Emma Szuba – Theater


Alexandra Karlinchak, Editor-in-Chief

In the era of COVID-19, the performing arts have had to adjust to unprecedented times in a number of unprecedented ways. Senior Emma Szuba is among one of the many performing artists who has witnessed this struggle firsthand — both as a consumer of the arts and as a performer, designer, playwright and director.

Szuba hails from Pittsburgh, Pa. and has been passionate about theatre for as long as she can remember. But her longing to study theatre did not exactly carry over into her desire to attend Wake Forest University — at least, not at first.

Szuba is a third-generation Wake Forest University graduate. Initially, she was reluctant to attend her mother’s alma mater. After she was awarded the prestigious Stamps Scholarship, though, Szuba bit the bullet and put down her deposit for Wake Forest. If you ask her today, she says it is one of the best and most impactful decisions she has ever made.

At Wake Forest, Szuba is a double major in English and theatre. Outside of the classroom, she is involved in Anthony Aston Players (AAP), a student-led organization dedicated to the promotion of service in the performing arts — both at Wake Forest and within the greater Winston-Salem community.

“In all honesty, I spend the majority of my time doing theatre,” Szuba said. “I’ve been in shows, worked on shows [at Wake Forest] and done shows in Winston-Salem with community theater groups here. I play Dungeons & Dragons on the weekends for fun. But I really just do theater.”

Throughout her time as a theatre student, Szuba took a plethora of classes that she says will influence her view of performing arts production for the remainder of her life.

One of these incredibly influential and rewarding classes was Playwriting. Szuba submitted one of the 10-minute plays that she wrote throughout the course of the semester to a 10-minute play competition, and her work was selected to be performed at the Little Theatre of Winston-Salem.

Szuba did not limit her study of theatre within the confines of the campus — or the country. She took the opportunity to study abroad with the English department in London at the Wake Forest Worrell House. While in London, she saw a total of 49 plays. This came out to upwards of six plays a weekend.

“I am realizing while saying this out loud that this makes me sound totally one-noted and absolutely obsessed,” Szuba said, laughing.

But with obsession comes creative genius. Even in the wake of COVID-19, Szuba made it her goal to perform live theatre in some capacity. Ask any person involved with or passionate about theatre and they will tell you how much more genuine live theatre is compared to Zoom.

Szuba’s Honors Project centered around her one true love in the theatre world: Shakespeare.

“My honors project this spring was directing a production of Shakespeare’s ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’,” Szuba said. “I wanted a live outdoor production, even under the social distancing requirements, so it was a big challenge. But it was really exciting to do a live performance here again on campus.”

Being able to put together a live production after such a tumultuous time for the performing arts was a powerful experience for Szuba.

“It just felt really poetic in some ways, because, you know, Shakespeare’s theatre was being shut down by the plague all the time,” Szuba said. “And when we were worried about rain, there’s figurative language in the play about rain ruining everything. And obviously, this isn’t the show that we wanted to do. Obviously, we don’t want to be worried about the pandemic.”

Szuba continued: “But afterwards, we kept hearing from people in the audience, ‘I’m just so glad that I got to see a play.’ And that’s what matters.”

Following graduation, Szuba explained that she plans to pursue a career in theatre. But with a freeze on live productions, the conditions needed to meet this aspiration are not present.

“I’ve been joking with my friends that they’ve all got grad school plans. And I’m like, ‘I’m going to adopt a cat this summer,’” Szuba laughed.

“But I want to work in theater, which means playing a little bit of a waiting game [during] this next year as I wait [for everything] to reopen,” she continued. “I would love to get an MFA either in acting or directing. But that’s something for my five-year plan.”