Augusta University students were in for a great surprise when alum Ethan Hunter recently spoke to them about life in graduate school. Hunter earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and minor in communication back in 2017, and during his time at Augusta University, he fell in love with the performing arts.
Associate professor Dr. Melanie O’Meara was a big supporter when it came to helping Hunter pursue his love for performance after completing undergrad studies. Hunter is now earning his PhD in communication studies with a focus on performance studies and a graduate certificate in archival studies from Louisiana State University.
Hunter’s first event of the day was a Q&A for undergraduate students considering graduate school. He gave an honest and realistic view of what to expect and shared his personal struggles and triumphs. Students asked questions pertaining to juggling many interests at once and how to prioritize them, while some shared their post-undergrad experience.
“I was learning about performing practices and methods that were focused on social change, and that was really important to me. I wanted to make a change. I wanted to make an impact,” said Hunter, in reference to how his graduate assistantship as an event coordinator for the LGBTQ+ community on LSU’s campus relates to the field of performance studies.
The “Meyerhold and Biomechanical Performance” workshop took place in the Maxwell Theatre. Hunter taught students about Vsevolod Meyerhold’s performer training system, referred to as “biomechanics,” and how it can be used to improve the expressiveness of a performer’s body. The students learned a series of movements called “throwing the stone.”
“Performers that practice this technique develop the same directional awareness to the stage as a director does,” explained Hunter.
Hunter started the movement portion of the workshop with several warmups, then demonstrated each of the movements for throwing the stone. The students repeated the movements until they could “throw the stone” with precision. After that exercise, students began reciting lines from the poem “We Lived Happily During the War” by Ilya Kaminsky, a Ukrainian-American poet.
Hunter’s choice of the poem comes at a time when Ukraine and Russia are at war.
Each person was assigned a section to read and an emotion to read with, and then participated in the discussion on the poem, its form and possible meanings. Hunter then had students get on their feet and express the poem with their bodies, drawing on some of the movements from “throwing the stone.”
“Having Ethan in town was a joy. To see and experience how much he’s progressed as a scholar artist in our field of performance studies made me feel grateful for the work I do with my students and the support I have on our campus,” said O’Meara.
“I look forward to seeing where he lands. Our students enjoyed hearing his perspectives on graduate school, and the workshop was a wonderful opportunity for them to learn more about and practice performance methodologies. I appreciate that Ethan turned our focus to current events with the poem that he selected for them to work with during the performance workshop. It was a wonderful reminder of how performance is and can be activism.”