First-year Rob Ward is someone to keep your eye on … in the best way of course.
Rob is extremely involved in the theatrical performing arts, and his interest in pursuing a theatre major was an influential factor in his choosing Gustavus.
The Illinois native from the Chicago suburbs grew up watching classic films, picking up on the voices and carrying out imitations of the characters. When Rob was seven years old, he was cast in his first play as Tigger in Winnie the Pooh. “That was when I fell in love with being in plays,” Rob said. In his early years, Rob also played Zazu in The Lion King.
For Rob’s debut in a more serious play, he played King Duncan in Shakespeare’s Macbeth in sixth grade. “Middle school was when I reached the high point of my love for theatre,” Rob said.
In high school, Rob graduated to community theatre and community service in the suburbs around Chicago. He also became involved in the technical aspects of putting on a play, and in his senior year he was the assistant stage manager for a play called Deathtrap.
“I am very analytical when it comes to trying to understand a character. My perception of a character changes over time,” Rob said. He hasn’t always had an easy time getting in character, though. Rob found it difficult to pin down the character of Antipholus of Ephesus for the play Comedy of Errors. “It took me a long time to absorb his relationships to other characters and determine where he stood [in the play]. I finally pinned him down to be similar to an upper-middle class WASP, in the best way possible,” Rob said.
Perhaps you have seen Rob in the recent production of Shakespeare’s R&J on campus. Listed as student number four, Rob played the parts of the Nurse and Tybalt. He found the timing of the play, which featured an all male acting cast, to be an excellent and poignant response to the recent national tragedies of suicides by gay youth. “R&J really fit in well with the tragedies considering the timing. It really stuck out to me: this play needed to be put on. People need to stand up for one another,” Rob said.
His central role in the play has impressed many. “This is a big deal for a first-year. It is very extraordinary,” Senior Religion Major Bethany Ringdahl said. “He was one of only two first-years to act in this play. He got straight to work when school began. He really hit the ground running. He is certainly capable of many things,” Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance Henry MacCarthy said.
Rob is an enthusiast of social justice through theatre. He wants to change people’s minds by spreading acceptance and bringing tolerance. “Social justice has to be present in my future. I want to be able to scoop up the problems in this world and show them to people. People need to stop looking at things through a narrow lens and take the blinders off,” Rob said. “If it is done right, it will make people think.”
Rob doesn’t just talk the talk, though. He walks the walk. “He is proud of who he is. He is very earnest, authentic, sweet and a good example to first-years. He is an artist through and through, devoted to expression and telling true stories,” Ringdahl said.
Ringdahl is not the only person with fantastic things to say about Rob. “He is a real genuine guy. He is fun to work with, and he is really nice. He always thinks about others,” First-year Jessica Vankempen said. “Rob is comic relief in both theatre and real life. It was comical how he, a hairy guy, was the nurse in R&J. He’s a hoot!”
“He is very well liked by the other students and the faculty here, and he is easy to work with. Rob is a very nice man,” MacCarthy said. “As a student, Rob is really sharp. His questions are always well directed and interesting.”
“People are just so friendly, welcoming and warm here,” Rob said of the Gustavus community. “In the theatre department, people helped out the first-years. They helped me out, the new guy. It is unlike other colleges where there is a very stressful environment. There are challenges at Gustavus, but professors here are aware and realize that students are involved.”
Rob has already become an outstanding member of the Gustavus community. He is an awfully likable guy and a talented performer; he is open-minded, tolerant, and friendly.
In Bethany Ringdahl’s words, “He is a good example to everyone in this community.”