Spotlight: Wilkes theater program, passion for artistry: Wilkes students gain opportunity and experience behind-the-scenes theater life

Rachel Leandri, Managing Editor

Wilkes is often associated with programs such as pharmacy or nursing. What is sometimes less discussed is the university’s Division of Performing Arts, which includes programs in theatre, musical theatre, music and dance.

The Wilkes University Theater provides opportunities for theatre artists to develop their skills in a caring and well-equipped atmosphere within the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center. A student can declare majoring in either musical theatre or theatre arts.

Junior Micaela Oliverio has found that Wilkes is a perfect fit to suit her interests and passions. She chose to double major in communication studies and musical theatre.

“I found my passion for theatre when I was in high school. I realized that it was the only thing I could see myself doing for the rest of my life,” she said. “I am so happy that I chose musical theatre as part of my double major because all of my professors are really flexible when it comes to scheduling my classes, rehearsals and practices for soccer.”

However, unlike Oliverio, not all musical theatre students had Wilkes on top of their list when balancing out their options of universities with different levels of performing arts programs.

“When searching schools, I immediately jumped into the big name performance programs, but eventually realized that type of atmosphere that I had always longed for was not right for me,” said junior Gianna Chase.

After attending a Wilkes open house in 2014, Chase began to see her potential within the Wilkes program.

“I met some of the students already in the program and realized they were a variety of personalities,” Chase said.  “No one was like the other, and realizing this, I knew I just had to choose Wilkes.”

Students who are intrigued by the arts but ultimately choose a different major are encouraged to participate, as the Division of the Performing Arts provides opportunities for Wilkes students of all majors.

THE190, a class offered every semester for one, two, or three credits, offers students the opportunity to work on theatre productions in a variety of capacities ranging from stage management to theatre set construction.

Theatre work study is also an option for those interested in gaining experience working backstage, on lights, or on sound and scenery.

Assistant Professor of the Performing Arts Jon Liebetrau feels that Wilkes students form a sturdy knowledge base of the real world aspects of theatre that will benefit them long term.

“Our goal as a theater program is to provide our majors over their four years at Wilkes the tools and experience necessary to succeed in a very competitive professional field,” Liebetrau said. “Our majors get extensive training in acting, music, dance, design, directing and technical theater.

While time-consuming, the program requires strong commitment and the willingness to acquire new skill sets out of one’s comfort zone. Every student performer or participant will take part in every aspect of production.

“Every student learns how to utilize and be comfortable with power tools, electrics, costuming, paint, and anything else the production calls for because these are necessary life skills that carry over into real world activities,” Chase shared. “One must also be equally open to the idea of commitment which involves being punctual, attentive, and always giving 110% because the reality of this business is that everyone is replaceable.”

The Division of Performing Arts at Wilkes has not only strengthened students’ abilities to sing and act, but to help them become better performers and in turn, better individuals.

“The Wilkes theatre department is a great example of what it will be like to be in the performance industry for the rest of my life,” Oliverio stated. “I didn’t think it was possible, but I’ve learned how to love theatre more than I already do.”