Carve Your Own Path at K

Ynika Yuag Talks About Carving Her Own Path at K
Sophomore Ynika Yuag acts as John in Fun Home. The theatre department is where Ynika learned to carve her own path at K. Photo by: Katherine Nofs.

As a tour guide at K, I tell all my tours that my favorite students to interact with are the ones who have no idea what they want to do once they get to college. For someone who has always considered herself a forward-thinking and detailed-oriented planner, it may prove surprising to find out that when I was a high school senior, I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to study in college, either. In the middle of my senior year of high school, I was newly admitted into K and felt ecstatic about the prospect of starting a new chapter of my life, despite not knowing what I would do once I got there. Luckily, K is the perfect place to carve your own path.

Of course, as a high school senior I knew what subjects I was interested in. I loved writing, acting, and trying to understand human beings and their relationships with each other. I can probably guess what you’re thinking, because it’s also what I initially thought: those interests sound kind of random and unrelated. When I got to K, I soon found out that those interests were more connected that I ever thought, and they were appreciated and welcomed by our theatre department. My first year, I auditioned for the fall main stage musical Fun Home and had an incredible experience playing John Bechdel. K’s theatre department strikes a wonderful balance of welcoming students of all experience levels and teaching them that theatre is not just flashy costumes and sustained belting into eternity. The faculty and staff of the department are committed to helping students explore aspects of the craft outside of their comfort zones, as well as helping students excel in whatever field of theatre they may eventually focus on. While I entered our theatre department with a comfort zone of only acting experience, performing in my first show has propelled me into a career of other theatre roles that have never felt slow or dull.

Carve Your Own Path at K
Ynika Yuag shows what it means to carve your own path at K. She performed as Natalie in the Festival Playhouse production of Student Body. Photo by: Katherine Nofs.

Since my first-year fall show, I have participated in several roles that have pushed me beyond my interest in performance; besides an actor, I have been an assistant stage manager, usher, wardrobe crew hand, scenic shop helper, playwright, dramaturg, teaching assistant, and properties master. I quickly learned that K’s theatre department valued my interest in acting and performance, as well as my interests in writing and trying to understand the human condition—I was curious about how peoples’ personalities develop, as well as the motivations behind their interactions with others. I eventually incorporated these interests into dramaturgical work for Student Body, a show about sexual violence on a college campus for which I was both an actor and the dramaturg. As a dramaturg for this production, I was tasked with conducting background research for the play and discussing with the cast and other crew members how this research may inform the production. For our production of Student Body, I conducted research about sexual violence, focusing on college/university campuses. As a high school senior, I had no idea what a dramaturg was. This year, as a sophomore, I was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Dramaturgy from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

Two years ago, I didn’t see myself pursuing a degree in theatre arts. Now, I see myself pursuing a career in it. Thanks to the guidance of the faculty and staff within the theatre department, I discovered that my interests are not only valuable, they are inherently interconnected in ways that prove beneficial to my current work in theatre. As a student who previously had no idea what I wanted to study, I remain incredibly grateful to the opportunities provided to me from the faculty as they guided me and encouraged me to try various disciplines and carve out my own path.

Ynika Yuag, a sophomore, enjoys performing in Festival Playhouse productions at Kalamazoo College. 

My Last KCACTF Experience!

While most students spent the weekend before the start of winter quarter preparing for their classes, I spent it packing. During the first week of the quarter, I only spent one day in Kalamazoo before heading to Indianapolis for the 2018 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) is a national theatre festival that allows theatre departments and students from over 600 academic institutions throughout the country to showcase their work. (Kalamazoo College is a member of Region III, which includes schools from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.) In addition to attending panels, workshops, and productions, students can enter competitions related to different areas of theatre (performance, technical, etc.). Many Kalamazoo College students have earned recognition for their participation in these events: Grace Gilmore ’15 won the regional Irene Ryan Award (for Performance) in 2015, Lindsay Worthington ’17 won the regional award for “Best Sound” (in the “Theatrical Design Excellence” category) in both 2015 and 2016 (for her work on Peer Gynt and Carrie: The Musical, respectively), and Jane Huffman ’15 placed first in the “Critics” category at the National Level in 2014.

This year was my third year attending KCACTF, and each time it has been one of the highlights (if not the highlight) of my winter quarter. Our professors warned those of us in attendance that we would be exhausted by the end of the week, but I didn’t mind the early mornings and late nights, for they allowed me to fully enjoy every minute of my time in Indianapolis. I spent the week attending workshops (ranging from “On Camera Acting/Auditioning Technique” and “NYC For You And Me” to “LED Tape; A Designer’s Journey” and “Life After Graduation”), auditioning, networking, and watching shows that other schools had brought to the Festival. Not only did I bond with the other Kalamazoo College students at the Festival, I became friends with other theatre students from programs throughout the Midwest (and have remained in contact with many of them since coming back to K). I even reconnected with a girl whom I had not seen since we performed in a show together at age thirteen; now both seniors in college, we had a fantastic time catching each other up on the adventures we’ve had while pursuing the art that we both love.

Though I dreaded the end of the week, the conference ended in the most wonderful way possible: I had the opportunity to watch some of my closest friends showcase their talents onstage at the University of Indianapolis’ Ransburg Auditorium. Having been cast in an off-campus show that conflicted with the Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College’s production of Fun Home, I hadn’t been able to see the show this past November, when it was originally staged at the College. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when the news broke that Fun Home received an invitation to perform at this year’s KCACTF, because I finally had a chance to see it! The show exceeded my expectations—I was in tears at the end, both overwhelmed at the power of the story and bursting with Kalamazoo College pride/love for the department that has been my home four the past four years. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way; I saw many other audience members wiping tears from their faces after the show, representatives from the Festival awarded the company of Fun Home won the “Golden Hand Truck” (which recognizes the production that had the most organized load-in/load-out at the festival).

I would be lying if I said that coming back to Kalamazoo after such an incredible week wasn’t difficult, but I also returned to campus feeling reinvigorated, and excited for everything taking place in the Theatre Arts Department during my final two quarters at the school. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my last KCACTF, and highly encourage all students who are interested in theatre to attend KCACTF at some point during their four years at Kalamazoo College.

Lauren Landman ‘18

College is “An Awfully Big Adventure”

When I walked into my first-year seminar on the first day of my orientation, I knew that it would be an awfully big adventure. Not only was it the first class I would take in college, but the title of the seminar was “An Awfully Big Adventure”—a reference to Peter Pan, one of my favorite childhood stories. While I had originally planned on taking a seminar related to theatre, my anticipated (now almost-complete) major, I found myself so enthralled by the title of the second class, and the idea of using books I had loved as a child as guidance for my transition into college, that I enrolled in it before any of my other classes, hoping that I would secure one of the limited spots.

I don’t know what I was expecting while walking into Humphrey House on that first day, but know I hadn’t thought that my professor (the incredible Di Seuss) would greet me by name before I had fully stepped into the room, hadn’t predicted that I would take a seat on a comfortable couch next to a girl who would eventually become my best friend and future suitemate, hadn’t foreseen such a casual atmosphere. I knew that my classes at Kalamazoo would never resemble the crowded lectures I had sat in during visits to larger schools, but I never guessed that I would feel so comfortable on the first day of my college career.

Over the course of the quarter, I found a safe haven in Di’s class, for the relaxed environment provided me with an escape from the stress and challenges I faced while adjusting to college life. The once-empty seat that I had claimed on the first day became my permanent spot; my classmates and I spent our Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays laughing and eating donuts while sharing favorite memories from childhood. My favorite part of each class was starting every class with “The Pig”, a ritual during which each student wrote an anonymous note describing their mood at the time (we later drew each note out of a basket and read them out loud). Some people even wrote notes to each other—I will never forget one anonymous note that said “Lauren, you’re beautiful” (and still wonder which of my classmates wrote it to this day).

It has been two years since I first walked into that seminar, and every day I am still grateful that I made the spontaneous decision to enroll in that class. Whenever I talk to incoming students about the first-year seminars, I always encourage them to take one that does not relate to their intended major, hoping that they’ll broaden their horizons the way that I did—I can honestly say that, had I not expanded my interests and taken advantage of the freedom that Kalamazoo’s open curriculum offers, the point I am at now in my college experience would be completely different.

Though my first-year seminar was the most unconventional way I could have imagined starting my four years at K, it is still my favorite class that I have taken. While each of my former classmates have embarked on their own “awfully big adventures” over the last two years, we still keep in touch quite frequently, and try to have a reunion at least once a year. Only a few more months until our next one—fingers crossed that someone will remember the donuts!

–Lauren Landman ‘18