Feature Story

A Starring Role…

January 7, 2015 – by Katie Nunner '15

Leah Shaeffer ’13 joined the Naples, Florida-based Gulfshore Playhouse in June as its director of education. (Photo by Katie Nunner ’16)

Leah Shaeffer ’13 joined the Naples, Florida-based Gulfshore Playhouse in June as its director of education. (Photo by Katie Nunner ’16)

NAPLES, Florida – Spending time with Leah Shaeffer ’13, director of education at the highly regarded Gulfshore Playhouse, it is apparent how much the Ohio Wesleyan University graduate enjoys theatre, especially theatre education.

But this isn’t anything new – Shaeffer has been involved in productions in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio, since she was five years old.

Deciding to attend Ohio Wesleyan was a big decision for Shaeffer, but it was made easier by knowing that she could earn a teaching license in drama/theatre, certifying her to teach grades Pre-K through 12, and still be very involved with productions.

“I knew I didn’t want to limit myself to just performing, but I didn’t want to give it up,” Shaeffer says. “At OWU, I was able to work in every area of theatre. I have truly done everything from directing to costume design.”

Since June, Shaeffer has been working at the Gulfshore Playhouse, a highly regarded professional theatre that produces a full season of plays and contributes to the vibrant arts and culture scene in Southwest Florida.

Her vast array of internships and experiences – including an education apprenticeship with Cleveland Play House – made Shaeffer a formidable candidate for the job at such a young age.

Her responsibilities at the Gulfshore Playhouse encompass a wide range of educational programs bringing together area organizations, reaching out to local schools to create new after-school classes with the Playhouse’s STAR (Student Theatre Arts in Residence) Program, and supervising the reorganization of in-school residencies with the ThinkTheatre program.

With this new opportunity, Shaeffer is able to connect eye-opening experiences from OWU such as living in a small-living unit and student teaching with an OWU graduate in an inner-city middle school.

“Living in a SLU, the Women’s House, taught me to be more politically aware and sensitive to student’s needs,” Shaeffer says. “Also, student teaching was a huge asset. I credit that semester to helping me learn to communicate more effectively.”

Shaeffer also recalls participating in an honors tutorial her freshman year with professor Bonnie Milne Gardner, Ph.D., titled, “Dancing Backwards and in Heels: American Women Playwrights.”

In the tutorial, the class read plays by American female playwrights. Shaeffer says it was an eye-opening experience to learn about female playwrights and Gardner – also an OWU alumna – served as a “guiding force” throughout Shaeffer’s time at Ohio Wesleyan.

“At OWU, they really encourage you to try everything,” Shaeffer says. “It really had a huge influence on what I decided to do.”

Read more about the Gulfshore Playhouse at www.gulfshoreplayhouse.org. Learn more about Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Theatre at threatre.owu.edu.