Amanda Wansa Morgan: Shaping students by example


KENNESAW, Ga. (Jun 28, 2019)Amanda Morgan at Southeastern Theatre ConferenceDepartment of Theatre and Performance Studies’ assistant professor Amanda Wansa Morgan seems to have a magic touch with everything she does. This past November, she received a Suzi Bass Award for Outstanding Music Direction for her work with The Color Purple. Morgan has directed both music and theatre for countless other professional plays, including musical direction for Jesus Christ Superstar and theatre direction for Marisol. She also has performed in Beauty and the Beast and Ragtime, to name just a couple of acting credits.

As coordinator of musical theatre and assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies (TPS), she is also busy teaching courses in acting, voice, musical theatre performance, and musical theatre history and literature. The former high school athlete enjoys performing and directing, but she may love teaching even more. On deciding to become a professor, she says, “I slowly started to fall more in love with teaching and I felt good about what I was doing. I felt more pride about my students and their successes than I did about my own success as a performer.”

While shaping other artists is demanding, Morgan still finds a way to enjoy the process, and her students appreciate this about her. Her advice to students reflects years of professional experience and touches on the importance of patience, calm, delegation, and trust. She is also adamant that students learn how to take care of themselves when working on a large show, especially when it’s on top of their academic work and, often, an outside job as well. 

Kristin Chenowith Concert with KSU StudentsFor example, when students were working on Ragtime, she stressed to them the importance of taking care of themselves. She says, “I spent a lot of time lecturing early on how to manage stress, how to eat well, how to properly vocally and physically warm up, how to take care of yourself when you’re doing a big project and you’re trying to juggle your real life, because that is the real world.”

She speaks from personal experience: she does up to eight professional shows a year on top of teaching. With this schedule, Morgan provides a unique example for her students, especially through sharing with them the rigors of the professional world.

Amanda Morgan at Mary Had a Little Ham workshopMorgan hopes that her students will benefit from TPS in more ways than improved life skills and meeting the professional world’s expectations.  She hopes they will become scholar artists: students who are able to delve deeply into a piece of work and understand its context, history, and relevance to art and society.

Morgan explains, “I do believe it is our responsibility to dig as deeply as we possibly can—as we humanly can—into the content to make sure that we are being truthful, that we are being authentic, that we are addressing conflicts before they arise or as soon as they do, and to dig specifically into content with historical context.”

She continues, “One of the great things about my job and my position is that I get to work with our wonderful students, to help grow and cultivate young artists and help them along on their journey here.”

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Tobhiyah Emiohe and Kathie Beckett