Theater as therapy

Amber Green

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oe McCormack, 19-year-old English major, was nominated for an Irene Ryan award last semester. He says his involvement in theater has been a form of therapy for him. Photo Credit: Amber Green / staff reporter

Growing up hearing impaired didn’t create too many problems for 19-year-old English major, Joe McCormack.

For the first six years of his life, McCormack was hearing impaired. He said theater became a way of therapy to help with his speech.

“Until they got my tonsils out, I couldn’t hear properly and when I spoke it was basically how a deaf person would speak,” he said.

“…When I look at you, I look at your lips to speak with you because I read lips,” McCormack said.

Each year, a round of students are nominated for their outstanding performances and the roles they play.

McCormack was nominated for the Irene Ryan award last semester for his role in “Fate of a Cockroach.”

He recently came back from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF), an event that supports theater programs for college students, that took place Feb.9 – Feb.13 at the Dixie State College of Utah.

The Irene Ryan award, established by Irene Ryan, the actress best known for playing the Granny in “The Beverly Hillbillies”, recognizes aspiring college students who have a passion to act and perform in theater.

His mother learned about the nomination as she was getting rid of some mail.

“I was sent a paper with my name on it and what I was nominated for. And my mom almost threw it out because she didn’t know what it was,” McCormack said.

According to the KCACTF Web site, students who make it through all rounds are awarded up to $2,500. The scholarship funds are awarded to help cover tuition costs for the winning students.

There were three rounds in the competition. McCormack said the most challenging part is the finalists round.

There, he performed the two scenes combined with a monologue or song in less than six minutes.

“(It) is the hardest thing you could ever imagine because there’s so much editing you have to do to piece it (together),” he said.

“It’s an intense competition,” McCormack said.

McCormack said that at the festival he attended workshops and had the opportunity to see other schools perform.

” While CSUN didn’t win any awards we did get an unique experience and bonding time and that is pretty rewarding.”

He said right now his focusing on playwriting. He recently finished the first draft on a love story, which incorporates a series of tragedies before the love story unfolds.

“For me theater is not a past time,” McCormack said, “it’s my ears and mouth. It is me.”