Riding the roller coaster of creative expression

Pictured: Taela Bland (C’22). Photo courtesy of Facebook.

By Dakota Collins
Contributing Writer

A pair of actors tore into each other in the lobby of the Tennessee Williams Performing Arts Center, preparing a scene for the audition room. A third actor, Taela Bland (C’22), one of many waiting and listening, leaned in with a determined glint in her eye. 

“I’m going to play that role,” Bland decided, indicating one of the actors in the scene. The cast list, when it came out two days later, agreed. 

Bland is a theater major, something which many people — especially parents of college students — wince to hear. Many feel it’s already difficult enough finding a job post-grad without adding the uncertainty of the arts world, where employment is just as often based on luck as it is skill. 

“It is a big risk being a theater major,” Bland admitted. “People don’t do it often because there aren’t a lot of things they feel they can do with it, but if you look at it, there’s a lot.” 

There is far more to theater, and to the theater major, than learning to act and being in productions. Bland, though an actress, is also a dance fellow and a choreographer. In balancing the different roles necessary of a theater major, Bland advised, “You have to have a big enough head to wear more than one hat sometimes. You can’t just be an actress and consider yourself well-versed. One must understand the mechanics of the front of house, as well as lights, as well as set, as well as… well, you see where I’m going.”

Bland performs in “This Ain’t No Cakewalk” at the University Art Gallery in April 2019. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Being a member of the theater department is time-consuming, especially when joined with other responsibilities like classwork, social time, and — in Bland and many other theater students’ case — an on-campus job. Add on three hour rehearsals five nights a week and it can be difficult to find time to sleep. Despite that, Bland is a constant force of nature, firing off witty comments (and corny jokes) with the same fluency as she recites her lines. She is always laughing, and always offering her help to anyone who might ask. 

Up-beat, rowdy, ready, Bland easily fits the mould of what one might think when they see the words “theater major”—but she, like others in the theater world, also has to be ready to accept disappointment. 

“Just, in general, you have to be ready for the rollercoaster. You won’t always get the role you want. That spotlight effect looked way better in your head.” On the other hand, she added with satisfaction, “My choreography killed it. There are many highs and lows, and theater… will always be there.” 

Bland will play Duckling in the Sewanee Theater Department’s production of Our Country’s Good. Seeing her and her vibrant spirit on stage there in October will, surely, be a high on the rollercoaster. 

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