Non-performing arts majors in Iowa State Productions


Taylor Blum/Iowa State Daily

Olivia Griffith as Elinor Dashwood (left), Isabella Witte as Margaret Dashwood (middle), and Alyson O’Hara as Mrs. Dashwood (right) get into character on Feb. 20 during the dress rehearsal of “Sense and Sensibility.” Witte stars in the play, despite her status as a non-performing arts major. 

Averi Baudler

During the school day, Hayden Walker can often be found in his mechanical engineering classes taking attentive notes or studying tirelessly for various exams. Surrounded by his peers, Walker looks like any other sophomore engineering student; just trying to pass the next big test or make it through another lecture without falling asleep.

As class ends and students begin to file out of the lecture hall, however, Walker opts out of the typical post-class nap or evening study session and instead finds himself at Fisher Theater.

Though by day, Walker spends his time solving equations in the classroom, by night he can be seen on stage acting in one of Iowa State’s theater productions. Walker is one of the many non-performing arts majors who choose to add multiple hours of rehearsal and performance into his academic schedule by participating in plays and musicals on campus.

Walker says that although theater is not something he wishes to pursue, it is something that he knew he couldn’t give up once high school ended.

“Theater was something that I’d done a lot of in high school and it was something that I really wanted to continue as I went into college,” Walker said. “I also wanted a way to get to know new people and the shows were really a fantastic way to meet some great people with similar interests.”

For Emily Heckle, a senior in animal ecology, exploring Iowa State’s theater classes eventually lead her to incorporate theater into her academics in addition to performing in shows.

My first semester, I enrolled in the Acting I class and I was immediately taken into the community,” Heckle said. “I started doing shows and festivals that semester and I just haven’t stopped. It’s become so much of my college experience that after much debating I’ve finally decided to minor in performing arts.” 

As non-majors are tasked with navigating the balance between classes and rehearsal, Walker says the amount of time he commits to a show is never strenuous until the final days leading up to performance. 

“By and large it’s fine to balance studies with rehearsal,” Walker said. “Admittedly tech week, which is the week before the show, can be hard on the homework schedule since rehearsals can go late, but aside from that it’s more than doable.” 

Isabella Witte, a junior in criminal justice studies, recently performed alongside Walker in Iowa State’s production of “Sense and Sensibility.” Witte noted that when schoolwork began to get overwhelming during the rehearsal process she was able to find bits of time to fit in her studies while at the theater. 

“Occasionally, finding the balance between studying and rehearsals can be difficult, but there are times during breaks or if you aren’t in a scene that you can squeeze homework in,” Witte said. “I tried my hardest to get as much done before rehearsals as I could so that I wasn’t thinking about it on stage.”

Both Walker and Witte agree that their status as non-majors doesn’t hinder them in any way when auditioning for roles or trying to find their place in the theatre community. 

“It can be a little weird seeing how many performing arts majors come out to auditions and seeing how they know each other already, but everyone is so nice and totally accepting of everyone,” Witte said. “If you get the part or a performing arts major does it doesn’t really matter to people and I think that  is something that amazed me. They are really accepting of who the better person for the role just happened to be.”

Walker says that auditioning against students who plan to pursue theater as a career initially intimidated him, but he has since realized that Iowa State’s theater department is more than welcoming.

“Everybody’s encouraging and you’re certainly not an outlier if you’re auditioning as a non-theater major,” Walker said. “I don’t have an exact number but I’d like to say just a little under half of the cast of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ were non-performing arts majors.”

The Iowa State Theater Department remains an inclusive and inviting environment for all majors. The diversity the department encourages makes Fisher Theater stand alone as the only place on campus where one can find a mechanical engineer and a criminal justice major speaking in a British accent or executing an elaborate dance number with ease.