Countdown to Commencement: Kenzie James

Kenzie James got a good feel for what her future career could be like as a big-time actress auditioning for plays, TV shows and movies. She liked what she saw, and she felt the love in return.

The veteran of the Heidelberg stage is headed west as she pursues her love of theatre on a path that just could take her to the biggest stages of all.

After participating in the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA) audition event in Chicago in January, Kenzie returned to campus with a tough choice … and options. So many options. An annual national event that draws would-be artists from around the world, the URTA matches potential students with Master of Fine Arts programs and focuses on the discovery and fostering of new talent.

“I knew I was leaning toward grad schools in California since I want to eventually act in films and TV,” said Kenzie, ’18, who is completing her MBA this summer through the PlusOneAdvantage® Full-Tuition MBA Scholarship program at Heidelberg. Of the estimated 40 grad schools at the URTA event, Kenzie came home with seven offers from grad schools and professional studios.

She narrowed her choices to grad schools in London and San Francisco, eventually deciding to head west to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. “I worked with Stephen (Svoboda) to perfect my audition package. I had a whole portfolio of material, so I was super prepared,” said Kenzie. The deciding factors: A three-year scholarship toward her MFA and a sense – like that which she experienced in Heidelberg’s theatre – that she could find a home there. “The opportunity to learn from people currently in the industry and network at this stage of my career is absolutely incredible.”

Kenzie got into acting late in the game. “I didn’t even pursue theatre until my second year at Heidelberg,” she said. But it came at a time of personal struggle. She had lost five people close to her in five months, including her father and grandfather. Her ’Berg theatre family got her through. “Theatre kept me grounded and moving forward,” she said.

With major roles in every single production on the Gundlach Theatre stage over the past three years – as an actress, choreographer and dance captain – she hasn’t slowed down one bit. By staying on for her MBA, Kenzie got a third year of experience on stage, and gained industry skills and time working with the professional artists Stephen brings to campus to work with students on various phases of theatre productions.

Most importantly, she got theatre mentoring and life coaching from Stephen, who’s extremely proud of his prodigy. “Kenzie always had a passion to perform, but she was initially unsure of herself,” he said. “But the grit she has showed, along with her artistic knowledge, skill and leadership … I’m extremely proud of her.”


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