Not Just a Side Gig: How I Found My Place in Theater at Rochester

by Olivia Banc, theater & film major, psychology minor, computer science cluster 

When I was starting out in my college search, I had big plans to double major in English and theater. I originally chose English so that I could study something “practical” on my road to law school, and theater so that I could have a little bit of fun on the side. When I came across Rochester’s theater program, which is a theater-focus through the English department, it seemed so fantastically perfect for me because it gave me a program in which I could study both of my passions.

That’s me on the right!

Between class theatrics, my involvement in the International Theater Program at Todd, and The Opposite Of People, a student-run theater company, it definitely did not take long to realize that theater wouldn’t just be the fun little something-on-the-side for me anymore. With the flexibility of Rochester’s academic curriculum, I was able to fully explore my options in order to figure out what I really wanted to do, and that trying to force myself to take the “practical” route wouldn’t last. My true passion lies in theater. 

How did I get started in theater at Rochester? 

I didn’t expect it at first, but Rochester has such a tight-knit, supportive, enthusiastic arts community, and Todd Theater has become my second home. My first semester, I overloaded my schedule with nearly all theater classes, and it was just the push I needed to point me in the right direction! From productions to guest-directed shows, to the One Act Play Festival, in which, I got to write and direct my very own play, my very first semester was jam-packed with everything I could want and more. I found myself in a directing class taught by Skip Greer, the education director at Geva Theater, learning about the “moment of wonder” in a play, and in a playwriting class with Sarah Hammond, a real NYC-based playwright, learning about how to concoct those moments of wonder myself. So, by the end of my first semester I could write, direct, and, with the guidance of Rochester’s very own Nigel Maister (Todd Theater’s resident director), of course, I could perform in a play.

Don’t mess with us.

So, yes, of course things are pretty busy with two majors, a minor, a cluster, a job, a social life with intense extracurricular involvements, and the persistent need to eat, sleep, shower, and “be a person”; but it’s the good kind of busy. The kind of busy where I had four hours of rehearsal after class today, but it was with my best friends, acting onstage together in a production that we love (with the help of Nigel, of course), and then I left at 11 pm to go and do all my homework that I find genuinely interesting and engaging… It’s the Rochester kind of busy.

About the author


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