A Day in the Life: Stanford Theatre Student


(relaxed synth music) – Hi, name is Lianna Holston. I’m a senior here at Stanford University, majoring in Theater and
Performance Studies, and minoring in History of Medicine. A bit about me, I’m a
tour guide here on campus. I’m also on the improv troupe, the Stanford Improvisors
or SIMPs, for short. And I do a few shows every year, as well. I’m currently writing my capstone project, which is an hour of storytelling called Things I Learned at Stanford. (relaxed synth music) Typical day for me, wake up
around 7:30 in the morning, have breakfast, do some homework, go for a run if it’s not raining. Have a meeting usually or do work on a project with friends,
have lunch at my house, go to class in the afternoon, have dinner at my house and then improv practice usually at night, followed by hanging out with friends and doing more homework, and then bedtime. – [Interviewer] Okay, so where are we now? – We are in front of Memorial Auditorium, which is our largest
performance space on campus. There’s actually three theaters inside. So the main one seats 1,700 people, which is where they do a lot of new student orientation stuff, as well as big notable speakers come, like Barack Obama was here
a couple years ago for a cybersecurity conference.
– Nice. – Yeah. And then there’s two other
theaters in there, as well. One is called Pigott, which is a little side theater next to MemAud, and then there’s an upstairs one, which is where I auditioned
for Stanford, actually, as a senior in high school,
which was very cool. And this used to be the
home of the TAPS Department, although it’s been moved
mostly across campus. They have this new building
called the Roble Arts Gym, or Roble Theater, which
is, it just underwent a $28 million renovation
for theater spaces and dance rehearsal studios,
which we’re very stoked about. – [Interviewer] And it’s
a nice building now. – It’s so nice, oh my
gosh, it’s really nice. It’s, like, stupidly nice. (relaxed guitar music) – [Interviewer] So right
now we are on the main stage of the MemAud, right? – MemAud, yeah. – Okay, great, I said
that wrong. (chuckles) – Yeah. (laughs) – So, what goes on here? – This is where our big productions go up. So there’s a student group
called Ram’s Head Theatricals, which does the big musical every year. So they’re currently
doing Chicago right now, and that’s what they’re
building the set for. I was in Evita the
musical my freshman year, which was on the main stage. And then this is, again, Barack Obama stood kind
of, like, right there when we was here, which is cool. And, like, Martin Luther King, Jr. came and spoke on this stage in the 60s, which is pretty awesome. So, like, if ever they have
really big name people, that’s the most seats on campus so that’s why they bring them here. – I see, so, you’ve been involved in a lot of theater extracurricularly, but that is separate from your major. – So the major itself is
more academically-focused and it’s a bit more of
a theoretical emphasis on theater, rather than practical. And so it comes with
history of theater classes, as well as more in-depth
dramaturgical analysis of plays, rather than performances of them, although the TAPS Department does put on a few shows every year. And then there are about, I wanna say, 15 or so student theater groups, which are doing productions all the time. There’s, like, four going on this weekend, which is bananas. But they’re all over the place. And those will usually
be in smaller spaces around campus, some of them
are in the theater next door or upstairs, or in just
kind of random areas. I just saw a play in a
bathroom two nights ago. – [Interviewer] Wow.
– Which was insane. – Was it a good bathroom? – It, yes, that’s an interesting question. And, yeah, it was a good
bathroom, I would say. It was the men’s restroom,
outside in the main quad, and they were doing Marat/Sade,
do you know the play? – No, tell me about it. – Okay, so its full name
is, okay here we go. The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of
the Marquis de Sade. It is a play within a play and the premise is that these inmates of the asylum are putting
on this performance that the Marquis de Sade has directed, and so they used a bathroom for it, because their idea was, the only space within the asylum
available for a performance is a bathroom. And it’s really, it’s just
cool that the university gives students the opportunity to kind of get really creative with what spaces they use. – Oh, cool. To get a degree in TAPS, what
do you actually have to do? – There are a few core
classes that you have to take. No, that’s not even true. There’s one core class you have to take. It’s called TAPS 1, and it’s Introduction to
Theater and Performance Studies. And that is the biggest, like, history of theater class. So they talk about a lot of Brecht and a lot of other, you
know, theater artists throughout the years, like Greek theater, Roman theater, up through now. And then, when I declared
a major, it was different, so they changed the major over the course of my time here, and the
requirements are now different. And you can select specific tracks, so you can select either an acting track, a directing track, or I
think a theater making, which is either devising or playwriting, and I believe they’re also thinking about adding on a technical
side of the major, track. But, for me, there are
a few different fields. I think it’s like, performance
studies is one of them, and maybe, like, theater
practice, and then electives. So I really nailed it on the elective my freshman year, and then since then, a lot of those other classes
are more theoretical ones, which are, like, I took a class called Rethinking the Ballerina,
which was looking at ballet and the history of it, because the TAPS Department is where the Dance
Department is also housed, so a lot of people who have a Dance minor are technically TAPS minors, and that’s where those
classes are offered, too. – [Interviewer] Very cool. (upbeat synth music) So, what is the academic
culture at Stanford like? – Hm, it depends, it varies a lot from major to major, especially because each
major has a different number of units required to finish that major. So, in order to graduate, you need 180 units in total. My Theater major is 60 units, which means I have 120 other units that I get to take in my time at Stanford. – Okay, so, what can you
fill those other units with? – A lot of Gen Ed requirements, which are called the Ways, which stands for Ways of
Thinking/Ways of Doing, I think. – Okay. – And they cover creative expression, social inquiry, scientific
method and analysis, applied quantitative reasoning, sort of the broad, like, history, math. – So no matter what you’re
studying at Stanford, you have to take some math classes, some science classes. – Yeah, the cool thing, though, is that they are so
broad that there’s a ton of different courses
offered in each category, so each student can kind of find one that satisfies their interests, while also fulfilling that requirement. – Right, and now, you also have a minor in the History of Medicine. – Yeah. – So how’d you get into that? – That was actually my
sophomore year of high school. Every student at a public school in Denver had to participate in something
called National History Day, and I ended up doing a project about the history of plastic surgery, particularly during World War I, and I thought it was
the coolest thing ever. And so, when I came to Stanford,
I took a couple classes and then I went to Oxford,
I went abroad to Oxford my sophomore year, and did my tutorial in History of Medicine, specifically its advancements during wartime. And that’s how I really
solidified my interest. – So, in that case, you’re actually in a really good place
to make this comparison. How would you say the experiences you had at Oxford and Stanford are different? – Oxford, for me, was way
more academically intense, just in that you met one-on-one with a tutor once a week, and you defend your research
paper to her or him, which is terrifying. And my tutor made me read
my papers out loud to him, which was truly the stuff of nightmares. But, also a great learning experience. And so that was the main
focus for the quarter, which I knew going into it, whereas at Stanford my
focuses are mainly, like, productions that I’m working
on and seeing friends, and then academics definitely factor in, but it’s more of a balance of the three. Whereas the academics sort of
took more priority in Oxford. – And would you say that, at Stanford, it’s, like, a competitive environment, you feel like, or no? – No, the word that gets
used here the most is chill, and it is very accurate,
I mean people are- – Really?
– Yeah. It’s a remarkably relaxed group of people, which I love a lot, ’cause I went to a high school that was
pretty competitive academically and we would compare test
scores and kind of talk a lot about our grades and the metrics of them, but here it’s very much
a supportive environment. And the example that I
use for that a lot is, the reason I got this
internship in New York was because a Stanford alum
had had it before I did, and she called me the
night before my interview to do an hour of prep for it, and that is what got
me the job, basically, besides my own merit and
qualifications. (laughs) Yeah. – But yeah, but it’s
nice to see that, like, Stanford students are really
helping each other out. – Yeah.
– Wherever they can. – It’s a really nice environment to be, I mean, literally a great environment, but also just the academic environment, is not a stressful one to be a part of. – [Interviewer] How refreshing, yeah. What would you say has been
the most surprising thing about your Stanford experience? – I think the thing that
surprised me the most was the opportunities that they provide for students who are working in the arts to find work in the arts over the summer. So, my sophomore year,
I interned for a place called The Public Theater in Manhattan, through something called
the Stanford Arts Institute. And they give you the internship and provide funding for the summer, which covered my housing in New York City, which as super dope.
– Very cool. – So that was the most pleasant
surprise in my time here. – And then what advice would you give for students who are
thinking about applying to Stanford, aren’t sure
it’s the right fit for them? And maybe they can’t even come visit. – I would say, the most
important thing is, take care of yourself
during your senior year, like, senior fall is
a very stressful time, applications wise, and it’s important to remember that Stanford
and colleges, like it or not, this is totally the be-all,
end-all of education. But if you are looking here, it’s beautiful, obviously, and it’s important to know sort of what environment you wanna be in, in your time in college. Like, if you want an urban environment, Stanford is not that
close to San Francisco. I mean, it’s close, but
it’s not in the city. So that’s why I love it here, because you do get the nature experience. And I would say also, just pay attention to what you’re thinking of studying and what department you’re looking into, and really do your research about the courses they
offer and the requirements. And then see if there
are also student groups that match your interests, as well. (relaxed synth music)

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