Grad Profile: Student blends two majors into one exciting career

Jessica Boles is blending her love for theater and English into a career as a dramaturg – one who researches the historical contexts of plays.

Jessica Boles
BA English and Theatre

Jessica Boles followed in her family’s footsteps when she enrolled at CSUB five years ago; both of her parents attended CSUB, as did her uncle, aunt, cousin and sister.

“It helped make the transition easier with the support built in already,” she said.

She also knew it was close to home, affordable, and offered a quality education. But one thing she didn’t know was that CSUB would lead to a career she’d never heard of before.

After Boles graduates this June with a double major in English and Theater, she will embark as a dramaturg, a perfect blend of her love for literature and drama. The position entails researching the historical context of a play and working with directors and actors to maintain the integrity and structure of the work on stage. This August, Boles will start a nine-month dramaturgy internship with the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria.

“It’s been one of my dreams to work with them for the past few years,” she said. “Hopefully that will channel me into professional work or eventually to grad school.”

A confluence of opportunities came together to point Boles in this direction. Her close relationship with Dr. Michael Flachmann through the University Honors Program and his English courses led to her helping him conduct research for the Utah Shakespeare Festival, for which Flachmann serves as dramaturg.

“He helped me figure out what I want to do with my life,” Boles said. “Without knowing him, I would not have known about this path.”

Flachmann is equally impressed with his student.

She is “the most brilliant and talented student I’ve known in the past 30 years of teaching at the university level,” he said. “Jessica is now equipped to make a career out of something she adores doing, which is the very best gift CSUB could have given her. Many such exciting opportunities exist for humanities majors, and I am pleased that CSUB has helped channel Jessica’s passions into a productive, rewarding, and satisfying career.”

Many at CSUB will remember Boles for her standout roles on stage – most notably as Roxie in the spring 2011 performance of “Chicago” (for which she received the Outstanding Performing Arts Project award from the School of Arts and Humanities). But she has also devoted time behind the scenes to helping her fellow student actors. In the fall of 2011, she got the first true taste of her future career as the student dramaturg for CSUB’s production of “A Lesson Before Dying.”

“Jessica is one of the most disciplined actresses I have worked with. She arrives early to rehearsals, she is memorized before anyone else, but most important, she works diligently on her role at home and brings new ideas to each rehearsal,” said Mandy Rees, chair of the theatre department at CSUB. As a dramaturg, “Jessica’s performance experience and knowledge of the rehearsal process will help her to be responsive to the needs of those she will be working with.”

Boles has also gained experience as a writing coach through her tutoring job at the Writing Resource Center at CSUB. Behind or in front of the curtain, Boles has been a model among her fellow students. For this reason, she was selected for Outstanding Graduate in both Theater and English, as well as for the entire School of Arts and Humanities.

English Department Chair Andy Troup shared this memory of Boles from his Medieval English Literature course in spring 2010:

“The CSUB Theatre Department was performing The Merry Wives of Windsor that quarter, and several cast members, including Jessica, were in my class. For our unit on King Arthur, I planned an activity in which the students would debate whether Lancelot and Guinevere were truly guilty of adultery based on the evidence contained in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur. Jessica and her theatre buddies transformed my activity into a one-act play which they performed in class. No one in attendance will ever forget the discussion we had that day!”