Hannah Lewis, Campus Carrier Staff Reporter
It has been a month since classes began, and no doubt the initial excitement has worn off: our notebooks have lost their sparkle, our new classes their charm, and we’re feeling the lack of sleep as intensely as if a train had hit us head on.
And yet, there are still students pushing themselves past the proverbial extra mile. For instance, there’s Hayley Westphal, a junior and aspiring actress here at Berry. She also just so happens to be the definition of the word “productivity.”
Westphal is taking 17 credit hours this semester, along with 16 hours of work a week in the scene shop at the Berry College Theatre Company, and she is heavily involved in the upcoming production of “The Nerd.” As the master carpenter, assistant scenic designer and the character Clelia Waldgrave in the play, it’s safe to say that Westphal has a full plate. She estimates that she spends 10 to 12 hours working on the production each day, which entails rehearsal, work, outside research, planning, and memorization, and then she must still find time to eat and sleep.
The theater major has no regrets about taking on such a full load. “Theater is my life,” she said. “I’ve spent the last two years focusing on theater, and I’m not planning on changing that.”
Westphal considers theater to be her “life commitment,” and she shows this in the devotion of a vast amount of her time to theater. She uses her brief lunch and dinner slots to socialize with her friends, and is also a member Alpha Psi Omega, the theater honor society. She skips breakfast to gain a little extra sleep time, along with keeping her morning and night routines minimal.
Hours are spent in the process of figuring out a character, and in turn, becoming said character; some characters come faster than others, and some characters take days to connect with. However, Westphal doesn’t mind, as becoming the character – which is essentially transforming into another person – is one of the things she loves so much about acting. Not to mention that being so many characters and trying so many things has also given her confidence in all areas of her life.
“My professors have even commented on how I’m not the same person as I was my freshman year,” Westphal said. “I’m so much more open, I’m so much more comfortable with myself.”
Her favorite thing about theater, what makes all the late nights and unending effort worth it, is the identification she feels with the people around her.
“I’m most certainly a people person,” she said. “I love the people around me.”
Westphal said that she values her ability to connect with the audience.
“Being onstage, you … get the extra connection,” she said. “They’re not the same people, and I’m not the same person, so I get to find different connections with them.”
In order to balance her busy schedule, Westphal’s preferred method is aptly summarized in the two words: “time” and “management.” She truly believes that prioritizing is most effective in yielding the best results possible. Most college students are given this advice, yet many struggle to put it into practice. In Westphal’s life, though, it has proven vital.
While Westphal does accomplish a lot, she isn’t superhuman. There are times when she is overwhelmed with everything happening in her life and her initial reaction is to panic – almost to the point of being unable to think things through.
Her solution is to stop and take a breath – or twenty. She has to remind herself that while it’s great to work hard, you also need to cut yourself a break every now and then and take some time off.
“Sometimes I have to tell myself that it’s okay if I don’t finish these questions, it’s okay if I miss this one problem set, it’s okay to take off work to do homework,” she said. In times of high stress, her mantra is: “Do what you can.”
Westphal is a clear example that the life of an actress isn’t all about the stage. It is, in reality, about personal achievement. Her commitment to acting has caused her to have a very busy schedule, but it is not something that she would give up. The theater is not only a part of Westphal’s life, it is her life, and she will be center stage for the rest of her years here at Berry, and, undoubtedly, long after graduation.