Senior’s last curtain call in Galvin

Stephanie Seward and Kelsey Francis working the "Chicago" final number. The Buzz/Submitted.
Stephanie Seward and Kelsey Francis working the “Chicago” final number. The Buzz/Submitted.

One week from today is preview. One week from tomorrow is opening night.

I told myself the same thing 15 years ago at age 8, when I did my first play at St. Ambrose University. And in one week I will likely be doing my last.

The SAU Theatre Department is the reason I started doing theatre, and that first incredible experience was the beginning of a passion that grew from grade school into college.

Take one: “A Christmas Carol” in December 1999, played Belinda Cratchet, got a paper snowflake in my eye during bows and screamed. My third grade class was watching, of course. Rookie error. But hey, I was 8.

Take two: “Gypsy” in October 2002, played Baby June. Clearly I stepped up my game playing the vaudeville version of Shirley Temple who ran away from her tyrannical stage mom and became a stripper. Foreshadowed later “grown-up” roles to come.

Take three: “Seussical, Jr.” in December 2008, played a monkey with sparkles, studs and purple hair that would have given KISS a run for their money. The pattern is developing that I most enjoy playing roles that could not be farther from my actual personality.

But as a Bettendorf native, acting through the SAU Theatre Department and taking voice lessons through the SAU Music Department, I felt I couldn’t possibly attend college here. I wouldn’t be taking enough of a leap. So I ventured up to the great northern state of Minnesota, where I found Lutherans, lutesfisk, and tree-hugging hipsters.

Sometimes you have to leave home to realize the great things you left behind.

Don’t get me wrong, Minnesota is great. But coming back home to St. Ambrose no longer seemed like a step backward. It was a step toward the journalism major I wanted. And even though cramming that major into one year left no time for a double major in theatre, or even a minor, the theatre department is the place on campus I feel most at home.

Both the students and the faculty welcomed me from day one, even those who didn’t know me. The first week of classes this last fall, I walked into Galvin for the first time in four years. It was quiet and dimly lit, still not ready to trade summer vacation for school. And after I sat alone on the stage for a bit, I realized how good it was to be home.

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Take four: “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” in October ushered me into a character frantically trapped in the aristocratic scene of 18th century France. Checked screaming, sobbing and dying off of my acting bucket list. Thank God corsets have gone out of style.

Take five: “Almost Maine” in November, a student-directed show. A cute love story and less emotionally exhausting, it offered much comfier costumes.

Take six: Nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition at the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in January for my role in “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.” But taking 2nd place for my writing in theatre criticism through the festival’s National Critics Institute competition was the biggest highlight for me. Combining theatre and journalism? Yes, please!

Take seven: “Chicago,” a musical I first performed in high school. I will reprise my role in the upcoming SAU production as Roxie Hart, a less-than-classy vaudeville aspirant and murderess. I am ecstatic—and feel borderline greedy—for another shot at such an exhilarating role with the outstanding students and faculty here. The only bar they have set is one of excellence, and I know we won’t come up short.

These same faculty members working on “Chicago” costumed me and mentored my acting, singing and dancing during “A Christmas Carol.” To see my acting experience come so full circle, and for them to see what I have accomplished from their influence, is a beautifully surreal coincidence.

I have loved my journalism studies here and finished my major in only one year thanks to the gracious faculty who helped make that possible. But my time here at St. Ambrose would not have been the same without my adventures in the theatre department. So to everyone there, for the support, the fun, and the memories I’ll take with me, thank you for making my Ambrosian experience truly unforgettable.

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