Elizabeth Jean '13 and Kristian Spencer '14
Randolph-Macon College student Elizabeth Jean ’13 is setting the
stage for a career in theatre.
This summer, Jean researched and directed David Auburn’s Proof in conjunction
with the Schapiro Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
program. The drama and
arts management major spent most of her days in Cobb Theatre in preparation
for the play's premiere, which took place on August 1. Proof, the story
of a troubled young woman who has spent years caring for her brilliant but unstable
father, will be reprised October 3-6 in Cobb Theatre, in R-MC's Center for Performing
“On most days I worked with Kristian Spencer ’14 to construct his
set, with rehearsal in the afternoon,” says Jean, a St. Mary’s County, Maryland
native. “During the evening I took care of loose ends—supplemental research, for
example—and planned for the next day.” Jean, who worked under the guidance of Drama
Professor Joe Mattys, has been a theatre aficionado for many years.
“It’s a great environment with a lot of support,” she says. “Even after working
for months on a production, I’m still excited. When I try to understand why characters
act the way they do, it forces me to consider what has happened to them and how
that affects their actions.” Jean, who presented her research at the
SURF Symposium, says the most rewarding part of her project was working
“I love discussing a character with an actor and discovering a part of that character
that I hadn’t seen,” she says. “I took an Introduction to Directing class last year,
and I liked it so much that I asked Professor Mattys, 'Can I do a SURF project this
summer? I know what I want to do.'"
Having the chance to direct a show has been “incredible,” she says. “I learned a
lot about how other jobs in theatre work, and about how to do my own job as a director.
SURF helped me make sure I stayed on my toes.” Jean met regularly with Mattys, whose
mentorship played an important role in the success of her project.
“Professor Mattys was always available to help me when I had a problem or to listen
if I just needed to vent,” she says. “I have learned so much from his courses and
from working with him on productions. Having him as a mentor helped me to make decisions
and become more confident in my work.”
Jean, a member of Alpha Phi Omega and
Omicron Delta Kappa, also serves
as secretary of OSMA (Organization for Sexual Minorities and Allies), and is very
involved with R-MC’s Drama Guild. Her post-R-MC plan reflects her love of all things
“After graduation, I hope to become a stage manager for a Richmond theatre,” she
Note: Tickets for the October 3-6 performances are $5 per person
and free to R-MC faculty, staff and students. The Box Office begins taking reservations
by phone mail at (804) 752-7316 beginning at 10:00 a.m. September 24.
SURF was introduced in 1995 as an endowment to
support scholarly undergraduate research by students in all disciplines. Students
conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research during the summer months, under
the guidance of a faculty mentor. The initial gift for the program was made by Benjamin
Schapiro ’64 and his wife Peggy.