Changing the World by Making Theatre
As a high school junior from Richland, Washington, Whitney Holland attended a two-week summer seminar with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), where both timeless classics and new works were staged. She met performers and was exposed to new ideas and perspectives about live theatre.
“Ashland is phenomenal. The whole town is focused around theatre and art as a whole,” she said. “It was the first of many enlightening experiences of my life which showed me the power of theatre in molding hearts.”
In December 2018, three years after that summer experience, Holland was named the newest recipient of the Rex Rabold Fellowship and will be heading back to OSF – this time with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Idaho in hand.
An Exclusive Opportunity: The Rex Rabold Fellowship
Each year since 1993, the Rex Rabold Fellowship has provided a graduating U of I student an acting stipend and housing for one year with the highly respected Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.
Rabold graduated from U of I with a Master of Arts in 1976. He influenced thousands of lives during his nine years at the festival through his performances, his creative achievements and his generosity of heart. Rabold died in 1990 at the age of 39.
The festival established a fellowship with U of I to honor his memory. Each year a graduating senior is selected by audition to perform with the theatre company. The fellowship recipient receives an acting stipend and housing for one year, and many are invited to return to the company following their award.
Such an opportunity, only available at U of I, was one of the reasons Holland chose to pursue her education in the Department of Theatre Arts.
“The connection to a place I so highly esteemed was huge,” said Holland.
Making Theater – In the U.S. and Abroad
Holland performed in many U of I productions during her academic career, including “The Gift of the Magi,” “A Kind of Alaska,” “Medea: Her Story,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Children’s Hour” and “Sleepy: The Musical.”
She also spent the month of June 2017 in Moscow, Russia, where she studied at the Moscow Art Theater. Immersed in a rigorous daily program, Holland developed her physical, mental and creative acting skills through movement, voice, strength and endurance.
“It was the best experience of my life,” she said.
Holland said her time in the classroom and on stage expanded her vision of theatre. Performances became about the authenticity and humanity of telling stories from a place of truth, empathy and heart. Combine that with creativity and collaboration and “it’s not just doing theater, it’s making it,” she said.
A Small World
In December, Holland performed the female lead in the holiday musical “The Gift of the Magi,” appearing across from Dylan Paul, a professional actor and U of I Department of Theatre Arts faculty member.
Paul has worked on Broadway and throughout the United States and abroad. In fact, he was working as an Oregon Shakespeare Festival resident company member in 2015 when Holland attended the festival as part of her high school summer seminar.
Performing with a high-caliber talent like Paul was a positive experience.
“He taught me about being professional and disciplined in the rehearsal process,” Holland said. “It was intimidating, but I strove to learn from his incredible example.”
Holland credits her professors with having a positive experience at U of I and being one of the reasons – besides the festival connection – that she wanted to study here.
“The professors – they had heart,” Holland said. “They revealed the true purpose of this art. To pair that with the opportunity to work at OSF, it was an unbelievable combination.”
Holland’s work with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival begins in 2020. Until then, keep an eye out for her on the stage in the Tri-Cities area, which she calls home, and wherever her heart may take her.
Article by Kelly O'Neill, Department of Theatre Arts
Published April 2019