A Theater Education: Interview with Sarah Lavender
Thomas Constantine Moore talks with a Theatre Arts major at Western Washington University, and compares their program with his experience at Carnegie Mellon.
Sarah Lavender, unrealistically classy freshman at Western Washington University (© Evan Kubena)
It's that time of year - when acceptance letters are going out and college applicants are faced with the task of choosing between schools. Sarah Lavender is a Theatre Arts major with a concentration in Acting and Education at Western Washington University. I was interested in how her experience differed from my own.
THOMAS CONSTANTINE MOORE: Can you just briefly describe your program?
SARAH LAVENDER: The Theatre Program at Western is really great because there are so many ways to get involved. There are the big main stage shows, about four or five a year including one musical each year. Also there is something called Student Theatre Productions (STP), and they put on a show every quarter that has a student director. Additionally, there's "Plays For Us": Student written, directed, and acted short plays put on each quarter.
TCM: To what degree does competition in your program impact you or your friends, either positively or negatively?
SL: So far my experience in the theater program at Western has been drama free! Thank goodness! But I have heard about a lot of competition and hard feelings that arise in the program. I try to stay out of it as much as possible; theater is a lot better without the negative drama.
TCM: How many non-theater related classes are you taking/are you required to take? Do you ever wish you could spend more time on theater?
SL: I am taking about half and half right now. I should be taking more non- theater classes to fill my graduation requirements, but whenever I sign up for classes I always give in and sign up for more acting classes. But I am taking the normal freshman classes as well including math, English, history, science, etc.
TCM: What was your experience like being in a show in your first quarter of your freshman year?
SL: I auditioned for the show on a whim not really expecting anything. But after I got the call, I was more excited than I had been in awhile. My director Mario is a senior at Western and he really helped me believe in myself throughout the process. Because I was not only struggling with acting in a show as a freshman, but also just being a freshman was a struggle. He really helped me through some stuff and I appreciate that so much. I was one of two freshmen in the show.
TCM: What are your post-graduate plans? Is theater something you're interested in pursuing professionally?
SL: I want to be a teacher and teach theater to children with special needs. I have always had a soft spot for those individuals in my life, and I would just feel so good working with them for a living. Theater definitely served as an outlet for me when I felt lost or unwanted, and these kids have had to struggle their whole lives and I want to show them somewhere they can go to feel something amazing.
THOUGHTS FROM TCM: CMU is way more class-based especially in the first two years. No one even performs until Junior year, with the exception of our student works festival, "Playground," which is one week out of the year. Not that you don't perform, but you do it inside a classroom, not on a stage. As for outside classes, we only have room in our schedules for about seven or eight electives over all four years. It's extremely difficult to double-major or even minor in something outside of theater, so for really academic-oriented people that could be frustrating. In fact, we're kept so busy, sometimes it is frustrating as an artist being unable to devote time to extracurricular projects - whereas at Western it sounds like student-originated activity is more common. Though these are only two schools, hopefully their comparison serves to illustrate how varied theater schools can be. You can get a great education at tons of different schools - the key question is: what kind of education are you searching for?
Best wishes to any college prospectives that might be reading this.