Assistant Professor of Theatre
Where is your hometown?
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
BFA Acting, University of Central Florida; MFA Acting, Northern Illinois University.
What year did you start at NIU?
I came in 2010 for the MFA program, and I was hired to direct and adjunct here in 2013. I soaked up every available opportunity because I understood I'd been given a rare open door, and then I was an instructor before becoming an assistant professor.
Which department do you teach in?
I am an assistant professor of theatre.
What do you like about working at NIU?
It was initially the proximity to Chicago that drew my interest, because I was working in New York and wanted to use graduate school to bounce to another city. When I pursued my degree, I assumed I would do it for three years and then go back out and work professionally full time. That was the plan, and teach later.
I auditioned for an MFA at NIU and got a call back to meet Kathryn Gately, who was running the program at the time. The way she looked at me and the way she spoke to me and the way she spoke about our art form, I understood within about 20 seconds that I would follow this woman anywhere I had to, and I did.
I was looking for top-notch acting training — and a school that didn't have any ego — and I’ve found that and much more at NIU. I followed Kathryn here and taught with her for many years after that. I have followed her around a significant amount, and I don't regret that for a moment.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
I discovered theatre later in adolescence than most people I know. I wanted to be a singer and a writer, and I was good at both, and I've always been a storyteller. At 15 years old, I discovered the drama classroom at my high school after a year on a very successful marching band.
Suddenly, here was a new art form combining all my creative passions. And I happened to have this teacher, Aaron Coe, who was life-changing. I think that's why I'm a teacher.
I kept going back to that class and that program year after year, and when it was time to go to college, I found a really great program where they were able to show me, yes, you can actually do this with your life.
What advice would you give to students either just starting their college journey or currently attending NIU?
Art matters to the world, and you can be a changemaker and be on stage.
Kendra Holton is an assistant professor of theatre in the School of Theatre and Dance, College of Visual & Performing Arts.