School of Drama Blog

Rosalind Phelps, BA Drama Performance, 2015, director of "On the Verge" and outgoing President of UTS.

by Rosalind Phelps

I try to make it up as I go. I like making it up as I go. In fact, I want to be a “make it up as you go”-er. What does it mean to be a “make it up as you go”-er? It means that you value creativity, spontaneity, bravery, and a constant sense of moving forward; all things I hope to keep with me as I take my first steps into the real world.

I have a degree…almost. In June, I graduate from the School of Drama with a BA in Drama Performance. Throughout my four years of study I have cultivated this identity of the “make it up as you go”-er from the bits and pieces of wisdom and inspiration I encountered as an undergraduate.   

“Find the fear in the room and confront it” is a piece of directing and, frankly, life advice that Professor Valerie Curtis-Newton swears by, and it has stuck hard with me as well. Similarly, I admire the writer/director Young Jean Lee for her dedication to creating pieces based on her fears as a director. We all have fear of...

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Michael Joseph Hanley

by Michael Jospeh Hanley

Every student of the arts knows the feeling of dread that grows and grows as graduation inches closer and closer: What will I do with my Drama degree? How am I going to financially support myself? What will my next artistic project be?

As someone who will be walking in graduation ceremonies in June, all of those questions are of interest. That being said, I am the kind of person who needs to answer the last question before I can get to the other ones. Artistic creation and expression feeds and fuels my soul. I need it as much as I need food, water, and sleep.

There’s a problem, though: in order to work on a project, you need a project to work on. Actors get work by auditioning for shows, but unless you’re applying for a specific internship or assistantship program, directors don’t necessarily have a structured, systematic way of getting work. In my experience, a lot of it comes down to whether or not you are in the right place at the...

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Sunam with her kids.

by Sunam Ellis

This is not my first time as a graduate student. Several years ago I was in a Ph.D. Human Development program. I wanted to research marital relationships. But not really. It was my back-up plan. Theatre is, and has always been, my first love. The lure of a full-ride at a prestigious school, though—the promise of becoming Dr. Ellis—it was hard to resist. And I had a fire to succeed. After two semesters and a summer abroad, I had already completed a solid chunk of my master’s thesis. But there was no joy. And I ultimately left the program.

Fast-forward several years…

After many discussions with my husband, we decided to take a chance. I was going to make a serious pursuit of acting, the thing that had always brought me so much joy. I brushed up on the craft by doing some community productions before heading off to auditions for graduate programs. The plan was...

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Magelssen readies a space probe for deploying with his counterpart back at Mission Control.

When we last heard from School of Drama Associate Professor Scott Magelssen he had just returned from Norway’s Kon-Tiki Museum, pursuing his research on performative reconstruction. Scott’s current research is on interactive performance events in which participants are immersed into live, simulated, experiential environments and take on active roles in those environments. In this blog post, Scott’s research takes him all the way to space.

As our crew approached Mars, I worked carefully with my colleague Josh back at Mission control to assemble the space probe. I had the probe laid out in front of me in the airlock, its tangle of wires and components a big jigsaw puzzle, while Josh read me the assembly instructions over my headset. Though neither of us had all the information, and Josh could see me on his monitor but I couldn’...

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Tara Velan Headshot

In this blog post, Tara Velan, a second-year student in the Professional Actor Training Program, reflects on her work developing the character of Miss Gilchrist in Brendan Behan's The Hostage.

Dia dhaoidh!

This winter I have been delighted to be a part of The Hostage creative team. Our work has been a rollercoaster of experimentation as we bring Brendan Behan’s story to life.

Awakening the life of Miss Gilchrist continues to be challenging and rewarding. While exploring this world alongside so many fellow layered characters (our cast is quite large!), I have discovered some valuable tools for my acting practice.

Part of our goal as actors in the Professional Actor Training Program is to identify and develop an individual process of character development, so that the skills we gain from our training aid in the construction of a personal method for creating performed art.

In addition to our...

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Taige' Kussman

She may have finished her credit requirements—and received her diploma—last December, but Taigé Kussman hasn’t quite wrapped her educational experience at the School of Drama. That wrap will come March 8, closing night of the Undergraduate Theater Society’s production of Cabaret, in which Taigé plays the iconic role of Sally Bowles.

“It’s a fitting capstone to her collegiate career,” says Professor Andrew Tsao, head of the undergraduate program. “Taigé came to us a young artist with a great deal of talent. She is now leaving us as a young artist with a great deal of talent and a lot more knowledge and craft.”

Taigé came to the University of Washington as a transfer student. She is the first in her family to go to college and after completing her transfer degree found herself frustrated and unable to articulate what she wanted to do. She took a few...

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Marya Sea Kaminski

Marya Sea Kaminski is a writer, actor, and solo performer, and, as of September 2014, the Associate Artistic Director of Seattle Repertory Theatre. She is a founding member of and was co-artistic director of the Washington Ensemble Theatre from 2004-2008. Her work has earned her many awards including the 2010 Genius Award in Theater from The Stranger. Marya earned her MFA (Professional Actor Training Program) from UW Drama in 2004. She recently took the time to answer a few questions over email about her new role at Seattle Rep.

In August, you wrote about your desire to return to artistic leadership. How do you define/approach artistic leadership?

For me, leadership is about standing up for the community I belong to, making sure everyone is counted and that we are collectively nourished with the things we need. In the case of artists, I believe our nourishment comes from opportunity, variety, challenge, and collaboration. I don't think leadership is...

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Simon Tran in rehearsal for Yellow Face.

In just a couple of days, undergraduate Elizabeth Wu's directorial debut with the Undergraduate Theater Society opens at Hutchinson Hall. Elizabeth is a senior majoring in Drama and English. In addition to her coursework and directorial duties, Elizabeth serves on the Drama BA Council and as the student representative to the School of Drama Advisory Board. This is her second blog post reflecting on her work on David Henry Hwang's 'Yellow Face.'

January 19th, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, came at an important time for our country. It gave us a period to reflect on our nation’s current events; to think about the dream set out by Dr. King to end racial profiling and violence against people of minority and color. More than ever it gave us pause to think about our own first amendment rights—what we can do (in our own power) to end racial discrimination. It’s in this period of reflection that Yellow Face celebrates its opening in Hutchinson...

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Elizabeth Wu, drama major and director of Yellow Face

This January, undergraduate Elizabeth Wu takes on David Henry Hwang's 'Yellow Face' for her directorial debut with the Undergraduate Theater Society. Elizabeth is a senior majoring in Drama and English. In addition to her coursework and directorial duties, Elizabeth serves on the Drama BA Council and as the student representative to the School of Drama Advisory Board. In this post, she reflects on finding her courage as a director.

August 28th, 2014. Brooklyn, New York.

Sitting in Cammareri Café, just on the edge of Fort Greene Park, I wait anxiously to meet an artist that I have long respected and admired. Having just gotten off the plane from Edinburgh the day before, I clutch my coffee close. That summer I learned a great lesson from my study abroad TA and current MFA Directing candidate, Leah Adcock-Starr: jet lag was no match against a double shot 8oz coffee. I hear the café door open and look up to see playwright David Henry Hwang walk in. I...

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Colton Sullivan

Hello readers,

My name is Colton Sullivan. I am a drama major and I recently acted in Sweet Charity – the inaugural production of the UW Musical Theater Program. I played the roles of Monte the Cop, Marvin, Pompeii customer #9, and Daddy. I will be telling you about my experience as a drama major in this flagship production.

End Slate

I must tell you when I was asked to write this, the thought was to reflect on my experience – as a drama major – acting in Sweet Charity, a play with an ensemble of dance students, vocal students, and the new musical theater students. The problem with this frame of writing, though, is that in this ensemble of 22 actors and a massive team of designers and crew members, there were a lot more than just those four majors represented. There were biology, scenic design, environmental...

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