Theater Major// John Stephens

Stephen+relaxes+at+a+cafe+while+studying+abroad+in+London.+Photo+courtesy+of+Taylor+Dearden+Cranston.

Stephen relaxes at a cafe while studying abroad in London. Photo courtesy of Taylor Dearden Cranston.

Stephen relaxes at a cafe while studying abroad in London. Photo courtesy of Taylor Dearden Cranston.
Stephen relaxes at a cafe while studying abroad in London. Photo courtesy of Taylor Dearden Cranston.

This week’s senior arts profile is of John Stephens, a theater major with an acting concentration. He hails from Kansas City, Missouri and has also lived in Woodbury, Minnesota. Read on to find out more about this theater major, former offensive lineman and cartoon enthusiast.

How did you first get interested in acting?

Acting was something I had always loved doing, but I had only done a few shows here or there before college. During my sophomore year at Mac, I was on track to be a math or physics major, but I decided to change paths and do something that would give me a greater sense of completion and fulfillment. But I didn’t realize just how much I would love acting until later.

What do you most enjoy about acting?

It’s one of the few places where I feel that I can be myself and access some form of honesty and truth. It’s also where I get to deal with a lot of people on a personal level. At the end of the day, it’s just you, other people and a script. The other thing I really like about acting is getting to tell a story for other people. I love making people feel something, whether it’s happiness or sadness.

How have you been involved in theater and productions at Mac or elsewhere?

I got my start doing running crew, or production, for different shows. During one of the shows I pretty much messed up the projections, so I told myself I was never doing that again. But it was nice to be backstage and see what makes a production work. The backstage people are some of the most focused and diligent people I’ve ever met. When I was a sophomore, I acted in someone’s directing project, which was a short one-act play. I really enjoyed myself and I got to bond with people and work hard to tell a story. My most significant role will be starring in Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act. I’m playing a man named Errol Philander. He’s a very complicated man living at a very complicated time. He’s a principal of a school and a black man in South Africa during apartheid. He’s married but found love with a white woman at a time when interracial relations were illegal.

What’s your favorite show that you’ve been a part of?

Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act. I’m with a good director, good actors and I love the story. It’s the most challenging thing I’ve done as an actor, especially because I’m going from being in a one-act play to this.

Have you studied abroad?

Between January and April of 2014 I studied in London at the British American Drama Academy. I was classically trained and learned Shakespeare. I was with a lot of people who were from Los Angeles or New York City. It made me appreciate the training I had at Macalester because I was able to understand so much even though I was with people who had been acting for much longer. It was a good experience because it helped me to find confidence. It was the first real time when I thought, “I can actually do this. I can actually act. I can actually be a part of something.”

What was your most memorable experience in London?

When I would see plays starring big-name actors, people would wait by the doors and the actors would come out and everyone would congratulate them. One time, I went up to an actor who I thought did a great job and we talked for a few minutes. It felt cool to connect with someone like that. I also really liked just talking to different people on buses or after shows and getting to hear their stories. I just love meeting people.

What else are you involved in at Mac besides theater?

I was an offensive lineman. A big part of why I wasn’t in many shows was because I always had to work out and go to practice and games. Both football and theater are insanely time-consuming, but I loved being a part of the football team and being a part of winning the conference this year. Football helped me with understanding discipline and work ethic, as well as being positive and maintaining good relationships.

What are your interests and hobbies besides football and theater?

I love cartoons. I was a big fan of Bugs Bunny, Animaniacs, Batman and Dragon Ball Z. My friends and I will binge-watch cartoons together. I also love going to science museums. I used to want to be a paleontologist or an astronomer. And I love sports, going to comedy clubs to watch stand-up or improv, and reading classic novels.

What are some of your fondest memories from Macalester?

The moment I decided to become a theater major was the most important thing. It helped me find clarity and got me to this point.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about majoring in acting?

Come as you are and understand that you won’t be judged; have enough confidence to be yourself. That will take you far in life and in whatever you want to do. And do homework and try to make good friends. Try to find joy in places you usually find it in but also in the places you wouldn’t expect.