Puget Sound softball senior Mckenna Johnson is a four-year letter winner with the Logger softball team. Her Puget Sound career not only allowed Johnson to continue to play the sport she loves, she also developed a passion that exceeded her expectations.
As a psychology and theatre arts double major, and a varsity softball player, my favorite aspect of being a D-III student-athlete is having the opportunity to cram all of my passions into a single undergraduate career. In high school, it seemed impossible to fit everything in – between athletic and academic commitments, I had resigned myself to merely being a (albeit very enthusiastic) theatre fan. I was sure that in college I would have even less time and opportunity to pursue this unfulfilled passion of mine. Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong. Although I had no intention of pursuing theatre academically when I began school at Puget Sound, I found myself gradually but effectively pulled into the theatre department its community through classes, theatre clubs, and internships,. The most significant such experience occurred during the summer between my sophomore and junior year, when my athletic and my artistic worlds on campus met in an exciting and unexpected way, through an internship with the theatre company ARTBARN.
ARTBARN works to create unique theatre experiences through original immersive site-specific productions: immersive meaning that the audience is fully immersed in the world of the play, moving through the space with the actors and occasionally interacting directly with them, and site-specific meaning that their works are performed in non-traditional theatre spaces that are specific to the stories being told. The company is co-founded and artistic directed by Jess K Smith, one of my academic advisors and the first theatre professor that I had the fortune to interact with on campus. The summer before my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to intern on ARTBARN's production of We Remain Prepared, which was performed in the historical Georgetown Steam Plant in South Seattle – a massive industrial space that housed a compelling story with roots in the history of the steam plant itself.
The summer following my Steam Plant experience, I was invited back to intern on the workshop production of a new piece that ARTBARN was developing, titled The Archivists. With the final production to be produced at the old coastal military base Fort Worden, this workshop production was performed in Puget Sound's own Warner Gym. While many students will perhaps never set foot in the building, I was very well-acquainted – Warner Gym was – at the time – the primary home to baseball/softball's batting cages (we now have superb new batting cages). I had spent plenty of rainy practice days taking BP in the dusty old gym. I had certainly never envisioned the rickety, ancient-feeling gymnasium as a venue for storytelling, but my perspective quickly changed as I viewed the space through the eyes of artists experiencing it for the first time. The gym was transformed over the next several weeks – the batting cages became battle training grounds, old athletic trainers' tables from the locker rooms became kitchen counters, and a pull-out net became the archive itself. The Warner Gym that I knew (and admittedly less-than-loved) seemed like a whole new space, excitingly recharged with potential.
Throughout the several weeks of my internship experience, during which I lived in a fraternity house on campus with my fellow interns and members of ARTBARN's core artistic team, I had the incredible opportunity to engage in the piece through dramaturgical research, writing, design working, and acting, and other local professional artists were brought in to teach and guide us through movement and storytelling exercises. Ultimately, my experiences with ARTBARN inspired me to declare my theatre major – a decision that required a fair amount of careful planning and extra work, but that I have felt more and more confident in every day. If the size and structures of my classes did not allow me to form professional and personal connections with my professors, if my coaches were less understanding about my academic and extracurricular commitments off the field, or if I did not have so much support from both my softball and theatre communities, I would not be able to pursue my multiple passions the way that I have. For these reasons, amongst many, I am proud and grateful to be a D-III student-athlete!