Student Spotlight: Liesl Eppes C’21

Liesl Eppes C’21

What attracted you to Drew?

I was born and raised in South Carolina. I really liked Drew because it gave me close proximity to New York City and an opportunity to learn about art and theater’s global community. I also loved Drew’s close knit community and its beautiful campus.  When I visited Drew it just felt right.

What draws you to Theatre Arts and Spanish?

I knew I wanted to pursue theater because it’s such a collaborative art and it requires you to be open and use the strengths of everyone in the room.  With theater you can explore everything.  It’s the most intersectional art for me.  You can do one play that is set in a certain historical period and you learn about that period including the politics of the day. Every play is an opportunity to learn something new.  That is what I love about a liberal arts education at Drew and theater in general. I first got involved in theater when I was 8 but in the past I was more focused on acting. Now I am more interested in directing and writing.

As far as Spanish is concerned, I always wanted to be bilingual and took advantage of this opportunity in college to learn a second language.  When I went on a shortTREC in January of my sophomore year to Puerto Rico and Martinique some of the students were bilingual and I realized there are so many opportunities to hear new stories and meet new people if I know a second language. This confirmed my desire to pick up Spanish as a major.  Plus, the professors in the Spanish department are amazing.

What excites you about directing?

I love directing because I’m using all the parts of my brain at once. I’m using the skills I learned through acting to think about about character, using my critical analysis and writing skills to figure out what the script is saying and the best way is to tell the story, and I’m using my stage management skills to figure out the logistics. Also, I love the fact that in directing you get to think about the visual aesthetic of things in a more artistic way. It uses all the different art forms that I love in one place.

What plays have you directed through the Theatre department at Drew?

I directed three plays. The first was a student written production, The Day She Made Stars, as a part of the first Out of the Box festival, the second play I directed was Appearances, another one act play last fall.  Recently I directed Snapshot remotely which was really challenging.  I had to direct it in a very cinematic way to frame the shots over ZOOM. My production team and cast were super flexible in all the different challenges that arose and that flexibility and willingness to collaborate made it a successful production.

Have you done any internships?

In the summer of 2019 I did an internship with Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a global arts festival with performing arts, theater, opera, concerts, and visual arts. I was a box office apprentice but also spent my time off the clock watching some incredible performances.

That same summer of 2019 I also did a teaching internship at Storytree Children’s Theater, in South Carolina. I coached children in theater games and each week we would develop a new script and perform a play based on the ideas the children were interested in. I loved that internship.  It was really cool to see how excited the kids were about creating theater and taking ownership of their own work.  It can be so easy working with adults and getting bogged down in logistics but kids see the exciting parts of theater. It’s a good reminder of why I love doing it in the first place.

The third internship was done remotely fall 2020 with the NJ Play Lab. I worked with playwrights developing new plays and providing feedback on the developing play process.  I loved it! It was a great artistic outlet, especially because doing theatre virtually you lose so much of the theatrical experience. But I think play development is the theatrical work that translates most accurately onto Zoom and is most comparable to the type of work you would be doing if you are all in the same room together; using table reads and analysis to enhance a script. It was a fun way to dive into the work of creating theater in a way that felt most authentic to the ZOOM medium.

Thankfully I received Patenaude scholarships that helped offset the cost of all of my theater related internships.

Do you have any mentors at Drew? 

Two of my mentors are Theatre Arts Professor Dr. Lisa Brenner and Spanish Professor Dr. Raul Rosales who are both my advisors. I love their classes and they push me to do my best work.  Also, another mentor is Spanish Professor Dr. Monica Cantero. I love taking classes with her and the way she connects what we learn in class with what’s going on in the world and our lives.  She does a great job of being realistic about expectations but also inspires the best from us.  I also think she’s done a phenomenal job of adopting her classes to the ZOOM medium. We are still having fun in my Spanish conversation class which says a lot about her teaching style.

Have you studied abroad? NYC or shortTRECS?

I am in the NY Semester on Theatre now (remotely.) We are working on developing a play and script that will be performed virtually in the spring. We are learning about the techniques of creating devised theater through Moment Work and are working with teachers from Tectonic Theater Project; learning all the skills that we would in person. The devising process is all about learning new ways to make things theatrical so it adapts really well to the ZOOM medium. Even though it’s different we are still able to use ZOOM to figure out what makes a something theatrical; writing performance rather that just text.

I also did the shortTREC to Puerto Rico and Martinique for 2 weeks in January of 2018. We looked at how both Martinique and Puerto Rico were similar in that they are part of a different country (France and U.S.), but the people in Martinique see themselves as French where as in Puerto Rico, the people’s identity is rooted in being Puerto Rican. In Puerto Rico, in addition to learning about the culture and we did a service project for a senior home that was effected by Hurricane María. Puerto Rico is in need of more tourists to build up the economy especially in the wake of María. I am so grateful for the opportunity to explore both of these beautiful islands!

El Yunque National Rain Forest in Puerto Rico

What are some of your favorite memories of Drew?

I knew I would make friendships and lasting connections at my time in college but I’m so grateful for all of the friends I made and all of the memories. I loved sitting in my dorm room with my roommate watching movies.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

Listening to people and hearing their stories is really important. Every class that I’ve loved the most comes back to that. For example, the anthropology classes I’ve taken and loved were linked to understanding other cultures and what makes them unique and helped me better understand the core of why I love theatre; learning about unique perspectives through art. I really hope that the work that I do through using my theater and Spanish knowledge will help people to learn to listen to each other more.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out?

Be open to the possibility that you might like something that you don’t expect to like. The biggest value of having gone to Drew is realizing different facets of my personality through trying new things and taking new classes.  Get out of your comfort zone and follow what peaks your interest and be open to surprising yourself.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I hope to be working in theater and film as a writer/director. I also want to travel and continue learning about other cultures as I dive into directing and writing.

Are there any fun facts you would like to share?

I have 7 siblings (3 older brothers, 2 younger sisters and 2 younger brothers.)  I was also home schooled before Drew.

Hiking a Mountain in Martinique

 

 

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