By Emma Billig
“Performance is something you can take with for the rest of your life,” said Dr. Lisa Weckerle, associate professor of communication studies at KU. Many of us will never be performing on Broadway, but performance can be as every day as reading aloud to a child.
During her time as an undergrad, Dr. Weckerle took a class called “performance of literature,” because she had always loved to read and was drawn to performance because it was a way for a reader to live in a story. She loved the professor and fell in love with performance studies.
Weckerle teaches several classes related with performance studies at KU. Her favorite is women writers in performance, which she has taught three times. Every time she has taught the course, the people in it have been amazing. Something about the class draws a particular type of person; there are communication studies majors, women studies minors and other people who just end up there. So much of college focuses on the self, but performance is different.
Out of the many performances held at KU, Weckerle enjoyed directing ‘For Colored Girls,’ a play based on the poems by Ntozake Shange, the most. It was a positive challenge being a white director, directing a play by an African American woman.
Students from all over the school auditioned and ended up taking the play, written for seven people, and scripting it to fit the 13 students in the production.
Weckerle first grew to love performance when she was young. She directed plays at family gatherings. It was not until junior high when she became involved with an arts program called “Young People Performing.” The group, which still exists today, produced four plays a year.
Their triumphs inc luded Bertolt Brecht’s ‘Caucasian Chalk Circle’ as well as several Shakespeare plays. The experiences were not only challenging but gave a nice sense of community.
The play “The Foolish Molar” was her first play outside of her home when she was in first grade. Since then she went on to be part of more than 50 productions. She started out with supporting roles, such as “girl number one” and then worked her way up toward leading roles. She has also directed a lot of formal and informal shows.
The question that is most often broached in regards to performance is, ‘how can I turn this love of performance into a job?’ Performance studies, when combined with other things, can be really powerful. Performances can be used to teach foreign language and drama therapy.
Something that performance classes can do that not every other class is it gets you doing, instead of just sitting and listening to the lecture. You are actively participating. Weckerle said, “If you love performance, it will find ways to integrate itself into your life.”
Students from all majors who are interested in performance are welcome to sign up for performance studies classes such as performance of literature and group performance, both offered this fall 2016 semester.