headshot photo of Christopher Trela

Christopher Trela

Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts


A Public Relations Renaissance Man

Whether it’s managing rock bands, writing columns for local newspapers and magazines, winning awards for his photography, or producing his own plays, Professor Christopher Trela seems capable of doing it all. What makes this polymath even more extraordinary is how he relates it all back to his career in public relations.

“Public Relations was a lot different when I first started out,” says Trela, “because you didn’t have social media or the internet. Still, it gave me a sense of what it’s like to promote something and to be successful at it.”

Trela started his career in the punk rock scene. In 1977, he was the manager of Middle Class, whose album, Out of Vogue, went on to define the sound of hardcore punk. A few years later, he began promoting his own bands, for which he played drums and electric violin.

Since then, Trela has worked both as a journalist and photographer for newspapers and magazines throughout Southern California. He has had several successful columns, including the Newport Beach Independent’s, “Table for Two,” and Coast Magazine’s award-winning humor column, “A Slice of Life.” He’s also won awards for his photography at the Orange County Fair.

“It’s great having the perspective of a journalist when you’re doing PR,” says Trela, “because you know what journalists are looking for in a story. I also find that my photography makes me more valuable, because I can take photos of the places, businesses, and events I’m promoting.”

In addition to a successful career in journalism and photography, Trela spends a good portion of his time promoting the performing arts. He is the owner and president of Arts PR, the award-winning public relations agency whose clients include the Laguna Playhouse, the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra, and the Festival Ballet Theatre. He is also the founder of New Voices Playwrights, an organization dedicated to promoting and performing the work of new playwrights. Trela has written and produced several of his own plays, including the short play, Waiting for Merlot, a satirical take on Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, which was staged in New York. He also founded Table for Two Productions and Overture, two organizations that raise funds for the arts. For all this and more, Trela was named “Man of the Year in Theater” by the Daily Pilot in 1998.

“It’s fun working with arts organizations,” says Trela, “because they appreciate your work so much. You also get a little more attention from the media, because they know that arts organizations are non-profit and they’re usually promoting something that’s different and exciting.”

Trela began at Chapman as a guest speaker before becoming an adjunct faculty member. “Chapman has some great students,” he says, “and it’s exciting to see how they take the information they learn from me and apply it in the real world. It also reminds me that I have to be the best mentor I can to these students so that they can go out and achieve great things both now and when they graduate.”