Name: Karen Robichaud, '08
Major: English
Minor: Theatre
Activities: University Players

How did you decide on your major and minor?

I decided to major in English my second semester at Richmond when I took Intro to Literary Analysis: Drama and Theatre with Dr. Saal and the course brought my two primary interests together—literature and theatre. I'd taken a wide variety of classes that interested me, such as interpersonal communication, but in Dr. Saal's class I really felt at home. It was a class I always looked forward to and found very interesting. My CORE professor was integral in helping me make my decision because she was an education professor, and at the time, I was seriously considering completing the education minor.

In the fall of my sophomore year, I took two education classes in order to jump right into the minor, but after a few months, I decided the minor was not for me. Discontinuing the education minor left me with a lot of wiggle room in my schedule, and I picked up the theatre minor. I originally tried to keep my involvement with theatre recreational, something that I did to get away from my academics, but making theatre a part of my curriculum brought me closer to the students and professors in the department.

You've been a member of the University Players. What's that experience been like?

I have always been involved with the University Players—working crew on almost every production each year. This year, I stage managed the University Dancers' Concert, LEAP. Additionally, I've run sound for both Macbeth and The Meeting. The University Players work very closely with the Theatre Honor Society, Alpha Psi Omega, to produce student theatre, and as the president of Alpha Psi Omega, I produced New Faces 2007, a festival of one-act plays and music.

You can invite one playwright and one novelist to dinner. Whom do you invite?

Playwright: either Harold Pinter or Ariel Dorfman. Novelist: John Irving

You’ve stayed busy during your senior year, completing an undergraduate thesis. What have you been researching specifically?

My research revolves around the rhetoric of memory in literature, specifically plays and film. I was interested in the problem of memory—its complexities, reliability and how memories are shared. Eventually Dr. Saal guided me to a theorist who outlined the contrasts between individual and collective memory and how both forms relate to cultural memory as it extends through time and history. After reading those theories, I explored the problems of memory present in three central texts: Memento, Ashes to Ashes and Death and the Maiden. Through these texts, I've explored not only individual forgetting and memory but the problem of historical amnesia as well.

What was the research process like for you?

I completed most of my research in the fall semester and spent most of the spring semester writing my thesis. Occasionally I re-read key articles to refresh myself on the theories I explicate in my thesis, but for the most part, I have been focused on writing. The weekly time commitment varied, but towards the end, I spent a few hours each day revising my thesis.

Dr. Saal and I met for about an hour every two weeks to discuss my latest drafts. I divided my thesis in five sections, so I worked on 10-15 pages at a time. In our meetings, Dr. Saal critiqued my work, we clarifed ideas and set the next deadline. We communicated a lot over email in between meetings when I needed to bounce around ideas. For the Symposium, I've prepared a talk on one section of my thesis, the analysis of memory in the film Memento. I felt the popularity of Memento made it more accessible to the general public.

What are your plans post-graduation?

My post-graduation plans involve working in theatre in the Boston area. I will be working for Anne Gottlieb on The Etty Project—a new theatre project developed from the letters of Etty Hillesum. Etty Hillesum was a Dutch Jew during the Holocaust and the project will premiere in 2009. I will be Ms. Gottlieb's administrative assistant, helping to procure funding for the project. Additionally, I will be looking for stage management experience and work in the Boston area.

Theatre has been a passion of mine since I was in elementary school and I hope to pursue a career in theatre. I don't know if working in the theatre will remain my long-term goal, but I am staying open to all my options and interests. As literature has always been an equal passion of mine, I may choose to pursue a graduate degree in literature in the future.

Looking back over four years, is there anything about your education you would have changed? What do you think about the Richmond liberal arts experience?

I would change some of the classes I was required to take for the English major, which the department is already doing as they have restructured the major. I really love reading plays and novels that are fairly contemporary. When I first started the English major, I was hoping to focus on contemporary fiction, but that's not the way the major is structured. In the interest of breadth, classes on literature from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Romantic and Victorian eras are required…not always topics that I love. Sometimes I struggled more with those classes, but this year I've been very lucky to take classes in contemporary American fiction, which I love.

Having said that, the breadth of the English major has been to my benefit as I've been able to connect literature from different movements and eras to other courses I've taken. For my theatre minor, I've taken both History of Apparel and Dance History. Because I studied the Romantic movement in literature, I really understood the innovations in fashion and dance. The connections one makes through a liberal arts experience are endless. I remember taking political science, journalism and communications classes my first semester and drawing parallels to different topics discussed among all three courses.

What’s the book on your bedside table right now?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera