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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University
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Kevin Mannering '10

Hometown: Boston, MA

Majors: Theater, English

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • President, Mindbending Productions
  • WNL Sketch Comedy
  • Pieces of the Puzzle, Student Coordinator
  • Pi Kappa Alpha

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • 2009 Summer Program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts- Los Angeles

Favorite Class: Poetry Creative Writing with Professor Miranda

Favorite W&L Event: Buffalo Creek Music Festival

As my family prepared to travel down from Boston to Lexington for freshmen orientation, a particular news story caught our attention. There happened to be a hurricane moving up the Eastern seaboard and, conveniently, we were informed that its remnants should be arriving in town just as we were scheduled to land. My frugal father had the four of us flying into Richmond, where the storm would be at its worst, before renting a car and driving the two-plus remaining hours to Lexington. The hurricane had other plans. Two aborted landings later, our flight was diverted to Roanoke, about 90 miles closer to campus. This harrowing airline experience turned out to be an omen for my time at W&L, but not quite the omen I worried about at the time.

Over the past four years I've called myself a history major, business major, theater major and English major, before ultimately settling on the latter two. I'll be honest; at times, it's been a turbulent trip. Yet, in every one of those departments, I found people willing to go out of their way to reach out to me, explain my options, and reveal the dizzying array of opportunities that would exist for me on each path.

Ultimately, though, my home has always been the theater. With so many resources and comparatively few students, W&L Theater is a gold mine for the adventurous. At W&L, theater students are offered the rare opportunity to be partners in, and even leaders of, the production process. I've found here that with even the slightest amount of initiative, students can make ideas that previously existed only in their heads a reality on the stage. The department is always available to support and challenge us. In preparation for my senior thesis, a student orchestrated "in-the-round" production of Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness," student volunteers ripped apart the seating area in our black box experimental theater with the head of the department lending a hand. The resources of W&L Theater extend beyond the borders of Lexington as well with the Klinedinst Scholarships for summer study, which allowed me to spend last summer studying acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood.

The personal contact we get to have with accomplished outside artists is also truly astounding. Within three months of arriving on campus, I found myself engulfed in a dressing room bear hug from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel for a role I had played in her award-winning play, "How I Learned to Drive." Two Flournoy Playwright Festivals later, I have established lasting friendships with Christopher Cartmill, an alumnus and the writer/director of February 2009's "The Apotheosis of Vaclav Drda," and playwright Lucy Thurber, who witnessed student performances of her shows "Where We're Born" and "Scarcity" while in Lexington this fall. Instead of sitting through lectures with these artists, we go out for coffee, have informal luncheons, and just hang out chatting about all things theater. It's this personal touch that makes W&L Theater stand out from programs at other schools.

As I near the end of my time in Lexington and begin take stock of it all, I realize this was not exactly how I imagined my college experience when I matriculated in the fall of 2006. Yet I say with confidence, because of my time at W&L, I've traveled a whole lot closer toward where I want to be.