Taylor Austin, a graduating senior, is a theatre and communication double-major. Austin has always loved the stage and has been involved with every show offered both in her high school and here at Valparaiso University. On campus, Austin is the public relations chair of Alpha Psi Omega, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, she works in the Office of the Provost as a student aide and is part of the OA (Orientation Assistant) team. Austin will be moving in July to become part of the Disney College Program in Florida and sees theatre and the arts as her life-long passion. 

She realized her innate love and talent for performing after being cast in the first show of her freshman year of high school.

“I made it, and I was like one of two freshmen in the first production, and I said [to myself], ‘Mm, I think I’m going to do this forever now,’” Austin said.

Coming into college as a theatre and psychology major, Austin first thought she would go into drama therapy—the pairing of science and therapeutic techniques with elements of theatre for support to patients, similar to music therapy—but she soon discovered new career goals that now bring her more joy and anticipation for the future.

“I switched to theatre and communication and realized I wanted to go more of the theatre path and become a stage manager,” Austin said. “The stage manager is kind of like the right-hand man of the director and you call the shows, and you take all the notes and you make sure the communication between the cast and crew is good.”

Her first experience with stage managing came after first arriving at Valpo; after getting in contact with the director of the production that fall of her freshman year, she got the job of assistant stage manager. She said she owes a lot to her mentor, Dr. Lee Orchard, for teaching her the ins and outs of stage management.

“He’s one of my biggest mentors that I’ve ever had, and my biggest mentor here; he’s taught me everything I’ve needed to know about directing, stage management, acting—I’ve learned so much from him,” said Austin.

In addition to being involved with stage management here at Valpo for roughly nine different productions, Taylor also has extensive experience working in the scene shop.

“I also work in the scene shop, which is building and painting the sets; I do most of the painting,” said Austin. “Lots of detail work—I’ve done brickwork and floor work and tile work and all those things…I get to see it from start to finish; it’s so much fun. I’ve actually built and worked on every single show since my freshman year.”

She has also acted in many more productions, ending with “One Slight Hitch” which premiered on April 28 at the Valparaiso University Theatre.

“Most recently ‘One Slight Hitch’ has been I think my favorite production that I’ve been a part of; it was so much fun, it was so much fun to be on stage—which I definitely miss doing that with COVID—so having my first real audience back after COVID was the most memorable thing to me,” Austin said. “It was the perfect end to my book here at Valpo.”

In terms of the theatre community here at Valpo, Austin enjoys spending time with them, and she knows the close relationships she has formed here will last a lifetime.

“We’re just this tight-knit community. I would honestly say they’re my family. We do everything together, practically, and I could never complain about that; I love spending all day with them,” Austin said. “You have this massive community of people who all understand what you’re going through, and are right there to support you…Definitely bonds you’ll have—I know they’re all going to be at my wedding—bonds I’ll have forever.”

In terms of what the theatre experience as a whole has been like for her here at Valpo, she never lets herself forget the impact that this place has had on her.

“I always take a minute to myself before the show, like once I’m done getting ready, or when I’m starting to get ready for rehearsal, I just sit and take in the space,” said Austin. “Pretty much just me looking around the university theatre and thanking the space for what it has done for us.”

If you would like to nominate someone for an Artist Spotlight feature in The Torch, please email torch@valpo.edu.

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