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Lyon student pairs passions for art, theatre despite pandemic

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic limiting internship opportunities, senior Bethany Stubbs has found a way to combine her passions for art and theatre at Lyon College this summer.

Stubbs, of Greenbrier, completed a work-study program with Visiting Professor of Art James Berry at the Kilted Kiln, Lyon College’s pottery studio, in June and began working with Visiting Professor of Art and Theatre Maggie Gayle on set design in July.

The COVID-19 pandemic altered Stubbs’ original plan to find an internship somewhere in Arkansas because most were no longer available. Fortunately, Berry had spoken to her earlier about needing somebody to work in the Kilted Kiln this summer.

“This is my first experience with ceramics,” she said. “He’s teaching me a lot, and most of what we do is pretty basic stuff.”

Stubbs said she and Berry spend a lot of time reconstituting clay by soaking dried clay in water and combining and layering it with other types of clay.

“You mix it all together and get reconstituted clay, which is really good for throwing on the pottery wheel and creating slabs to make mugs with.”

Her main job in the studio was making mugs and jars with the Lyon sigil on them for alumni.

“It’s honestly really nice and very relaxing,” Stubbs said. “It’s nice to get your hands dirty, like when we play with muds as kids. This is like the adult version of that.”

She enjoyed getting experience working in the art field.

“I’ve worked in food service and things like that, but I really wanted to try my hand at something that makes sense for my art major.”

After her work-study program concluded in June, she began working on the set design with Gayle in the Holloway Theater for Crimes of the Heart, a production the Lyon Theater Program was originally going to perform in the 2020 spring semester.

Crimes of the Heart, by Beth Henley, is about three sisters who find themselves back in their family home in Mississippi in the 1970s after the youngest sister shoots her husband and goes on trial for attempted murder. Stubbs said the female-driven show is a dark comedy, featuring serious themes in a relatable way that makes people laugh and cry.

“We had to kind of redelegate it to the fall semester because of COVID-19,” she said. “As soon as we get back to school, we’re basically going to have to hit the ground running.”

Stubbs continued, “We’re going to have pretty much two weeks to put everything together, so we have to have all of our stuff ready before school starts.”

While putting a show together in three weeks is not ideal, she said the theatre department has done it before.

“Realistically, that is how it happens in the real world for career theatre people,” she said. “They do put shows together in three weeks and they do get it done.”

Stubbs continued, “That’s going to be super valuable for us to get experience in.”

To make productions safe for audiences during the pandemic, she said the Holloway Theater will introduce more seating on one side of its stage so that people can spread out more.

She is helping Gayle build the set and working on costuming as well. They have simplified the set due to the time constraints. 

“I’m helping out because I’m here this summer and didn’t have a work-study job this July. I figured I might as well do something.”

Stubbs continued, “I think scenic design is probably the field I will go into in the future, so it’s like water off my back to always help with the set.”

While she has always been interested in theatre, she didn’t know if she wanted to pursue a career in the field when she first came to Lyon.

“When Maggie got here, she introduced me to scenic design and presented that as a possibility for me.”

As a double major in art and theatre, scenic design seemed like the perfect way to combine her passions.

“I realized the possibilities for me career-wise in that area,” Stubbs said. “It just seemed like the best way for me to continue my love of both arts in a way that cohesively puts them together.”