Lizzie Gumula

Majors: Theater, English

Minor: Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Thesis Title: A Directorial Approach to Shakespeare’s R&J by Joe Calarco

Personal Statement

The Lafayette Ideal hates this prompt. It recedes into humbleness, quaking at the very thought of boisterous recognition. It shudders at the prospect of tangibilizing worth and authenticity. It challenges the applicant to rip off her mask of perfection and instead, embrace enoughness. It does not fall for the trap of doing more, but strives to be more.

The Lafayette Ideal is not what opportunities you can create for yourself, but what opportunities you can help cultivate for others. I have grown up on this concept of being a person for others, and it has consumed me here at Lafayette. Whether it’s as concrete as spearheading turning a Shakespeare play into an old Hollywood movie in order to integrate first years virtually, or as abstract as carrying empathy with you throughout your day, engaging in uplifting the spirit of your community is what makes this place home, and in turn, creates what can be known as the Lafayette Ideal.

I’ve come to know the Lafayette Ideal through many faces and names at this institution. I see it in the seniors who invited me into their Arts Houses when I was a freshman and made me fall in love with Parsons Street; in Joyce, the administrative assistant at the Williams Center, who leaves every day and shouts, ‘Carry on!’; in my professors when they email me a magazine article that made them think of me semesters after being in their class; and in myself. As an advocate for access to and education in the arts, a ferociously outspoken woman, and a creator with an insatiable hunger for storytelling, I find the Lafayette Ideal in myself because of all the Lafayette Ideals I have met before me and I continue to meet every day.

Academic Activity |years involved|

Williams Center Fellowship |2| Has served as creative and administrative intern for Hollis Ashby, Executive and Artistic Director of the Williams Center for the Arts Performance Series. As a Fellow, I have planned and implemented a number of initiatives that bridge the gaps between the international artists brought to our stage and Lafayette/Easton communities. These events are including but not limited to facilitating educational lectures, talkbacks, and discussions, coordinating Pesky residency programming with the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players, promoting student engagement through outreach and public relations writing, and sourcing content for upcoming seasons that represent a variety of diverse art forms.

Honors Thesis in Theater – Direction of Shakespeare’s R&J |1| Selected as one of the few students in Lafayette Theater Department’s history to direct a main stage production, I had the opportunity to direct the play Shakespeare’s R&J by Joe Calarco as my senior Honors Thesis in theater. This play, a modern, all-male, queer adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, allowed me to explore Shakespearean text in a new way and work with a professional fight and intimacy director to safely explore the show’s intense themes and content. The written portion of my thesis focuses on the directorial process of the production as well as analysis on the relevance of modern adaptation of Shakespeare.

EXCEL Scholar (Professor Mary Jo Lodge) |1| Served as the Assistant Director and Stage Manager for Professor Lodge’s College Theater production of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe. In addition to my previously listed roles, I also conducted dramaturgy for the production.

EXCEL Scholar (Professor Michael O’Neill) |1.5| Served as writing assistant for Professor O’Neill’s biographical publication Broadway, Buffalo, and Beyond, which highlights the theater artists who are from or who have lived in Buffalo, New York, Professor O’Neill’s hometown. Conducted research and gathered information on each artist being researched.

Alpha Psi Omega Theater Honors Society |2| Initiated in 2020 and selected for meeting extensive involvement criteria in theater at Lafayette, I have served on the board of the Alpha Psi Omega Theater Honors Society as both the Public Relations Chair and Business Manager. As PR Chair, I was responsible for College Theater social media activity, creating content, and organizing annual events such as the 24 Hour Pard Playathon. As Business Manager, I have kept detailed records and assisted in creating and planning the same events.

Kennedy Center Certificate of Merit in Direction |1| This certificate was awarded to me in 2021 by Dr. Michael Swanson, a respondent with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival who reviewed my production of Shakespeare’s R&J. The criteria according to the Kennedy Center’s website is awarded to students who showcase “extraordinary achievement” in their respective department.

Student Research Poster Session |1| Presented work for Honors Thesis with other student researchers and thesis writers.

Amber Weitzel (Delta Xi) Alpha Phi International Fraternity Undergraduate Scholarship |1| This merit scholarship was given to me by the Alpha Phi International Fraternity in 2021 and is given annually to “outstanding Alpha Phis” based on top applications.

Dean’s List |4| I have been on the Dean’s List for 5 semesters at Lafayette.

Lafayette College Theater Department |4| For four years I have led in a variety of roles for College Theater, including Director/Asst. Director (Winter Comedy Festival, Holiday Shorts, Shakespeare’s R&J, and The Wolves), Asst. Stage Manager/Stage Manager (Taming of the Shrew, Twisted Tales of Poe, You Are There/The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Wolves), actor (Winter Comedy Festival, Holiday Shorts, Emma). I am one of the few students in the department’s history to be asked to direct a main stage production.

Campus Service |years involved|

Orientation Leadership team |1| As the Program Coordinator of the Orientation Program, I was responsible for hiring all staff members and completely building the 2020-2021 programs alongside my teammates. We planned two virtual orientation experiences for the class of 2024, and I was personally able to spearhead initiatives such as community-building videos featuring OLs and quarantine activities for first year students, run social media accounts, and mentor other OLs throughout their training and orientation weekend.

Orientation Leader/Extended Orientation Leader |3| For three orientations, I have served as an Orientation Leader/Extended Orientation Leader. While serving on Leadership Team, I also took on the role of EOL during our Fall 2020 virtual semester. Throughout these three years I was able to cultivate community, create connections with students, and open them up to the potential possibilities Lafayette has to offer in this first year and beyond.

Arts Society |4| Has served as Secretary, Vice President, and currently as President of Arts Society. Throughout my time on the board, I have stewarded new projects and established new relationships between arts organizations on campus. Some projects in past years have included creating Arts Houser events, hosting LIMS concerts in my backyard, and creating a virtual production of Much Ado about Nothing. Just some of our artistic endeavors have included movie screenings, a monologue competition, Bob Ross paint night, knitting sessions, lyrical slam poetry, Block pARTy, Favorite Poem Reading, UNITY on the Quad, and trips to Broadway. This year, I have established new programming such as brand new Houser events, co-sponsorships with PASA, Lafayette Refugee Action, and MAFIA, and organized Evening of A Cappella, which raised over $2,000 for the Dan P. O’Neill Fund, Friends of Lafayette A Cappella, and the Stockton Scholarship Fund.

Marquis Players |4| I have served on the Production Team of the Marquis Players student non-profit theater company for four years, for three years as Stage Manager and this year as Production Manager. My freshman year, I was able to be one of the members who helped organize a talkback for our production of Heathers co-led by the Counseling Center. As Stage Manager for Heathers, Footloose, and The Wedding Singer, I was responsible for dozens of students, organizing multiple aspects of production. As Production Manager for Legally Blonde, I have been responsible for budgets, space reservation, and providing guidance in production matters. As a general body member, I have also participated in a number of our philanthropic events that raise thousands of dollars annually for local Easton nonprofits.

Lafayette Interdisciplinary Music Society |3| Has hosted and attended several student music concerts that allow student bands to perform for their peers.

Director Much Ado About Nothing |1| Spearheaded a completely virtual, old Hollywood movie-style production of Much Ado about Nothing. Co-sponsored by APO and Arts Society, I used our virtual fall 2020 semester as an opportunity to include first years in the arts, connect with my peers, and create art. I additionally organized a talkback after the production which explained the creative process to our audience.

Alpha Phi |3| For three years, I have served on two terms with the executive board, once as Executive Administrator and once as Vice President of Health, Wellness, and Accountability. This year, I was able to serve as the Red Dress Gala Chairwoman. Throughout my time with Alpha Phi, I have also been able to serve my sisterhood by painting banners, leading multiple committees, participating in community service projects, and organizing several philanthropy events.

Lafayette for Reproductive Autonomy, Justice, and Empowerment |1| General body member for the newly emerged club, attending events sponsored by L-RAJE.

Pepper Prize Selection Committee |1| Student committee member who reviewed applications and helped pick the Pepper Prize finalists in 2020.

Organizer of Intersecting Shakespeare and Queer Theory co-sponsored by College Theater/OID |1| To keep the campus community in conversation with College Theater’s productions, I organized a talk to discuss adaptations of Romeo and Juliet in tandem with my Thesis production of Shakespeare’s R&J. In partnership with the Office of Intercultural Development and Gender and Sexuality Programs, we also conducted a discussion surrounding the show’s themes of queerness, exploration of sexuality, and how theater can be used in facilitating allyship in our Lafayette community by performing queer theater.

 Community Service |years involved|

Bombas Sock/Dental Kit donation program – Scranton Anonymous Donors and Operation Dear Santa |8| Since 2014, I have engaged in the PA Young Lawyers Division project Operation Dear Santa, which invites underprivileged students to a holiday party in which they receive dental care packages, books, school supplies, and presents from Santa. I have volunteered at the program annually until COVID barred them from hosting it. I also have been able to organize and help distribute 50,000 Bombas socks and thousands of dental kits to dozens of homeless shelters, chuches, and nonprofits, all facilitated by an anonymous group of individuals in Scranton. In 2021, I was able to coordinate a drop off with LANDIS, who took boxes of children’s socks to Third Street Alliance and engaged the program with its first Lehigh Valley organization.

Alpha Phi Vice President of Health, Wellness, and Accountability (head of philanthropy) |1| This position I held on the executive board on Alpha Phi organized all philanthropic events for the chapter. While serving in this position, I organized our annual Heart Healthy Week, which raises money through various events to support the Alpha Phi Foundation. I was able to organize many events including a virtual talent show, a restaurant crawl, a keynote speaker, and a Zumba class. In 2021 we raised almost $1,000. The Alpha Phi Foundation supports the research of and for women’s heart health.

Red Dress Chairwoman |1| In this role, I was responsible for all planning and execution of Alpha Phi’s annual Red Dress Gala. We invite our families to this event, which raises money for the Alpha Phi Foundation. This year, our gala raised over $10,000 for women’s heart health and included a silent auction made of local Easton business donations and a keynote speaker.

Correspondence with Muncy Incarcerated Student |1| Has corresponded with an incarcerated student serving time at Muncy, engaging in dialogues that are both interpersonal and discuss reading materials surrounding the topic of women in the criminal justice system.

Special Interest Activity |years involved|

Scranton Shakespeare Festival Youth Ensemble – grants and scholarships |7| Since 2014, I have served in a number of production roles for the nonprofit theater the Scranton Shakespeare Festival. Scranton Shakes is a summer repertory professional theater in Scranton that puts on free performances of Shakespearean plays, musicals, and new works to the Greater Scranton community. I have stage managed multiple productions, served as an assistant director to Broadway directors, and most recently founded the educational department. The Youth Ensemble, an educational summer conservatory program for high school students, is the program I founded in 2020 which strives to provide access to the arts and exposure to professional theatrical process for high school students. Last year I was able to write the narrative for a newly received $8,000 grant, and also founded a need-based scholarship program to cover tuition costs. 100% of students who requested aid received it. In 2020, we had 20 students from over 10 school districts who performed a production of Peter and the Starcatcher and participated in several masterclasses in varying niches of performance and design. This year, we will be producing Heathers and have already doubled our total applicants.

Arts Houser |3| For three years, I have lived on Parsons Street in the Arts Housing community. The Arts Housers are the steering committee for the Arts Society, and host events in the houses as well as facilitate camaraderie amongst arts students and the general campus at large.

Box officer |3| Has served as ticketing agent for the Williams Center for the Arts, learning customer service and arts administration skills.

Independent study |1 |In Fall 2020, I conducted an independent study with Professor Suzanne Westfall of the Theater Department entitled “Directing Shakespeare.” We studied four plays of Shakespeare over the course of the semester in great detail and I created a portfolio of directorial concepts for each play.

Independent study |1| In Spring 2021, I conducted an independent study with Professor Mary Jo Lodge of the Theater/WGSS Departments entitled “Women in American Theater II.” This was a continuation of a previous class, and I was able to study important female figures in the American theater, plays written by female playwrights, and adaptations of Shakespearean works centering around a female protagonist or written by a woman.

Shadowing Experience: Chicago on Broadway |1| In 2019, I was invited to shadow one of the Assistant Stage Managers at Chicago on Broadway, during which I watched her call the show from the wings of the stage during an actual performance.

Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival |1| In 2022, I attended the Kennedy Center American College Theater Region 2 Festival and participated in the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society program for directors. Throughout the week I participated in a number of master classes led by theater professionals and created directorial projects to put in my portfolio.

Study Abroad London/Dublin |1| In Interim 2020, I traveled to London and Dublin with the Theater Department on a three week long interim study abroad program. During this, we attended a number of theatrical productions in Stratford upon Avon, London, and Dublin, and toured a number of historical theaters including the Globe and National Theatre.

WPG Monograms watercolor commissions |8| Since 2014, I have run my own graphic design business. Originally, it started as a vinyl decal company based on Etsy, which sold personalized products all over the country and, notably, to Broadway show companies. Currently, I sell watercolor and ink house portraits.

Alpha Phi Leadership Institute Representative |1| Chosen leader representative from Lafayette’s chapter to attend the Alpha Phi International Leadership Institute at Disney World in Orlando, Florida in 2020. The event was cancelled due to COVID.