Recent graduate Ashley Leamon plans year of theatre


Ashley Leamon plans on spending the next year devoting herself to theatre-realed projects. She is pictured with two posters for plays that she had roles in while at FMU.

Staci Poston, Assistant Editor

Many students who choose to pursue a graduate degree take a year off after earning their bachelor’s degree. This hiatus provides time for the students to figure out exactly where they want to go in life and how to best pursue this goal while also giving them time to recharge from all of the years spent at college and prepare for the many more spent in graduate school.

Recent graduate Ashley Leamon has chosen to do the same. However, her idea of a “year off” differs greatly from that of most people. Leamon will spend the next year focusing all of her time and energy on theatre-related projects in order to prepare herself for hardcore graduate studies.

“This year, I have a lot of theatre-related projects lined up, such as dramaturging for Mr. Gourley here at FMU and being in [and] helping with productions at FLT [Florence Little Theatre].” Leamon said. “I’m also going to be doing a theatre history presentation at this year’s South Eastern Theatre Conference in Atlanta.”

Leamon graduated from Francis Marion earlier this year after completing a double major in English and theatre arts. She plans to attend graduate school for theatre pedagogy in the fall of next year.

She planned to pursue graduate studies in theatre after a great deal of contemplation.

“English and theatre are already so closely related, and I love both, so I think I’ve found a great hybrid of the two: academic theatre,” Leamon said. “I’ll be researching how theatre is taught and intensely studying the history of a particular aspect of the theatre as I formulate my thesis for my M.A. I’ll be using skills that I learned as an English major and theatre major.”

Leamon said that encouragement from Dr. Dawn Larsen, associate professor of theatre history, helped her make this life-changing decision.

“Dr. Dawn Larsen has been such an incredible help as I’ve gone through the process of choosing a grad school program and a career,” Leamon said. “She is definitely my mentor and I found my path thanks to her guidance and the opportunities she gave me.

Leamon added that faculty members from both theatre and English helped her through the years.

“I do feel like Dr. Tuttle really pushed me to work harder in terms of writing for theatre, such as playwriting and analyzing plays,” Leamon said. “He’s a great motivator because he’ll tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong, but also exactly what you’re doing right.”

“I didn’t have a bad experience with any professor; everybody was super helpful, but I think those are the two who really helped me find the path that I want to do down, as trite as that sounds,” Leamon said.

Leamon’s time spent as FMU was no less hectic than her current “year off.” Leamon was an active member of the Honors Student Association (as vice president for two years and president for one); she served as both editor and assistant editor of the Snow Island Review Literature and Arts Journal; she was a Resident Assistant, Orientation Leader, and Writing Center Consultant; she attended numerous academic conferences all over the United States; she gained membership into prestigious affiliations such as Omicron Delta Kappa, Sigma Tau Delta, Phi Kappa Phi and Alpha Psi Omega (and held ranking positions in many of these); and she still managed to remain extremely active in theatre throughout her time at Francis Marion.

Leamon is still active at FMU in many ways. She will be the dramaturge for FMU’s production of “Spoon River Anthology” that will run from Oct. 21 to Oct. 23.

Leamon explained what being a dramaturge entails.

“You basically take a play and go through everything about the play – you look up reviews, you look up history about the author, you look up different meaning and different interpretations of the play, you give your own interpretation of the play and you create a portfolio for the director to use as a resource,” Leamon said.

Leamon will also be playing the part of Delancy in the Florence Little Theatre’s production of “Crossing Delancy” from Oct. 22 to Oct. 30.

She plans on auditioning for many more shows throughout the year. Leamon said that she hopes even if she isn’t cast for a role that she can still be part of the crew.

“I’m basically planning on doing a whole lot of theatre this year,” Leamon said.

Besides actually working in and with stage productions, Leamon is also devoting herself to the academic side of theatre.

“I’m also presenting with CJ Miller at SETC [Southeastern Theatre Conference] in March in Atlanta,” Leamon said. “We have our own segment on theatre history for students. It’s actually called ‘Theatre History Sucks: Searching for Solutions.'”
Leamon even dedicates what she considers her free time to preparing herself for graduate studies.

“I read a lot,” Leamon said. “I’m going through all my old theatre history, acting and dramaturgy textbooks to try to polish up before I get to graduate school. I’m also trying to read my way through the Pulitzer list for plays – read all the ones that have won the Pulitzer in the past 50 years.”

Leamon insisted that this massive task is actually doable.

“You can probably read three or four a day if you’re really dedicated to it,” she said.

Leamon also said that she currently frequents, a book-trading website, on a regular basis.

“I’m really addicted to,” Leamon said. “You pull all the books you don’t want, you put them on the website, and you list all the books you do want,” Leamon said. “Swap matches you with people and you trade. The only thing you have to pay for is postage. Ultimately, you’ll have the perfect book collection. That’s the goal.”

Leamon said that the thing she misses most about FMU is the community.

“Walking out of your apartment and on the way to class, you see 50 people that you know – that you’ve known for the past four years … I definitely miss that,” Leamon said.

Leamon also wistfully reminisced about her favorite on-campus meal.

“That chicken salad sandwich at The Grille – those things were the bomb,” Leamon said.

Now that Leamon has graduated, she can patron not only The Grille but also The Cottage, a gathering place for FMU’s faculty, staff and alumni.

“Lindsey McInville and I went to The Cottage once this summer with Mr. Best and Dr. Larsen,” Leamon said. “We had a fabulous time. I felt like it was a secret club.”