By Loren Terveer, Contributing Writer
McKendree University is becoming known for their wide variety of sporting teams. Water polo, track and field, lacrosse, bowling and bass fishing are just a few examples of the teams that the university offers to students. Being on any of these teams is a large time commitment. Athletes are often spread entirely too thin between demanding practices and required coursework. While they somehow find the time to practice and keep up with their studies, they can also be found somewhere else: the stage.
Michelle Magnussen, the McKendree Theatre Department head, often says that some of her best student actors have also been athletes. Throughout her time at McKendree she has seen hundreds of students. The student athletes have multiple skills obtained from their sport that are useful and transferable to productions. One of the most important skills that can be applied to sports and theatre is the aspect of performance. Theatre actors perform in front of dozens of people in a live audience. This is often the biggest turn off to many people in regards to being involved in any type of theatre. Athletes, however, are constantly performing in front of a live audience. During their events there is a cheering crowd watching their every move and responding to it. Due to this, athletes often are naturally relaxed stage performers.
According to Mrs. Magnussen, another skill athletes have that is helpful in theatre is body awareness. A huge part of communication is body language and being aware of how your body looks. When actors prepare characters for a show, they must take into account their bodies and how their characters move. Athletes, as they spend a large amount of time working with their bodies and understanding its movement, are often naturals with body awareness and applying that to acting.
Anyone who has ever been a part of a theatre production will tell you that communication and teamwork are essential in putting on a successful show. At McKendree, the students are the actors, part of the technical crew, designers and have many other duties. The students who take on any of these roles must know how to communicate with others and work as a team to make a show happen. Emily Harper, a senior at McKendree, is a decorated thrower for the track and field team. She is also a dedicated member of the theatre department. Just last semester Emily took on her first show as stage director for McKendree’s production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” Emily explains, “I think above all the skills that I have gained from both sides is communication. I’ve had teammates to communicate with, I’ve had coworkers and cast mates and bosses to communicate with as well as coaches and we all communicate the same through language through action.” Emily puts the skills she gained from track to use in the theatre and vise versa.
Pictured to the left is Emily and her fellow crew members during last spring’s production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” (courtesy of the McKendree website.) Emily’s experience is not limited to just herself at McKendree. The skills she gained from track and field have helped her become a talented member of the theatre department and continue to do so each semester. There are many other students like Emily at McKendree who use their athletic skills to help them get ahead in countless other ways and will continue to do so throughout their entire lives.