Full Circle—Spotlight on Taigé Kussman (BA ’14)

Taige' Kussman
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 years off, during which time she made a lot of music, worked, and wrote poetry.

“During that time—and doing creative work—led me to the point where I felt ready to go back to school,” she explains. “I had a new focus and drive to complete my undergraduate degree.”

Taigé started in the creative writing program—and continues to build that body of work. She registered for an acting class thinking that she’d learn more about writing for the screen and stage. She found that she loved the work that went into acting. “I loved the lessons that I was learning personally and as an artist, so I kept up with the classes and pretty quickly decided that I wanted to double-major. I love how much the two mediums inform each other,” she says.

“I loved the lessons that I was learning personally and as an artist, so I kept up with [drama] classes and pretty quickly decided that I wanted to double-major,” says Taigé.

Taigé describes her drama classes as a place where “you’re learning how to give constructive feedback and to critically watch and be present with your scene partners—your classmates and your peers—so that you can support each other. I got to build a vocabulary with these people. We learned how to become better together.”

The work didn’t stop in the classroom for Taigé. She regularly spent time going to her professors’ office hours to pick their brains and she cites Professor Tsao and Professor L. Zane Jones as major influences on her education, and as continuing to be resources for her.

“Taigé's unusually strong personal motivation to learn and grow through study and practice allowed her to get a lot out of her experience as a Drama student,” says Professor Tsao. “Indeed, she serves as an example of just how rich an education UW offers to students who are passionate…and School of Drama students who are driven.”

“Taigé's unusually strong personal motivation to learn and grow through study and practice allowed her to get a lot out of her experience as a Drama student,” says Professor Tsao. “Indeed, she serves as an example of just how rich an education UW offers to students who are passionate…and School of Drama students who are driven.”

As a transfer student, it took time for Taigé to connect with the Undergraduate Theater Society, but once she did she saw her circle—and opportunities to act—grow immediately. She also found herself witnessing the artistic journey of her fellow classmates. One of those classmates is Elizabeth Schiffler, a fellow transfer student and the director of Cabaret. “It’s exciting to come full circle and work a project with Elizabeth because I’ve had a lot of fun watching her grow and being a part of her educational journey,” says Taigé.

Under Elizabeth’s direction, Cabaret is being taken out of its original historical context and placed in 2079 Berlintown. Taigé admires the risks being taken by the director, her cast mates, and the creative team. It means there was failure happening in the rehearsal room, but also growth and learning, and together the creative team and cast discovered the particular story they had to tell.

What happens after Cabaret closes on March 8? It is likely Taigé’s time as a student isn’t yet over. She describes herself as early in her process, with a lot of learning left to do. She’s considering graduate acting programs. Working on Cabaret has given her a chance to experience what an acting career might feel like. As an undergrad studying in two separate creative departments, she felt constant pulls on her creative energy coming from multiple directions.

“Now, I find that I can temper and choose where my creative energy goes. I can 100% pour myself into this work. I’m able to put other projects on hold. It turns the heat up on the project for me and allows me to do more with it, which has been really cool,” Taigé explains. “I still have just as many things to do in a day. I don’t feel any less busy, but I certainly feel creatively freed up.”

Be sure to catch Taigé and many more talented undergraduate actors, directors, and designers in UTS’s production of Cabaret, running February 26–March 8 in the Cabaret Theatre at Hutchinson Hall. More details and tickets online here.