Theater capstone projects display students’ college journey

April 25, 2016

Rachel Librach
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Just as an architect completes the construction of an arch with a capstone, seniors are tasked to complete a project that symbolizes the pinnacle of their undergraduate college career.

Senior theater majors must prepare a ten minute performance that communicates the major events in their life as part of their senior capstone project.

Some performances are humorous while others are more tragic.

VAPA instructor Leah Chandler-Mills said she has seen many senior capstones over the years and believes each one to be different.

Projects are not limited to one medium; students have expressed their message through dance, song, instrument and acting, said Chandler-Mills.

“Some of them showcase multiple characters that they’ve learned to physically and vocally be. People play instruments, sing and dance, whatever they know they can do to tell their story of where they’ve come from,” she said.

Chandler-Mills said the process students go through to create their project is vulnerable.

“These capstones tend to be very revealing about what students in the class go through or have gone through or what talents they possessed that maybe none of us have ever been aware of or come to realize,” she said.

Senior theater major Alex Williams is preparing a play for his capstone. The play is about a friend who committed suicide over the holiday break.

After coming to terms with the event, Williams wanted his capstone project to be not only a tribute to his friend, but also an exploration into the physiological aspects of death and gun violence.

Williams said he will explore the fear of death and other philosophical concepts.

“I go on to use a toy gun as a prop saying that it’s not real, and it can’t hurt me, and I’m in control of this,” he said.

Williams composed scenes in his performance where he is using physical theater and displaying emotion through the body’s movements rather than relying on text.

The VAPA department has helped to develop these skills, according to Williams, who added that a big misconception is that VAPA students have it easy and they don’t have to work as much.

“We spend hours just like anybody else would for their capstone, but whereas other people go out and do research or field work, our way of doing that is trial and error,” he said.

“Every class we come up with something new to present and everyone helps give constructive criticism on your work.”