Rachel Smart, a triple major in theatre, English teaching and secondary education, will be graduating this spring after a phenomenal experience at Northwestern College. Smart was first exposed to the theater when she made home movies in her hometown of Brookings, SD.
“I made a lot of silly movies in middle school with my best friends,” Smart said. “We would make them up and film them. I was a very imaginative kid. We would take our terrible digital camera from our parents and film them, edit them on iMovie.”
Smart later learned she could be involved in stage acting when she became older. Her first theater production at NW was “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. In this production, she played Mary Warren.
Smart recalls the loving memory of her first show, “I love that show so much! ‘The Crucible’ validated me. I did not know if I belonged, but the director and cast surrounded me, complimented me and brought me into their family. It made me feel like I made a good decision to come here and continue to do theatre. It was also great when I got an Irene Ryan nomination. I know awards don’t matter, but it validated that I was in the right place.”
Smart has acted in a variety of productions: “Jonah and the Giant Fish,” “Bright Star,” “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” “Eurydice,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and in the spring “Cherry Orchard.” She has costume designed for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and “Sweat.” She sound designed the recent children’s show “Charlotte’s Web.” Smart has also written many plays, two of which won awards at KCACTF.
“Playwriting has been a big development for me at college though none of my work has been produced here,” Smart revealed. “I think that work is what I am most proud of other than the acting. There is something special about creating. In our department, we talk about partnering with God in creating- reflecting God because we are made in God’s image to create. With playwriting, I feel closer to God. In turn, playwrights can inspire other artists. Not only do you get to create, but you also get to create with others and inspire others. I think that is incredibly beautiful.”
Smart’s current plan is to student teach English in Chicago in the fall next year. After that, she is unsure what she will do. She hopes to teach and continue to act. “I know I want to act in my future, but I do not know when. I want to do it when I am younger, and I can act and do my job. We will see how long I can keep up the grind.”
Smart also notes that she would have not continued to do theater if it weren’t for the support of her high school and college theater program. NW’s theatre department emphasizes kingdom-centered art.
“I like the idea that I can co-create with God. The idea that God made me to create and when I do create, I am embodying him. In today’s society, art is not valued. It’s seen as frivolous and not a necessity but living out your embodiment of Christ is very important. I love the ensemble approach. I have talked to people from a secular theatre department, and it sounds miserable. There is so much hierarchy, pettiness and actors thinking they’re better than everyone else. That is not Christ-like or life-giving,” said Smart.
“Our approach is an attempt to embody the kingdom of heaven on Earth. Servant artist attitude as well. It is not about you, it’s about your audience and God. That’s not only in the ensemble approach but also in the BA theatre program. My identity is not an actor alone but in artistry. I may not be good at certain things, but I am a growing theatre artist. In this wholistic approach to theatre, I found out I love to put on a harness and love to hang lights from the catwalks, or the joy I find putting together sound cues for a show, or the joy of discovering new ways to create.”