Kendra Williams finds her home in the School of Theatre and Dance
From what she called a “life-plan crisis” to a starring role in the current production of Steel Magnolias, senior Kendra Williams found her home in Marshall’s School of Theatre and Dance.
After originally thinking she would major in biology and chemistry, Kendra realized her heart just wasn’t in it and she really didn’t know what she wanted to do.
“I came into theatre at Marshall with a ‘let’s see what happens’ attitude. I came, took a tour of the facility, and sat in on a class. I loved every bit of it.” said Kendra, a senior from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, who is majoring in theatre, history and psychology, with a minor in criminal justice.
“Choosing to study theatre at Marshall was the best choice I could’ve made,” she said. “By coming to Marshall, not only have I been awarded some major opportunities, but I have also truly found a place where I feel fulfilled. I have found a wonderful family in the theatre department and I’m thankful every day to have met these people who I know will be my friends for the rest of my life.”
This performance is just one many wonderful experiences Kendra has had while at Marshall. She says she has worked on every show since her freshman year in 2019. Performing in nine shows and working on the crew of five others. She recounts her first acting role as being a strange experience but a great learning opportunity.
“It was right after COVID hit so everything was different. Not to mention, my first acting role was in a staged radio show, so it was far different to anything I’d ever done before. The most stressful part was when our foley artist got sick and I had to step in as their replacement on the day of the show. I felt very relieved after that was over.”
Playing any role on stage — with lights and all eyes pointed your way — can pose a challenge. There are speaking parts, movements and stage placements to remember, and emotions to emote. But for Kendra who is playing Truvy in Mashall’s current production of Steel Magnolias, there’s an even bigger task to accomplish on stage: doing good hair.
That’s right. Audience members who come to see Marshall’s stage production of Steel Magnolias, which will be performed Feb. 15-18 and Feb. 22-25 in the Francis‐Booth Experimental Theatre of the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center, will get to watch the beloved Southern tale unfold on stage, but they’ll also get to see Kendra actually styling hair. Sinks, running water, curlers and all.
“I play Truvy Jones, the owner of the beauty salon. She is fun, bubbly, friendly, and always looking on the bright side,” said Kendra. “I have absolutely fallen in love with this show. A huge part of it is simply that I am working with an amazing group of people, on stage and behind the scenes. We’ve talked often about how freeing it is to be part of an all-female cast, and the women I get to share the stage with are so talented.
One thing she loves about this production is getting to work with “mirrorless mirrors.” Mirrors are absent from the set, but not from the actors’ performances.
“It is a very unique acting opportunity to have,” Kendra said. “You have to look through the ‘mirror’ and react to what you see, either on yourself or behind you. It is a great exercise in self-awareness and connection to the other actors on stage.”
She hopes their performance of Steel Magnolias reminds audience members that life is made of little moments.
“There are little routines we all have that I feel we often take for granted. For the women of Steel Magnolias, it’s getting their hair fixed on Saturdays,” Kendra said. “The rapport they build with each other, the friendship they have makes those little moments so powerful. They know that a solidarity exists inside that beauty shop that is hard to find in the outside world. When you find a place or a time like that, you have to acknowledge what a privilege it is.”
In addition to the wonderful experiences onstage, behind the scenes and in the classroom, Kendra said it’s the people she’s met who have supported and encouraged her along the way that have made all the difference in her time at Marshall.
“I cannot even begin to list everyone that has had an impact on me,” Kendra said “Most recently, however, it’s been Leah Turley, our director. She has such a heart for our education and our growth as young actors. She pushes us hard, but it’s always well worth the effort. She also helps remind us that what we’re doing should be fun. I can’t tell how many times she’s repeated ‘It’s a PLAY. So, play!’ I wouldn’t feel nearly as confident in my performance abilities without her guidance.”
After this show wraps up, she goes straight onto another: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which Kendra will have the opportunity to stage manage.