If All the World’s a Stage…?

One of the college’s oldest studies, Sweet Briar’s Theater program has always been known for its inclusive atmosphere and versatile performances. Although the department has been very small, it has notably increased in the most recent years.


“When I came here we had fewer classes, fewer majors. It had just been me and halftime positions as technical directors,” said Professor Kershner, head of the department. “Now we have many more classes, we have added a major, Musical Theater, that we didn’t have before.”


This of course came with an increase in the number of productions. Shakespeare alternates years with more modern works. Musicals, originally done every other year is now an annual production. On top of that, senior projects in the form of a solo rendition or directed play are shown every semester.


Kershner, who started teaching at Sweet Briar in the fall of 1997, seemed most excited by the increased collaboration of theater with other fine art studies.


“The music department helps out with the musicals. Josh Harris is now the music director; several other members have done it in the past. Marcia Thom does a variety of things. She’s acted in some of our plays, been vocal coach for all the musicals.”


“We’ve always been close with dance,” he continues. “That’s another thing that’s changed since I’ve been here. Dance was originally a PE and now they’re considered part of our department.”


This collaboration is not limited to the performing arts. Open auditions attract students of all disciplines and gives anyone an opportunity to join the production. Even when not casted, the department encourages students to get more involved by working in set, lighting, costumes, and makeup among many more tasks. Actors and crew include Classics, Education, Psychology, and Engineering majors.


When asked how he would like to see the department further develop, Kershner replied, “I’d would like to see us reach out more to studio arts and art history. We do a lot of things like poster design and set painting that seem like things that would be natural to them. I’d like to reach out to other fields and see them collaborate as well.”


While this welcoming attitude is the most definitive and powerful trait of the theater, the skills taught both in and out of the classroom are equally important. Theater is about more than how to act. It teaches valuable skills such as effective communication, speech, and time management as well as more concrete abilities in stage lighting and construction.


Theater majors take a variety of classes in history of the theater, literature analysis, arts management, leadership as a crew head or director, as well as in dance and music. It does not simply produce actors, it teaches a broader perspective of the performing arts and extremely important life skills.


Kershner expands on this topic: “After graduating, there are a lot of choices. Not everyone chooses to go into the theater. Some do, some don’t. I had a major who ended up in banking; she was a [professional] bank manager. She said, ‘Interviews are just like casting. You see who works well with who and managing a team is like being a director.’ And theater really helps with that. It teaches team work. It teaches you how to speak and properly present yourself in the professionally and social setting. You really can do anything with theater experience.”  


Upcoming Events:

  • Fall Season
    • The Trojan Woman by Euripides, an adaption by Ellen McLaughlin
      • Directed by Dr. William R. Kershner
      • Mainstage production
      • Production: October 13th-16th
    • God of Carnage (Le Dieu du Carnage) by Yasmina Reza
      • Directed by Emelie Wurster
      • Senior show
      • Auditions: October 18th and 19th
      • Production: December 2nd and 3rd
  • Spring
    • Shrek the Musical, book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire, music by Jeanine Tesori
      • Directed by Professor Melora Kordos, (Musical Assistance) Marcia Thom-Kaley, and Joshua Harris
      • Mainstage production
      • Auditions: December 6th and 7th
      • Production: March 23rd-26th
    • ‘Night Mother by Marsha Norman
      • Directed by Amber Boyer
      • Senior show
      • Auditions: TBA
      • Production: April 21st and 22nd


By M. Widjaja


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