Playing on: Trinity alumni theatre groups thriving

Trinity students engaged in the university’s theatre program know the meaning of dedication thanks to the numerous late-night rehearsals and countless hours spent memorizing lines and designing sets and costumes. For some alumni, they have taken that dedication to theatre to the next level by starting their own theatre companies or groups that perform here in San Antonio. Proxy Theatre Company and The Aesthetic of Waste are both composed of Trinity alumni, and they both perform at the Overtime Theater on Camden Street.

Kaitlin Graves, a 2012 Trinity graduate, is the  managing director of Proxy Theatre Company, and Seth Larson, another 2012 Trinity graduate, is a founding member of the Aesthetic of Waste.

“The Overtime is devoted to original work, so almost every piece we do is a world premiere,” said Kyle Gillette, assistant professor of theatre at Trinity and artistic director of the Overtime Theater. “We tend toward the funky and experimental, although our plays range from serious to ridiculous, and our mission statement is focused on work that is both innovative and accessible. We do political comedies, dirty realism, mind-bending memory plays and a late-night sci-fi serial. Currently I’m directing a Bollywood Pantomime musical that includes Hindu gods, 19th century British colonialism, drag, giant puppets, Kung fu and dancing bears.”

Graves first became involved in theatre during her second grade Christmas pageant, but she never really considered studying or working in theatre.

“When I came to Trinity, I wasn’t even planning on being a theatre major; I was planning on being something else ““ psychology major, something that when you’re a freshman you think it will get you a job right away,” Graves said. “I went to the drama rally, and I loved all of the people. I kind of just got implicated into this society of a really tight-knit group of people. This tight-knit group of people was interested in creating and creating is fascinating to me.”

Graves believes that her Trinity education aids her significantly in her role as managing director of Proxy.

“One of the great things about Trinity is that it’s a liberal arts institution. I chose to go here instead of to a more specified program partly because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and partly because I thought it would be better to have experience in a lot of things instead of limited experience in one thing. Basically, I would say a good majority of all of the classes I took at Trinity helped to prepare me in some capacity or another to be able to connect to what I do with Proxy, which is manage it and connect with other people,” Graves said.

As managing director, Graves is constantly looking for ways to increase profits for Proxy while finding new ways to connect with the audience at the same time. Graves thinks that she is on to something with a new program called byProxy that seeks to build a deeper relationship between the theatre and the audience.

“byProxy is basically what we call our new audience experience. This came about because I read an article online about why theatre as a business is sort of failing. People have been saying theatre is a dying art since Greek times, so I read this article on how to run a theatre like a business,” Graves said. “Theatre mostly focuses on the end product. They go through this whole long, beautiful process that theatre artists love, and that’s what we spend most of our time doing. Then there are nine shows, and that’s it. We decided we wanted to invite our audience in to experience what we call open-door rehearsals, where the director picks one night a week to sort of have a safe space for the actors as well as the audience to come in and see a rehearsal just to see what it’s like to be a part of theatre. Then we have our designer reveal where the audience can come in and see what’s been done with the set and the costumes and get the explanations for why certain colors were used and things like that.”

Establishing audience insight into the whole theatre process is an important part of revealing the wide array of emotions that cast members experience during each phase of the production of a play.

“I remember from one of Kyle Gillette’s classes here that theatre is like a rehearsal for death. You get cast, so you’re born. You learn your lines, so that’s like walking. You rehearse and grow up. Then you get to closing night and you have to put this character away. Even if you do this play again and have this same character, it will never be the same. Even every night it’s not the same,” Graves said.

Graves is excited about the success that Proxy has experienced so far, and she is ready to bring that enthusiasm into the company’s second season.

“Our most popular show was “˜Macbeth,’ which was earlier this March. We did it in this really tiny loft that people lived in. There was no air conditioner, but it was so great. The acting was wonderful, the costumes were beautiful and it had a bunch of Trinity alumni in it as well as present students at the time. We sold out pretty much every single night after the first two. We got a lot of great feedback and great reviews,” Graves said. “Upcoming, we’ve got a lot of newer plays that people haven’t really heard about before that we’re really excited to bring to San Antonio. We’re spreading out our roots, and we’re growing, definitely.”

Larson did not become involved with theatre until his sophomore year at Trinity, but he is glad he decided to explore it and meet the people that were a part of it.

“The Aesthetic of Waste came about our senior year. A lot of the members were in a futurism seminar together, and we all kind of realized we had a similar aesthetic shared amongst us that we wanted to breach into in the future,” Larson said.

Larson appreciates the chances Trinity gives its students to be involved in all aspects of theatre, and he actually came up with the concept for “We Stole This” during his junior year.

“Trinity gave us the opportunity to try out a lot of different things. We all got opportunities to act and to direct. I first directed this kind of show my junior year; I did “˜We Stole This Because We Go to Trinity,’ which was 15 shows in 30 minutes, and then I just expanded it to 30 plays in one hour and cut off that part of the title because not all of us go to Trinity anymore,” Larson said.

Because of Trinity’s liberal arts curriculum, students are able to incorporate what they have learned in the variety of subjects onto the stage for theatre performances.

“Trinity classes feed students’ minds in a way that encourages rigorous probing, reflection on life’s big questions and the mental agility to make connections between different kinds of fields,” Gillette said. “You can see this very clearly in the Aesthetic of Waste’s pieces, which draw from history, philosophy, science, literature and theatre in immensely fun ways. That particular combination of critical thinking and creative expression is a good example of how theatre serves as a sort of laboratory for exploring our relationship to the world.”

Gillette applauds Trinity theatre alumni and the goals they have achieved while broadening the artistic and creative tone and environment of San Antonio.

“I am proud of what they have done and delighted that they are contributing to the increasingly interesting cultural landscape of San Antonio,” Gillette said. “They are a testament to the theatre program, to Trinity and especially to their own imaginations and drive.”