Arts & Humanities Student Spotlight

Finding inspiration everywhere

Wyn Thomas, UGA Foundation Fellow and published playwright, poses for a portrait in the Fine Arts Theatre. (Chamberlain Smith/ UGA)

Wyn Thomas brings life to the stage as playwright, composer and more

Wyn Thomas looks at the world as a source of inspiration.

As someone who is surrounded by art and theater—she’s a playwright, composer, actor and director—she knows life can transform into something bigger than a one-time experience.

“I get inspiration from my own life and from my friends,” said Thomas, a Foundation Fellow and theater major. “It’s an opportunity to take a real thing and go, ‘What if this actually happened? What if that changed?’ You develop the idea, and by the end, the characters have evolved so much that it’s not even the same people or place I started with.”

And as a sophomore, Thomas is already making her name known.

She has written several plays, including “Write Their Wrongs,” a short play that discusses the aftermath of a high school shooting. It was performed around the country as part of #ENOUGH: Plays to End Gun Violence and then published by Playscripts, a New York-based imprint of the Broadway Licensing company.

“That play was inspired after I saw a show about gun violence, and I didn’t really like how it handled the issue,” Thomas said. “I had a conversation with my friends after, and we talked about how we would handle it differently.”

That brainstorming is how Thomas has approached many projects. Seeing other plays and listening to musicals provides a chance to workshop new ideas, Thomas said. She observes new approaches and then views her work more critically.

“Through high school, one of my favorite things to do was see every play in my area,” she said. “Even if it was a high school production with no one I knew, I would go see it. I just love seeing theater and walking away understanding how to improve my writing, how to solve my problems.”

New opportunities at UGA

Thomas grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, but family ties to the Southeastern United States and the university’s prestigious Foundation Fellowship drew her to UGA. As the university’s top academic scholarship, recipients receive academic funding and stipends for travel, research and conferences.

For Thomas, this support means she can move to New York or Los Angeles to pursue her chosen career, while still being able to support herself. The funding also opens doors to travel, including a study abroad program in Oxford.

“Growing up, our family didn’t really travel,” she said. “We would mainly travel places to see family, and then my only time out of the country was to the Canada side of Niagara Falls. It’s awesome to get to go these places where I’d never thought I’d go on my own.”

While in Oxford, Thomas did “the European tour,” she said, and saw Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, Rome, Venice and Dublin on short trips. These cities opened new insights that will continue to inspire future works.

“In high school, most of my writing centered on being a writer or being an actor,” she said. Coming to UGA, I wanted the chance to go somewhere to gain a bigger perspective, to do non-theater things. I thought, ‘Oh, this is great, while traveling, I’ll take a break.’ But I didn’t take a break—I’d have my notebook out on the train, just taking a song and reordering it, moving things around.”

Wyn Thomas’ musical “First Semester” will hit the stage in March 2024.

One of those songs is in Thomas’ upcoming musical, “First Semester,” which centers on a college freshman’s journey through that pivotal time. She goes from being a straight-A, overachieving high school student to someone who struggles in their intended degree path and encounters hardships with friends and dating.

“My goal throughout this has been to write something I needed to hear during my first semester,” Thomas said. “It’s about the importance of having a community of people around you, who can be there while you figure things out. Because you don’t have to know everything all at once.”

“First Semester” will begin auditions later this fall, and it will hit the stage in March 2024.