UGA’s theatre program brought Caroline Caden to UGA. Caroline has performed, directed and stage managed productions from cabarets to “Young Frankenstein.” Caroline has designed lights and done publicity for shows. Through it all, Caroline learns from new perspectives daily.
Spring 2022 and Spring 2023
Fun fact about me:
I love animals and the outdoors, so in my free time you can find me volunteering at Sweet Olive Farm (animal rescue), watering my garden or watching someone’s pets
Where have you interned/what have you learned?
- Musical theatre instructor at Oconee Youth School of Performance
- Teaching assistant at the Alliance Theatre
- Social media content creator for Marietta Theatre Company
- International thespian officer for Educational Theatre Association
- State thespian officer for Georgia Thespians
Through my past jobs and current ones, I am learning how to work with different ages and abilities to bring attention to art and history. Often, I’ll create graphics to go alongside fun events, brainstorm outreach ideas, or get a group of people up and moving through art. Overall, I’ve learned that listening to others is key in collaboration. Always meet people where they are at and show them through action that you care.
How did you decide to come to UGA?
My sophomore year of high school, I visited a friend who attended UGA. I actually never did an “official college tour” here (oops!) but fell in love nevertheless. Before visiting, all I knew about UGA was football and I am not a sports person. Athens is so much more than that, though. My friend Maddy took me to the Botanical Garden, downtown and the river. Seeing how Athens uplifted nature, arts and culture made me drawn to it. The financial savings of the HOPE and Zell Miller scholarships, distance to home, and artsy town drew me in. Luckily, I got my acceptance in March 2018 and immediately started planning my move.
How did you choose your major?
Theatre has been my passion since I was young. I fell in love with the community and collaboration of it all. There’s something magical about the art of telling stories with a tight-knit cast and design team. I’m interested in all aspects of theatre. I’ve gotten to work on performance, stage management, lighting design, props design, publicity, playwriting and dramaturgy.
In other theatre programs around the country, I found that many want you to focus on only one portion of theatrical arts. At UGA, you can create your own course of study, truly following your interests. I like to be a jack-of-all-trades, so this program is a great match for me.
What is the favorite class you’ve taken?
My three favorites have been:
- Dramaturgy taught by Fran Teague
This class gives you the opportunity to discover history in a new way as well as develop your own project. I received CURO funding for my upcoming project, “Queer Space,” an LGBTQ+ walking tour of Athens, thanks to Fran’s assistance and encouragement in this class. Fran is my favorite professor because she loves to see her students follow their passions and helps them blossom into who they want to be.
- Women in Performance taught by Marla Carlson
The content is everything in this class. Learning about women pushing the envelope in theatre, specifically in performance art, made me think about what I have to say and why I create art. I am extremely inspired by the content and am working on a play that I wrote initially for this class.
- Southern Garden History taught by Cari Goetcheus
I loved it so much and knew nothing about plants or gardens beforehand. Now I have a garden of my own and great knowledge about landscapes. Historic preservation is so cool, and it encompasses the very ground we step on.
What has surprised you about UGA or defied your expectations?
The resilience of students and community members here constantly impresses me. I am so thankful that there is a culture of demanding better within the Athens and UGA community.
It has been exciting and challenging to use historical research to fight for justice. I recently created an audio play titled “Lost Tape” for the Slavery at UGA grant, bringing attention to former enslaved people interviewed in the late 1930s. I didn’t expect it, but I have become incredibly passionate about artistic and historical research. I am thrilled to bring more awareness to LGBTQ+ history this summer through my CURO research.
Everyone is incredibly friendly here, and I have gotten to know many different parts of the Athens community. While it is a large school, it is a small world. I am very glad I chose to go here because I get to learn from different perspectives daily. UGA is a great springboard if you want to move somewhere even larger, too.
What obstacles have you had to overcome?
One of the hardest obstacles is breaking out of what society wants you to be and choosing your truth above all. My first year at UGA, I was feeling caged-in regarding my identity. There was something under the surface that I did not want to acknowledge, understand or deal with. Then I watched a documentary called “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin.” The author said, “I knew that the secret was what was poisoning us. Sometimes the truth just has to be told.” Then I asked myself, what secret is poisoning me? What am I holding back? Then I realized. I snapchatted my friend Lukas and said, “I think I’m gay, and I don’t know what to do.” I was terrified.
Lukas was incredibly encouraging, as were all of my other new friends I had met at UGA. Everyone welcomed this new part of me with open arms and love. I have found queer community in Athens who love me and accept every part of me. The coursework I study, people I spend time with, and things I create affirm my identity further.
Now, two and a half years later, I feel confident in who I am and supported by my incredible family and friends. I recently discovered that I am non-binary as well. I learn more about myself every day. I am thankful I make the choice to live my truth above all else. If you’re reading this and you’re my friend, thank you for accepting me and loving me for who I am.
What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?
I love art, history, nature, research, learning, animals, travel, family, food, stand-up comedy, community and theatre. I’m committed to expanding my horizons, that’s for sure. I’m going to try my best, trust my intuition, and put love at the forefront.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Who knows where I’ll end up, but it’ll be somewhere I can pursue the arts. I’m open to all possibilities.
I have dreams of settling down and having a small farm of sorts filled with environmental art in the future, but we’ll see where life takes me and how my plans change.