If all the world’s a stage, then Cathy Springfield is one happy woman. As Xavier University’s director of performing arts, the ever-ebullient Springfield lives for the theater. And now — after years of budgetary struggles and campus wrangling — she recently got a new one of her own. A theater, that is.

The Gallagher Student Center Theatre, built five years ago, is a 352-seat centerpiece that plays home to Xavier’s performing arts programs — as well as Springfield’s dreams of producing cutting-edge drama every academic season.

“We have a ‘Hats Off’ series that’s strictly for children, in collaboration with Madcap Puppets,” Springfield notes. “And we have some other exciting things happening as a result of this new facility.”

Springfield opened Xavier’s season this year with Angels in America and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Other productions in Springfield’s season include Power Plays (by Elaine May and Alan Arkin), Macbeth and Voices for Change, which are performance pieces based on contemporary issues of justice and social equality set against an ever-changing social and political climate.

“The real measure of our Jesuit universities lies in who our students become,” says the director. “So it behooves us at this university to talk about this mission — theater as an agent of change that gets the issues out on the table. What theater does best is move people. That’s why I’ve been doing this 30 years and still find it fascinating.”

Springfield’s theater space is itself a $4-million “thrust style” facility, with the stage projecting forward and no audience member more than a dozen rows from the center of action.

“We have been talking in earnest about this new theater for years,” observes Springfield, who arrived on campus in the late 1980s to run the theater program after Xavier acquired Edgecliff College. That was a time when “we used to borrow costumes from a high school.”

Whether it be talk of expanding audience horizons, exploring professional collaborations with area theaters or the creation of an entirely new outdoor dramatic arts festival, Springfield remains enthused and focused. Asked for her one, overriding vision, she seems to keep coming back to three words: “Theater changes people.”

Springfield’s rich and varied biography includes taking period dance at the Julliard School and stage combat at the Royal Shakespeare Company. She helped start a cabaret, co-founded the American Repertory Theatre of Cincinnati and its Peanut Butter Theatre, and performed as an Equity player in regional theater.

Born in Charlotte, N.C., she was raised in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Finneytown and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Eastern Michigan University and an education degree at the University of Charleston in South Carolina.

“Energy,” “optimism” and “a willingness to collaborate with others in the Cincinnati theatrical community” seem to be the words and phrases most often associated with Springfield. In addition to serving as director of performing arts, she’s a communications arts instructor at Xavier and managing director of the Xavier Players.

One new idea Springfield champions is for a “Theater of Conscience,” where students stand with a character and realize the dramatic potential of student interaction. She also wants to reach across all the university disciplines and mesh them with drama. “We have an excellent opportunity to create something unique,” she says.

But the first priority is to make the best use of the improved dramatic space. The philosophy has been: “Build a theater and they will come,” as Springfield puts it. “They” being an audience, certainly. But also future drama students. “It’s a great recruitment tool,” she points out.

The Gallagher Student Center Theatre also includes an orchestra pit, rehearsal space, professional sound booth, dressing rooms, professional lighting and a prop design shop. Exposed catwalks and a full-fly floor provide the ultimate flexibility and creative possibilities for staging. The shop provides more space for carpentry work and technical equipment, as well.

Her greatest challenge, most days, isn’t academic paperwork, but dramatic programming — trying to conscientiously plan the university’s performance calendar without overlapping the surrounding college theater schedule and even professional theater offerings.

It’s through productions such as these that Springfield believes she can have an impact on Xavier University. Enough talk. It’s now time for class, time for rehearsals, time to move forward. This is a day in her life. Springfield — in the ever-dizzying flurry of motion she’s known so well for — exits, stage right.

The Xavier theater season concludes this month with the annual workshop of student-written comedies (performances at 7:30 p.m. April 16-19) and “Toolbox,” an evening of original sketch comedy and improvisation (9 p.m. April 30 and May 1). Box office: (513) 745-3939.