Alexandria Burgess '14
-story by Lena Wallace '14
Randolph-Macon College student Alexandria Burgess ’14 is not only
a drama and English
major and journalism and
communication studies minor, but a researcher.
Burgess, a King William, Virginia native, is researching The Lonesome West,
a play by contemporary Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, for her Schapiro Undergraduate
Research Fellowship (SURF) project. SURF offers
students the unique opportunity to conduct 10 weeks of full-time, original research
during the summer months, under the guidance of a faculty mentor.
Burgess choreographs character movement and designs scenes, conducts research in
the McGraw-Page Library and runs coaching
sessions with her actors. She works with the cast in the Cobb Theatre, in R-MC’s
directing rehearsals three times a week.
“When directing and designing this play, I have to make sure everything is historically
accurate,” says Burgess. “The play takes place in the late 1990s. The house on set
is supposed to be an old Irish farmhouse and therefore it needs to look as though
it were built maybe a hundred years before the play begins.” She explains that inheritance
is an essential theme throughout the play. “Part of my job is to make sure that
the set and the actors represent an accurate portrayal of the period in which the
play takes place,” she says. “Because of the recurring theme of inheritance, it
makes sense for this house to have been in the family for generations.”
Drama Professor Joe Mattys serves as Burgess’ SURF mentor.
“Professor Mattys gives me pointers and research advice and he gives stage direction
tips to the actors,” says Burgess. “I have yet to master the techniques of a director,
but he is helping me a great deal along the way.”
“I was present when Alex held auditions, and offered some observations and suggestions
about the actors,” says Mattys. “More recently we have focused on the questions
of the set design and some of the special effects necessary for the show.” Mattys,
who also serves as a dialect coach, expects Burgess to not only grow as a director
but acquire professional skills through her work.
“I expect that Alex will have a good command of the various skills of budgetary
management, artistic choices, script interpretation, and the interpersonal skills
required to work with a wide variety of individual actors and technicians,” he says.
“I believe that the skills of the stage director are transferable to many other
occupations, especially those which draw upon the skills of the management of time,
people, and other resources.” Burgess will present her play August 7-8, 2013 and
during Family Weekend, which will be held October 4-6, 2013.
Burgess, a member of OSMA (Organization for Sexual Minorities and Allies), has helped
coordinate campus events geared toward teaching others about sexual orientation
and gender-related aspects of human rights. In addition, she is a member of MAO
(Music Artist Organization), a group of musicians and performers. She is also a
member of Sigma Tau Delta, an International English honor society, and she assists
the staff in the McGraw-Page Library.
Burgess’ post-R-MC plans include graduate school, where she plans to earn a master’s
degree in library sciences. She wants to eventually become a novelist and playwright.
“I’m not particularly picky about what I’m writing,” says Burgess. “I have a wide
range of skills and enjoy various types of writing—I just love to write.”
The SURF program was established in 1995 through a generous gift made by Ben ’64
and Peggy Schapiro. The Schapiros continue to support this program, which promotes
scholarly undergraduate research by R-MC students in all disciplines.