Trademark Cornellian by design

What are the trademark attributes of Cornellians?

According to Cornell theatre graduate Alex Casillas ʼ14, “Cornellians make an Olympic sport out of multitasking and time management.” Casillas lists the other tell-tale signs you’re a Cornellian:

  • You’re a clear communicator.
  • You’re an engaging collaborator.
  • You set realistic goals.
  • You have a high level of problem-solving skill. (You might as well call yourself a master problem-solver.)

    Alex Casillas ʼ14 at the rehearsal and technical walkthrough of "Mr. Burns, a post-electric play"
    Alex Casillas ʼ14 at the rehearsal and technical walkthrough of “Mr. Burns, a post-electric play”

“Because of my education, I’ve felt prepared to meet obstacles and opportunities with grace and the trademark level of problem-solving skill found in most Cornellians,” Casillas says.

That must be why Casillas received the dual master of fine arts in theatre arts and scenic and lighting design after graduating Cornell. Casillas spent a year in California as the assistant scenic designer at the Pacific Conservatory Theatre and then, served as lighting designer and master electrician for Festival 56 in Princeton, Illinois.

Casillas counts the design work for Strawdog Theatre Company’s production of “The Revolutionists” by Lauren Gunderson as one of her biggest achievements.

“This wasn’t only a good show, it was an opportunity to combine my activism with my art,” Casillas says. “Being able to serve on a team of all women, non-binary people, and people of color–as well as calling attention to the inequality of representation in the theatre design realm–was a true privilege.”

Now Casillas lives in Chicago as a freelance scenic and lighting designer, currently working on the University of Iowa’s mainstage production of Seven Spots on the Sun.

We asked Casillas to offer up some advice to students:

“Even if you are pretty certain that you know what you want to do with your life, don’t rule anything out,” Casillas says. “Take classes that intimidate you or that will offer a different perspective. Chase your passion at all times. Join organizations, try out for plays, and talk to people in social groups. Make the choice to enrich the community with your voice and use whatever platform you have in your classes, clubs, and extracurriculars to empower those who are struggling. There is tumult in our world right now and one of the best ways to sort through the noise is by making friends who are different than you, hearing their stories, facilitating brave conversations and by educating yourself in all the areas you possibly can. There are things that can be challenging to learn in three and a half weeks, but compassion and understanding aren’t among them.”