Theatre and engineering go hand in hand for senior Abby Campbell.
Campbell is a mechanical engineering student at Valpo, but works and volunteers for the Memorial Opera House in downtown Valparaiso as much as she can, bringing her closer to her end-goal of working with Walt Disney Imagineering.
Campbell said she really likes roller coasters and Disney, and she thought mechanical engineering would give her the perfect opportunity to design roller coasters one day. Her love for theatre ties closely into this dream as well.
“I think it’s one of the best combinations of the two I could imagine,” she said. “The thing I love about theatre is it’s trying to take you away. It’s trying to make something that gets to you or helps you through something...and what Disney tried to do is get you out of everyday life.”
“I really either want to be someone who can help a bunch of people or give a bunch of people happy memories,” Campbell said.
She said working with Walt Disney Imagineering would give her the opportunity to take the two things she is passionate about and use them to reach this goal.
Originally, Campbell had wanted to be a theatre major, but was urged by her mother to explore other options as a backup plan, which said is advice she is glad she took.
“The more and more I thought about it, I was kind of not wanting to have theatre as a profession because once you work at something so much you kind of lose the love for it, and it becomes your job,” she said.
Campbell said she likes the community theatre vibe she gets working for the Memorial Opera House because everyone there is passionate about what they do and it’s a “labor of love.”
Currently being in the midst of her senior design project for engineering, Campbell is not working or acting. However, she was involved with their recent production of “The Producers” and has not only acted, but worked on set and scenic design, props and stage managing for the theater throughout her career there.
Campbell first got involved at the Memorial Opera House through a teacher at her middle school who recommended the theater. She participated in a summer camp, where her director suggested she audition for mainstage shows and “the rest is kind of history,” she said.
When she first came to Valpo, Campbell decided to take a step back from the theater, but she found her way back a year later.
“I figured college would be really hard, and I should probably not overwhelm myself, and that type of thing,” she said. “Yeah, college is really hard, but I found that I was missing something, and I really needed something else.”
One of the people she had worked on her first mainstage show, “Scrooge: The Musical,” with was directing a show at the beginning of Campbell’s sophomore year, which she said seemed like the perfect reason to get involved again. Campbell got an ensemble role in the show, and eventually became involved with set design painting a train for the production as well, which was a new experience for her.
“I knew I could act. I knew I could sing. I knew I could dance, so then when I was asked to paint the train I did something that I had no idea I could do,” she said. “(Theatre’s) just got this really good way of making you discover things that you had no idea you could do, but you can.”
This has been one of the most valuable lessons Campbell said she has received from working at the Memorial Opera House.
“It has really enabled me to trust myself more一that I can get something done that I didn’t think I could do,” she said. “It’s really enabled me to step outside my comfort zone and say, ‘Alright, I can try it.’”
Though having her hands in theatre and engineering keeps her very busy, and can be hectic at times, Campbell said she wouldn’t change anything because she loves what she does.
“At times it adds way more stress than I should put on myself, but it allows me to express myself,” she said. “Engineering is very technical, and it can be really artistic, but here it’s more theory and technical, and that gets to be a little bit too much at times, so I need kind of an outlet and (theatre) is my outlet, and it’s been so worth it.”