“Theatre is an interesting discipline because there is not a singular, ‘correct’ way to do it. It is very much a personal experience as well as an academic one,” says Francesqa Santos ’15. “Because of that, there are a lot of emotions and feelings that come along with being in the theatre. I have learned that passion, above all else, is the key to just about everything in life. Theatre made me realize that if I don’t have a passion for something, if I don’t love what I’m doing, the quality of my work will suffer and I won’t be happy.”
Francesqa visited Rhodes on a whim her senior year. But after stepping on campus, “I got the feeling that I was supposed to end up here. It was just a gut instinct, so I applied and got in and the rest is history.” Four years later, Francesqa has graduated with a major in theatre and minor in gender and sexuality studies. While there’s no “correct” way to study theatre, Francesqa’s passion and involvement in the theatre program have allowed her to thrive–both on campus and beyond.
In addition to being involved in many productions on campus, Francesqa also held a fellowship working with the theatre department at Central High School. There, she worked with a group of students to put together a piece about social inequality in the light of police brutality. As a gender and sexuality studies minor, Francesqa says she now has an interesting perspective on working with children, especially young children. “Those students were so aware of the world and so passionate. There has not always been a place for marginalized voices, be it women, persons of color, queer persons, or any other oppressed persons,” she explains. “There is power in creating a script and creating a theatre that uses native voices. There is power in giving voice to oppressed people. There is power in creating. That project was as much about putting together a show with a group of high school students as it was an experience in teaching those students that they are powerful, that their thoughts and feelings and ideas are valid and powerful. Simply witnessing these kids in action filled me with awe.”
Beyond the city of Memphis, the theatre department afforded Francesqa the opportunity to travel, along with a group led by theatre professor David Mason, to Trinidad to study the Phagwa celebration. The Phagwa is part of the Holi festival, and is an event that combines native and English songs, music, and dances.
“I had taken Theatre in India, which really focused on the theatrical elements in Hindu practices and beliefs, and I fell in academic love,” says Francesqa. “Professor Mason brought the trip up casually in a conversation to gauge my excitement, and, of course, I was beyond thrilled.” Rhodes provided funding for the group to travel for six days to experience the culture of Trinidad. Francesqa visited Temple on the Sea and Monastery on the Mount and attended community lectures concerning native festivals and rituals, in addition to attending a Holi and Phagwa celebration. The experience was only heightened by the chance to travel with someone so passionate and educated about the festival. “There is something really neat in being able to see a person’s passion and this is absolutely evident when Professor Mason is teaching. There is an excitement in learning from him, and that’s a really special quality.”
Francesqa adds that the quality she found so appealing in the theatre department also exists in the gender and sexuality studies department. “Professor Behr creates a really comfortable learning environment. His passion for the subject is evident, and if I ever needed advice about anything (and I mean anything), he would be the first professor I’d visit.”
In addition to pursuing a future in theatre, Francesqa will be working as a teacher in Sasebo, Japan. “I hope to work with younger children, as my area of interest is in using theatre as rehab for children that have experienced traumatic situations. Moving to Japan allows me the gap year, or two, that I need, while still allowing me to work with kids. Plus, fresh sushi for every meal? Who could beat that!”
By Emily Clark ′15