Majoring in theater provides sense of family

Show time: The blue marque in front of the Andrew J. and Georgia Neese Gray Theatre on Washburn’s campus displays the information for the department’s latest play, “War Paint.” The theatre department hosts four shows a year, two per semester.

Kodee Christensen

The ever-growing theatre department, which lives and breathes in Garvey, is a close-knit group of students and faculty who share a passion for performance and collaboration. Those who get to call themselves theatre majors experience this passion first-hand every day in classes, rehearsals and by passing in the hallways.

“Theater is not just performative, its collaborative,” said chair of the theatre department Sharon Sullivan. “So it really is important to understand what the other person does and what the other jobs do. It really helps create a much stronger understanding of the discipline itself.”

The theatre department has two main majors, general theatre and musical theatre. Just last year, the musical theatre emphasis was added to the program and Sullivan shared that it will soon become a full degree program. She hopes the official change will come by the end of this school year or beginning of next.

“One of the things that’s really unique about our program is that we don’t have a graduate program,” said Sullivan, “so that means first year students, freshmen, undergrads…they get the roles. I would say that as a freshman or first year student, you can expect to be on stage…or backstage if that’s where you want to be.”

Something else unique about Washburn’s theatre department is that auditions are open to everyone: majors, non-majors, graduates and even community members. Overall, the theatre department’s community is one of a kind.

“Coming here and having a fresh start after high school was like everything I could have ever wished for,” said junior theatre and English major Angela Gray. “Everyone here is my family.”

Having this familial space amongst peers is helpful as the seemingly endless opportunities become overwhelming.

“Time management is something that actors struggle a lot with, because they want to be in shows more than they want to be in class,” said Sullivan. “And we have to sometimes remind them that their job is to get an education, not just be in shows.”

Gray has experienced first-hand this feeling of wanting to do everything the department has to offer and shares a tip for handling it.

“It’s very good to have organizational skills,” shared Gray. “There’s so much I want to do. My dream is to become an author or playwright, and I’m working on my first novel and first play right now.”

In continuing to support students on any and all endeavors they choose in the theatre department, ticket sales for shows have recently been replaced with donations that go directly to student funds.

“One thing I would really love is to have more of our Washburn students, faculty, staff and the Topeka community come support our students and see their hard work,” said Sullivan. “Because our students work so hard and they’re so good.”

Edited by Jackson Woods, Jada Johnson, Adam White