Artist of the Week: Cierra Denning
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Cierra Denning is a sophomore from Parker, Colorado, a little suburb southeast of Denver. She is majoring in Theatre Arts because “It’s just such a unique art form. It’s such a relational experience between the audience and performer.” Denning’s first acting experience was when she was three, looking into her mom’s camera and posing. Then, she took her first acting class when she was eight, landing her first role directly after that. From there, she never stopped acting, especially during her senior year of high school when she directed her first show. She figured it had been about a decade and theatre was something she was passionate about.
Although she did not know anything about the Theatre Arts program at Westmont when she decided to come, she has grown much more than expected during her time. This transformation was kicked off in one of her first theatre classes: Great Literature on the Stage with Dr. John Bondell. When Denning finally began to express her knowledge and ideas, she felt valued by Professor Blondell, which she “really took to heart.” So far, Denning has taken a total of six theatre classes, but her favorite one has been Directing with Blondell this semester.
Denning is an analytical thinker, so she did not have imaginary friends or make up her own games when she was growing up. Coming into directing roles for the theatre, she had doubts about her ability to “create characters and come up with creative solutions to problems during the production.” Being able to work with the three theatre professors at Westmont— Dr. John Blondell (Professor), Mitchell Thomas (Chair of the Theatre Department), and Jonathan Hicks (Technician and Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts)— has really pushed her to learn a different, rarer way to engage in theatre arts. Although each professor has a different, theatre-related passion outside of Westmont, Denning comments that “being able to see their passion and genuine love for working with us is really great.”
Right now, Denning, her professors, and peers are working on the production of Pride and Prejudice (directed by Mitchell Thomas), in which she will be playing Elizabeth Bennett. With this work, she worries that the audience will not appreciate their interpretation and adaptation of the novel. However, Denning is also very excited that “everything is slowly coming together.” Since they have been running through ACT I this week, they’ve been able to see the set designs and costumes and have added choreography into scenes.
After college, Denning plans to get her Master of Fine Arts degree for directing, as she states, “I just really love learning and gaining knowledge is so important to me.” She is also considering the possibility of a PhD because there is “so much to learn.” After thinking about all of her mentors, experiences, and growth, Denning’s thoughts are that she is highly interested in the intricacies of human behavior, particularly audience behavior and their relation to the fourth wall. Although she planned on being a Political Science major leading up to her first year at Westmont, Denning believes, “theatre is what I’m supposed to be doing.”