Celebrating Women’s History Month

By Jeilianne Vazquez


“Wherever women gather together, failure is impossible” – Susan B Anthony


March is Women’s History Month! In celebration of this month, I spoke to senior BA Theatre major Katelyn Zeller and freshman BA Theatre major Emily LaPollo to discuss what it’s like being a woman in theatre.

Katelyn Zeller
BA Theatre major

What does Women’s History Month mean to you ?

Katelyn: I believe it is about acknowledging all of the great achievements women have made throughout history and celebrating the importance of what it means to be a woman.
Emily: To me, it means a chance to celebrate some of the most amazing people in the world. It is a time to bring awareness to the struggles that women have faced and continue to face to this day. Women literally make the world go round. They are strong, independent, and fearless. We deserve a month at the very least to be celebrated.


If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would they be?

Katelyn: I would like to have dinner with Morgan Marcell, Meryl Streep, and Lily James. I look up to these people for their work in the arts.
Emily: Eva Noblezada, Megan Thee Stallion, and Rihanna


What is your experience being a woman in theatre and the arts? Have you faced any barriers and, if so, how have you overcome them?

Emily LaPollo
BA Theatre major

Emily: Being a woman in the arts is not easy. I have found that in the past I have not been taken seriously and that is something I have to be aware of. I think comparison is my biggest barrier, not just in theatre but in everyday life. I constantly compare myself to other actresses and their styles and I wonder if I’m good enough. In today’s society, social media is notorious for being detrimental to confidence. There are so many women with the “perfect” skin, bodies, clothes, etc. on their feed and the rest of us have to scroll and feel horrible about ourselves. However, I remind myself that all I am is enough and I have to remind myself how amazing I am. We are all perfect in our own ways and a little self love goes a long way.


What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve been given?

Katelyn: Always trust in your abilities. Trying and failing is better than never trying at all.
Emily: The most important piece of advice I have been given is that it’s okay to make mistakes. Failure is inevitable and life has become so much easier now that I have learned to accept that.


Who has inspired you and helped you become who you are today?

Katelyn: The person who has inspired me the most has been my grandmother. She always encouraged me to follow my aspirations in life and remind myself of how much power I could hold if I just believed in myself.
Emily: Both my mom and my grandma are such strong and beautiful women inside and out. My grandma came here from Italy with my grandfather and they built a life for themselves out of nothing. They have always given us everything, but they didn’t always have everything. That has been super humbling and it taught me to appreciate things more. My mom has always put me first and worked really hard to support me, as a single mother. Both of their sacrifices have helped me to become the best self I can be.


What made you choose to study theatre?

Katelyn: This is a question I have always asked myself time and time again and my answer has changed constantly throughout the years. But to me, theatre shows people hope, what life can be, and shines a light on what the world is like.
Emily: I have a general anxiety disorder and it is actually therapeutic for me to take on a role and escape my reality every once in a while. It has become my safe place and makes me feel like I belong.

Costume Design for Rapunzel

Costume Designer Pamela Workman is an Assistant Professor at Brenau University. She is the costume designer for GTA’s upcoming production of The Secret Garden, and recently designed costumes for Lexington Children’s Theatre‘s Shooting Stars YouTheatre production of Rapunzel. We ask Pamela to tell us all about this professional opportunity and her process of creating costumes for a fairytale story.

How did this project come about?

This design opportunity came about because I had worked with Octavia Biggs, the director, years ago on another TYA productions. I heard she was in need of a costume designer, so I sent her a text saying “Heard you need a designer. Want to work together again? Call me anytime.” She was instantly on the phone with me and we agreed to work together on Rapunzel.

Did the actor’s ages influence your design choices?

Theatre for Young Audiences focuses on the ages of the audience. You want lots of color and texture and shapes in order to keep Elementary and Middle-School-aged kids interested.

Where did the inspiration for the costumes come from?

The director chooses the final concept for a show. I can offer my input as a designer, but the director has the final stamp of approval. Octavia was pulled towards cubism artwork that was created by the Shooting Stars YouTheatre students. She presented this to the design team and we ran with it.

What elements of the script are shown in the costumes?

The only real descriptions in the script were the long blonde hair that keeps growing. Rapunzel starts the show bald and then her hair keeps growing until it is about 20 feet long. The other description is when Rapunzel dyes all her hair purple and then cuts it off. The main thing about this script is that it rhythmically moves fast and the actors never leave the stage.

What is the process you usually use to approach shows and how did that relate to this one?

I always start with reading the script, then move into a concept meeting. Then multiple design meetings with research, sketches, paperwork, renderings, and troubleshooting. The main obstacle for this production was how to deal with the wigs. I posted in a couple of Facebook groups to get some ideas. In the end, I came up with my own solution of a series of braids that clip on. Twenty-six yards of silk were used for the braids and I used Shibori dye techniques to create them in my kitchen.

How often are you in contact with the director?

I was in contact with the director via meetings every two weeks until the designs were approved. Once the cubism style was chosen, Octavia pretty much let me go with what my brain gravitated towards. Then I worked on my own and built the show. Fellow GTA faculty Terri Becker and Celeste Morris, along with my kids, helped me paint the final looks.

What is the nature of the costumes, in terms of build? Did you get overalls and paint/design over them, or did you build overalls from scratch with designs printed?

I had to invent the Thai fisherman pants. Those don’t exist in life. For the overall dress and overalls I used patterns from JoAnn Fabrics. I took the children’s artwork that was commissioned for this project and had them printed on fabric. Those were strategically placed on the bleached muslin shells, then I drew out and painted to continue the children’s artwork through the entire costume. I never saw the costumes on the actors until I showed up in Kentucky for first dress. That was the first and only time they were fitted into costumes.

Congrats to the GTA New Works Festival Winners!

The GTA New Works Festival is over for this year but we are still thinking about the beautiful, original work we saw! On Saturday night of the festival, GTA Shorts featured seven short plays written and directed by students and two awards were presented. The Playwright’s Choice Award was presented to Jeilianne Vazquez for her play Mi Familia, and the Audience Choice Award was presented to Halli Rider for her play Truth or Dare. Both winners received a one-year membership to Working Title Playwrights, a new play incubator and service organization providing playwrights with development opportunities, workshops, and networking events. We sat down with Jeilianne and Halli to discuss their plays.


BA Theatre major, Jeilianne Vazquez

Tell us about your play, Mi Familia.

The play is about a Puerto Rican family who are having dinner. Abuelo is back from Puerto Rico while his daughter is separated from her husband, and we see how that affects the two older kids and their relationships with each other.

What inspired the script? Were you drawing from your real life?

They are based on my family, extended family, my latino friends family–basically every family I’ve ever known. I wrote it my freshman year and submitted it to a play festival honoring Latinx playwrights in Atlanta. Unfortunately, it wasn’t chosen, but when it was time to submit for the New Works Festival, I decided to look at it again and give it a second chance. I made some edits and here we are!

At the time you wrote the script, did you already have a writing method, or was this project a step towards creating that method?

This wasn’t my first script for the GTA (I had a play in last year’s festival) but I did have a different approach. This year, I just wanted to write what I know. My process is evolving and I’m discovering what works for me.

What was it like being in the audience of your own play?

It was great! I think if I hadn’t seen any rehearsals I would have been very nervous. But, I was able to go to two of the last rehearsals and I was in awe of the work that had been done. The actors Michelle Stover, Marcello Valencia, Madelyn Moreno, and Juan Suarez were absolutely incredible and were guided by the great Otis McDaniel (director). I was fully confident in them and they exceeded my expectations.

Congratulations on winning the Playwright’s Choice Award. What was going through your head when you won?

I was just in shock! I was extremely happy and grateful. I was just so proud of my cast and director. All the hard work that was put in and they shined! I was just so happy. Latino stories were being shared and honored. I couldn’t ask for anything better.

What’s next for you? Are there any scripts that you are working on?

Right now, I’m working on a full-length play for next year’s New Works Festival. I have some other short scripts I’d like to polish and possibly expand. I haven’t decided if I want Mi Familia to be full-length. We will see!


Halli Rider, BFA Acting major

Tell us about your play, Truth or Dare.

Truth or Dare is about two newly found anxious and odd roommates who find themselves out of food and an internet connection. After ordering pizza, they decide to play a friendly game of truth or dare to pass the time. 

What inspired the script? Were you drawing from your real life?

I definitely pulled from my life in small aspects. I was rooming with one of my best friends when Covid first hit, and we both are very anxious people by nature. That is kind of what sparked the idea, and then it kind of snowballed from that.

Something that I would like to point out is that Hollis and Charlie are gender-neutral in the script. I did this keeping high school theatre programs in mind. When I was in high school, we would often have to gender-bend characters because we didn’t have enough guys. I wrote the characters as gender-neutral to allow anyone to be able to play them!

At the time you wrote the script, did you already have a writing method, or was this project a step towards creating that method?

When I first started writing Truth or Dare, I was in my first playwriting class. I had never really written anything before (aside from small creative writing projects) so the idea of playwriting was really new to me. Needless to say, I didn’t have any method for writing. In the class, we had to complete a one-act play as our final, which is where I got most of the material for Truth or Dare. It actually comes from my one-act entitled Hey, Sorry to Bother You!, where the characters play truth or dare in the last ten minutes of the play. My process is still currently evolving, as I am still very new to writing, but I am slowly finding what motivates me and what doesn’t!

What was it like being in the audience of your own play?

At first, I was really nervous because it was the first time I was going to see it all the way through with props and on the Ed Cabell stage. So, it was a little scary at first, but as soon as the actors started, they had such an easygoing energy about them (which is exactly what I felt when I was writing the characters), I was able to enjoy it. A lot of that ease came from the director, Dellan Short. He directed the heck out of it. During the rehearsal process, I tried to make it to rehearsals whenever I could, but I never felt worried that the show wouldn’t be good. I never had to worry about whether or not something in the writing would get lost because Dellan pays such close attention to detail, and makes sure choices from the actors are clean and well read from an audience’s point of view. However, while he pays attention to details, he also allows the actors to find their own version of the character. He’s great at making sure he gives the actors freedom to play while making sure it works for the character.

Congratulations on winning the Audience Choice Award. What was going through your head when you won?

It was a very overwhelming, yet exciting feeling. I’m not sure what to call it. I was honestly just super proud of the people I got to work with (Dellan Short, Molly Van Buren, Olivia Leslie, and Corbin Adriano), cause they all worked so hard, and they made a show that I wrote come to life in the best way possible.

What’s next for you? Are there any scripts that you are working on?

I actually just finished my first full-length play this past semester. It’s called A Spoonful of Chaos, and it takes place in a tiny ice cream shop in Tennessee. It was super challenging to write in one semester, so it is currently in the revision stage. However, I’m going to be submitting it for the New Works Festival next year, and if it gets chosen then you can learn more about it!