Artist of the Week: Danielle Draper
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Horizon: What is your earliest memory of theatre?
Danielle: In high school, we did cold readings of “Romeo and Juliet” and I decided to audition. I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen if I didn’t get the part?” So I got up and did my audition. When I finished, I looked at my teacher and his mouth was open. I thought I must have been awful. But after class, he comes up to me and goes, “In the 40 years I have been teaching Shakespeare, I have never heard someone cold read Shakespeare that well.” And the next day, I got the part of Juliet! That’s when I realized this was something I could do for the rest of my life.
Horizon: What about the theatre department at Westmont have you enjoyed the most?
Danielle: There are so many opportunities, considering it’s a small department. I came in thinking I was going to act, which I did my first semester, but then I decided I was going to be a sponge and take in every opportunity I could. Everyone in the department was supportive of that. Want to do lighting design? We’re gonna put you on a show and you’re gonna do lighting design. Want to get your hands dirty and build something? Go down to the shop and work on building a set. There was never a time when they said this is your place, this is your thing. If you wanted to go through a certain door, they said go for it. You get to choose what you want to learn. We’ll do whatever we can to help you. The love the professors have for the students is over the moon.
Also, being a Christian liberal arts school, they do a really great job of blending Christian aspects with theatre. A lot of people think you can’t be both a theatre or film person and be a Christian because of the things you have to do. But the theatre taught me you can create using your faith. That’s what I’ve enjoyed most about the department. It’s opened my mind beyond the surface level of what I was first introduced to.
Horizon: What is the hardest part about being a theatre major?
Danielle: Having to remember that your entire life cannot be about theatre. There are things like sleeping and GEs and friends and family and adult responsibilities. Theatre is really time-consuming and your priorities can shift, so you have to remember that it’s not just about this. You need to make room for other things.
Horizon: What are some misconceptions about theatre majors?
Danielle: That we’re all extroverted, crazy, over-dramatic people who live in the theatre. A lot of people, when I tell them I’m a theatre major, say, “Oh...really?” because I’m introverted and I’m usually the person in the back of the classroom. We’re not all Energizer bunnies.
Horizon: What do you plan on doing following graduation?
Danielle: I’m going to stay in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara has a lot of theatre companies. I’m already lined up to be a stage manager for Lit Moon, John Blondell’s company, which is a great opportunity. My hope is to eventually make it to grad school, where I’ll either studying lighting design or directing. I’d love to do grad school in Europe. They have a lot of innovative theatre there right now.
Horizon: What type of theatre do you enjoy the most?
Danielle: I really like early American playwrights like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. I love plays that deal with a typical family, but there’s always something deeper or more meaningful there. Theatre doesn’t have to be over the top. It can be about a real family going through real issues. But I’ll also always love Shakespeare, because that’s what brought me to theatre.
Horizon: What advice do you have for someone pursuing theatre?
Danielle: If you’re passionate about theatre, go for it. If you’re worried about it being a logically good idea or it making enough money, that shouldn’t hold you back. Those were my same fears. But don’t let other people tell you what to do. And don’t think it’s just about being an actor, either—you can express yourself in so many ways with theatre.