Academic travel and study abroad have been the most stimulating and valuable learning experiences at BVU for Dr. Bethany Larson, associate professor of theatre, in her development as both a teacher and a performing artist.
In 2008, she was one of eight faculty members in the United States accepted to study at the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy, at a symposium featuring master artists/practitioners in various forms of theatre and the Italian improvisation theatre form Commedia dell’Arte — acting with masks.
“Going to Italy to study physical theatre techniques not only allowed me to immerse myself in the subject as a student, it also helped me to see how other people teach acting and stage movement and mask work, which had a direct impact on my own teaching of these subjects at BVU,” she says. BVU faculty development funds made her trip possible.
Larson was also one of four BVU faculty members selected for the 2010 McCorkle Fellows trip to Japan. In addition to learning more about Japanese theatre, she found the trip an opportunity to connect with colleagues from other academic disciplines.
“I can think of no experience I’ve had that I can’t relate to theatre,” she comments. “Theatre is about the human experience and the expression of that experience, so everything that I see and hear, and encounter is processed through that lens.”
Since her days as a student at Texas Tech University in 1986, Larson has also continued to work as a professional actor. “Keeping my own acting skills sharp lends credibility to my teaching. It is also essential to my ability to help young actors enter the business.” During her career she has performed on the stage, in films, corporate videos, television and radio commercials, and as a voiceover talent.
Several years ago, she was named to the Region 5 selection team for the Kennedy Center American Theatre Festival, which involves reviewing several college stage productions annually. “This also allows me to see what other colleges in the region are doing. I can get a good idea of what my colleagues elsewhere are working on, our mutual challenges and where our BVU program really excels.
Teaching travel courses to New York City and Hawaii during BVU’s January interim and attending the American College Theatre Festival with BVU students have also been important professional development opportunities for Larson.