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Theatre Production Adds New Twist to Student Orientation

Rather than hearing about topics such as sexual assault and drinking from administrators, incoming students attending orientation at Southwestern this year will hear about them from their fellow students – in the form of a play.

Rather than hearing about topics such as sexual assault and drinking from administrators, incoming students attending orientation at Southwestern this year will hear about them from their fellow students – in the form of a play.

Lindsey Smith, a senior theatre major, and Kathleen Juhl, associate professor of theatre, received a $12,000 grant from Southwestern’s Fleming Collaborative Research and Creative Activity Program to fund the performance.

Smith said she came up with the idea after hearing a presentation at a conference from students at another college who have been doing a similar show for 12 years.

“I got really excited about it,” she said. For Smith, the performance also will be her theatre capstone project.

Smith said 30 students applied to be part of the new performance, and 15 were selected. The students selected represent a wide range of majors and interests. There is a computer science major, a tennis player, and representatives from several fraternities and sororities.

Only one of the students is a theatre major.

The students returned to campus Aug. 11 to begin two weeks of intensive rehearsals for the play. “We’re going to be rehearsing from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a long two weeks, but hopefully the result will be great.”

The students will begin by writing the script for the play based on actual experiences they have had at Southwestern. “It’s going to be real down to earth about what has happened to us that we don’t want to happen to them,” Smith said.

Sophomore Jessica Espinoza is among the student performers. She said she applied for the project because she thinks live theatre would give more rise to dialogue among the new students.

“I remember during my own orientation thinking ‘how could this be more informative and in a setting that was more accessible,” Espinoza said. “I’m looking forward to the play – I think it will come out well.”

The hour-long performance will be presented for new students on Sunday, Aug. 24, at 2 p.m. A performance for the general public will be given on Friday, Aug. 29, at 7 p.m. in the Alma Thomas Theatre.

Following the Aug. 24 performance, the new students will be broken into small groups for an hour-long discussion with trained student facilitators.

“This project is a wonderful opportunity for students to illustrate the benefits of peer-to-peer education,” said Jaime Woody, associate dean for student life. “It’s always exciting to watch a student-generated idea grow; I suspect this will be a fantastic illustration of the success of programs that are by students, for students.”

While this year’s performance is just a pilot project, those involved hope it will become a permanent part of New Student Orientation.