School of Drama Blog

Spencer Hamp as Macheath

Once a season, the School of Drama undergraduate actors take to the main stage. This season they are led by Tony-nominated guest director Wilson Milam in Václav Havel’s The Beggar’s Opera. School of Drama and Undergraduate Theater Society (UTS) veterans Hannah Ruwe (UTS Executive Director) and Spencer Hamp (UTS Creative Development Director) along with Esther Hafner, on a year-long exchange program from Germany, share their thoughts on working with Mr. Milam, UTS versus the school’s main stage, and the ups and downs of being a drama student at a large university.

How is this play different than your other experiences with UW productions, both main stage and the Undergraduate Theater Society?

Spencer: Every production is so different. Each requires a different process depending on the story you’re trying to tell and the theatrical devices the show uses. We’ve spent all our time so far at...

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Ben Phillips

Ben Phillips is a recent graduate of the School of Drama (BA ’13). He is one of the founding members of Seattle’s newest theatre company, The Horse in Motion. Their inaugural production, ‘Attempts on Her Life‘ by Martin Crimp, opens this week.

In an underground art gallery of mysterious objects and a clump of writhing human bodies, three art critics take in the scene. “Where are the boundaries?” one asks.

This question, in many ways, has pervaded the process of putting up Attempts on Her Life from the very beginning. Our company has investigated the boundaries between types of theatre, between types of art, between ideas, and between people. Many of us recently crossed over the boundary from college to post-graduate life, and that experience has informed...

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Yesenia Iglesias

Puerto Rican playwright Jose Rivera said this about artists in his USC – School of Theatre Commencement Speech: “We are alchemists and con artists, acrobats and used car salesmen, liars and enlighteners, and we are here to do the earth’s bidding because the earth is screaming out its stories and begging for us to write them down, and act them out, and draw her pretty pictures on the face of the clouds.” It’s this sense of purpose and enlivened passion that brought me to UW’s School of Drama. It’s this conviction to pursue my purpose and dream that has energized me through grumpy mornings due to lack of sleep, long hours in dusty classrooms, and exhausting rehearsals. The struggle has been real, and so has the fight!

There are many moments that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. A few are absolute gems. One of the ones that confirmed how much I absolutely loved this acting thing was on closing night of Pentecost....

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Jonathan Shue

There are nine words that can strike either fear and/or motivation into the heart of a third year MFA actor: “What are you going to do after you graduate?”

I have nine responses to this question. That’s because over the last three years, I have learned that I’m capable of so much more than I ever thought. Theatre has, once again, proven to be a training ground not just for itself, but also for life.

I’ll share such an instance with you. We were nearing performances for Tom Jacobson’s The Twentieth-Century Way. It’s a fast-paced, two-person show and I couldn’t stop worrying that I was going to say the wrong line and completely derail. It got to the point that I became obsessive and was anticipating a catastrophic event on opening. I had to let go and trust that I would know what to say when I had to say it. I had to trust that my scene partner, director, stage manager, faculty, and indeed the audience, were all there to help me, not to judge me. Once I let go...

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Leah Adcock-Starr

Leah Adcock-Starr was raised on stories.

“I am the daughter of a teacher and a preacher, both theatre makers themselves; and I’m from the mid-west, where stories are the currency and glue of a community,” explains the MFA directing student. “Love of and need for story is programmed into my DNA.”

Now, on the eve of her first full main stage production at the School of Drama, Leah talks with us about the stories stuck in her head and how she’s bringing them to the stage.


Why did you propose The Arabian Nights for your first full main stage production?

The short answer is politics and religion. [The playwright] Mary Zimmerman takes on epic and mythic stories and makes them happen on stage, in theatrical, inventive, and beautiful ways. I find that inspiring and challenging. She wrote The Arabian Nights in response to the First Gulf War. I’d call The Arabian Nights an anti-war play, even though it doesn’t look like...

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Director Rachel Perlot with actor Michael Monicatti.

by Rachel Perlot

The summer before I headed off to college, a good friend of mine sent me a text. “Hey, my aunt’s doing a reading downtown this afternoon. Wanna come?” Her aunt is an Obie-winning playwright, so I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity. We headed to a small bookstore in our hometown, and listened to Erin Courtney read the first and last scene of her newest play, A Map of Virtue. It was…well, unusual. I bought the script, shook her hand, and went home, without thinking much more about it.

Fast forward to spring of my freshman year at UW. The Undergraduate Theater Society (UTS) had just released its directing applications for the following year. I knew I wanted to apply; I just needed to choose a show. Much to my unease, every time I thought about the application, there was a nagging voice in my head. Apply with A Map of Virtue, it whispered, and every time I cast the thought aside. It’s too weird a...

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Javonna Arriago

Welcome to the first installment of our Unique Trajectories series.  This ongoing series will introduce you to our alums who have taken the skills and techniques mastered while at the School of Drama and applied them to their chosen career paths in unique and unexpected ways.  These alums epitomize the entrepreneurial spirit of our graduates and highlight the versatility and strength that theatre training can offer.

If you would like to share the story of an alum that might be featured here, please let us know.

“My life will be devoted to making sure that we tell our stories, and that other people’s stories are told, in a way that can help change the future of the people who experience injustices,” wrote Javonna Arriaga, BA 2013, in a paper for Professor Zane Jones. Through her classes at UW School of Drama, Javonna...

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Welcome to the new UW School of Drama Blog.  As we have been working to enliven our marketing and communication strategies, it became clear that we needed an outlet which allows us to share a more diverse array of voices and perspectives about our School, our people, and our community.  Through this blog we hope to provide a platform for fresh insights, engaging stories, in-depth profiles, debate, discussion, and much more.

Most importantly, this blog belongs to our community and creation of its content will be shared by faculty, staff, students, alumni, audience members, regional theatre makers, and more. If you would like to write or pitch an idea for an article, please let us know.

Tina Polzin

Tina Polzin moved to Seattle just a few months before receiving her acceptance into the UW MFA Directing program. “I believe in actualizing what you want and I was really happy with the way my choices manifested themselves.” Now, in the middle of her second year, Polzin is directing the world premiere of EM Lewis’s Reading to Vegetables. She took time out of a busy schedule to talk about what drives her to direct, the lessons she’s learning, and what the future may hold.


For your autumn quarter directing project, you chose The Twentieth Century Way by Tom Jacobson? What drew you to it?

It’s a challenging play on many levels. On the academic side, it took a lot to dive into exactly what...

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