Tonya Ross '07
Since I graduated from Calvin in May of 2007, I have been accepted to and enrolled in a Master's program in Theatre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. The theatre department there has also graciously employed me as a Teaching Assistant for the Introduction to Theatre class where I'm learning to love teaching more than I ever thought I would (which is a good thing since teaching has always been my "backup" plan). I'm now half-way through my two-year program and am just entering the thesis process.
Theatre, it seems, has always been a part of my life. From the early plays and musicals written, designed and starred in by my own neighborhood version of a theatre company to the shows I worked on at Calvin, I've always found myself drawn to the stage. Despite my efforts to live in the "real world," theatre refuses to take a back seat in my life: first becoming one of my majors at Calvin, and now as my chosen career path. Theatre isn't so much an influence in my life as it is a gravitational force.
My favorite onstage roles at Calvin were "Simon" in Andras Visky's Disciples and "Jennet Jourdemayne" in Christopher Fry's The Lady's Not for Burning. The preparation period that director Stephanie Sandberg led the cast and crew of Disciples through was the most intense cultivation of a play that I have ever done. We read theological works, historical works, theatrical works, all unpacking the meaning in the play. We also went through some intense physical workshops, including some mime training. It was such a rewarding experience. For The Lady's Not for Burning I finally got my chance to play the leading lady! Director Debra Freeberg, aka "Doc," was very patient as I got over my character actor quirkiness. My offstage experience was just as rewarding; my favorites included assistant directing for Michael Page's production of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia and writing SMORG for Sense & Sensibility with my cohort and roommate Kaje Nelsen (though, that experience was technically extra-curricular, due to the non-crew status of SMORG).
Being involved with theatre at Calvin literally changed my life. I had played with the idea of pursuing theatre more seriously after high school, but when I entered Calvin I was undecided. I was considering a plethora of majors, from Biology to Spanish to Art History. Eventually I settled for a double-major compromise between my life's passion, Theatre, and something interesting, but a bit more practical, Psychology. In the end, being involved with the stellar productions, learning from the talented faculty and staff, and partaking in the tight-knit family that is CTC, I couldn't help but make the decision to take my chances in the theatre. Since I've moved on to UBC (where there is no 'theatre company,' per se), I have since become acutely aware of and thankful for the blessing that CTC was for me. Who knows? Without that influence maybe I would have ended up a biologist after all.
Advice for aspiring actors
In theatre, as in life, do not let fear be the primary motivator in your life. Take risks! Fear will keep you from the best experiences life can offer unless you make the decision to take a chance. Whether off stage or on, the greatest artists are those that are capable of going for the choices beyond the safe and conventional.