Theatre Arts professor drives students to achieve
Kind, caring and thoughtful, anyone who has ever met Connie Whitt-Lambert, professor of theatre arts, instantly likes her. Connie Whitt-Lambert reclines comfortably in the chair in her office as she talks about her time at Texas Wesleyan.
Whitt-Lambert has taught at Wesleyan since 1989, and said she has enjoyed every minute of it. Students who know Whitt-Lambert may be surprised to discover that teaching theatre wasn’t always her career plan.
When she was a child, Whitt-Lambert said she had dreams of being a shuttle pilot. However, when she found out she needed glasses, she moved on from that dream.
“Back then, you couldn’t be a shuttle pilot if you had any kind of corrective vision,” Whitt-Lambert said.
After realizing she couldn’t become a shuttle pilot, she decided she wanted to become a veterinarian.
“When I first went to college, I was pre-med,” Whitt-Lambert said. “I wanted to be a doctor or a vet because I love animals.”
Whitt-Lambert said when she realized how much math would be involved, being a vet or doctor didn’t work out either. But, she had always been a writer.
Whitt-Lambert said she has written since she was in the third grade. She even wrote scripts for tv shows and sent them off to Hollywood with the help of her uncle who bought her first typewriter.
Whitt-Lambert said she received rejection letters from major networks such as NBC, who probably weren’t aware they were sending those letters back to a child.
Whitt-Lambert’s family moved around a lot because of her dad’s job. She went to three different junior high schools, and four different high schools and was always the new kid.
“When you’re always the new kid, you can either be off by yourself or you can be the loud one and try to get attention, and I did both,” Whitt-Lambert said.
Through theatre she met new people; however, writing still remained her first love. Whitt-Lambert calls theatre the “ultimate melting pot” where any and every type of person could fit in.
“You can do anything and still be a part of theatre,” Whitt-Lambert said. “We need every kind of person with every kind of talent.”
Before coming to Wesleyan in 1989, Whitt-Lambert stopped teaching to be a stay-at-home mom. Whitt-Lambert said even during that time, she was giving private acting lessons, writing and performing in plays, but she still missed teaching.
It was while she was working on a play at the Circle Theatre when she met two students from Wesleyan who were acting in one of her shows. Whitt-Lambert said she was impressed by their acting ability.
“They were such amazing young men who I cast without knowing anything about them,” Whitt-Lambert said.
Opening night, Whitt-Lambert had to step in at the last minute for an actress who had gotten ill. It just so happened Joe Brown, dean of freshmen, was there to see his students.
Whitt-Lambert said the students were eager for her to meet Brown, but during the play, she experienced a ‘costume malfunction’, which made her less than excited.
“I was mortified and Joe was in the audience and these young men wanted me to meet him,” Whitt-Lambert said. “I thought how do I meet him when I had my shirt ripped. I was so embarrassed.”
Embarrassment aside, Whitt-Lambert met Brown that night and a few months later, when she decided she wanted to go back to teaching, she contacted Brown, knowing she had made a lasting impression.
Whitt-Lambert said working with those students and meeting Brown was when she realized Wesleyan was the place for her.
“I knew that after working with those students and having met [Joe] that [Texas Wesleyan] was the kind of place where I would fit in,” she said.
Whitt-Lambert started out as a speech teacher and when a tenure track position opened up, she applied for it and got it.
Given her own love for the written word, Whitt-Lambert said she felt strongly about making sure the playwrights of Wesleyan had an opportunity to develop their writing.
Whitt-Lambert said she created Texas Wesleyan’s annual play-writing competition, PlayMarket, to give the budding playwrights at Texas Wesleyan a platform to showcase their work.
“We have so many good writers,” Whitt-Lambert said. “[They] generate so much good dramatic literature.”
Whitt-Lambert said one thing she loves about theatre is that great memories are made each and every day. One memory that stands out to her above the rest is the night a confetti cannon misfired right before the show was to be performed on opening night.
“It was The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: Abridged,” she said. “[A student] accidentally touched them, and both cannons fired full out right before we opened house. We had confetti all over everything. Everyone was sweeping like crazy.”
Whitt-Lambert said theatre is collaborative if nothing else. While theatre may have not been a part of her original life plan, all these years later, she is still enjoying it.
“Low and behold, I’m still writing, and I’m still doing theatre because it is a welcoming and open place,” she said.
Eduardo Aguilar, senior theatre major, said he loves working with Whitt-Lambert. Aguilar said she reminds him of his favorite theatre teacher from high school.
“She always wants to help when [the cast] is having trouble with something,” Aguilar said. “She communicates well on how she envisions a show.”
Brittany Adelstein, junior theatre major, said one of the things that makes Whitt-Lambert such a great director and writer, is she understands the people around her.
“She’s extremely perceptive of people in general, which makes all of her characterization advice work so well,” Adelstein said. “She also catches so many things we can’t onstage, and is so good at explaining how to fix them.”