Adams State Theater alumni continue their dream

Adams State College theater alumni are taking the East Coast by storm. Julia (Schwarz) '04 and Eric Propp '03 are using the skills the acquired while in college to further their goals in professional theater.

"I always find myself utilizing a skill I developed at ASC: whether I’m leading a team building workshop, designing a new retail lay-out, to developing new outreach strategies," Julia said.

She credits Jim Willis's, instructor of theatre, speech class; Dr. Paul Newman's, program coordinator for theatre, design class; and work-study with Dr. John Taylor, associate professor of theatre, in the publicity office; and courses with Dr. Carolyn Harper, emeritus professor of theatre; as having laid the foundation for her present goals.

"The wisdom Dr. Harper imparted was monumental," Julia said. "Eric and I are always slapping ourselves on the forehead and saying, 'Oh, so that is what Carolyn meant.'"

Newman said the Propps represent the best of Adams State Theatre because the program embraces and nurtures all students' talents. "While Julia was one of our premiere actors, Eric too was a fine actor. And while Eric was one of our premiere designers, Julia designed the set for "The Seagull" for Dr. Carolyn Harper."

Taylor agreed: "As students, Julia and Eric were instrumental to the growth of our theatre program after we moved into our new building. From appearing onstage to being leaders offstage, they gave their very best to our college and it was privilege to have taught them."

Willis said the couple were theatre students at their best, "talented, hard working, creative and committed to learning everything they could." He said his fondest memories of Julia involved her achievements on the Adams State stage. "I remember her replacing the female lead in "The Shape of Things" on a Sunday evening and opening the show on Wednesday. Being willing to tackle that amount of work and then delivering a fine performance in only a few days was very impressive. Few actors could have done it."

Following Dreams

Currently, Julia is splitting her time between the marketing department for the American Repertory Theatre, Harvard University's resident company, and developing corporate and educational programs for 5 Wits Inc., an interactive entertainment company.

According to Willis, when Julia first arrived at Adams State she immediately became involved in the department. He said she formed the improvisational group, Random Acts of Insanity, her sophomore year. "I don't think there was any area of the theatre she didn't work in."

In 2006, Eric was accepted in into Boston University's MFA Costume Design program on full scholarship. Since then, he's had the opportunity to work at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where he designed costumes for Malcom Gets (Caroline in the City), Allison Janey (West Wing) and Kate Burton (Grey's Anatomy). Last summer, he returned to Colorado to lead costume crafts for the Colorado Shakespeare Company in Boulder. Currently, he's juggling thesis work with jobs for Cirque Du Soliel, New Repertory Theatre, Boston Costumes, and The Huntington Theatre Company. He's looking forward to next semester when he'll be interning for Saturday Night Live.

Eric majored in theatre and art, and said the art department, including Margaret Doell, chair of the art department; and Gene Schilling, professor of art; played a big part in his development as an artists/desginer.

Willis said Eric is remembered for his designs; he and worked in the scene shop for four years. He created his own costume for Oberon when cast in A Midsummer Night's Dream. "I am happy to hear he has found an area where he fits so well, using the many aspects of his education. Julia and Eric were a couple of my favorite students to work with at Adams State and I wish them continued success."

Alamosa to Big City

Living in Boston is a big change from the small community of Adams State and Alamosa. Julia said there are a lot of things she and Eric like about the big city. "We enjoy the cultural diversity, the history, the food, the activities - last winter we were in a 300 person pillow fight and this summer we were in a 400 person Revolutionary War water gun fight, Eric costumed us, of course," she said. "Even though it is a metropolitan city, everyone carves out their own community to make it all feel a bit smaller."

Julia said the cost of living is what surprised them the most. "We are literally paying three-and-a-half times more rent for the same sized apartment we had in Alamosa."

Thoughts of Alamosa make Julia nostalgic, including remembering some of the downtown shops and restaurants. "We miss seeing the stars. But most of all, we miss the people. Eric used to play weekly walleyball with a group of the ASC professors (Stu Hilwig, Betsy Schuaer, Peter Fisher, Margaret Dole, among others). I miss playing light-hearted pranks on Dr. Taylor and Dr. Newman, then laughing about it with Jim Willis."

Like many Adams State alumni Eric and Julia met at Adams State. They were married in December of 2003.

Following graduation, the couple moved to Boston so Julia could attend graduate school at Emerson College, MA in Theatre Education/Theatre for Social Change. Her thesis was a two-year theatre documentary project called, "Judgment", which was produced at Studio 210 and later workshoped for Stoneham Theatre in Stoneham, MA.

"While in school, I worked as an actor with local companies around Boston," Julia said. One production she was involved in was seen by over 100,000 people in the Boston Common.

Willis said Julia had an impressive range "moving effortlessly from classic comedies like A Midsummer Night's Dream to contemporary dramas like Buried Child. "She was one of our strongest and most popular performers."

Julia credits Adams State with much of their professional success. She said she received strong mentorship and a solid educational foundation while at ASC.

"The Theatre Program gave me many opportunities, but more importantly, the professors provided an environment where I learned how to create my own opportunities," Julia said. "ASC may be in a valley, but it is not a bubble. Both Eric and I left undergrad well prepared for the world ahead of us."

"Both of these wonderful students loved the supportive atmosphere that's a part of ASC Theatre," Newman said. "It's a family here and they were, and still are, our kids."

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Article by: Alyssa Montoya