Martinez takes on theatre double-major and more

Emily Martinez on stage at the Howell Theatre
Emily Martinez on stage at the Howell Theatre

Martinez takes on theatre double-major and more

calendar icon18 Apr 2013    

Emily Martinez, a senior from Ralston, knew she wanted to learn everything she could about the theatre after her first semester of classes.

She came to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as an undeclared major. At the time she was debating between elementary education and theatre.

“I took classes in both subjects and fell in love with the theatre school,” Martinez said. “I know if I loved going to my classes as much as I did, that my job wouldn’t be a job. It would be a career that I would love. I decided to take the leap. And here I am, a senior ready to graduate in theatre.”

Martinez first discovered theater in high school. She had tried sports up till then, but realized she was a great spectator for her siblings rather than playing sports herself.

"I honestly didn’t even know what theatre was,” she said. “It was not a huge part of my life as a child. I thought ‘this is the coolest thing ever. I want to do that somehow.’”

Deciding to double-major in theatre

This May, Martinez will be graduating with two theatre majors: performance and directing and management.

“I wanted to learn the ins and outs of theatre,” she said. “I didn’t want to just know what the actors had to do. I wanted to know the design of it. Management wise: how do you get an audience, how do you attract people to the theatre, how do you get people to support the arts.”

Assistant Professor of Practice Carrie Lee Patterson has taught and directed Martinez in classes and shows. She said she believes that taking both majors has helped her understand both sides of the theatre.

“She is a strong leader and has wonderful organizational skills,” Patterson said. “People sometimes think that actors don’t have to have that, but it certainly helps if they do. I think she has a full understanding the art of theatre and the art of history of theatre.”

Martinez said she has been able to appreciate everything that is done within the theatre through her work in both majors as well.

“Everybody is working hard for a common goal,” she said. “That’s why I love theatre, that collaboration. It was great being on the other side of things and learning how that works and operates.”

Acting for stage and screen

Throughout her time in college, Martinez has been in many productions and the first Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film movie “Vipers in the Grass.”

“It was an amazing experience because I got to work with a director from Hollywood,” Martinez said.

While on set, she met actor Dean Winters and was able to talk to him about life as an actor.

“It was very interesting learning about acting and actors in LA as well,” she said. “It was a great learning opportunity. I really loved it.”

Martinez learned on set that acting on stage is different than acting for a film. One of the big differences is space.

“(Films are) like a huge illusion,” she said. “In theatre you watch it and think that you would stand that far apart from that person and talk about life. With film, you have to fit a camera and 70 crew members around.”

One of the largest roles Martinez has been cast in was the University Theatre production of “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” She played the role of Lady Windermere herself.

“I hardly left the stage, and it was awesome because I got to act with everybody in the show,” she said. “It was a huge learning and growth experience.”

Patterson was the director of the production.

“It was an adventure,” Patterson said. “She is an extremely hard worker, which is great.”

At last year’s Johnny Carson School Awards Banquet, Patterson was presenting the award for best actor and best actress in a production. It wasn’t until she opened the envelope on stage to see that Martinez was awarded “Best Actress.”

“It was a special experience I think for both of us,” Patterson said. “I love all of our students so I would’ve been excited no matter whose name was on (it). But of course for this I had absolute knowledge of how hard she worked on it. That was a fun moment . . . As I read it, I think I annoyed some people because I think I started crying before I could even read the name. Then I finally got it out.”

Another role Martinez enjoyed playing was Antonia from Willa Cather’s “My Antonia.” Illusion Theatre Company from Minneapolis, Minn., came to Nebraska to cast the rolls for the production.

“It was such an awesome experience,” Martinez said. “There was so many moments where I really felt connected to the character and I want to be able to bring these characters to life and effect people in the audience. That’s why I like theater, it has such an effect on humanity and can really make you happy, make you sad, make you question things that should be questioned.”

Reaching outside the department

Along with being involved with school productions, Martinez has become a part of a few school organizations as well. She is currently a student ambassador for the Johnny Carson School, a Mortar Board member, on the student advisory board for the Johnny Carson School and was a New Student Enrollment leader.

“I thought ‘Go big or go home,” Martinez said. “It was awesome . . . It’s a crazy life but I’ve been really blessed.”

Martinez said she became involved in a lot of activities to help balance out her life.

“I think it’s making me a stronger actor because what do actors do?” she said. “We portray life on stage. You can’t do that if you don’t have any other experiences. So I’ve been going out and meeting new people, meeting characters that’ll inspire me and bring them back to the stage.”

Patterson said she believes that Martinez being involved in a lot of groups has helped her broaden her horizons.

“It is trick to do that so I giver her credit, but I think she enjoys all of it so much,” Patterson said. “I think she enjoys having time with different kinds of people. Sometimes theatre people . . . we’re together so many hours of the day, we can tend to only know each other. That’s dangerous. You need to spend time in the rest of the world too. I think she enjoys doing it and that helps her bring other energies into (Temple) building, which is nice.”

Continuing studies after graduation

After graduation, Emily plans to stay in Lincoln for a year and work with Nebraska Repertory Theatre. Currently she has been cast to play the character of Harriet Smith in this summer’s production of “Emma.”

“We need to find her a boy,” Martinez said. “She’s a little awkward but it’s going to be fun.”

Martinez was also asked to be a part of the fellowship of catholic university students, FOCUS, ministry. Though she described her experience of interview weekend as amazing, she turned down the offer.

“I felt like I was called to growing with theatre a little more.”

In September of 2014, Martinez will be attending East 15 Acting School at the University of Essex in London, England.

“I was blown away,” she said of hearing the news that she’d been accepted. “I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.”

Martinez went to Chicago to apply for grad school. Fives graduation programs gave her callbacks, including East 15. With this program being an international one, East 15 only accepts 10 Americans and about 30 from all over the world.

“It was awesome and a blessing from God,” Martinez said. “Who knew? I didn’t.”

Patterson believes going away for grad school will be a good growing experience for Martinez.

“I think it can open her up even further,” Patterson said. “I think coming to college did that for her. I think the theatre program did that for her. I think leaving the country but also this area of the country will be the next step. Even in her work as an actor, it’s the next step to explore different cultures . . .And I am so proud of her because I’m not sure if she would’ve made that decision a couple years ago (because) I think she’s started trusting herself more. It seems so simple but it’s really important.”

Eventually, Martinez’s ultimate goal in life is to own her own theatre company or start her own theatre.

"Acting is really my first love but I wanted to make sure I had other skills as well because it is harder to get acting roles and there are tons of theatres that need managers,” she said. “I just love the theatre world in general, and I just want to be in it.”

-Ally Phillips, College of Journalism and Mass Communications