JSU Paved Way for Graduate School Success
Former Jacksonville State graduate assistant Rebecca Weaver, who graduated with undergraduate degrees in both English and Drama in 2020 as well as a master’s degree in English in 2022, is currently teaching rhetoric as a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Iowa, where she has seen so many opportunities for dramaturgical work and met many artists who share her same drive and passion for theatre. Weaver is pursuing an M.F.A. in Dramaturgy at the university’s highly selective program, which accepts only three graduate students per year.
As a graduate assistant at JSU, Weaver worked with faculty members on courses with the Writing Center, but with her current position at the University of Iowa, she teaches classes on her own, which has been an exciting and eye-opening experience. One thing she enjoys about her job is the opportunity to choose the material she will cover in class, even though it can sometimes be a “double-edged sword” having so much to choose from.
“Ultimately, it’s been a great experience so far, and I feel like it is preparing me for my future in teaching,” said Weaver. “Being at UIowa has been a substantial change to say the least,” coming from “such a tight-knit community like Jacksonville.”
Weaver has had to adjust to the change in traffic and parking, and although Alabama did not prepare her for the vastly different winter climate in Iowa, she is looking forward to an abundance of snow and staying warm with a blanket, hot tea, and a good play.
Weaver has enjoyed her time at the University of Iowa and being engaged in such an enlightening program. As a dramaturgy graduate student, she has had the opportunity to attend dramaturgy practicum and meet with other dramaturgs in the program as they discuss the shows they are working on, the dramaturgy process, scholarship on the art of dramaturgy, and more. She is also participating in the University of Iowa’s distinguished Playwrights Workshop through which she gets to read and listen to works by graduate playwrights, work with playwrights, and participate in feedback sessions. She feels privileged to work in the same capacity and program as Samuel Hunter, Jen Silverman, and Tennessee Williams did.
Weaver has recently completed her first show as a dramaturg for the Department of Theatre Arts at the University of Iowa, where she had the opportunity to work on a production of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour. During this time, she worked with Ann Kreitman, a third-year MFA directing student, who focuses “on using queer history to imagine and enact a queer future which was done beautifully with The Children’s Hour.”
Recently, Weaver and her colleagues had the opportunity to discuss the initial interest, process, and reception of the show while speaking with the Performance Studies Writing Group at the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies. They are currently working on archiving the entire project, including Weaver’s dramaturgical work.
“Working with Ann and the other wonderful graduate and undergraduate students on that show was the perfect introduction to theatre here at UIowa,” said Weaver.
Weaver has recently begun her work as a dramaturg on her next show. Ugly Lies the Bones is being directed by department head Mary Beth Easley, and Weaver is looking forward to working on community outreach with the local Veterans Affairs hospital.
Weaver’s favorite time while at JSU was Fall 2018, when she joined the national theatre honor society Alpha Psi Omega and worked on the show She Kills Monsters with Dr. Michael Boynton. She credits this show, saying, it “did a lot for me in regard to my dramaturgical work and solidified some meaningful friendships that I still treasure today.” She was unable to take dramaturgy courses while at JSU, but she received knowledge and guidance from research and people that she and her instructors reached out to. Working on this show led her to the Kennedy Center for American College Theatre Festival, where she won at regionals and was invited to be a dramaturgy fellow at the national festival in Washington D.C. The festival provided her with the opportunity to learn about this specific area of theatre.
“Overall, the support I had from faculty and friends at JSU, especially that semester, was unparalleled,” stated Weaver. Weaver credits the faculty’s willingness to “go above and beyond to make you feel seen and heard” as one reason why she loves JSU.
Weaver thanks Dr. Teresa Reed and Dr. Michael Boynton for going out of their way to help her along her educational and professional journeys. She also recognizes Carrie Colton, Nick Hoenshell, Michelle Bellaver, Dr. Steven Whitton, Dr. Pitt Harding, and Dr. Carmine Di Biase. Currently, Weaver is taking a course on Shakespeare that is “making me fall in love with dramatic literature all over again—a feat previously accomplished by the inimitable Professor Emeritus Dr. Carmine Di Biase.”
Weaver credits JSU’s graduate English program, especially the microcredentials in Teaching College Writing and Teaching College Literature, for preparing her to teach college writing. She learned several approaches to teaching in Dr. Jennie Vaughn’s Teaching College Writing and Pedagogical Theories courses, encouraging her to believe that she could become a great teacher. Weaver also recognizes the theatre department in which she learned to take initiative, to advocate for herself and others, and to communicate effectively.
Weaver advises current students to focus on the classes they take because instructors are excited and driven to teach them new things and guide them along their educational journeys. She says to retain as much as you can of what you learn in class and to be an active student by participating in class discussions. Weaver also encourages students to support their local theatres, saying, “take a break from studying and go see some great entertainment!”