I made the decision to apply to the Villanova Master's in Theatre Program on March 15th, 2012. Little did I know how much my life would change as a result of this decision. I graduated from college in May 2011 with little to no direction in life. I had accepted a graduate assistantship in West Virginia to pursue a Master's in Business Administration. Let me be clear, I am NOT a business-minded person. However, I made a promise to myself: once I finished my MBA, I was going to devote my life to my true passion - the arts.
I lasted one semester in that MBA program. By February 2012 I was on the search again for a graduate program. I happened to stumble upon an assistantship opportunity offered through the Office of Residence Life at Villanova. I applied to that position, and perused the Villanova website looking for something to study. That’s when I saw it: Master of Arts in Theatre. I took it as a sign, and I promised myself that no matter what happened I was going to go to Villanova for Theatre, even if I had to pay for it. I applied, and then I attended an open house where I met Dr. Joanna Rotte. I sat with her for a while and discussed the program and my undergraduate major. She told me that the department LOVED psychology majors. After leaving the open house, I felt invigorated, I felt renewed, and most of all I felt happy.
Theatre was what I needed to do, it was my calling. I was accepted to the program on April 20th, 2012 . . . the same day I decided to tell my family. They were shocked - I had never made mention of my love for theatre. It has always been there - the burning desire to create art, to be a part of this beautiful spectacle that is live theatre. When I was younger, I auditioned for shows and was even cast in a few. But because of my fear and a lack of confidence, I always backed out. All of my friends in high school were in shows and musicals, and I would sit in the audience wishing it was me who was on the stage singing or dancing my heart out. My friends who were a part of shows always seemed so free when they were performing, and I desperately wanted to experience that. I just couldn’t get it out of my head.
Before Villanova, I had no idea what a dramaturg was or what they did. I had no clue how actors learned all of those lines. I was oblivious to how much work actually went into a production. I didn’t know how to analyze a script. I couldn't tell you what an objective, obstacle, or even subtext meant. I was fresh new babe, reborn in the fires of live theatre. I felt out of place. But by the end of orientation, I knew I had made the right decision. I had found my tribe. It didn’t matter that I had no experience as an actor, stagehand, or scholar. The people I met changed my life for the better. When I left that first meeting, I felt like I finally belonged somewhere - I was finally free to be myself.
Fast forward to the first day of class, I remember feeling overwhelmed, but as I walked to my car, I was joined by my new friends Peter and John. I remember how all three of us felt excited and nervous for what this adventure would bring. We were in this together. I felt accepted, and loved for who I was. It was a feeling that I had never felt before. I always felt that I was hiding who I was, that I was always shrinking myself down so that I could fit in with those around me, and for the first time I was in an environment where I was encouraged to be who I was, flaws and all.
As I sit here, a mere two weeks away from leaving this program behind, I find myself feeling very nostalgic and very thankful. Before this program I was lost; I was depressed, and I really felt like I had no future. Coming to Villanova was the best decision I've ever made. I’ve met some of the most inspiring, generous, kind, and caring people in the entire world. I’ve been broken down, challenged, stretched (physically, emotionally, and mentally). I’ve been encouraged. I’ve been loved. Walking away from this program I now know so much about theatre, and my love and passion for the arts has grown immensely. In many ways, this program has saved my life. It gave me the opportunity to get up on that stage and expose the deepest, darkest parts of my soul, and after it was all said and done, I had a group of people who cried with me, hugged me, and loved me even more for living my truth.
This program has taught me not only how to be a theatre practitioner, it has taught me how to be a stronger person - how to live in the uncomfortable muck of life. It has taught me that no matter how dark the night seems, the dawn is always around the corner. Villanova Theatre is the family that I never knew I had, and I am eternally grateful for having the privilege of spending two years here. It will be bittersweet to say goodbye to this place, but I know that Villanova has prepared me to be successful wherever life takes me. I know that no matter what happens, I will always have my Nova family. Everyone who works in this department loves their students, and they only want what’s best for us. Thank you to everyone at Villanova for the best two years of my life. It has been an honor to be a part of this experience; I am forever changed.
My advice to anyone coming into the program next year: cherish every moment. Run towards that which scares you. I promise, it is infinitely worth the experience.
Matthew Basden '14