“Because I started my career as a speechwriter — writing words to be spoken and not just read — I’ve always taught the importance of writing for the ear and not just the page,” he said. “This experience will reinforce those lessons.”

He chose to focus his portion of the play on the Fall Creek Massacre, the killing of nine Native Americans by white settlers in 1824 in Madison County. The result is a monologue-musical hybrid about racial tension, and a way to showcase the good and the bad of Indiana’s past.

“I hope this production gives us an opportunity to find pride and understanding in where we’ve been so we might do a better job with our future,” Hetrick told Inside IUPUI.

Over the course of two years, Hetrick wrote and rewrote the monologue, collaborating with a musician as well as the Native American actress performing his piece to enhance the work in new ways.

“Theater is such a collaborative process and an art,” he said. “Like theater, PR and journalism are almost always team efforts.”

Hetrick’s students say that he brings invaluable experience to the classroom and inspires his young scholars.

Public relations senior Leslie Salazar took Hetrick’s PR Tactics and Techniques course and said he always encouraged his students to “paint a picture” when they wrote, from press releases to stories.

“I still have a notebook full of Bruce Hetrick quotes and lessons from the semester,“ said fellow senior Kasandra Zimmerman, who also took the tactics and techniques course. “I remember on the second day of class, (he) emphasized for nearly the entire class period that, ‘writing matters — words can change the world.’”

The play opened on Oct. 18 and runs until Nov. 20. Check here for ticket information.