Making It Happen—On and Off Stage: Siouxsie Easter, Associate Professor of Theater
Theater Professor Siouxsie Easter seems to do it all—direct, produce, act, and even orchestrate art exhibits. But her most important role is one of coach. “I sit down with each student in the department and ask ‘what do you want to do with your time here?’” she says. “Then we give them the tools to make it happen, and we push them to make it happen. That’s what’s different here. Students produce their own projects—they see their ideas through to fruition in ways you don’t see at other theater programs. We don’t make projects fit into prescribed classes.”
When Alex Riad ’12 told Professor Easter that he wanted to be a playwright, she made sure that he was able to get to work immediately on productions of his own plays. With her help, he has staged four of his plays in three years, and this year he is working with a professional director and professional actors to develop and produce another work.
Beyond performance works on stage, Professor Easter fosters a range of projects. She works with the visual arts department each spring, for example, to produce a performance installation that combines two-dimensional and three-dimensional art, including photography, music, dance, and other art forms, for an exhibition in the Wells String Room Art Gallery. The first year of the installation the theme was “Lost and Found,” featuring live performances and artful depictions of items found over the course of the year on the Wells campus. Last year’s installation, “Sub Rosa: Secrets Under the Roses,” featured rose photography, confessional booths, and performances and artwork illustrating aspects of the “secret” theme.
“A lot of theater and dance students have interests in other areas of the arts,” says Easter. “Part of the value of learning from an interdisciplinary perspective is being able to see the connections between different media. Students then get a holistic view of art and art making.”
Professor Easter’s students also learn the value of working well in teams, on and off stage. In fact, they have been consistently honored for their ensemble acting, including the Theatre Association of New York State awards for “outstanding ensemble.” They are also there for each other on a day-to-day basis. “Students here do so much for each other. And that’s critical in the theater because this is not a solo art form,” says Easter. “You have to work together to make it happen. We’re not out there being the stars and the divas alone. I teach the students how to be competitive in this market; but in order to be competitive and get hired, you have to know how to work in an ensemble.”
Post graduation, Wells theater and dance students pursue a wide range of opportunities. “That’s the beauty of the liberal arts,” says Easter, who cites graduates working regional theaters and dance companies, pursuing graduate degrees, working as arts educators, and “hitting the streets” auditioning in New York City.
Whatever their goals, Easter is confident they’ll get there. “Our students know how to call in the resources they need to make a project happen. They don’t sit back and wait for someone to call them—they’ll make the first call,” she says. They’re also versatile, according to Easter. “Our actors know how to use power tools. Our technicians know how to give a monologue. Our stage managers know how to dance. That’s what you’re going to get here.”