By Laura Humble – Staff Writer
Senior Martha Grace Burkey is on the fast track to success in the world of theatre. During CentreTerm, she participated in an internship at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, diving headfirst into post-college life in the theatre community.
“I was the Arts Outreach and Education Intern, [where] I assisted teaching artists who have classroom residencies in the Austin area, and I taught pre-show workshops in Austin classrooms,” Burkey said. She taught students aging from Pre-K to twelfth grade and learned more about non-profit organizations during her time there.
It sounds exciting, but it wasn’t all fun and games – working at the Paramount kept Burkey pretty busy. “I would teach in classrooms for the first half of the day and do office work for the second half,” she said. “During my time with the theatre, I wrote a pre-show workshop lesson plan for one of the theatre’s student matinee performances, which took some time to draft and revise. Also, on the administrative side, I did some data entry and minor research projects.”
Burkey attained this internship through her advisor, Professor of Dramatic Arts Tony Haigh. “I mentioned that I was interested in an Arts Outreach internship. Tony set up communications between Chad [Dike] and I,” Burkey said. Dike, a Centre College graduate, was Burkey’s supervisor at the Paramount.
“It’s what we do,” Haigh said. “We in the Drama Program maintain close relationships with our former students because we like them, and also because of the network of contacts they represent.”
Burkey’s recent foray into an arts outreach program has her pondering her future career goals. “I think it would be beneficial for me to have more internship experience, perhaps for a longer span than just the month I had during CentreTerm,” she said. “I still have tons to learn as an artist and educator, but my experience at the Paramount has definitely set me on the right path to becoming an effective teaching artist.”
She now dreams of succeeding in teaching and outreach in the arts and credits her readiness to enter the field to the Centre Drama Department.
“I have been fortunate enough to have been involved with many productions here at Centre, mostly in the field of acting, but dabbling in directing as well,” Burkey said. “Centre’s Drama Department is very good at training its students to have a well-rounded, academically-focused theatre education, which has instilled in me a great appreciation for the collaboration, research, and social awareness involved in making theatre.”
Burkey plans on receiving an undergraduate degree in Dramatic Arts from Centre and ultimately working toward obtaining a masters degree and Ph.D. after graduation. “I feel like I need more experience in the real-world application of theatre first before I get too bogged down in academic theory,” she said.
As far as theatre application at Centre goes, however, Burkey directed The Vagina Monologues her sophomore year, which was performed on campus again this week, this time directed by senior Anna Ellis, sophomore Emily Morrell, and junior Mariele Fluegeman. “I loved directing [the show] because of its important social message about women and equality,” Burkey said. “I am proud to say that [it] helped shape my thoughts about feminism and sparked my love for gender studies.”
Her favorite production in which she made an appearance was last semester’s Our Country’s Good. “That show is very near and dear to me,” she said, “and it was an honor to work with such a cohesive cast and crew, all dedicated to sharing the very real societal narrative of injustice and oppression.”
In fact, one of Burkey’s favorite aspects of working with the Drama Department at Centre was working with others who share her passion for the stage. “Our graduating class of 2014 is a particular powerhouse group,” she said. “It has been a privilege to witness firsthand how all our Dramatic Arts majors have grown over the last four years into artists whose work I continually learn from and admire greatly.”
And it seems the Drama Department loves her back. The word Tony Haigh would use to describe her is simply, “Brilliant!” It is clear, then, that Burkey’s love for the theatre does not only pertain to the shows on which she works but the people the theatre touches. From fellow actors to children to women in search of equality and others feeling the confines of oppression, Burkey clearly recognizes theatre’s immense power to affect all people from all walks of society. With such a generous, creative soul, there is no doubt that she will succeed in her endeavors.