This week, justArts spoke with Sarah Steiker ’17, a senior Theater Major who is writing a Senior Thesis with Sarah Ackerman ’17.

justArts: What is a Senior Thesis?

Sarah Steiker: The Theater department has an application to do a thesis, and then it’s approved by the faculty. Any theater major can apply to do a thesis. The last weekend of March (which goes into the first weekend of April) is when the thesis festival happens. This year, there will be three theses in the festival: Sarah and me, a devised environmental piece and a sketch comedy piece about history. Students are welcome to pursue theses in whatever area they may be interested in pursuing. So there are some people who are not doing performance based theses in the festival but rather in stage management or set design.

JA: What is your thesis about?

SS: Our thesis is about addiction and how it’s portrayed in musical theater. We are exploring different facets of the disease and seeing how they play out on stage. Sarah and I decided that we wanted to focus on mental illness in our thesis, and, ultimately, we came to the conclusion that addiction was what we were most interested in researching.

JA: What are your roles in the thesis?

SS: Sarah and I are working as co-authors and actors. So, essentially we’re both performing in the piece and also arranging the songs and dialogue that happens throughout the show (along with our director, Gabe Walker ’19).

JA: Why do you feel like your thesis is relevant?

SS: Addiction is a huge problem in our society, and we think that there is a lot of art that is related to this topic. So many people are addicted to substances or people or situations, and we want to explore what causes that.

JA: How did the Sara Schoch master class this past weekend help you with your thesis?

SS: Sara Schoch is a brilliant MFA alum [Schoch is a graduate of Brandeis’ Masters of Fine Arts program which no longer runs] who was able to bring an outsider’s perspective to our project. She met with us privately and offered us guidance that helped us get going in the right direction. Her master class was also so helpful because she was able to help a group of actors act through song, which is going to be a pertinent part of our thesis.

JA: Who else is working on your thesis?

SS: The piece is directed by Gabe Walker. We have cast two actors to work with us as well.

JA: What has proved challenging in your thesis thus far?

SS: Finding direction in convolution. When you have a ton of research and information, it’s hard to find a story that will be compelling and interesting on stage. We are still working on finding the best possible line to connect the different aspects of this piece.

—Hannah Kressel