Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College celebrated its Golden Anniversary in academic year 2013-14. In tribute, BeLight published short profiles of some FP alumni. We conclude that feature in this issue of BeLight with spotlights on Mary Mathyer ’14 and David Landskroener ’14.
Mary Mathyer ’14 graduated this past June with majors in theatre and biology – each equally demanding and surprisingly complementary. Biology requires precision, but theatre teaches tenacity. Mathyer worked behind the scenes and acted on stage, experiencing first hand that each and every role in theatre is crucial for the success of the production – not unlike sundry scientists collaborating on an important research question.
Majors: Theatre arts and biology
Study Abroad: Nairobi, Kenya. “This incredibly challenging and fulfilling program took me out of the familiar and forced me to adapt and grow as a person.”
Senior Individualized Project: “Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling by Nitrospina in the Dark Ocean.” “It is essentially using genomic evidence to investigate the metabolic pathways of a specific bacteria found deep in the ocean. This research was conducted at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine.”
Key K Experiences: Summer 2011 at the Chautauqua Theatre Company in Chautauqua, New York, as the carpentry and scenic paint intern. “Through the course of 10 weeks, we built and struck three sets for five shows.” Summer 2013 at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences for SIP research as a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) intern.
Past Theatre Experience
“I was heavily involved in my high school theatre department, in a few shows as an actor but mostly as a member of the crew. My roles included carpenter, painter, props master, and stage manager among others. I also had an internship with Sideshow Theatre Company in Chicago during my senior year of high school. I worked with them mostly on the set but also on various odd jobs involved in running a store front theatre company.”
“I have been involved in eight shows at K, both main stage and at the Dungeon. I have acted (Granny, among other roles, in Into the Woods), sound designed, been a spot op and board op. I have stage managed both Dungeon and main stage productions. I am often found in the shop working on building and painting the sets. I have received certificates of merit from the American College Theatre Festival for my video design of Stuff Happens in the fall of ’11 and for my stage management of Cloud Nine in the winter of ’12. I have taken classes in all areas of the department. It has all been extremely rewarding.”
“I plan to continue by biology education in graduate school. And though I don’t intend to continue my education in theatre, I definitely want to stay involved in theatre on the side. It has been a key part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I have no intention of giving it up.”
On Kalamazoo College
“I have taken classes with most of the theatre faculty, and they all bring unique views to what they do. It’s impossible for me to pinpoint my most influential professor or class because they all have impacted my theatre experience. I found every class challenging in some way, and all broadened my knowledge of the theatre world. Theatre is very hands-on. It is time intensive, but it is easy to put in the necessary dedication when you are doing something you love. Sometimes I felt like the theatre department has taken over my life, leaving me no time for anything else, but then I missed it when I wasn’t there. Theatre has taught me how to balance everything and still give my all. It’s addicting, but not a habit I want break.”
On Festival Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary
“It was exciting to be on campus for this year-long celebration, furthermore because it was my senior year. Everyone wants to go out with a bang, and having my final Playhouse season correspond with such a department milestone made the year unforgettable!”
David Landskroener ’14 thinks failure teaches as much, or more, than success. In theatre Landskroener honed his storytelling skills and developed friendships that he expects will be with him long after graduation.
Major: Double major in theatre arts and English with a writing emphasis and a concentration in media studies
Study Abroad: Aberdeen, Scotland. “I had an incredible experience abroad in Aberdeen. The city felt like a breathing entity all of its own, and the windswept greyness was very inspiring to me as a writer. I had so many great experiences, but my favorite two were visiting Loch Ness on a perfect blue sky day (saw a ripple in the water too, which was definitely Nessie), and seeing my favorite show ever, Matilda the Musical, on the West End in London.”
Senior Individualized Project: “I wrote a novel called Coffee Dog, about, naturally, coffee and dogs, and the combination of the two.”
Key K Experience: “I completed an externship at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis the summer after my sophomore year. I was able to observe new plays being developed and see what a potential theatre/playwriting career could be like.”
“The winter of my freshman year (2011), I acted in a blocked stage reading of local playwright G. William Zorn’s new play Trinity at the Theatre Kalamazoo New Playfest. That spring I played keyboard for the Festival Playhouse production of The Who’s Tommy. Fall quarter of sophomore year I was dramaturg for Stuff Happens, and in winter I had a staged reading of a play I wrote in Ed Menta’s playwriting class put on at the New Playfest. I was also a spotlight operator for Cloud 9 and assistant stage manager for Back of the Throat.
“My best theatre experience was when I took Directing I with Ed Menta. It was a demanding course, but when I saw my final scene that I directed—a scene from the film Precious—come to life, I instantly knew that all the writing and charts were worth it. I had brought this story to life in front of an audience, a feeling which I can only call a theatre high.”
“I want to continue writing and hopefully wrangle that into a career. I’m considering eventually enrolling in a screenwriting program, or perhaps the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. A career in film also excites me, because I’m very interested in both screenwriting and film marketing. But my ultimate goal, no matter what happens with my life, is to just be happy.”
On Kalamazoo College
“K has been an environment conducive to my growth, nurturing my gifts and enriching my knowledge of the world. I have loved the majority of my classes, especially the writing ones, but the two classes that have shaped my K experience the most are “Playwriting” and “Intermediate Fiction” with Andy Mozina.
“I had never written a play before taking “Playwriting,” and boy, did I discover something incredibly fun and exciting. I learned how to make a story immediate and connect with an audience on a visual and auditory level. Professor Menta was (and still is) a very caring force in helping me cultivate this new interest. I even had a play I wrote in that class accepted at two new play festivals.
“’Intermediate Fiction’ influenced me tremendously. Professor Mozina is incredibly smart and funny and really knows how to connect with an individual on a personal level. The students in my workshop were some of the best writers and thoughtful people I’d ever met, and their varied critical perspectives really helped me pare my writing into something better, into the distinct voice that I have now.
“The K theatre department has been enormously significant in my time at K. I have made mistakes, learned new skill sets, seen the glory of success and the underrated glory of failure, grown as both an artist and an individual, and, best of all, made some of my dearest friends, who will definitely stick with me for the rest of my life. I have also become a better storyteller, which is the aspect of my life that I’m most eager to improve. I’m even sure my life after K will be in theatre, but my time with the theatre department of Kalamazoo College has played one of the biggest roles in shaping me into who I am.”
On Festival Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary
“I am incredibly happy that Festival Playhouse is still going strong after 50 years and continuing every year to give birth to a dizzyingly diverse array of plays. Unfortunately, Nelda Balch is no longer with us, but I think that Festival Playhouse has kept her vision alive through the hard work and artistic genius of those who followed in her footsteps. The future is full of stories just waiting to have their covers torn off and displayed proudly on the stages at Kalamazoo College.”