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The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Grinnell Artists: Amaris Bates ’18

Amaris Bates ’18 has been heavily involved in theatre during her time at Grinnell Photo by Reina Shahi

By Ahon Gooptu

Amaris Bates ’18 chanced upon the stage in sixth grade, when she got cast as Maid Marian in a “traveling, put-on-a-show-in-one-week production” of “Robin Hood.”

“I came in here knowing that I really liked English and theatre … but I was really open to exploring,” she said.

After taking Intro to Shakespeare and Intro to Acting in her first two semesters of college, she knew that she wanted to pursue more courses in those disciplines.

“I think [in] my senior year [of high school] I felt really restricted by studio dance and in those dance classes I didn’t really feel like I was learning what I wanted to and it was really conflicting with theatre and stuff I wanted to do, so I started resenting it.”

Having lived in Grinnell all her life, Bates found it relatively easy to adjust to college life. However, it was not without its changes, and she found a newfound freedom in when it came to dance.

“Coming here it was much more liberating, especially being able to take classes and then getting into choreography myself,” she said. “It rejuvenated that love for dance that I had growing up because I could see what I wanted to onstage and I was able to decide what was happening.”

Her first gig at choreography came to her by chance, while walking back from rehearsals of “The Tempest” with Jessica Daly ’18, who directed “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

“I was like, ‘Oh, Jessica, who’s choreographing Spelling Bee?’ and she was like ‘Oh, I don’t know. Do you want to?’… And I had never choreographed before but I had worked as the dance captain in my school musicals, so I sort of knew the gist of what was going on.”

Bates regards choreographing for student-directed musicals as a unique way of contributing to the creative process. Even though she loves musicals, she doesn’t consider herself the best singer, so “it was another way to be involved in musicals.”

Being an English and theatre and dance double major, Bates has had the opportunity to take a varied range of classes in the two departments. Even though she likes to focus on analysis rather than creative writing in English, she enjoys reading and analyzing plays and even wrote a one-act for her Craft of Fiction final in the fall. 

“I think it’s pretty difficult to separate the both. … I think my biggest overlap … was Grinnell-in-London … and that was really amazing because of all the stuff that I had been reading about for years and getting to actually experience that. We watched a show a week for one of the classes there and went to the Globe and Stratford-upon-Avon. … It was also my first time leaving the country and my first time being away from Grinnell for an extended period of time.”

She recalled her return to Grinnell after her off campus study program as a “love-hate” dynamic. Being in London and watching all the shows made her realize how much art she had yet to create. Thus, she longed to be back in Grinnell and be involved in all the shows.

“After London, it really solidified my interest in theatre and made me want to keep going with that,” Bates said.

After coming back, she declared her theatre major, took Advanced Performance with Professor Craig Quintero, theatre and dance, and even traveled to Taiwan in the summer for a MAP.

“After my third year, I got really into devised performances like sort of the work Professor Quintero does. So being able to go to Taiwan and participate and collaborate in making that show was really important to me because it was unlike anything I had ever experienced before,” Bates said.

The Taiwan experience culminated in performances for one in a hotel between the hours of 1 and 6 a.m. 

“It was such an intimate experience, I think, as an actor and for the audience as well,” Bates said. “And it was able to touch people in a way that I [didn’t] know anything I had done before could. … It made me really interested in the way that theatre can impact people and the way that theatre can be so personal.”

Currently awaiting responses from year-long theatre apprenticeships and residencies, Bates intends to “get her foot in the theatre world” through a position in arts management.

“I’m deciding this very late, but at this point I think I wish, maybe, I would have directed my own show. … That would have been very cool, whether that would have been a devised performance or probably would have incorporated my choreography and dance in some way,” she said.

Bates’s senior year has been busier than any other theatre major’s. After performing in Quintero’s collaborative piece “The First Time I Walked on the Moon,” she choreographed for Daly’s musical, “Next to Normal,” stage-managed Dru Greenwood ’18’s “The Royale” and has been since involved in rehearsals for John Kim ’18’s “Theatre.EXE” that goes up in a couple of weeks. She has also been tasked with directing a staged reading of Nolan Boggess ’19’s play, which won the McClenon Clark Playwriting Contest this year.

“It’s sort of been a year of exploring for me and figuring out that I really like theatre in all these different avenues. So I don’t know if I’ve had one pinnacle but it’s been such a big year of trying new things and deciding what I want and being involved in all of these separate communities,” Bates said.

Amaris Bates ’18 has been heavily involved in theatre during her time at Grinnell Photo by Reina Shahi
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