Hanging in the window of a small, book-filled office is a dream catcher; something simple but complex. It is representative of dreams: known to ward off the bad and to offer a sense of security. Professors Michael and Nina Vought are real-life dream catchers.
Professor Michael Vought is the chair of the theatre program, and Assistant Professor Nina Vought designs sets and costumes for Westminster’s productions. The Voughts have been at Westminster since 1995 and were hired as a team.
“Students often say about the theater department that it’s like a family, and we are kind of like the mom and dad,” Nina Vought said.
After every show, there is a cast party at the Voughts’ house. They also invite the entire program over for swim parties. They have an open-door policy for students.
“There has been more than once we’ve woken up in the morning and found a student sleeping on our couch,” Michael Vought said. “They know that there’s a safe haven for them if they ever need it.”
Vought didn’t always have passion for theater. In high school he saw his first play and thought it was terrible. He started to write skits, which soon become popular. He led a trip and performed his skits in front of kings and prime ministers.
“One day I woke up and went, ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m doing’,” he said.
Vought decided to head back to Hawaii and go to school to learn what theatre really was.
“That is how it all started for me—as a means of communicating cross-culturally,” he said.
The Voughts have developed a teaching method unique to the theatre department. Their teaching philosophy is that you have to deal with the whole person instead of just creating performers.
“We have a responsibility as educators to encourage them in all aspects of their life,” Vought said.
“Theatre is something you have a passion about and if you get to do it then that’s really wonderful but when you get to make a difference in a young person’s life, that’s a soul calling,” Nina Vought said. “That gives your life meaning. And that’s what we do.”
“[Professor Michael Vought] is very engaging and he encourages you to be open,” said Teresa Duarte, a freshman. “If you say something wrong he’ll laugh with you.”
The Voughts want their students to strive for excellence in all parts of life. They have taught May-term classes around healthy eating and have requirements for their students. If these students are not in an active class, they are required to log hours at HWAC.
They urge students to practice contemplation in their life. Each student should have somewhere they can go to ground themselves to counteract the demands of being an actor or actress.
“If you get one role out of 20 that you audition for, you are amazingly successful,” Michael Vought said. “That means 19 times you’re turned down. We’re trying to prepare students for that so then they have the confidence to say ‘that’s okay! I’ll be back tomorrow’. We’re trying to look at the whole person, not just our discipline.”
The Voughts describe Westminster as representing holistic learning, expansion and community. They feel lucky to be a part of the rite of passage that takes place.
“These students come in and they’re insecure high school kids trying to figure out who they are, and they leave as mature adults ready to face the world,” he said.
The Voughts encourage students to embrace change, not fear it. They tell students that the point is not to have all the answers. It is to be able to adapt with changing times, develop, create and go forward.
“There’s this thinking that we somehow land a position and therefore we know it all,” Nina Vought said. “Whereas, the truth is, we find ourselves continually on new ground. And we make it up as we go along. And that is what our education gives us: The ability to be creative, to make it up on the spot.”