Good evening students, faculty, parents, and the many loved ones of the School of the Arts’ Class of 2016. I would also like to extend a special shout out to all those who couldn’t be with us in the flesh, but are here with us in spirit as they live stream the event from the comfort of their homes.
My name is Gabriel Alaniz, and it is an honor to speak before you on behalf of the KU Department of Theatre. Now, as a theatre major you are probably expecting me to burst out in song and dance, but this isn’t Glee, my friends. In fact, the only time I ever graced this stage; I was quite literally a human prop that counter-balanced the ensemble’s movement. When one of my cast mates moved upstage, I moved downstage, as another cast mate crossed stage left, I moved stage right. We love symmetry in the theatre, friends. Although I only acted once at KU, I’m no stranger to the stage, I enjoyed a childhood in the limelight, but during my time at KU I found the perfect fit for me in theatre management.
I’m not certain of what any of your paths looked like, but I was never destined to be a Jayhawk. As a matter of fact, had I not let the stigmatization of the arts get the best of me, I would have applied to several conservatories to pursue my degree in theatre. As art students, we could have had our pick of the most prestigious art institutions, film schools, and conservatories for theatre and dance, but we all chose to embark upon a journey that would produce SMART artists, dancers, filmmakers, and theatre makers. As an aspiring arts administrator, I can’t tell you just how invaluable it has been to gain a holistic view of the theatre industry that I wouldn’t have acquired anywhere else. Our students can walk into an acting job and focus a light, run the soundboard, or use the miter saw if necessary. KU challenges our students to own their craft in all respects, and that’s what makes our experience in the School of the Arts uniquely positive.
Although an accidental Jayhawk, I wouldn’t have it any other way for one simple reason: the interdisciplinary, creative collaboration that happens on this campus. The best and the brightest of the KU community achieve artistic greatness under the shared purpose of conveying the human experience. Here at KU, we have the unique opportunity to fuse our artistic disciplines in creative endeavors. For instance, our theatre performance students are constantly booking roles in various student films on campus, some of which have premiered at film festivals across the nation. My experience with interdisciplinary work came to fruition when I discovered an area of theatre that converges the arts with business operations known as arts administration. I took my discovery and inquiry to the next level when I conducted interdisciplinary research with the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program at KU wherein I got to travel to NYC for the first time as part of my study. Yes, KU’s art students can be as outlandish and hipster as any other arts school, but what makes our students so exceptional is their INQUISITIVENESS, their INVESTIGATION, and their EXECUTION of creative projects that sets them apart as SCHOLARLY artists. Jayhawks bring academic merit to their creative efforts with every stroke of a paintbrush, every film shoot, every dance move, and every recitation of lines.
Now for many years, students within the School of the Arts have been combatting the stigmatization of the arts and claiming their rightful space within academia. I cannot tell you how many times the declaration; “I’m a theatre major” has been met with scoffs, snide smiles, and even crude laughter. There are students on this campus that think theatre majors have it easy, because “all we do in class is roll on the floor”. Now, I won’t deny that our students roll on the floor, because there is a chance that happens to some degree in our movement classes, but that doesn’t mean that our academic experience is any less valuable than those in the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, etc. We are WORTHY of our degrees and NO ONE can devalue our creative excellence. I like to think of the four disciplines within the school of the arts as an ensemble, and a former SOTA graduate Hailey Lapin, once imparted valuable knowledge during her commencement speech when she uttered the words, “Protect your ensemble”. I ask that you all protect your arts ensemble by supporting all art forms and discouraging the shaming of the arts sector.
With that my friends, I ask you to join me in taking our final bow as the grand curtain of our collegiate careers at the University Kansas comes to a close. Congratulations on graduation, and my best wishes for your bright futures, Jayhawks. I sincerely thank you all from the bottom of my heart for the amazing ride. ROCK CHALK!