After four years on the Waynesburg University stage, six major productions, hundreds of lines and countless hours of practice, Tessa Masula, senior English literature major, stood in front of a roaring crowd for the final time.
Masula, dressed in a torn gypsy skirt, smiled widely following her final performance as Esmerelda in ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ March 30. As she took her final bow, her brown curls flowed over her shoulder.
She looked out to the audience, stage lights nearly blinding her vision, and finished performing in what had been her dream role.
Masula, who is an avid reader, said that ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ is her favorite novel. To prepare for her role, Masula watched various versions of the classic tale and assessed all the media around it. Esmerelda’s fiery personality and determined attitude are some of the traits that she portrayed on stage.
“She’s been a character that I have looked up to for many years,” Masula said. “That was just the perfect way to end my senior year.”
Masula’s schedule in the weeks leading up to her performance is a hodgepodge of seemingly simple tasks: rehearsal, eat, homework, sleep. However, balancing those tasks in coordination with preparing for her role was overwhelming, she says.
During the pinnacle of rehearsals, in the weeks immediately prior to the show, Masula estimates she spends equal time perfecting her role as she works within her major.
“When I am in the middle of the show it feels like the only part of my life,” she said.
Masula said the days following her final performance feel surreal. It’s hard for her to remember life without memorizations of dialogue and choreography, since Masula has been involved with theatre for years, even before her time in college.
“I loved it in high school and I wasn’t ready to let it go [in college],” she said.
When touring the university as a high school senior, Masula was interested to learn about Waynesburg ’s theatre program. After further research and seeing the Goodwin Performing Arts Center stage, Masula was anxious to begin college and her first production.
“I knew that I wanted to be a part of it,” Masula said.
Esmerelda wasn’t Masula’s first experience portraying a lead character.
Her other starring roles have included Morticia in ‘The Adams Family,’ and Ophelia in ‘Hamlet’ among others.
Masula said that she’s tried to prepare herself for life without choreography to perfect, a character to emulate, a cast to surround herself with.
“I’ve tried thinking about it and I am not ready to say goodbye,” Masula said.
After saying that dreaded farewell to her experience with theatre on campus, Masula intends to instruct high school English classes.
She feels her experience in theatre and academics are more connected than they may initially seem.
“Theatre and literature are so closely intertwined,” Masula said. “I’m definitely going to be using it in my career.”
Masula intends to continue her passion for theatre in her future career by being involved with the school’s theatre club as well as a community theatre organization.
Masula’s final role as Esmerelda is memorable not only for the impact the character has had on her personally, but because it has marked the end of this chapter of her life.
As she looks towards her future, Masula won’t forget the challenges and triumphs that theatre has brought her during her time at the university.
“I know I will keep the friendships I have made with me,” Masula said.