The stage is attractive to so many people. Christendom has been blessed to welcome many talented actors and actresses to the college over the years, who have brought Broadway musicals, Shakespearian tragedies, broad comedies, and more to life. And yet, those who are interested in work behind the scenes — namely, directing — have just as many opportunities to grow and learn these crafts while at the school. Alumnus Kieran O’Donnell (’18) did just that while at Christendom, and used the skills he learned as a student to direct three different productions this summer, continuing in this craft and entertaining others in the process.
O’Donnell, who earned his Bachelor’s in mathematics, did not sit idly by after graduating this past May. Rather, he leapt right back into his passion for theater, directing a local production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” early in the summer. He also directed a week-long theatrical leadership bootcamp, teaching those involved everything he’s learned, from budgeting, to costumes, to set design. Finally, in Maryland, he was the technical director for Slaton House Theater’s production of The King and I. He feels his time at Christendom, both in the classroom and on the stage, helped prepare him to take on these productions and see them through to successful fruition.
“When at Christendom, I had to deal with the pressure of not only directing but being a full-time student while doing so,” says O’Donnell. “I was given no special treatment to ease the stress, and this experience really helped me with having to deal with the pressure of doing three back to back shows while still working.”
O’Donnell, who also served as chairman of the college’s Chester-Belloc Debate Society, developed a love for theatrical productions early on, taking on acting roles in high school plays. Upon arrival at Christendom, he was instrumental in bringing “Les Miserables” to the stage, both behind the scenes and as the character of Thenardier — a monumental task for any theater group, let alone a smaller school such as Christendom. The production was a smashing success, leading him to take on a theatrical fundraiser later on as well, titled “Broadway on Mission.” He both directed and acted in this medley of Broadway hits, with all the money going towards hurricane victims. Finally, he wrote the college’s annual Mystery Dinner Theater in the spring of his senior year, trying his hand at writing a comedy script to more positive results.
The college gave O’Donnell the opportunities to act, direct, and write over his four years — something that is not a rarity at the college. Other students have taken the same path, going on to continue theatrical careers after college. O’Donnell is now teaching and assisting with theater at Chelsea Academy, the private school where he first began acting, but sees more theatrical work in his future. O’Donnell is currently starting a theater company called Lumina Theater Company, which seeks to effect the culture through the arts by performing shows with a Catholic imagination. The company is set to perform “The Crucible” this fall, and O’Donnell is getting set for auditions.
“I truly love theater because of what happens both in front of the curtain for the audience and behind with the actors. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is so filled with bad art and horrible atmospheres in theater that it is so difficult to be a fervent Catholic in a professional theater company. I believe it is crucial for the Catholic Church to affect the culture through the arts as it once did and I look forward to starting Lumina Theater company, which will do just that,” concludes O’Donnell.
The arts are alive at Christendom, and offer so many chances for students to use their skills to entertain others and to give glory to God. To find out more about the college’s fine arts offerings, click here.