Yes, And…

Sydney Holliday ’23 drew on her improv background for an externship with theatre educator Robert Wagner ’07.

By: Meghan Kita  Thursday, March 5, 2020 09:59 AM

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Robert Wagner ’07 and Sydney Holliday ’23 during Holliday's externship at La Jolla Country Day School. Photo by La Jolla Country Day School/Rachel Baxter.

The first rule of improvisational comedy is to go along with what a fellow performer is doing and then build on it, a concept known as “yes, and” thinking. Sydney Holliday ’23, who has dabbled in improv, brought this mindset to her Muhlenberg experience. In her first semester, she joined the comedy group Damsels In Excess, the Muhlenberg Theatre Association and the community engagement group Magical Memories. She worked as a campus delegate, hosting prospective students for shadow days and overnights, as well as a DJ for WMUH.

“I came into college with the mentality that I want to do as much as I can while I’m here,” says Holliday, who intends to declare a theatre major. “I want to experience as much as I can and see what things I can try that I haven’t been able to do before.”

So when she noticed that an externship was being offered not far from her home in southern California with performing arts teacher Robert Wagner ’07, she applied. She spent three days with Wagner at the La Jolla Country Day School in San Diego County. During her time there, she was able to speak with the head of the school and meet with a variety of arts educators (in dance, band and ceramics, to name a few). 

“I came into college with the mentality that I want to do as much as I can while I’m here. I want to experience as much as I can and see what things I can try that I haven’t been able to do before.”

Sydney Holliday ’23

“Sydney was organized with her thoughts and questions—it was abundantly clear that she came to the externship with a mission for herself and goals,” Wagner says. “Having Sydney present for more than one day allowed me to craft a meaningful experience for her.”

That experience included the opportunity to teach two classes—one middle school, one high school—on improv. Holliday prepared a PowerPoint presentation on the history and basics of improv and led the group through some improv games.

“Robert let me take control of what I wanted to teach and how I wanted to teach it,” she says. “He helped me understand what would work for his students. He was good about knowing what to say or what tactics to use if the students weren’t listening or involved.”

Holliday’s experience reinforced her interest in theatre education, but she intends to continue taking advantage of the Career Center’s opportunities for job exploration. After all, she’s only a first-year student. “It’s cool to get a head start with the career stuff,” she says. “It’ll help me figure things out and will influence what I want to do here at Muhlenberg.”