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My W&L

"My journey through the world of theater has been one of the most formative aspects of my college career."

Eileen Small '15

Although I love everything Washington and Lee has to offer, it is the experiences I have had outside the university over the course of my college career that have truly shaped me into the person I am today. The opportunities that I have been awarded over my time at W&L, from studying abroad at Moscow Art Theatre School to interning at Telsey + Company Casting right in the heart of Broadway, have lead me to discover what I am truly passionate about and develop lasting and meaningful relationships with both students and professionals in my artistic field.

2013 was an especially formative year for me. In January I entered my second semester as a sophomore dead set on becoming a professional actress. I had just come off my role as Ursula in the 2012 Bentley musical "Bye Bye Birdie," and after a refreshing winter break, I was eager to get back into the rehearsal room. Auditions quickly rolled around for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," a musical I had helped produce, and my hopes were high. I sang and read well, and left the theater feeling confident I would be headed back to start the rehearsal process the following week. I wasn't entirely wrong, but the role I ended up playing over the course of the next four weeks was certainly not what I expected.

The day before rehearsals were set to begin, I got the call from the director that all actors dread. After politely listening to what he had to say, I quietly hung up the phone and let the realization that I had not been cast wash over me. Although I began auditioning for musical theater roles when I was 8 years old and have experienced rejection many times since, this particular casting decision was especially heartbreaking to me. I had been heavily involved in the preproduction phase of the project and fully expected to see it through to the end. Now, completely unsure of my role in the process, I spent the next few days questioning whether or not there was a place for me in the professional world which I so badly wanted to be a part of.

After talking things through with several professors in the theater department and a few of my very close friends, I resolved to become as involved as I possibly could in the production process. Having already spearheaded the budget proposal and the selection of the show and the creative team, I was intimately aware of the details of the production and the challenges that lay ahead. From then on, I began to attend rehearsal every day. While there, I did everything from taking notes on the performers, to discussing and implementing lights and sound with the stage manger, to creating props from scratch at the last minute. By the end of the four-week rehearsal period I had handled everything from booking the space to selling last minute tickets at the door. When the show finally opened, we enjoyed sold out houses every night of the run. Although I was not cast as an actress in the show, producing "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" was truly one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my college career.

Over the course of the rehearsal process, I became increasingly close with musical director, Josh Harvey ‘00, whom I had met several months earlier as the stand-in accompanist for "Bye Bye Birdie." Following the overwhelming success of "Spelling Bee," both Josh and I were eager to continue producing musical theater in Rockbridge County. In the months following the production, we began to discuss the possibility of another musical and even a production company. In June of 2013, an opportunity became available to produce a site-specific performance of Rodger and Hammerstein's classic musical "Oklahoma!" on a farm just outside of Lexington. Over the next few days we discussed the pros and cons of a production such as this and, by the end of the weekend, (540) Productions was born.

Since its creation in 2013, I have served as the Executive Director of (540) Productions. As Executive Director, I have overseen the production of five shows over the course of roughly one year, four of them being musicals. Since our earliest production, "Oklahoma!," we have become an offshoot of the community arts organization Fine Arts in Rockbridge. We have also played to over one thousand theatergoers and been host to guest artists, directors and choreographers from New York and beyond, including W&L alumna Jenna Worsham '10. This summer, we closed our season by bringing theater back to Lime Kiln, a popular community arts space, with our production of "Spring Awakening." We were publicly recognized for this performance not only in Lexington, but also throughout the state of Virginia, in Waynesboro, Staunton and Roanoke.

My journey through the world of theater has been one of the most formative aspects of my college career and none of it would have been possible without the support of the Washington and Lee department of theater, dance and film studies and the wonderful professors who have encouraged me to do what I love and follow my passion every single step of the way.

Eileen Small '15

Hometown: Midland, TX

Majors: Theater and Studio Art (Printmaking)

Minor: Dance

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • President of Mindbending Productions
  • Artistic Director of inGeneral Magazine
  • W&L Repertory Dance Company
  • Arts League
  • Omicron Delta Kappa
  • Pi Beta Phi
  • Volunteer for W&L Special Collections

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Executive Director of (540) Productions
  • Semester abroad at Moscow Art Theatre School in Moscow, Russia
  • Spring Term abroad in London, UK and twice in Italy
  • Internship at Telsey + Co Casting
  • Open Jar Institute in New York, NY
  • Rhode Island School of Design Summer Institute for Graphic Design Studies

Post-Graduation Plans: Pursue a career in theater in NYC or an MFA in Printmaking (maybe both!)

Favorite Class: Surrealism with Dr. King

What's your passion? Creating

What's something people wouldn't guess about you? When I was a baby I had a onesie that said "W&L Class of 2015."

What professor has inspired you? Leigh Ann Beavers has inspired me to ask myself the difficult questions and be honest with myself about the answers. Stopping by her office to chat about everything and nothing is the highlight of my day.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Never be afraid to do what you love.

What do you wish you'd known before you came to campus? Although I love everything that W&L has to offer, it is the experiences that I have had outside of the university over the course of my college career that have truly shaped me into the person I am today. The opportunities that I have been given throughout my time at W&L, from studying abroad at Moscow Art Theatre School to interning at Telsey + Company Casting right in the heart of Broadway, have lead me to discover what I am truly passionate about and develop lasting and meaningful relationships with both students and professionals in my artistic field. I only wish that someone had told me all that was eventually in store for me before I came to campus. It would have made my college decision a complete no-brainer.

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Students have access to a world of academic, athletic and extracurricular activities no matter what their major--and a strong support system composed of both students and faculty to help them succeed in whatever they choose to do.

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When W&L students and alumni describe what makes Washington and Lee special, they invariably talk about the community. Our beloved Speaking Tradition creates an open, friendly atmosphere on campus, while our commitment to inclusion means that students can get involved on campus from day one. Students have access to a world of academic, athletic and extracurricular activities no matter what their major--and a strong support system composed of both students and faculty to help them succeed in whatever they choose to do.

W&L's commitment to service and sustainability encourages students to become an integral part of the local and global community as well. Before they even arrive on campus, first-year students can participate in Volunteer Venture, a one-week, service-learning, pre-orientation program. Once on campus, students may volunteer with a variety of organizations, including Nabors Service League, the Bonner Scholars Program, the Compost Crew, the Student Environmental Action League and the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee. Themed housing options for upper-division students include the Global Service House and the Sustainability Development House.

Service learning is also an important component of many of our academic programs. Students in the Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability combine academic study with co-curricular work and rigorous internships to learn about issues related to poverty. Students with a variety of majors volunteer in the local public schools and participate in service-minded co-curricular programs, including Washington and Lee Student Consulting and the General Development Initiative.

At an institutional level, Washington and Lee is committed to the local community through an ongoing grants program that provides financial assistance to worthwhile projects and organizations.

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At a Glance Facts and Figures

246,339 meals served to food-insecure families and individuals by the Campus Kitchen at W&L to date.
64,079 hours of community service logged by W&L students last year.
W&L has awarded local nonprofit organizations $332,542 through its Community Grants Program since 2008.
13 W&L graduates joined the Teach for America corps in 2014, making the university one of the top 20 small colleges and universities sending graduates into teaching service for the second straight year.
W&L has 472 varsity student athletes, with over 75% of the student body participating in organized sports at the intramural, club or varsity level.
95% of the student body is involved in the nationally renowned quadrennial Mock Convention.

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Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students' capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility. Graduates will be prepared for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.