January 20, 2013
Senior theater major Will Murdock from Arlington, Ga., wants to “tell stories” after he graduates, and his time at UGA has given him plenty of fodder to pursue his dreams.
A.B. in theater
University highlights, achievements and awards:
I was chosen as the 2012-2013 playwright for “Swamp Gravy: Georgia’s Official Folk-Life Play.” “Swamp Gravy” is a community performance piece performed annually at Cotton Hall Theatre in Colquitt, Ga. “Swamp Gravy” takes true stories from the community and dramatizes them for the stage to be performed by as many as 80 volunteer actors. This was “Swamp Gravy’s” 20th anniversary production, and the script I wrote for it is called “Swamp Gravy: Live and Learn,” telling the school day and life lesson stories of the community. I had been a performer in “Swamp Gravy” since the age of 14 and founded Cotton Hall’s youth theater program in 2007 at the age of 16.
Southwest Georgia Academy
Family Ties to UGA:
My brother-in-law is an alumnus of UGA.
I chose to attend UGA because...
… as crazy as it sounds, I fell in love with the Fine Arts Building. I was attending another school in downtown Atlanta when I visited UGA for the first time. I felt like something was missing about my college experience, but didn’t really know what. During that trip, I realized that the thing I had been missing my first two years at college was a true campus. I spent a day walking the grounds while my friends were in class, and I stumbled into the Fine Arts Building. I was able to wander around the building and get a feel for the theater department. The building just feels good. It’s old and creaky and warm—it’s hard to describe—but it almost seems like it’s alive. I guess a lot of that comes from the people there, because they’ve just got such enthusiasm about what they’re doing and creating. There’s a real sense of community in the department, which is what really made me decide to transfer—the opportunity to be part of that.
My favorite things to do on campus are...
I love being on campus when it’s nearly empty. I like finding the spots on campus that people don’t visit often and jotting down ideas or writing short scenes. Acting silly when no one is watching is the best. When I’m walking down a deserted sidewalk, I’m sure I look crazy, because I come up with crazy walks or even—on rare occasions—dance moves. I hope no one has seen those! But, you know, one of the great things about being a theater major is that you have permission to try things and feel things and if they work, they work. If they don’t, you just try something else. No one judges you for being brave enough to act stupid.
When I have free time, I like...
… writing. It always seems, though, that the time I most want to write is the time that I have the most homework to do. I won’t lie. Sometimes the homework gets done first. Sometimes it doesn’t. If an idea is really vivid and clear, I’ve got to get it on paper as fast as I can. I also really love to just relax on the couch and catch up on my favorite TV shows. When you are in rehearsal for a show six days a week for six weeks, you can easily get behind on your television time. And I like to draw and paint, but it’s a messy hobby the way I do it. For some reason, I always get as much paint on myself as I do the canvas. And whenever I can, I like going out to eat with friends and convincing them to go bowling. I’m a really bad bowler, but I think it’s just a fun thing to do.
The craziest thing I've done is...
… spend my summer interning in Disney Theatrical Group’s creative development department in New York City. It was indescribably, insanely cool. Just being there in the middle of it all—seeing how their development process works, how they collaborate with different artists, how they choose when and where and why—was just astonishing. I spent my summer learning from a group of the most incredibly creative and talented people. They were so open to sharing their knowledge and ideas. I still can’t quite process it all.
My favorite place to study is...
… somewhere that isn’t too quiet. I always like a little bit of background noise, whether that is a crowd, or music or even television. My problem is not getting distracted by people watching, singing along or watching too intently.
My favorite professor is...
The type of teacher I generally gravitate toward is one with an infectious energy—someone who loves what he teaches and finds a way to communicate that love to his students. Passion and enthusiasm are infectious. And it’s even better when a professor finds ways to tailor each class to the students’ strengths. Many professors in the theater department have that kind of passion and verve, so choosing one doesn’t seem fair when they all have such different things to offer.
If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with...
… probably my grandparents. Growing up, I spent so many weekends at their house, and they would tell me stories about their lives. I remember a lot of their stories, but now that they have passed away, I would cherish one more afternoon with them just to listen to them talk. If I were to choose a writer to spend an afternoon with, I would probably choose J.M. Barrie, the writer of “Peter Pan.” The first play that I ever directed was a production of “Peter Pan.” There is something haunting about the story about the boy who wouldn’t grow up that keeps me circling back to it. I’d love to have a conversation with him about creating Neverland.
If I knew I could not fail, I would...
… become an astronaut. I’ve always dreamed of being able to fly, so being weightless in a space shuttle would be a close second. I don’t know if I’m scientifically minded enough for space exploration, but the view would be amazing.
After graduation, I plan to...
… tell stories. I don’t know what form that will take, but I’ve decided not to worry about it. As long as I can find a way to tell stories through my work, I think I’ll be satisfied.
The one UGA experience I will always remember will be...
… “Dark Ride”—that was the first UGA show I was cast in. I was lucky enough to be cast with nearly all the theater majors I wanted to be friends with. For a theater major, I’m surprisingly shy. But there isn’t really much room for fear when you are putting on a show together. You have to trust the people you’re onstage with. “Dark Ride” really pushed me to become more involved in the department.