Casting Calls, Communication, and Castles

July 09, 2018

Kerstin VaughnFor Kerstin Vaughn ’19 of Norton, Ohio, the Mount Union journey began sooner than most. Her passion for theatre brought her to the inaugural Shakespeare at the Castle, a summer theatre production held on the lawn of Alliance’s historic Glamorgan Castle. Vaughn was only a high school junior at the time, but working with Kevin Kern, associate professor and chair of the Department of Theatre, and Rudy Roggenkamp, professor of theatre, sealed the college deal.

Since then, Vaughn has excelled in her studies, blossoming as a theatre major under Kern’s guidance. Kern pushes her to step out of her comfort zone, and there is one particular instance that stands out in Vaughn’s mind. During her freshman year, the department put on a musical production, which provided a challenge for her. 

“I am not a musical person,” Vaughn admitted. “I knew that if I auditioned, I wasn’t going to get in the show. So I went into Professor Kern’s office, and he’s like, why don’t you stage manage? Stage managing is not a job you would normally give to a freshman unless you really trusted his or her abilities, so that encouraged me. I had a professor who believed in my abilities and maturity.”

Vaughn has proven her capabilities countless times since then, both in theatre and beyond. She picked up a second major in communication studies and a minor in psychology, always keeping a busy academic schedule. She is also president of the Honors Program’s Honors Council, president of communications honorary Lambda Pi Eta, member of the Black Student Union, and lead consultant at the Digital, Written, and Oral Communication (DWOC) Studio. 

With so many leadership positions, Vaughn’s involvement may seem like too much for one person to handle, but she thrives, saying she works best when she’s “super, super busy.” Even so, she’s had to find a way to navigate events, deadlines, DWOC shifts, and rehearsals.

“My planner is my best friend. If I don’t write it down, it doesn’t happen. People say, ‘You’re so young! I don’t understand why you’d have such a bad memory.’ No, there are just too many things to do,” Vaughn laughed. “So the planner’s incredibly important.”

Vaughn stresses the importance of community, which likely stems from her communication studies. When she first picked up the major, she wasn’t entirely sure what studying communication entailed, but it piqued her interest. As she continued her studies, she discovered that communication courses centered around how people relate to one another and how relationships are formed. Vaughn fell in love with the subject because it directly related to her theatre studies. 

“Studying communication is studying how politicians relate to their constituents, how teachers relate to their students, how moms relate to their sons, all sorts of things, which is exactly what you need to know as a theatre professional,” Vaughn said. “You study how people engage, and then, with theatre, you get to put all of that together and share it with people.”

That knowledge was especially important when preparing for the spring 2018 production of Under Fire, a play sharing the raw experiences of combat veterans. Vaughn and the other actors had to study how soldiers think and communicate with each other so they could accurately reflect the soldiers’ voices and interactions on stage. 

“With theatre, I would be hard-pressed to say that you shouldn’t automatically double major. Not because theatre is easy or anything, but because theatre is about the world,” Vaughn said. “If you only know about theatre and you don’t know about the world, you’re going to have a hard time creating anything that’s artistically significant.”

For Vaughn, breadth and depth of experience are what make someone a great actor and a great communicator. She lives out that conviction in all aspects of her life, rarely turning down an opportunity for personal growth, and she encourages other students to do the same.

“You just have to take advantage of every experience, whether it’s in your classes or on stage. In the theatre, we say, ‘Every experience is a learning experience.’ It doesn’t have to be a good one, but you can learn.”

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