University of Minnesota
Left to right: Jared Zeigler, Zoe Wilson, Samuel Kruger. Photos by Uriah Mendoza.
For moments that move
Students talk about why they make theater and what they hope to do with it
By Bill Magdalene
Fifteen U of M students are working with award winning actor-directors Dominique Serrand and Steve Epp to create a new theatrical work. "The War Within/All's Fair," which opens at Rarig Center Nov. 10, explores the small wars we create every day around and between us. Epp calls it "a comic exploration of the continual folly of humanity, at times disturbing, provocative and even brutal, but always funny."
Three students took time out from rehearsals to talk about their work.
Q&A with Jared Zeigler, Zoe Wilson, and Samuel Kruger
Jared, junior. Looking into doing work in theater education.
Zoe, junior, graduating in May 2012. Hoping to become either a member for Teach for America or an apprentice at a theater company in an education department.
Samuel, senior. Focusing on performance in physically driven theater, clown, and puppetry.
Why make theater?
Jared: Live performance has such a power and an energy that can really move people. … Theater, like all good art, reflects what is happening around us. Some stories can be told completely different ways and give completely different meanings but still be the same basic story.
Zoe: Theater is the mother art. It encompasses visual, performing, building, liturgical, and musical art. All of these elements come together to create one production. That's why theater is often terrible. This is an impossible task. But I'm fascinated by the moments that everything does connect.
Samuel: I make theater because it is physical and momentary. For me, theater is an event … a moment in space and time with a distinct lifespan. … It cannot be relived. This is true even of shows that perform multiple times. Each performance is a unique event.
What do you love most about it?
Jared: I love that I get to play and that I get to fail. I'm encouraged to take risks and learn what does work and what doesn't work and grow from both success and failure. I also love how much of an impact theater can have on people and how sometimes people just need to sit in a theater right after a performance and reflect about what happened because it truly made them feel something.
Zoe: I love connecting theater with education. If a classroom takes a chapter on photosynthesis and writes a play or song about it, I believe they will have a much more enriching experience with the curriculum. There is nothing better for me than seeing a kid bow at the end of a performance. I hope to devote my life to those moments.
Samuel: I love making the work. I love the process of shaping the unknown or trying to find something new in an established script or character. It's kind of like fishing. You have to be really patient and focused.
Why is what you're doing important?
Jared: I'm learning how to create new work and make new stories and work as an ensemble to generate art that means something. I'm also learning how to take the old stories and keep them relevant for today's audiences and discover what it is about certain stories that have kept them
around and how some are timeless.
Zoe: Creativity is often forgotten about, especially in our educational systems. Music, theater, and visual arts are being cut all across the country. I ask what type of citizens we are creating when there is no creative outlet for them? How can one live without creative expression? The reason we make theater is to express what we can't just say or write.
Samuel: Theater is important because in our information age the way that we interact with other human beings has shifted. I think we're becoming more physically isolated. Theater offers us the ability to connect in a space with other physical people. I think there is a lot of power in that act.
What's your big dream?
Jared: To make a living in the arts somehow. Ultimately I want to be able to support myself and be happy with what I'm doing. My guess is that it'll be some combination of performing, teaching, and managing theater.
Zoe: Ideally, I'd like to fight for the students lost in the achievement gap using theater as a modem.
Samuel: I'm not sure I have a "big dream." I want to make beautiful theater. If anything I hope to make theater that the 21-year-old version of myself would obsess over.
What has been the key to your student experience?
Jared: The fact that I've been able to figure out what I want and take advantage of all the opportunities that are available but also I'm still able to talk with the incredible faculty that I learn from and get their advice. I'm also surrounded by faculty and other students who have the same interests as me and constantly push me to be better and better at what I do.
Zoe: My parents have been an incredible support system. Also, gaining a well-rounded experience within the BA Theater program has completely opened my mind as to what theater can do.
Samuel: Learning to have the courage to risk, and the willingness to fail.
What inspires you in a teacher?
Jared: A willingness to do virtually anything to help a student learn. I've had the luck to study with some phenomenal professors that truly wanted me to learn and succeed and that has in turn made me want to learn and grow and challenge myself. My favorite teachers haven't given me the answers, they've asked the questions.
Zoe: Teachers must love their job. If they are only teaching for the pay or for a backup, they will not be inspiring their students. Teachers must have passion.
Samuel: Passion, expertise, and self-awareness.
What inspires you in other students?
Jared: The ability to keep pushing forward, even when the workload seems like way too much. Also, an openness to working with a variety of people and wanting to help each other out rather than shutting each other down.
Zoe: Collaboration. War/Fair is a perfect example of this. By working together as students and artists, we're going to create something brand new. War/Fair as a theatrical performance is completely original and true to the artists involved.
Samuel: Passion, playfulness, and self-awareness.
Why the University of Minnesota?
Jared: I came to the U because it was massive and in a great theater city. I wasn't sure if theater was going to be what I ended up studying but I wanted to be in a city that appreciated the arts. In the fall of my freshman year, I took my first acting class with one of the professors
who's inspired me the most and connected with some of the people who would grow to be my closest friends.
Zoe: I came from Oregon to the U of M into the theater BA because of its originality and the location within the Minneapolis theater community. We have one of the most unique BA programs in the United States. I'm proud to be a graduate of this program that does much more than re-create classical pieces over and over.
Samuel: I didn't know what I wanted to do coming out of high school, and I didn't want to fill out any long applications so I only applied here. I'm really quite lucky I fell into such an exciting theater program and one that fits with who I am.
Advice for fellow creators?
Jared: Don't worry initially if something is the right choice. Try it and then try something else and then try another thing. Make choices and take risks and surround yourself with people who support you and your craft.
Zoe: Keep an open mind. As an incoming freshman I thought I would become a professional musical theater actress. By keeping an open mind, I now see what else theater can do, and what I can do.
Samuel: Be demanding of yourself and make the theater you want to make.