Each spring, the St. Ambrose Theatre Department presents the Outstanding Senior award to a graduating major for their notable work in the theatre and in the classroom. This year's recipient is Valerie Zawada.
The Theatre Department faculty chooses the recipient based upon his or her continued contributions through all four years of study while maintaining a high GPA, and Zawada has done just that. She has held a 3.9 GPA in addition to completing a double major in international business.
"It's really rewarding coming toward the end of my college career and feeling proud of myself after all of the work I've put in, which I didn't think much about at the time," Zawada said.
All of that work has encompassed numerous projects in the theatre during her senior year alone. Last fall, Zawada was responsible for directing the Fresh Face Revue. A compilation of works written and performed by freshman students, it was something new the department tried in order to bring in more freshman involvement.
"Helping them realize that they are welcome here was probably the best part," Zawada said. "There is always a friendly face in this department when you need it."
While she worked on the revue, she simultaneously directed Beauty and the Beast at Davenport's Junior Theatre at the end of October. And while it kept her away from involvement in the fall mainstage and studio shows, she still performed in the student-directed one-acts in December. The end of January took Zawada to the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, where she participated in numerous areas, including professional auditions and a musical theatre event.
Zawada's latest role in the theatre was her performance as Annie in the musical Chicago, which appeared on the Galvin stage April 19-21. But she will be involved in one final project before departing from the SAU theatre department–a senior acting showcase she has been working on over the course of the semester.
"I'm looking forward to acting alongside my professors," Zawada said. "All of my family hasn't been able to make it to the same show since my freshman year, so it'll be nice to have them all here for this."
Zawada performed May 4 four, two-person acting scenes. Professors Corinne Johnson, Kris Eitrheim and Daniel Rairdin-Hale were scene partners, along with senior Tim Stompanato. She also performed two monologues and two musical duets, one with senior Stephanie Seward and one with senior Amanda Kochanny. Senior Stacy Phipps provided piano accompaniment for the musical duets, and senior Kristen Jett was stage-manager.
"I'm hopefully going to get a recording of it and have it for my reel for grad school or auditions or whatever might come up in the future," Zawada said.
And grad school is certainly on Zawada's horizon. She hopes to use her business degree for the next couple of years to work and pay off school loans. Ideally, she will attend graduate school for acting or directing.
"I figure theatre is always going to be there," Zawada said. "I'd love to do theatre education at the collegiate level or direct professionally."
A career path in education would suit Zawada well, given her love for academics. Her passion for learning has been the driving force behind her grades and is responsible for her upcoming induction in the Delta Mu Delta Honor Society through her international business major. Zawada knows she'll miss the inspirational environment of academics following graduation.
"In the real world, it's a little more difficult to find that intellectual stimulation," Zawada said. "I like challenging my ways of thinking through academia."
Zawada received her Outstanding Senior award May 2 at the "Senior Night" celebrating graduating theatre majors.
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