Theatre department shows passion for performance

Picking a college major is arguably one of the most stressful decisions every student goes through at one point or another. For some, however, the choice is simple: go with your passion. After sitting down with four active members of the Theatre department, Erika McCormack ’15, Christopher Truini ’16, David Fox (professor of Theatre), and Stephanie Daniels ’97 (Associate Professor of Theatre; Chair, Theatre and Dance Studies), the benefits of majoring in theatre were crystal clear. Majoring in theatre not only enriches one academically, but personally as well.

Truini’ 16 and McCormack ’15 are both on the Acting/Directing track. After taking multiple theatre courses at Wheaton, both decided to further enrich their acting training by taking advantage of the department’s connections to acting conservatories abroad. Truini went to the Moscow Art Theatre Semester (MATS) through the National Theatre Institute (NTI) this past fall, right after McCormack spent her spring (2014) at the London Dramatic Academy (LDA).

Truini said of his time abroad, “I discovered a love for the body as an instrument of story telling and expression. I’ve felt enabled to create. I’m totally fearless; you learn so much from risk.”

McCormack equally raved of her experience, stating, “They expect so much of you not only as an actor but as a person. Your best self is the only thing they will accept.”

Both commented that the theatre major here at Wheaton has provided them with opportunities that they wouldn’t have found elsewhere.

Daniels ’97 didn’t come to Wheaton with the mindset that she would major in theatre, but everything changed after her first day of Beginning Acting. “I realized walking to the Dimple that I was ridiculously happy…why would I want to do anything else?” One of her professors, David Fox, was the one who originally asked her to come back to Wheaton to teach. “It’s a dream I never knew I had come true to be able to teach every day what I love and believe in passionately. It’s a place where I continue to grow as a professional theatre artist with incredible collaborations that I feel so thankful for,” said Daniels of her teaching career.

Fox didn’t start out with the intention of teaching, either, but is glad he ended up here. “You see in the course of a semester such incredible progress with students. You see them gain faith in themselves and venture out into new territory. You’re really working with them emotionally, and that’s really gratifying. Sometimes you help students discover talent that they didn’t even know they had.”

Truini, who was inspired to do theatre by his mother and sister, spoke of Daniels and Fox: “They pushed me to a level of professionalism that I’d never had to deal with before. Stephanie and David really know what they’re doing. They’re fantastic and they’re really good at pushing you to what you need to know without being overbearing and miserable like some acting teachers.”

McCormack verbalized similar feelings: “They teach us to work hard and risk as much as you can because failing is a part of life. You can go to any of the professors and they always have an open door and an open mind to whatever you’re going through, whether it’s academic or personal. You never feel self-conscious going to a professor because they will always, always be there to help you.”

When asked about what they love about theatre in general, all four remarked that they wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. McCormack noted, “In theatre, something is alive in front of you. It’s an honor to be that living thing that you get to watch unfold. You’re creating something out of text, and hopefully you can make somebody think.” Fox similarly commented, “I’ve always been attracted to the live experience of theatre. Two groups of people engaged in a dialogue…engaging in a space with an audience is different every time.”

Daniels mentioned that she “loves how theatre helps us see the very best and worst of ourselves. Through that comes deep understanding of the human condition.”

All of them mentioned that taking a theatre class is beneficial to any student, no matter the major. Truini remarked, “Everybody should do theatre. It’s learning empathy, walking in someone else’s shoes and seeing things from another perspective. Isn’t that the whole reason we’re walking on two legs and talking to each other?”