Meet a Few of the GTA Faculty

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” —Mark Van Doren


By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

We recently sat down with some of the GTA faculty to ask them what they have learned over the last year and what their plans are for the upcoming summer break. Read on for our conversations with Professor of Theatre Larry Cook, Associate Professor of Theatre Pamela Workman, Professor of Theatre Elisa Carlson, and Senior Instructor of Theatre Terri Becker.

Larry Cook, Professor of Theatre, UNG
Professor of Theatre Larry Cook

What is your role at GTA?

Larry Cook: Mostly, I teach now. I still get to design and work in the shop on shows a bit, too. I suppose if I had to pick just one, I’d teach. While I love working with my hands and creating, I can do that on my own anytime I’d like—and I have. Teaching has the singular joy of allowing me to have a part in the formation of young artists. I was telling someone just the other day that the real payoff is when you’ve been in it long enough to see your once young and emerging artist students now, as fully developed artists in their own right. Sometimes with students of their own. So, yeah, teaching, and continuing to learn myself, is my favorite part.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Larry Cook: That I still have a lot to learn. And, I have yet to outgrow the mean streak of procrastination and laziness that is within me. It’s a daily struggle but I keep working at it. Maybe one day…

What are you looking forward to next year?

Working with Michael Jablonski again in production. I love Michael’s approach to, and energy in, production and I’m thinking Urinetown will be lots of fun and a potent piece of theatre for this time in American culture. I’m also looking forward to finding out what GTA is next semester. In many ways we’ll be starting anew for the second time in two years. That is exciting and terrifying all at the same time. There will be challenges but what a great time to be in GTA!

What do you do over the summer to relax?

Larry Cook: I like to be outdoors. So I spend a fair amount of time in the summer camping, canoeing, hiking, rock climbing, etc. I also like to accomplish home improvements in the summer.

What words of inspiration do you have for students?

Larry Cook: Best advice I ever got: “Learn everything you can.” In my experience, there is no such thing as a “waste of time” spent learning—no knowledge is wasted. For a theatre artist this is especially true. Our craft is as old as humanity, so anything that is encompassed and created by humanity is a part of theatre. The history of theatre is the history of humans. I could give numerous examples but here’s an easy one: when an actor/director/designer analyzes a script, one of the primary things they are looking for are the “whys.”  Why did this character do or say this specific thing at this specific moment in the story. Psychology is the study of why sentient beings, mostly humans, do what they do. Why wouldn’t a theatre artist want to be well-versed in psychology, sociology, anthropology and the like?  Even though, on the face of it, these things have nothing to do with theatre. Math and science are all over the design/tech side of theatre. History is any theatre artist’s bread and butter. So I hope my words inspire GTA students to take this advice: “Learn everything you can.”

Pamela Workman, Associate Professor of Theatre, Brenau
Associate Professor of Theatre Pamela Workman

What is your role at GTA?

Pamela Workman: I’m an Associate professor of Theatre and resident costume designer of GTA. One of my favorite parts about my job is that it’s never the same. Every semester is completely different and it comes with its own highs and lows. The research for the show is different, the production team is different, the actors are different, so I’m never bored with the work. From a teaching aspect, I really enjoy seeing my students grow throughout a semester, usually starting off from a place of “I can’t do this” and gradually evolving into “I’m confident with makeup now!” which is really awesome.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Pamela Workman: People are completely different humans on the screen than they are in person. I also learned that if you have the right supportive network, you can literally get through anything, and through that experience, I’ve learned what it’s like when people step up for you, opposed to when they are going to be stagnant.

What are you looking forward to next year?

Pamela Workman: Hopefully next year we’re more streamlined. We’ve had a pseudo year back after a pandemic, and it’s taken a while to get up and running but I really want us to get back into full swing and get our audience built back up and let the let people know that GTA just took a little break, but we’re still just as determined to bring theatre to the community.

One of Pamela’s sketches for GTA’s 2019 production of Legally Blonde.

What do you do over the summer to relax?

Pamela Workman: Well, relaxing is not relaxing. I have three boys so for fun we like to go hiking or kayaking or other adventures like that, but personally I find enjoying the space around a waterfall to be really relaxing. I have also recently bought a fixer-upper, and so I spend the summer going through small to-do list goals that I can accomplish. I actually hang out with the Beckers (Terri and David) and the Morrises (Celeste and Darrell) a lot as well. We all like to get together when we can and go on excursions which is a lot of fun. I do read more over the summer. Right now I’ve started reading the Bosch novel series and it’s been nice to dive into something that’s not related to theatre because that’s what I’m always reading anyways.

What words of inspiration do you have for students?

Pamela Workman: For one thing, whether it’s on your phone or you have a physical copy, have a schedule book and fill it with everything you’ll be doing in a given week. Scheduling and prioritizing is something that I see students often have trouble with, so if you start out with just having a schedule book that you put everything in, even including your free time, it can do wonders for you. I mean, Terri and I were planning on going to the movies Sunday, and we have it on our schedules. If we don’t, we will either forget or just not do it. Our brains hold a lot of information, to the point where it can be overwhelming, but keeping an extensive record of your schedule can really help with that. It’s exhausting to have to keep a schedule book but if you want to succeed, then you kind of have to, because our brains only hold so much information. I also want students to understand that professors have their classes done in such a way because there’s a growth arc, so if you don’t do projects at the beginning of the school year, as a student you are taking away from yourself the educational process to grow to your full potential. I think that is highly important for students to understand. I personally think by not pushing yourself you’re doing yourself a disservice, and you should value yourself and value your mind enough to go out there and try. I’m not saying that you need all A’s by any means, because the world is not all A’s when you leave the institution, but take full advantage of your education because this is the best place to challenge yourself.

Elisa Carlson, Professor of Theatre, UNG
Professor of Theatre Elisa Carlson

What is your role at GTA?

Elisa Carlson: I’m a Professor of Theatre, teaching voice, speech, senior seminar and acting classes. I’m also a Resident Director for GTA and usually direct a play each season. One of my greatest joys is when a student has a breakthrough in their training and accomplishes a critical goal in their creative journey.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Elisa Carlson: I’m not sure yet, but I will say that this year I’ve experienced a lack of patience with and acceptance of myself when I’m having a difficult time. Really working on that. I think being kind to ourselves is important. Artists who spend too much time listening to their inner critic spend less time freely exploring and expressing their artistry.

What are you looking forward to next year?

Elisa Carlson: I think the GTA season is exciting and look forward to directing Pygmalion, by the great George Bernard Shaw. Shaw has been a research focus of mine for years and while I’ve coached dialects/text and acted in many of his plays this will be my first experience directing one. I can’t wait.

Elisa with playwright Topher Payne and the cast of Entertaining Lesbians

What do you do over the summer to relax?

Elisa Carlson: I love to travel, hang out with friends and family, and work in my garden.

What words of inspiration do you have for students?

Elisa Carlson: I’ve noticed that theatre-makers who calm their inner critic make room for excellence and joy. Try it and see.


Terri Becker, Senior Instructor of Theatre, UNG
Terri Becker’s Practicum class hard at work.

What is your role at GTA?

Terri Becker: I am a Senior Lecturer at University of North Georgia, and I am also the Lighting and Projections coordinator for GTA as well as the resident lighting designer.

What lessons have you learned this year?

Terri Becker: Returning from Covid is hard. There is a gap in student knowledge and a motivational gap as well. Students struggled in practicum classes and we were not even running full tilt yet. It was an experience learning how to deal with this and still get a show up on time.

What are you looking forward to next year?

Terri Becker: Knowing what I am doing. Both Brenau University and University of North Georgia are making changes at the highest level that will affect our departments. What those changes will be we can only speculate. Like with anything, change works slowly. I am not very patient so it drives me crazy!

Terri’s lighting design for GTA’s 2022 production of The Secret Garden

What do you do over the summer to relax?

Terri Becker: Try not to spend money. Just kidding! In May, I’m usually split between a sad attempt at gardening and playing the newest DLC (Downloadable Content) of Elder Scrolls Online. In June, we get a week at the beach, then in July it’s prep time for the next year. I have ADD so it is as important for me as it is for my students that I have my classes all set up and planned out before the semester begins.

What words of inspiration do you have for students?

Terri Becker: Go out to the university social events and spend face to face time with new people. It is important to practice your face-to-face social skills. Theatre is a face-to-face art, even for technicians. Also, get a hobby that takes you outside and enjoy the sun!


Meet GTA Graduating Seniors!

By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

The spring 2022 semester is coming to a close and seniors are preparing for graduation. We spoke to seniors Maleah Boyd-Gouveia (BFA Musical Theatre), Clara Woodfield (BFA Design & Technology for Theatre), and Joshua Daughtry (Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Theatre & Philosophy) about what they have learned in their time with the program, their career prospects, and advice they have for GTA underclassmen.

Maleah Boyd-Gouveia, BFA Musical Theatre

How are you feeling about your upcoming graduation?

Maleah: I have mixed feelings! I used to be so ready to leave and get out there, but this past year I’ve made a lot of great friends and relationships. I’m going to miss seeing everyone everyday, but I’m ready to stop being a student and start being an artist!

Clara: I’m super excited! I’ve been so focused on school and nothing else for so many years now that it’s both exciting and terrifying to know that, come fall, I’m not going to have to worry about essays and class projects.

Joshua: Well, I’ve got a lot of stuff that’s definitely keeping me focused to the point where I’m not really focused on being absent in any way, shape, or form. As much as I’d love to be able to say that I set up the last couple weeks as a senior completely stress-free, I chose to not do that. Right now I’m working on Heathen Valley, which is my senior capstone, and a lot of students have very generously donated a lot of time and energy into that production and a lot of hard, hard work, so that’s been taking up a lot of my time along with other standard school final exams and projects.

How has your senior year been different than your previous years at GTA?

Maleah: 2 words: Michael Jablonksi. Not only did he quickly become my favorite professor, but a really big mentor to me. He put faith and trust in me like no one else has. He was confident in what I could do before I was. He saw so much in me that I didn’t even know I had. For the first time in all my years here, I felt seen. My growth this semester is all thanks to him, and Giovanna, my vocal teacher. I would not be anywhere close to ready for the professional world if it wasn’t for them. And I am so so so grateful that they came in my last year here, when I really needed them. I will forever hold them in my heart and in my life.

Clara: The people. I’ve both met new people and gotten to know people better this year and it has made so much of a difference in how happy I am in the program. I didn’t make that many friends my freshman year, but I’ve been putting myself out there more this year, and it has sure paid off. The GTA leadership has made a massive difference, too. I got to be Wardrobe Crew Head for The Secret Garden, directed by our lovely Dr. C (GTA Associate Artistic Director & Brenau Chair of Theatre, Dr. Tracey Brent-Chessum), and I loved getting to see the great leadership she’s shown us! GTA seems to be on a path of change from where it was my freshman year and I think it’s changing for the better (and I’m someone who hates change, so that says a lot!)

Joshua: My age! Yeah, My first year with GTA was back in 2009. So naturally, a lot of things have changed around here and in my absence, as well. I stayed for two years and took time off to get acclimated and get an understanding of other ways of the world, and I think the biggest change is how my curiosity has turned into passion. What once used to make me feel excited in a naive way is now excitement that comes from “I know what I’m doing.” I’ve also had time to become more of a patient person, which has led to a lot of close relationships with the people here.

Clara Woodfield, BFA Design & Technology for Theatre (Costumes)

What advice would you give to the “freshman you”?

Maleah: I would say, “It’s going to suck. It’s gonna be hard, I’m not gonna lie. You’re gonna want to quit, pack up, and go home. But I promise you, it will all work out at the end. If I were to tell you, you’d never believe me. Just know, you’re gonna make it. And it’ll all be worth it.

Clara: You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone, not even you. If you feel more at home in the costume shop, just change your major, don’t wait until halfway through sophomore year.

Joshua: Don’t settle for anything until you’re where you feel you need to be and if you’re somewhere you feel like you shouldn’t be, learn and be friendly as much as you can while you’re there. Let yourself be known. If there’s a project that you desperately want to work on, even if you weren’t cast, do what you can to at least sit in on rehearsals because just getting in the room and being in the audience finds you that much closer to what you want to do on the stage. I’d tell him to do all that with humility as well. Everything that you take part in is never beneath you, and that’s crucial to keep in mind as an artist.

What is your biggest takeaway from being at GTA?

Maleah: Control what you can control, and what is meant to be yours, will be yours.

Clara: Do what makes you happy, honestly.

Joshua: I mean, besides the knowledge that I should check my schedule before I make plans, the ultimate takeaway is that this place is here, and that’s a blessing in itself. You can get from it what you need, as long as you know what that is.

Joshua Daugherty, BS Interdisciplinary Studies, concentrations in Theatre & Philosophy

What advice do you have for upcoming seniors?

Maleah: UTILIZE YOUR CLASS TIME!! There was a time here where classwork did not matter much. But now it does, so USE IT! The best work that I’ve ever done here was in class. I know it’s your senior year and we all want to be involved in shows. As a BFA Musical Theatre major who was never in a musical, I know how hard it is to not be involved in shows. BUT you have some great professors here who can and will guide you to where you need and want to be. All you have to do is listen, and be fearless in the room. You got this.

Clara: For the love of all things, TAKE PROGRESS PICTURES OF YOUR WORK! Take pictures of that prop you’re making, get pictures of yourself in rehearsal and backstage, take pictures of that really straight line you sewed or painted

Joshua: Don’t take classes that don’t make you want to learn and if you’re in classes that you don’t necessarily care about just find something to make the best of that. Separate from that, I truly believe that mentorship is the most important thing as a senior. Find the time to go reach out to people that you’re working on projects with and offer them your perspective. You’ll often find they’ve been itching to give theirs and you could really learn something from that. The first time I came around I didn’t ask for one, probably out of how audacious I was, but even then I had a lot of really close friends that taught me a lot of things. In coming back, I’d definitely say that I’ve been more specifically mentored by (GTA faculty) Gay Hammond, Zechariah Pierce, and Jayme McGhan and I’m forever grateful for their eagerness to help me with my passions and loves regarding theatre.

What are your after-graduation plans?

Maleah: You know the life of an actor, always auditioning. At this present moment I am still waiting on casting notices from a few summer stock theatres. I am still sending in auditions. If I don’t get booked for summer stock soon, then my plan is to go to New York right after graduation to stay with my high school best friends and go on all of the open call auditions I can. And then depending on that, my wife and I will either head straight to New York, or they will stay and work their interior design job in Atlanta while I’m booked at summer stock. And THEN we’ll go to New York! OH, and we’re celebrating our 1 year wedding anniversary May 22nd!

Clara: I’m planning on moving to Kentucky with one of my best friends to pursue sewing somewhere that’s not as hot as Georgia and has more consistent weather.

Joshua: I relax with work that I like, because I’m a psychopath. You know, I have a couple of really great, fresh paperback spines that I am ready to break open, right? Eager to keep learning. This summer for me is not going to be a break from what I’ve been doing. It’s going to be a deeper dive into what I’m trying to get at from what I’ve been doing. So you know, I’ve been working for a couple tech internships and been hunting for jobs around the area and just continuing the hunger for producing more art. I think that one thing we’ve all learned after the pandemic is if we didn’t have art through the worst times in our life, it would just be a wild tangled ferment of darkness and sorrow waiting in the absence of life. To combat that I’m on a constant mission of feeding my soul, heart and mind.

Any last words you want to leave for us?

Maleah: Don’t be shocked when your playbill mentions me!

Clara: Thank you all so much for your support this year! I have so loved my time at GTA.

Joshua: For one thing, check out Heathen Valley, coming up on April 29th. That’s going to be a lot of fun. But I’d also say to never be shy about asking someone to let you into their life. And when somebody does let you into their life, I think you should let them know that that’s important to you. I like to live my life openly and for all, from any background, and it’s done wonders for me.

Be sure to check out Joshua Daughtry’s senior capstone, Heathen Valley by Romulus Linney, playing in UNG-Gainesville’s Ed Cabell Theatre April 29 at 7:30pm. Tickets on sale now!

Upcoming Graduate to Perform at Woodstock Playhouse

By Jeilianne Vazquez & Ethan Baez

Senior BFA Musical Theatre major Allie Hill is jumping into the theatre industry head-first this summer at the Woodstock Playhouse Summer Theatre Festival. Woodstock Playhouse is a celebrated site of American Theatre history, established in 1938 as one of the first rural extensions of Broadway and is a popular theatre on the summer stock circuit. Prominent actors and actresses have graced the stage at Woodstock, including Larry Hagman, Anne Meara, Peter Boyle, and Diane Keaton.

Allie will be originating a role in Gatsby: The New American Musical, which will get a staged reading during Woodstock’s summer festival. GTA audiences will remember Allie from her performances as Judy in 9 to 5, Martha in The Secret Garden, and Wallace in Living Out. We sat down with Allie to talk about the exciting opportunities she has coming up and how GTA has prepared her for her future in theatre.

BFA Musical Theatre major Allie Hill

How did you get cast at Woodstock Playhouse?

I auditioned for the A1 Conference back in January, and I got a callback for Woodstock through that. For the callback, I sang sides for certain shows in their season and sent them a vocal reel and a dance reel. They contacted me again and I had a phone interview. I got the offer around the middle of February.

What was it like auditioning at the A1 Conference? 

Well, it was virtual, so self-taping central. Funnily enough, I usually wear sweatpants or pajama pants or running shorts when I film, but I made myself put on a whole outfit, like shoes and everything just to make myself feel like I was really there and in person, which I think really helped. I actually had Covid when I first filmed my auditions, so I like to think that even Covid couldn’t stop me from getting the part. I was inside my house quarantining and drinking lots of fluid and trying to belt to this guy, but it all worked out in the end.

Tell us about the summer festival.

The festival runs from June 10 to August 21, and includes Footloose, Beauty and the Beast, Noises Off, Cabaret, and Gatsby. Gatsby is a new musical being adapted there, and I’m principally contracted under that show. I will be in the ensemble of all the other musicals and I have the opportunity to audition for Noises Off once I get there.

Allie Hill as Judy in 9 to 5

Are you excited to work on a new musical?

It’s really exciting to originate a role, but it’s also a little daunting to think about There’s all the music, all the lines, elements of a new show that people don’t really think of. But it’s also really exciting and creatively liberating to think about how I get to interpret it and not have any preconceived notions get in the way of that. Obviously I can consult my peanut gallery of friends and professors, but ultimately I get to make my own choices which is really freeing, especially considering the risks of imposter syndrome so it’s really nice to be able to do my own thing.

That’s a lot of shows in a short amount of time! What is the schedule like?

It is a lot. On one hand, we have to learn Footloose in nine days—it’s nine 10-out-of-12 rehearsals and then we open. On the other hand, the rush of theater is intoxicating. I want to eat musical theater for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day anyways, so I’m really grateful and excited to be a part of shows I love.

How has GTA prepared you for life after graduation?

I’m very grateful for all of GTA. I think this place is great, but the Audition Technique class with Michael Jablonski has really helped me learn how much work you need to do before bringing in a song or a monologue or even a side to an audition or callback. In class, we review three different sectors of analysis for a song, and the one that really helps me with the music analysis is where we look at the more technical elements in music, such as time signatures and verbiage, and how it kind of tells you how to act out a song. Growing up as someone who was primarily a singer I had in my head that I just have to sing what’s written and sing it correctly, but it’s really about your acting more than anything. It’s crazy actually, everything is literally laid out in front of you textually and musically and it’s up to you to decide how to interpret what you’re analyzing.

What is your advice for upcoming GTA students?

It’s cliche, but truly you’ve got to show up, be kind, and be thankful. I feel like we all sometimes fall into the trap of thinking it is our right to perform when it is an absolute privilege. Opening night could also be closing night, and we never know the last time we’re gonna be able to perform, so take every single opportunity as a gift. I think the passion speaks for itself, so, if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, you’re gonna get there. That’s the attitude you have to bring to all the auditions you’ll be doing.

Do you have final thoughts about your time with GTA?

Not to make myself a tree and be sappy, but I am so grateful for GTA and all my friends and professors who have really poured into me and made sure that I was taking care of myself while also taking care of my art. It’s really important to me—I’m really going to miss it here. I’m excited to go to Woodstock but I’m not excited to leave the people I’ve created bonds with over the years. Still though, I am very thankful.

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!