by Nicolette Good '07
Rebekah Williams ’16 was surfing her scholarship program’s Facebook page as a Trinity sophomore when she spotted a drama internship that would catalyze her budding career in theater arts and arts education.
“My dream has always been to be a professional performer,” says Williams, whose hometown is San Antonio.
As a high school senior, Williams was awarded the University’s merit-based Baker Duncan Fine Arts Scholarship for prospective first-year students planning to major or minor in theater. Following a one-on-one campus tour with Sheryl Tynes, vice president for Student Life, Williams was sold on enrolling at Trinity and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the discipline she loved.
Williams’ application to The Magik Theatre was accepted, and her star began to rise. Interning quickly turned into teaching summer classes, and soon after she was a teaching artist, all while auditioning and acting at The Magik and other theaters in San Antonio.
As a teaching artist, Williams planned and led daily lessons in a stimulating, creative environment of her own making. When she herself was a young child, Williams was steered toward music and dance. It wasn’t until high school that she discovered the theater arts, which clicked for her automatically. “It’s so fun to see that same passion in kids and get to be the one who tells them about theater,” says Williams, who majored in theater and minored in history.
The Magik Theatre was founded in 1994 by another Trinity graduate, Richard Rosen ’69, with the intent to make theater education accessible for all. Situated in downtown San Antonio between Hemisfair and La Villita, The Magik’s mission today is “to nurture a love and understanding of theater and literature by providing extraordinary, affordable, professional theater and education experiences.”
The Magik provides financial aid for children to enroll in their classes, either downtown or at its Magik Performing Arts Center on the city’s Northwest side. The Magik also sends teaching artists out to schools, among countless other efforts aimed at making theater an experience for all people, not just those with means.
“The theater arts are not just for the kids who want to be an actor,” Williams says. “It’s for the kids who are shy and are looking for their voice, how to communicate with one another. Public speaking is hard, even for adults.”
Also central to the playhouse’s mission is ensuring actors are paid a professional wage. This has helped to attract talent like Williams. Today she serves as an education coordinator for The Magik Theatre, a position that allows her to combine her passion for the arts with her natural talent in educating youth. “If we don’t ever educate the kids on how to go, sit, and watch a show—on why it’s important to value art,” Williams says, “we’ll never have an audience for those shows longer than an hour, made for adults.”
Williams describes theater as a vehicle for people to consider the greater issues facing society. “Musicals have changed in the past two decades in terms of content,” she says. “More social issues, like social anxiety, bullying, autism, or loved ones with cancer, are being discussed.” She cites shows such as Dear Evan Hansen, the Tony Award-winning musical about teens struggling with depression and anxiety.
Williams recognizes that the rise in open dialogue around sensitive issues presents both an opportunity and a challenge: Demand for this content is plentiful, but there are more stories than any one theater could possibly produce. “There are so many great books out there on bigger issues, but we don’t have the capacity to write or present a show on,” she says.
As a direct response, Readers Theatre at The Magik Theatre emerged as a platform to present valuable, timely content at a workable scale. Each session highlights a real-life topic, such as children living with disabilities, National Deaf Awareness Month, or breast cancer awareness.
“The kids seem more aware of what they’re feeling,” Williams says. “Theater holds a mirror up to society and reveals things about ourselves through characters.”
Parents who would like to enroll their students in classes, camps, master-classes, and more can find schedules and registration information at www.magiktheatre.org. Rebekah Williams is slated to appear in The Magik’s 2018 production of A Charlie Brown Christmas as Lucy this December.