After his impressive first year at Maryville College, it’s time to check in on Theater Professor Andy Vaught. Though he’s only been at MC for a year, he has already made impressive strides with the theater program.
Vaught started Cripple Creek Theater company in 2006, and the work he did there was integral to the work he has done and continues to do here with the Maryville College Theater program. After 12 years managing a theater company, Vaught learned how to properly manage people and adapt to adversity, which gave him the ability to stay calm in times of uncertainty as a professor. Being able to teach his students the same thing gives them “real world experience” that they would get if they were in a theater company, which is incredibly valuable for aspiring actors.
When asked about his favorite part of last year, he answered that it is seeing the MC theater students “gelling into a nice ensemble,” each taking different areas of expertise, but all developing into artists who holistically understand theater arts.
“As somebody who used to run a theater company, it’s very exciting to see young artists developing and getting to work with them while they develop,” Vaught said.
Vaught has previously stated that social commentary and the Maryville College mission statement inform his works, and the 2023-24 productions are no exception. The theme for the year’s productions could be summarized as “Where is love?,” a line from the spring musical, Oliver!. Both Oliver!, to be performed in the spring, and The Laramie Project, to be performed this October, focus on acceptance and being willing to love everybody for who they are—something our community could use now more than ever.
As mentioned, the next show in store for the MC theater is The Laramie Project. This show commemorates 25 years since the death of Matthew Shepherd, a student at the University of Wyoming who was murdered because he was gay.
“In a perfect world… you would hope 25 years is enough time for that issue to become moot,” Vaught said, “If you look at Tennessee, being gay is not safe here. It is something they are trying to legislate into a crime.”
For Vaught, this show is important to show the students he works with and the larger student body that we should not be afraid of these hateful actions; we should be proud of who we are; and we will stand with the LGBTQ+ community no matter what. He plans to have a panel consisting of MC alumni to discuss what it meant to be gay at the time of Shepherd’s death. He will also discuss his work as an FBI agent who ran the Matthew Shepherd foundation.
He also hopes to have a queer community market on the Sunday before the show, and have the Appalachian Equity Chorus perform after the show. With all of these incredible opportunities, he hopes to welcome a greater community into the organization.
It is clear that Vaught is proactive, passionate and intensely caring toward marginalized communities, but what else does he have in store for the future of MC theater? To start, he would like to continue the work he’s started with the Shakespeare class for theater majors that began this fall, and potentially stage a Shakespeare play. He also wants to venture into more modern musicals and more true comedies, like last spring’s show, Revolt of the Beavers.
Senior Theater student, Connor Goins said, “Since Vaught’s addition to the department, we as students have received a wider variety of shows to learn about and participate in…As a costume designer, I feel that I have been given a larger role in world-building and concept creating in the shows we do. Especially within shows that some might not be familiar with, I get a chance to breathe new life into them and create something on my own.”
It seems that MC’s theater community is blossoming under the guiding hand of Andy Vaught. In the past year, they’ve seen new opportunities, real world experience and a variety of shows that really mean something to the community. MC theater enthusiasts should all feel excited to see how much further the theater organization will go. If you’re interested in seeing The Laramie Project, shows will be at 8 p.m. on October 26-28, and at 2 p.m. on October 29.