Theater Students Soak Up Atlanta Arts Scene

For most students, gaining real-world experience in their chosen field is an essential part of college. For six theater students, that experience meant getting a behind-the-scenes look at one of the nation’s top performing arts companies.

While on sabbatical, Jay Raphael, chair of the Theatre Arts and Dance Department, took the six students to the Tony-award winning Alliance Theatre in Atlanta to experience the professional world of the dramatic arts firsthand.

“They toured the facilities, attended rehearsals, watched performances, met in private sessions with members of the artistic, production, and educational staffs; talked with young interns and theater fellows; and had informal conversations with the professional actors in the cast of Next to Normal,” said Raphael, who worked at Alliance during his sabbatical. “They also visited other arts institutions and venues in Atlanta.”

The students, Olivia Perry, T.J. Medel, Emily Wold, Mikita Thompson, Carrie Henry, and Kazzie Cazort, were selected for the trip after winning an essay contest.

Mendel, a graduating senior, said the trip for him was about “exposure, exposure, exposure.”

“We were able to see the level at which professionals operate in our discipline, and how much hard work and dedication it takes to create a theater like the Alliance,” Mendel said. “If there was one thing we got from everyone we talked with, it’s the need for and the value of collaboration.”

Mendel got an on-the-spot lesson in teamwork when he joined an Atlanta improv group onstage at Dad’s Garage.

The experience was more than just a field trip – it became a call to action.

“Anecdotally, the faculty reported to me that these students returned home ‘spinning,’ but more importantly, three of them immediately applied to graduate schools and unified auditions. A dancer contacted a company in Atlanta to explore applying for a summer intensive, and another of the six began looking into Atlanta as a possible port of entry for his post-baccalaureate professional pursuits,” Raphael said.

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