Lights…Camera…Labuda: Life of a Theater Student
As the lights dim and the curtain opens on the Labuda main stage, an instant feeling of anticipation and exhilaration floods the senses of eager theatre-goers from the Lehigh Valley and neighboring counties. DeSales University has one of the best theatre programs in the country, offering a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre that combines the disciplined art with a variety of other liberal arts courses to round out the curriculum. Known to industry professionals as an excellent venue to learn an actor’s craft, many notable alumni have graduated from DeSales and gone on to star on Broadway, TV and feature films.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Being a theatre student at DeSales involves one of the most rigorous curriculums the school has to offer. Students must audition to be accepted into the major through an audition process prior to freshman year. Depending on what track they plan to go into, prospective students must perform one to two monologues, a song, or present a design portfolio. After they have been accepted to the program they must devote 12 hours per week to the Labuda Center. These hours are coined “crew hours” in which students design sets, create costumes, work the box office and coordinate lighting, all in preparation for an upcoming production. However, those students cast in the shows forego their respective crew hours in lieu of being cast. Their contributing hours are instead devoted to rehearsals.
Because the theatre curriculum is so intense, the overseeing professors discourage students from having a job off campus. Instead, many students take advantage of the work/study option on campus as a way to earn an income. However, between class all day, homework, crew hours and work study, most students admitted to not retiring to bed until about two or three o’clock in the morning every night.
However, some students find their time spent in Labuda far from cumbersome. Senior theatre major, Julia Stroup, commented , “I try to find excuses to stay in [Labuda]”.
For her , as well as a few others, the enchanting spell Labuda has cast on them and their love of acting has caused them to stay on campus during the summer months as they participate in the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, held annually at DeSales. Stroup has not been home for more than a month since the age of 18. The theatre students at DeSales are passionate about their craft and make sacrifices to succeed.
When the time comes to audition for a production, the benevolent feelings about Labuda transmogrify into stress for some because of the fierce competition to be cast in a DeSales show. While some students admit to a healthy competition among peers, others reveal that “everyone is best friends until auditions come”, because for those not cast, “every show is a disappointment.” .
“It can get pretty competitive, but I think it’s a good thing because this business is so competitive,” junior theatre major, Chris Stevens divulges. “In the end we are all friends, but we also want to be selfish and have everything for ourselves, so there is an odd balance of support and selfishness when auditions are being held.”
Though the day seems unbearably long at times, for the most part theatre students enjoy their work because they love their major . At times it can seem overwhelming, but “they make sacrifices for the things they love”.
Performing and Fine Arts chairperson, John Bell explained; “Our [program] is a Bachelor of Arts degree, which means that students graduating from the program will possess a foundational exposure and experience in all aspects of the theatrical enterprise.”
Bell believes that the mixture of the liberal arts and theatre studies will result in his students becoming “more potent artists”.
Although DeSales does not offer a Masters of Theatre program, it is something the program would like to expand on in the future . Similar to the famed Master’s Program with James Lipton and his acclaimed television program, “Inside The Actor’s Studio”, DeSales also invites professionals to come and speak with students to tell their own success stories and how to make it in the business. In recent years Chevy Chase , Leslie Nielsen, The President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and most recently, Tony Award winner Alice Ripley have stopped by Labuda.
However, some students, feel the current curriculum “is like a master’s program because it goes above and beyond.” Not only is the theatre curriculum intensive in preparing students for professional performance, the blending of other core curricular classes also adds to the rigor of the program.