How is studying theatre at Warren Wilson different?
The Warren Wilson experience is made up of a “triad” of academics, work, and service. In theatre, here’s our approach to each element of the Triad:
Academics: Our curriculum emphasizes collaboration and personal development in addition to knowledge and skills.
Work: As part of the Work Program, the Theatre Department has its own crew. The Theatre Crew’s work is integrated with our curriculum and production activities. Students work alongside faculty to operate as a working
Theatre/English majors are guaranteed a place on the Theatre Crew (two semesters are required).
Service: We believe that making theatre is a service to the community. As part of the College’s Service-Learning requirement, we also seek opportunities for students to perform theatre-related service with non-profit companies, schools and other groups in the Asheville area.
How big is the Theatre Department?
The Theatre Department involves dozens of students, but has a low ratio of faculty to majors. We have three full-time faculty and staff, and four part-time faculty and staff. Faculty in English and Creative Writing teach theatre-related courses, too. In the 2008-2009 academic year, there were twelve students declared as Theatre/English majors.
How many plays do you do in a year? What kinds of plays do you do?
Our season usually includes four fully produced shows. In 2008-2009, we produced six shows. We also present student-directed shows generated in class, as well as work created by faculty and guest artists. Our shows usually include at least one Senior Project production, with seniors often working in collaboration with one another as a creative team. Our play selection is eclectic, including classical and contemporary work, and a musical at least every other year. We also like avant-garde and experimental theatre, and we have a reputation for often doing unusual, “edgy” work.
Do you have to be a Theatre/English major to be in plays or help backstage?
No! Any Warren Wilson student can get involved onstage, backstage, and in publicity and box office work. Students majoring in a wide variety of other subjects often become very active in Warren Wilson Theatre. Recent majors in biology, psychology and English were
some of our most prominent participants.
Is there a theatre “clique” at Warren Wilson?
No. While we value a core of highly committed Theatre students who feel that the Theatre Department is home, we make sure that everyone who wants to take part is welcomed and feels free to become part of the family. We know that the best theatre is made by those who are interested in everything and who have a wide variety of friends.
Do first-year students get parts in shows? How competitive is theatre at Warren Wilson?
Because the College is small, first year students often land good roles in our productions, including leading roles. Our policy is that directors choose the person for each role that would best serve the production. Auditions for Warren Wilson Theatre productions are open to all members of the Warren Wilson community, though students are given priority. We do not limit our casting by race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation. Theatre everywhere is competitive, but we value collaboration, which in turn fosters an atmosphere of mutual support. Naturally, actors compete for cherished roles, but once a play is cast, we work together in an atmosphere of mutual support to share a story with our audience.
What is the theatre scene in Asheville like?
Asheville has an extraordinarily lively arts scene for a city of its size: all the arts thrive here. The theatre scene is no exception. North Carolina Stage Company is one of the Southeast’s finest professional companies. We have a close relationship with NC Stage: theatre professor Ron Bashford has directed over a dozen shows there, and students often perform service projects at NC Stage, including acting from time-to-time. Imme
diate Theatre Project is a smaller, professional company that is always doing adventurous work. Several more small professional and semi-professional groups are also active in Asheville, performing in spaces like the BeBe Theatre downtown. There are two large and well-established community theaters, The Montford Park Players–who perform free outdoor Shakespeare in the summertime–and Asheville Community Theatre, which has a large two-theatre complex. The Diana Wortham Theatre brings in an exciting season of nationally touring theatre and dance companies. Asheville also boasts a professional symphony orchestra, a large choral society, a small opera
company, a chamber music society, an art museum and many galleries. The contemporary music scene is a big part of Asheville nightlife, with many venues devoted to bands and folk music every night of the week.
Why is your Major called the “Theatre/English” major?
Because we believe in critical thinking and writing skills, our program incorporates courses from the English department. We’re fortunate to have a very close relationship with some of Warren Wilson’s most admired and popular teachers there, who specialize in Shakespeare and other dramatic literature. Students are exposed to a great many plays, which they learn about in their cultural and historical contexts.
Do you offer dance at Warren Wilson?
Yes! The Theatre Department currently offers courses in Modern Dance Technique, Modern Dance Improvisation and Composition and Butoh: Dance of Darkness, all taught by professional dancer and performance artist Julie Becton Gillum. Julie also teaches The History and Practice of Performance Art, choreographs our musicals, serves as movement specialist on other shows, and works with students on independent projects.
What other kinds of courses do you offer?
We offer acting and directing courses, in an ensemble-oriented format. We also offer courses in technical theatre, stage management, design, voice and speech, and the theatrical interpretation of text. The Creative Writing program offers playwriting, which we teach in concert with one of our acting and directing classes. You can see a representative list here.
Do students create their own work?
Yes! We encourage exceptional students to work toward a Senior Project in Theatre, which can be in acting, directing, writing for the stage, design, or dramaturgy and performance studies. In recent years, students have created and performed their own plays, performed one-person shows and directed established contemporary and classic plays. More and more students are working on projects in sound and costume design.
Are the faculty artists in their own right?
Yes. Our faculty include two directors, a scenic and lighting designer, a costume designer, a playwright and actor, and a dancer and performance artist. In particular, one is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and two more perform professionally, or have original work produced on a regular basis.
What are your facilities like?
Kittredge Theatre is home to the Theatre Department and is where most of our productions are presented. Kittredge is a 320-seat proscenium theatre with a twelve-foot apron that can be opened for an orchestra pit. We have a thirty-batten counterweight system for lighting and scenery, and a catwalk system over the audience for additional lighting. We’re lucky to have a large scene shop which opens directly onto the stage, and a publicity and management office next door. There is a fully functioning costume shop on the lower level, which also houses our extensive costume and properties collections. The stage is large enough for us to build a “black box” with seating on stage, and we often build out over the audience to create a fuller “thrust.” There is a small outdoor amphitheater next to Kittredge, and across the way is a wonderful historical wooden building, Bryson Gym, that we use for classes, rehearsals and non-traditional performances. Attached to Kittredge is the “music wing,” home of the Music Department, where there is a recital hall, practice rooms with pianos and classrooms. The Art Department buildings are just a few steps away, completing an “arts village” on the northern part of the campus.
What is your costume collection like?
Huge! It is our pride and joy. Our very talented Costume Designer, Beverly Ohler, has built up an enormous stash of period costumes over many years, including authentic antique clothing, and an unbelievable shoe collection! The costume collection is growing all the time, because Bev and her Costume Crew design and build new clothes for every show.
What do your graduates do after college? Do they go into theatre?
A degree in theatre from a liberal arts college prepares students for many fields or post-graduate study, including–but not limited to–theatre. Here is what ten of our graduates are doing now:
- Working as a professional stage actor
- Working in film, television,and theatre both as a technician and as an actor
- Working in professional theatre and opera as an assistant costume designer
- Completing a Master’s degree in Theatre Education at New York University
- Completing a Master’s degree in Applied Theatre at City University of New York
- Working at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
- Founding, writing and directing for an international, avant-garde theatre company
- Working as an actor and studying to be a massage therapist in New York City
- Working as Health Services Program Administrator for the town of Black Mountain, North Carolina
- Directing Shakespeare’s Cymbeline for Asheville’s Montford Park Players
Warren Wilson is known for its commitment to sustainability and the environment. How is the Theatre Department involved?
We take the word “sustainable” in its broadest sense: that which is needed to sustain life, community, and the human spirit. We feel that theatre, a collaborative art form, exemplifies the ways we work with and understand one another and our world. Also, we actively recycle our set and costume construction materials. Finally, we are committed to the College’s carbon-neutral project, and we are working to reduce our energy use in Kittredge.