In what she calls a “real synergistic meeting of the minds,”Whitney Stebbins ’99 and 22 other SCU alums are putting their theater degrees to good use.
The Renegade Theatre Experiment (RTE), a nonprofit group founded by six SCU theater grads in 2002, started when a group of friends wanted to find a way to keep their passion for theater alive-and still eat.”It was great to be able to share this thing that we all love to do, this passion for the theater, and also keep our day jobs,” said Stebbins.
Casual weekly meetings turned into scripts and storylines, which then turned into sets and rehearsals. Their first real crowd-bar hoppers at San Jose’s Fuel 44-took part in RTE’s signature “audience casting” experiment, where the audience chooses which actors play which parts in Avery Crozier’s play,”Eat the Runt.”The show was a hit, and Fuel 44’s sales boosted instantly.”After that,we all just kind of looked at each other and said,’we should do this,”‘ remembers Stebbins.
And so the after-work, on-weekends, lunch-hour affair of Renegade Theatre Experiment was born. Artistic Director Sean Murphy ’97 says RTE’s members are most proud of their commitment to pursue nonconventional, edgy pieces that aim to bring in new artists and new audiences.”Hear Me Roar,” performed last year at SCU’s Fess Parker Theatre, dealt with women’s self image and eating disorders.
By day, Stebbins works in business management and human resources, a gig that aligns nicely with her “second full-time job” as managing director of RTE. The group’s chief financial officer is a vice president at Comerica, and Murphy holds a creative position at Agil.
The troop is currently performing “Macbeth,” and they are in talks to perform “Eat the Runt” as the spotlight series at San Jose’s City Lights Theatre, run by Tom Gough ’87.
Stebbins is also coming up on her five-year reunion at Santa Clara. With success and growth on the horizon for her and the other “synergistic minds” of RTE, she will be able to brag that she is, indeed, using her theater degree.
It Takes a Village
Engineering alum and former SCU professor team up to build schools in developing countries
To build a school in a village in Mali, Wilmot “Bill” Nicholson ’36 knew that he needed more than money and a blueprint. He would need many hands to help do the work. Nonprofit partner Building with Books had publicized the new school in the village for weeks, but Nicholson worried that no one would show up to help. But on the morning of the project, he got a big surprise.
“We had 85 men from the village waiting for us on the first day,” he says with a smile.”We got the school built and generated more interest than ever expected.” Founded in 1999 by Nicholson and longtime friend and former SCU engineering professor John Raggett, Schools3 is an organization designed to foster education by building schools in developing countries. Donations help fund the construction of the $11,000 schools.”It’s a simple design and a simple idea—to educate people so they may someday step beyond themselves and help the world as a whole,” Nicholson says.
What started with two engineers and 85 villagers in 1999 has turned into 11 completed schools in Mali, three in Honduras, and interest from hundreds of other villages.”We have more applications for new schools than we can shake a stick at,” says Nicholson, who taught for 20 years in the SCU School of Engineering and received the 1991 Distinguished Engineering Alumni Award and the 2001 Ignatian Award. He managed the building of several important campus projects at SCU, including student residential halls and Mayer Theatre, and oversaw the restoration of the historic Adobe Lodge.
Nicholson calls Raggett the “moving spirit” behind the Schools3 operation because of his significant efforts in designing and maintaining the program. Nicholson says it’s the simple design of the concrete block schools-three rooms and a slanted metal roof- that makes the program so successful. That, and the enthusiasm generated by each village. Eager young students pack the three-room schools for primary education during the day, while adult villagers use the buildings for community meetings in the evening.
Schools3 is responsible solely for the design and construction while Building with Books oversees day-to-day operations.
Nicholson has spent a lifetime supporting education all over the world, but says he will always hold a “firm affection” for Santa Clara.”I walk on that campus and there’s a good feeling. A good education is the basis of these students getting out into the world and accomplishing something beyond a job,” he says.