Communication studies is not just newspapers and rhetoric; Matthew Bancroft-Smithe’s work in the Interpreters Theatre is walking proof of otherwise. Bancroft-Smithe is a second-year graduate student in UNI’s Communication and Media program. In Fall 2022 he began a unique new graduate assistantship in the Interpreter’s Theatre, which is the black box theater residing in Lang Hall. Part of the Communication and Media Department, the Interpreters Theatre is a performance laboratory for performance studies class, workshops, and full-length productions. 

Bancroft-Smithe fulfills two roles for the Interpreters Theatre: he acts as the technical director and the public relations person. As the technical director, he runs boards for lights and sounds, planning their sequences. “One of the shows this semester is of radio play and it's not being done over radio waves, obviously, so I will help them record and edit the audio for that play beforehand.” Although another graduate student held a part-time position with the Interpreters Theatre last year, the previous student focused on acting and playwriting, whereas Bancroft-Smithe is lending his tech-savinness to the theater.

Though less hands-on and gritty, his PR work is essential since it ensures audience members attend the performances. He works with University Relations and other departments to advertise the shows while setting up web portals for people to purchase tickets. 

His experience in UNI’s Interpreters Theatre as an undergraduate student inspired him to pursue graduate studies in the Communication and Media program. While finishing his degree as an interactive digital studies major, he took a performance class with Dr. Josh Hamzehee in the Interpreters Theatre. “I fell in love with that approach to academics, specifically the idea of stretching the boundaries of how performance work has been done before.” Performance work can reveal the human condition using entertaining and unexpected means, such as those demonstrated by the Interpreters Theatre. 

Bancroft-Smithe admires that the Interpreters Theatre allows room for experimentation. As a simple black box theater, less resources and structural restrictions force creative performances. “It gives students the freedom to play within their restrictions.” He recognizes that it is rare in the drama world to work intimately with the theater by writing and directing, and admires that the Interpreters Theatre offers such opportunities. 

Dr. Danielle McGeough, director of the Interpreters Theatre and interim director of Women’s and Gender Studies, is Bancroft-Smithe’s supervisor. “In the Interpreters Theatre, we're really grateful for graduate assistantships. Not only do the assistantships provide the graduate student an opportunity to gain skills, but it makes graduate school more affordable and accessible for those students. When you have a wonderful, dedicated, and incredibly competent graduate assistant like Matthew, it really does help our programs be as successful as possible, while giving students experiences along the way.”

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