Senior finds calling in theatre from other avenues

Though she now knows that theatre is her life's work, Wayland Baptist University senior April Langehennig admits it took a few side roads to come to that conclusion.

A native of Brownfield, Langehennig attended South Plains College after high school, originally interested in pursuing music. Feeling that wasn't God's calling for her future, she moved to the speech department, eventually earning an associate's degree in that field. While her degree called for some basic classes in theatre, she never really considered the stage as a career.

Langehennig said she never performed in the theatre until college, and her earliest taste came through drama with the Baptist Student Ministries. As a speech major, she competed in speech events, some of which required a bit of acting. Finding she enjoyed the acting aspect more than speech, she thought more about theatre.

"I really have an interest in musical theatre, and did Oklahoma, My Fair Lady and Gypsy under Gene Cole at South Plains," she said, adding that she had the opportunity her second year to assist Cole in directing one production.

After those experiences, the stage began to beckon. April had also gotten nipped by the directing bug and wanted to pursue that more. But her plans after SPC were set: She was going to Texas Tech to get her bachelor's degree in speech. Her mother, who graduated from Wayland's Lubbock campus, casually suggested a visit to Plainview and encouraged her to drop an email to Dr. Carl Moman, chairman of the Division of Fine Arts, about her interests.

"I just told him I was interested in music and speech and theatre and wanted to know what they offered," she said. "I got an email back from Dr. (Marti) Runnels (WBU theatre director) saying 'If you'll come to Wayland, I'll give you a scholarship and a job.' So I came to Wayland."

Though the course of her education changed dramatically that day, Langehennig said she knows God had his hand in what was to come.

"I had been on a Chrysalis and made a lot of changes in my life, and the Lord just took care of me and fulfilled His promises. I knew this was where He wanted me," she said.

April enrolled in August 2000 as a theatre education major, pursuing a teaching certificate in both theatre and English to enable her to teach after graduation. From the beginning, she was a regular face in Wayland theatre. Her first appearance was as the bear in "Bear and Dog Duet" with fellow senior Cory Norman in the annual production of Shorts. She then appeared in Broadway's Back - the musical revue featuring WBU theatre students and alums in songs from past musicals - in an opening number with Teresa Moore titled "Comedy Tonight" from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. She also played Linus in "A Book Report" from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

During the summer, Langehennig helped with an SPC production of Annie, then came back to Wayland for her senior year. She enjoyed the best of both her worlds in Shorts V, directing "I'm With Ya Duke," playing a sarcastic mother in "For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls," and singing in the musical interludes. But directing began to catch on.

So when Langehennig began to consider her senior theatre practicum - in which students must direct a production - the excitement began to build. Plainview Civic Theatre needed a director for their Christmas production and April needed a project. The two joined forces, and Langehennig's first full-length direction experience takes place Dec. 6-8 as she leads the radio show presentation of It's a Wonderful Life. It's a role she enjoys.

"I really think I'm a better director than an actor. I can see what I want to happen but it's harder to do it myself than to tell someone else how to do it. I can see the big picture as a director," she said, adding that she is actually pulling double duty in this production by acting as well. "Being able to direct and act is strange, but I think it makes me a better actor. You don't have to meet anyone else's criteria. It's already in your head what the characters need to be."

The project was not without its challenges, however. Putting together a cast, juggling schedules of members and getting the group to gel was tough. But she said the lessons she's learned are indicative of the educational qualities of theatre itself. "Theatre is life. It teaches you a lot of about life and gives you perspectives of other people," she said. "You can step into a role and learn a lot about our own life. That's what I hope to do when I teach. I want to make it where kids can step out of their own life and into someone else's but really learn the value of their own life by doing that."

Langehennig said she plans to teach at the secondary level for a few years before pursuing a master's degree and teaching at the college level.

Aside from her theatre responsibilities, Langehennig is the senior class vice president and a resident assistant at Owen Hall and is in the International Choir, Alpha Psi Omega and Zeta Zeta Zeta.