Before attending Willamette University, Amanda Washko ’10 had no idea she would study theatre.
But after taking a class, she grew hungry for more.
She majored in theatre and later earned her Master of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Los Angeles.
Now she’s back in Portland, focused on starting her own theatre and dance company.
Earlier this month, Washko visited Willamette to share some of the skills she's learned with senior thesis students.
“I am trying to give them tools to access different ways of acting,” says Washko, who is also a trained dancer. “It is storytelling that is movement based and more authentic.”
Becoming an Actress
While a Willamette student, Washko played various roles, including the matriarch and grandmother in “The Autumn Garden” her senior year. But in CalArts’ recent production of “Prometheus Bound,” she was one of the 12 female chorus members that helped propel the play's narrative forward.
The play — about a man chained to a rock for eternity after giving humans the gift of fire — has received glowing reviews by USA Today, LA Times and The Hollywood Reporter. It’s also been featured in American Theatre Magazine, a national theatrical publication.
Travis Preston, who directed the show, says Washko was one of the few actresses he felt could handle the part.
"I needed the strongest actors I could find, with singing and dancing ability as well,” Preston says. "It's a fierce group of women, let me assure you."
“The arts carry our culture,” Washko says. “We have to look outside of ourselves and seek to understand the world that is constantly evolving.”
Teaching at her Alma Mater
Knowing of the alumnae’s recent successes, Coromel invited Washko back to Willamette to teach a class. Washko spent the time leading students through a series of exercises to help them find new ways of understanding and conveying their emotions through movement.
“My hope is to allow students a chance to get to know an alumna who went on to graduate school in acting. Perhaps she will inspire and guide them,” Coromel says. “She is a very talented, intelligent and generous theatre artist, and we are proud she is one of ours.”
After taking her class, theatre and Spanish major Joellen Sweeney ’14 says Washko had many interesting and fresh ideas on approaching the material.
“Almost everything we did was new to me. The workshop certainly got me thinking in a new way about how I will approach my thesis project in December.” Sweeney says.
“Learning from a Willamette alumna is great. It gives us hope for whatever is next after graduation.”
• Story by Natalie Pate '15, politics major