Story by Danata Paulino, Reporter
Photo courtesy Aquinas College
With each year comes new changes. With a new lineup of shows every season, the Aquinas College Theatre department is more adaptable than most. However, there is a larger change at hand that will surely leave the department different. Associate Professor of Theatre and Director Randy Wyatt will be leaving Aquinas for a rose by another name, a position in New York as of the end of the spring 2019 semester. Upon taking the position in Schenectady, he will be the new Chair for Union College’s Department of Theatre and Dance. There are already plans in motion for Wyatt to direct the show “Laura and the Sea.”
During his career, Wyatt has directed over 60 productions, his most recent at Aquinas being “The Moors” (which faced a bit of that theatre adaptability due to a power outage during the final show), “The Illusion”, and “Equivocation.” Proud of the work that he has accomplished with his time here in Grand Rapids, Wyatt feels that he has made an impactful footprint in the theatre community, and more directly with Aquinas students.
“I’ve loved being able to do the kind of work that made us distinctive regionally. I’ve heard plenty of people within the discipline remark on the work we’ve done, and I’m damn proud of that,” Wyatt said. The local theatre community is a tight-knit one, where actors and actresses move from stage to stage, spreading their love of the art and supporting one another. He says to his students, “Don’t wait for people to give you permission to create. Take care of each other while you make art.”
Wyatt does not only spend time with his students as a professor but outside of class for several evenings for weeks straight. This builds a new kind of relationship that is created by directing a show.
“Aquinas students are the reason to get up and do it again, over and over. Investing in them is a sure bet. Giving a voice to the under-voiced is a passion both students and I share. That’s pretty amazing,” Wyatt said. As he is passionate about the students having a voice in their department, Wyatt’s past and present students take what they have learned to heart.
Recent Aquinas graduate Tanner Kosten was a student under Wyatt all throughout his college years. Kosten believed that Wyatt’s teaching showed students how to make their performances truly mean something and do what they were trying to accomplish. “Randy opened up a lot of our minds to new challenging contemporary work. It has strongly influenced the theatre-makers we hope to become in the future,” Kosten said.
Although Wyatt’s future will be taking him to New York, he will not be fully leaving behind his Mitten roots. He plans to continue his work on a piece titled #thewaterproject, which is about the issues that many have faced in Michigan with clean water. He will be returning in the summer of 2020 to put up his creation at Actor’s Theatre here in Grand Rapids, who he says“has been a truly collaborative partner” to his work.
As for the future of the Aquinas College Theatre Department, Kyle Westmaas will be taking on the role of program director with a one-year contract while the college searches for a replacement. Wyatt encourages the students who are involved in the program to step up and be a voice.
“If you care about the future of the theatre program, I encourage you to get involved in next year’s search committee. The theatre major here has always been in the hands of the students, and that’s where it should remain,” he said.
It is known that parting is such sweet sorrow. Wyatt’s strong parting words to his students are that they need to move out of what they are used to and try what they don’t know to make the art survive.
“Tell stories to people that care, to those that will listen. Read plays you don’t know! Don’t settle for the mediocre and the easy,” he said. Most teachers want their students to succeed, and Wyatt is no exception. But this will not be the last that we hear of him and his endeavors.