Shining stars: Theater programs at Pierce

Students who are interested in certain aspects of theater can choose from a range of options from taking drama classes to trying out for a play.

Suzanne BuchholzReporter

For students at Pierce College Puyallup who want to work in theater or simply want to take a class on it, they can choose from a variety of options to satisfy those desires. Not only are there several classes on theater topics available to students, but they also have opportunities to try out for plays at the college.

Pierce features many classes that cover multiple topics in the field of theater, ranging from acting to production, that are offered in different quarters. Currently the classes available at the Puyallup campus include Acting I and II, Technical Film and Theater II and III, Production Practicum and Intro to Theater. The Fort Steilacoom campus offers a few other classes such as Digital Movie Making I, Tech Film and Theater II and Acting Stage Digital Film II.

Communications/Drama Assistant Professor Joshua Potter said the theater courses at Pierce cover both traditional and new techniques, and that students of any skill level regardless of their past experience can enroll in these classes. Depending on the course, students will have the opportunity to work alongside faculty members on some aspects of theater such as directing a play.

“Our production classes work closely with the performances we do at the college,” Potter said. “Students who take the Technical Film/Theatre or Production Practicum courses work closely with the director and the designer of our performances and gain hands-on experience constructing a set, learn safety principles and learn the basics about stage management.”

Potter also said the skills students gain through these courses will help improve themselves as performers while benefitting them in other areas of life as well.

“Anyone who takes a theater class at Puyallup gains practical experience in theater that can be applied to other areas of their lives,” Potter said. “Learning how to construct a set teaches basic construction skills, problem solving skills and teamwork. Acting teaches you how to adapt to new situations. It teaches you how to be confident in front of others and how to be an engaging performer.”

In addition to theater classes, students can participate in the plays produced at Pierce, which usually occur in fall and spring quarters. Although many of the students who audition for the plays are enrolled in theater classes, any student at Pierce can try out. Potter said the plays provide theater students with an opportunity to practice and display their developing skills in a more professional environment.

Potter said it takes aboupierce-theater (1)t a year to plan and develop the plays for Pierce. Most of them are based on original material rather than already existing plays that have been performed numerous times at other schools. Other shows are thought up by the cast members during rehearsals for the show, such as the upcoming 10-Minute Play Festival on June 2.

“When I direct a show, my expectations are not much different from any other professional theater,” Potter said. “That’s not to sound scary, but to show that what we do at Pierce isn’t less than any other theater.”

Several students have either taken classes in theatre or acted in plays at Pierce, some  have done both.

Student Amber Gooden took Drama 101 during winter quarter to fulfill credits for her degree. She said she enjoyed how the class covered different genres and eras of theater. She didn’t act in any plays during this course but attended one play instead.

“The play I recently went to was the 4000 Miles production at the Fort Steilacoom campus,” Gooden said. “The production was OK to me – the reason is because I didn’t do any research before hand and I missed some references throughout the play about subjects such as capitalism and Marxism.”

Gooden said this experience at the play as well as the class in general has taught her some lessons that she’ll apply to her life.

“I will definitely plan to make sure I do my research on plays beforehand and also to go out to see more plays in the future,” Gooden said.

Gooden said the college might consider offering a class at some point that reflects one of the aspects of theater she enjoyed.

“I would suggest a theater program in which students can analyze plays or scripts and interpret historical significance of a play in a specific era of time,” Goode said.

Student Seth Jans took Acting for Stage and Film in spring quarter 2015, and portrayed the role of Eduardo Suarez in a play titled The Cuban Swimmer as part of one of his final assignments in the class. He said his initial reason for taking the class differed some from the outcome.

“I’m still in the process of putting my life together, to varying degrees of success, but one thing that I always found therapeutic was capturing things in a camera, make something immortal, and I decided that I would go to school for film,” Jans said. “Maybe even become a director some day. When I saw the class in the listings, I jumped at the chance not because I wanted to be an actor personally, but so I could tell others how to be a good one when the time came.”

Jans said taking the class was a good experience and helped him develop more interest in acting despite his ultimate goal of directing or filmmaking.

“I still want to be the big puppet master behind the lens, but it turns out I enjoyed acting more than I thought I would,” Jans said. “Good thing too because it turned out Pierce didn’t actually have a film department, so we were limited to stage, something I actually don’t prefer.”

Jans said that while acting has become a hobby, he’ll likely pursue more in the future and believes that’s what acting has become in general to people who enjoy it – just a hobby. He said it seems that those who have a passion for it don’t seem to have enough time to focus on it among their school or other work, or that they trick themselves into believing their goals are out of reach. He said he thinks most people are actually natural actors whether they’re aware of it or not.

“I think what truly separates the amateur from the professional is the willingness to admit that sometimes in life, we trick ourselves and smile through our teeth,” Jans said.


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Suzanne Buchholz

Shining stars: Theater programs at Pierce

by Suzanne Buchholz time to read: 4 min