Friday, October 9, 2015

Integrated Language Arts Major Discusses Involvement in AU's Theatre Program

Ariel McCleary, a junior Integrated Language Arts major, is gearing up for the AU Theatre Department's production of Quilters, a musical that opens tonight in Hugo Young Theatre:

Ariel answers questions about her role(s) in the musical, other theatrical experiences, and how theater complements her ILA major.

Q: What is your role in Quilters and how did you get involved in the production?

A: I play about 16 different characters. The show incorporates the lives of 60 characters total, all representing the situations and hardships of women from the pioneer life of western America. My characters vary in age and personality. I play everything from a pesky little schoolboy, Cyrus, to a preacher, to a young girl whose 7th birthday was spent stuck in a dugout in a 30-below blizzard. Other roles feature main narrator Sarah's daughter Jenny, as well as her mother, Florence. I also play a sassy sister who, at her brother's 21st birthday, swears she "ain't never gettin' married."

Q: Is this your first production at AU? If not, what else have you appeared in?

A: I have been in many other productions at AU. My freshman year I was Talita in Night Train to Bolina, my sophomore year I played Kate in the debut of the new play In The Event of My Death written by Lindsay Joy, and last year I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. I also played Betty in a short play called "Sure Thing" for the One Acts my sophomore year. I have also been on sound board, paint crew, and was props master for other shows here.

Q: How does your involvement in the Theatre department complement your Integrated Language Arts major?

A: It has influenced my ILA major GREATLY. I have been involved with theater since high school, but college theater is so different. It is more professional, and you dig so much deeper into the lives of the characters and the art of a production. I love it. It has helped me in some obvious ways, like influencing how I analyze a text--especially plays-- in my courses, as well as giving me more fruitful ideas as to how I would teach certain texts to my students. Since I've been part of the theater world, I definitely enjoy more hands-on activity based lessons. I want to incorporate skits and character portrayals and pantomimes in my classroom. I think most high-schoolers and middle-schoolers benefit from activities where they can move and act out scenes. It boosts their confidence and lets their own personalities shine. This is really important for adolescent years, when their identity is the most malleable. 

Performing has helped my own confidence too! Which translates to my confidence with teaching in the classroom for my field experience. Teaching is a lot like acting, I've found. A good teacher knows how to be enthusiastic and warm, even if they are not feeling it some days. Being in a play also teaches you vulnerability, which is something most education majors do not know they need. I think admitting you do not know something is a key element of being a great teacher.

Q: What else would you like the readers of the blog to know?

A: I think every ILA or English major should give theater a try at least once in their life. Just because you are not a theater major or minor does not mean you shouldn't audition or work on crew. I am not a major or minor, and I have been on Theater Scholarship here and have gotten big roles! The department welcomes all kinds of fields of study. Do not be afraid!

College is a really great time to try new things, and the experiences I have had with the AU Theater Department have made me grow as a person, a teacher, and an appreciator of the arts. The department is doing Midsummer Night's Dream in the Spring. Auditions are Tuesday Nov. 10 starting at 6 p.m., so anyone who has an appreciation for Shakespeare should give it a shot!