Student Spotlight: Mel Dikert C’21

Mel Dikert C’21

What attracted you to Drew?

I was attracted by the opportunity for well-roundness at Drew, both in academics as well as extracurricular activities. I loved the fact that I could pursue different majors and/or minors and that I might even have the opportunity to “build my own” major if I chose to.

Did you know what you wanted to major in your first year?

I knew coming into Drew that I wanted to major in Theatre Arts. In the second semester of my freshman year I took three different sociology classes, and fell in love with the field of Sociology and declared it as a major too. My Performing Arts Administration minor was added once I realized that this aspect of theatre was what I wanted to focus on and ultimately have a career in. Arts Administration essentially covers the business aspects of theatre; more specifically, how to start and run a theatre company.

What is it about theater, performing arts administration, and sociology that draws you to them?

When it comes to THEATRE, I simply love the creativity and community that goes into every production. I love that theatre is art and therefore subjective and that even after a play has been published and performed hundreds of times, there will always be someone who has a new take on it, a different interpretation of it, and/or a fresh approach to staging it. Alternatively, I love how many new ideas can be thought of and written about. I love how theatre, despite having certain limits in special effects, can still push those limits and that people can still find ways to achieve what may be thought of by most as impossible to do live and on stage. Theatre is creativity, passion, and community in all the best ways.

The field of ARTS ADMINISTRATION as it applies to theatre draws me to it because I like the idea of fostering such a positive environment. Whenever I am part of a production, and especially when I am in a position of leadership, I always try to foster an open, positive, and productive environment as it is important to me that all of those who are working on the production are safe and being taken care of. I want to make sure that the environment that we are working in is one in which people are not afraid to come forward with issues or conflicts. I have seen a lot of people fail at doing this which is disheartening because while stress is normal in this field, too much of it is never good and can cause rifts between colleagues that hinder productivity; it makes creating this art less enjoyable for everyone involved. And while I certainly do not consider myself perfect or superior to these people, I would like to be the person who at least tries to succeed in creating a better, healthier environment so people can flourish.

The field of SOCIOLOGY drew me in just based on the sheer amount of knowledge I was gaining about the world. While I do not consider myself the most “woke” person out there, I was certainly unaware of just how ignorant I was to so many social issues both within the United States and around the globe. Taking those first three courses my freshman year triggered an awakening in me and suddenly motivated me to learn more about as many different social issues as possible. I have learned so much through my sociology major and have not only become more confident standing up in the name of social justice but have also become far more self-aware about myself, where I stand in society (e.g.: privilege versus oppression), and my own ignorance on certain topics. Between my two majors, I feel sociology has actually helped me grow more as a person in regards to my own personal values and morals.

Have you done any internships?

I did two internships in the summer of 2019. The first was as an Assistant Stage Manager for a production of Let Me Fluff Your Pillow under the direction of Chuk Obasi. I aided during rehearsals, finding props, as well as setting up and breaking down the set/stage for actors before and after rehearsals and performances. For the performances, I also worked as a house manager and box office person before and during performances, I helped backstage with necessary quick changes and/or making sure props were ready for any scene. For the final performance, I also stepped in as the acting Production Stage Manager. During that performance, I ensured that actors were aware of when they were expected to be ready to come on stage and called all sound and light cues.

For the second internship, I acted as the Stage Manager for a production of Seussical Jr. at a local theatre camp run by Cornerstone Music Studios and under the direction of Michelle Saya. I aided in coming up with set and lighting ideas with the director (since we were on a budget) and also in making those ideas come to life, recording blocking for the director, and working backstage with other interns to open/close curtains and move necessary set pieces on/off stage. It was also my first time working with children in the theatre, which was an interesting but valuable experience!

Have you done any NYC, short or longTRECs?

I am currently enrolled to be in the NYC Theatre semester for the 2020/2021 academic year and am very excited to be participating! I cannot wait to learn about moment work, which is a different approach to theatre that I have never engaged in before, and work with Tectonic Theatre Company to produce an original work based off of a chosen source material!

Did you have any mentors at Drew?

Yes! The primary mentors I’ve had at Drew are my Big Sib from orientation and my freshman year, Grace Castillo; my Drew Seminar professor, Trevor Weston; my theatre academic advisor, Prof. Lisa Brenner; my Baldwin Thesis advisor, Dr. Caitlin Killian; Emma Barakat, who stood in as the Theatre and Dance Department’s Technical Director last semester; and two other older students who helped me a lot in becoming the stage manager I am today, Jenna Gregson and Cailin Rivest. They have all helped me in different and amazing ways during my time here at Drew and have aided in my personal development and growth.

What world issue(s) are you most passionate about?

I am primarily passionate about LGBTQ+ issues—being queer and non-binary myself and having many close friends who are queer and/or transgender and/or non-binary, I find these issues tend to hit home for me. I am passionate about bringing attention to the discrimination and unique struggles LGBTQ+ people face in the United States and around the world.  I am particularly passionate about the discrimination that non-binary people face within the medical field (which I am writing my Baldwin Senior Honors Thesis about). The concept of intersectionality is also incredibly important to me, both in general and as it applies to the LGBTQ+ community, as it is a crucial part of any piece of research. It is extremely important to me that I remain aware of its implications and make sure to account for the many different potential intersections when it comes to researching and analyzing social issues. Additionally, and despite my non-binary identity, as someone who is female and is typically assumed to be a woman based on my appearance, many issues in regards to females/women/feminism are also issues that I tend to be passionate about, e.g.: abortion, reproduction, etc.

What are some of your favorite memories of Drew over the last 4 years?

Some of my favorite memories include pretty much every single production I’ve worked on in the Theatre and Dance Department. Every show I have worked on has taught me something new and valuable which I am grateful for.

What are your career goals? Dream job? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Short-term, my goal post-graduation is to work towards becoming an Equity Stage Manager while simultaneously acquiring a job in the theatre which will also allow me some insight in how to run a theatre/theatre company.

Ultimately, my goal and dream job is to open my own theatre company one day; a theatre company tailored specifically to marginalized communities and a place where people of those communities can bring their work and tell stories which are not often accepted into mainstream theatre or which are not told authentically. I would also like to work with people in developing their own scripts and stories and give an outlet to new and upcoming playwrights to develop and even display their work. Additionally, and ideally, I would also like to add a children’s theatre and/or classes for children; however, I would not limit those programs to only acting. I would want the children’s programs to include technical theatre classes and/or workshops so that younger people who may be interested in theatre but not necessarily interested in acting can gain knowledge, experience, and connections in behind-the-scenes work.

As for where I see myself in five years:  I think I can realistically say that I will have a job in theatre, living outside of my parent’s house, and doing something that I love.

Any hobbies, activities, or fun facts you would like to share?

Though it is difficult to find the time to read anything non-academic while in the midst of college, I do still try to remain an avid reader. My favorite genres to read tend to be action, fantasy, and fiction, though I am also quite partial to some non-fiction works regarding sociology and/or psychology.

I also really enjoy writing. I have always loved writing poetry and I have several short stories constantly in a state of progress as well as some novel ideas, both old and new, that I try to find the time to work on every now and then. More recently, I have gotten more into playwriting and have plenty of ideas brewing which I want to begin writing soon. I also love music. I don’t have a favorite genre—I tend to like pretty much anything. I will admit that I am not a big fan of country, but that’s the only genre that I genuinely dislike.

I also like to take my flag or my saber outside whenever I get the chance and come up with little routines to different songs. I did color guard in my high school’s marching band and it was one of the only physical activities that I have ever genuinely enjoyed doing. It’s one of the few things that make me feel graceful.

Fun facts: My favorite color is purple. My favorite animal is the giraffe. The only time I ever got sent to the principal’s office was in second grade and it was for “threatening” a classmate with a plastic spoon when in fact I was actually re-enacting one of my favorite scenes from the movie The Road to El Dorado. My hair used to be really long and went all the way down to my stomach when I was a freshman in high school. My favorite season is fall and I despise winter and summer. And despite the fact that I want to have a career in theatre one day, I actually don’t like being in the city all that much and could never see myself living or settling down in a city permanently. In fact, I find that I am a very restless person and would really love to travel one day.

What advice would you give first-year students?

I know it’s easier said than done, but believe me when I say to take your time while you’re here. Don’t rush too much. Take classes that will fulfill your General Education requirements right away your first year so you can a) get them all out of the way but also b) get a taste for other subjects outside your comfort zone. You never know what you may fall in love with unexpectedly! Don’t be afraid to ask questions or join clubs you wouldn’t normally consider. If you think that there’s an issue on campus, talk about, because chances are, there are other students who feel the same way and would be willing to help address it, and most important, don’t be ashamed to prefer staying in your dorm on a Friday night. I’ve done it plenty of times and honestly? As much as I love going out with my friends sometimes, I also like having time alone, and that’s okay.

 

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