Theater as the Integrated Performing Arts by Shannon McGovern

Have you heard about the School of the Arts and Communication’s new Integrated Performing Arts minor? Find out everything you need to know from Shannon McGovern in her latest blog post below! For more information about the minor, please visit

Shannon McGovern is a junior Music student, with minors in Integrated Performing Arts and Management. She is a member of All College Theatre, Alpha Psi Omega, the TCNJ Chorale, and The Mixed Signals Improv troupe. She is looking forward to baking soufflés and cookies with her younger siblings over Spring Break.

At the end of last semester, I changed my major and added on 2 minors. As a Junior at TCNJ, this was one of the scariest decisions I have ever made. I switched from the Bachelor of Music in Music Education degree to a Bachelor of Arts in Music with minors in Management and Integrated Performing Arts. Though it was a terrifying decision to make, I am so excited to be studying things that I’m really, truly interested in — the main subject of which is theater.

When I first found out there wasn’t a specific route for studying theater at TCNJ, I was a little disappointed. However, after becoming a part of the Integrated Performing Arts minor (henceforth known as IPA), I realize this interdisciplinary minor is more valuable than a theater minor would ever be.

The IPA minor resulted when the Theatre and Drama Interdisciplinary minor was updated and renamed in Spring 2012. The goal of the IPA program “is to offer students an expanded experience in performance techniques using the various disciplines in the School and in the College.” There are requirements for Theory/History/Literature, Applied Music, Visual Arts/Interactive Multimedia, and Applied Theatre, Dance, and Production. Within the IPA minor, I have taken voice lessons, studied a little bit of computer programming, learned about art history, made a fool of myself in my hip-hop dance class, and have had more fun than I ever thought possible. I have a new appreciation for all of these realms of art and performance, and have realized that I can do most of these things to a passable degree.

The amazing part, is that all of these “different” arts inform and grow off of each other. When I’m learning a new song for my voice studio, I find symbols in the text that are commonly discussed in art history. During my dance class, I find myself applying my knowledge of music history to that of the development of ballet. Everything is interrelated in the arts, and you can’t truly master one without the knowledge of the others.

When you think about it, theater is the ultimate product of all that knowledge — it combines all aspects of art into one cohesive experience. In that case, doesn’t it make sense that I study the visual arts, music, acting, literature, and dance if my final goal is to continue creating theater? I know that the knowledge I am discovering in the classroom is improving my skills as a performer/collaborator/audience member in the theater. I feel very at home studying the Integrated Performing Arts, and I bet that if you love art in any form, you will as well. So if you’re trying to figure out what to do for those elective classes, why not talk to your advisor and think about taking up the minor? I promise it’ll be a lot of fun.

If you’re interested in any of the TCNJ student-run theater organizations, theater, switching your major, or the IPA minor or have any questions, feel free to email me at Students may also contact any of the coordinators for the program: Terry Byrne (Associate Professor of Communication Studies,, James Day (Assistant Dean of The School of the Arts & Communication, or Robert McMahan (Professor of Music, for academic advisement regarding the minor.

For more information about the IPA minor, please visit


Improv(ing) Your Life by Shannon McGovern, Junior Music Education Major

We’d like to welcome new student blogger Shannon McGovern, a junior Music Education major with a Vocal Concentration. In her first blog post below, Shannon explains the LARCH rule and how it’s been “impov(ing)” her improvisation skills, and how you can use it to improve your daily life, too!

Shannon McGovern, Junior Music Education Major, Vocal Concentration

Shannon McGovern, Junior Music Education Major, Vocal Concentration

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first blog post for the School of the Arts & Communication blog! Glad you could make it. My name is Shannon McGovern, and I am a junior Music Education major with a Vocal concentration. I am currently involved with the TCNJ Chorale, All College Theatre, The Mixed Signals Improv troupe, and Alpha Psi Omega. In my spare time I enjoy yoga, riding my bike, photography, and peanut butter.

I feel obligated to excel in many areas, which seems to be a commonality amongst most people. But in trying to “have it all” I usually end up hurting myself the most. Why is it that I am willing to sacrifice my own happiness and well-being for things that I am less than passionate about? I’ve been asking myself this question more and more, and the only answer I come to is that I shouldn’t be. So this semester, I’ve been trying to change the way I approach day-to-day life so that I can be successful without derailing my sanity.

I am a member of the Mixed Signals Improv Comedy Troupe on campus. We practice twice a week and have shows once every month (you should definitely check out our November 2nd show!). My Dad is always very interested in how we “just know what to do,” and the truth is, we practice playing games a lot. It’s never the same scene, but you use “rules” in every game to help guide you to create a strong scene. One of the rules is called LARCH and it stands for “Location, Action, Relationship, Character, and History.”

While these terms are applied a little differently in improv, I find the terms can also be applied for success in everyday life as well.

Location : Place yourself in an environment where you can succeed.  I am incapable of doing my homework around people I am friends with. I have tried many times, and have handed in incomplete or poorly done work because of it. So now, I go to the library by myself or work in my room with the door shut. And that’s okay. Finding/creating a place where you can excel is important.

Action : Work for yourself. When deciding what new projects I want to take on, I now reevaluate whether or not it is for something I like/care about/am interested in/will help me to grow. If the answer to those questions is no, I won’t do it. A low value (Value = Perceived Benefits / Cost) may not be worth it to my overall well-being. When you start looking out for your own interests, you become your own best advocate.

Relationship : Find people. Preferably ones who will support you, and laugh with you, and will share their experiences with you. TCNJ is full of exceptional humans who are high achievers in all different areas — don’t neglect them just because you’re involved with different activities. Friends can come from anywhere, so never forget to keep looking.

Character : Discover what you care about. Once you determine what is important to you as an individual, it is much easier to do everything else. Without a strong character in improv, it is much harder to make choices in your scene. The same goes for life. If you have strong ideas or passions, knowing what you need to do next is already laid out.

History : Learn from your past mistakes. The most cliché of all, but the most true. Knowledge comes from mistakes, and success can come from knowledge (and some luck). College is a great place to make mistakes — we are in a safe environment where everyone around us wants us to succeed. People will be there to dust you off and set you on the right path. Don’t be afraid to mess-up, so long as you’re willing to try and fix it.

The ideas behind LARCH are helping to keep me focused and well-aligned this semester, and I’m very grateful for it. The concepts are basic, but the constant repetition and reminders are keeping me sane, steady, and mostly stress-free.

If you often feel overworked/overwhelmed, I’d suggest trying to apply LARCH to your own life. But if you only jive with one of the LARCH ideas, run with-it and ignore the others. One of the greatest “rules” in improv is that the “rules” are meant to be broken, so don’t be afraid to change things up when you need to. What else is keeping you balanced?

If you have any questions about Improv Comedy, The Mixed Signals, or being busy, feel free to email me at

Stephanie Schoppe: “ACT was kind of a place I could go and not worry about grades”

In her second blog post, Stephanie Schoppe recounts overcoming academic struggles by finding support through the All College Theatre (ACT).
Be sure to mark your calendars for ACT’s fall show, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, running October 3rd to October 5th at 8p.m. and
October 6th at 2p.m. and 8p.m.

So we’re about a month into the school year (seems a lot longer though, right?) Maybe by the time this is posted you’ve found a place to call home here. Maybe you’re on a sports team. Maybe you’ve met people in a fraternity or sorority who may very well become brothers and sisters to you. Maybe you and your floormates are besties and you go to Eickhoff at 6:00 every night for dinner. Whatever floats your boat, TCNJ has something for everyone; somewhere on campus there’s a group of people who may just become your best friends. They may even become-dare I say it-your family.

I’d like to share my story of finding that one particular group. During spring semester of my freshman year, someone I became friends with in my music theory class the prior semester mentioned the theater group he was in was in need of people to come in and help build the set for their spring production. He got me to show up one night. I didn’t do much – helped hold screws for people who were drilling, put up glow tape so the actors could see where they were going during a show when it got dark in the theater.  But even though I didn’t do much, something made me come back every night for the rest of the week to help. That group was All College Theatre, TCNJ’s only student-run straight theater group, and I’ve been coming back to them ever since.

The whole “not doing much” thing that I did that one week has since turned into being involved in every production since I joined, doing everything from sound design and build crew to costume design and stage managing. But aside from the opportunities to work on plays, something I apparently love doing and didn’t know that until I joined, ACT has given me something I needed: a place to belong. I was a music major my freshman year, and I was struggling with low grades, a lower GPA than I knew I was capable of having, and a possible dismissal from the department if I didn’t do better. I saw other people in my department excelling, and I felt worthless, stupid; a failure, if you will. ACT was kind of a place I could go and not worry about grades. Everyone was so welcoming and so happy that I joined. It was nice to be somewhere where I felt like I was wanted.

Believe me, it’s a stressful activity to be in. Being at every rehearsal, making sure the actors’ costumes fit, making sure the set is built and is stable. It can wear you out. You get no sleep, especially if say, you’re a stage manager or in the cast and you have to be at every rehearsal. When it gets closer to show time, you’re at rehearsal nearly every night until the wee hours of the night. There’s little to no time to do stuff like read for class or do laundry or eat. Tension is high, everyone’s stressed, and you can sometimes lash out at your best friends for even the most trivial of things. So why do I do it?

Because they’ve been there for me at my worst. When I was eventually dismissed from the music department, they comforted me and told me it was okay, and that I would bounce back from this and do something great. Whenever I’m going through a rough time, I know that they will listen to me and cheer me up. They’re there to calm me down and to hug me when I have a panic attack about whatever happens to be worrying me at the time.  And I’ll always return that kindness and support when they need it. It’s the least I can do.

We’re a family, and I know that sounds super cliché to say, but we are. And I needed that at a time when I felt like I was a failure. Sometimes I still do feel that way, but I know who I can turn to when I need cheering up. That’s what a family is: they’re there for each other, in the best and worst of times. When I look back on my time at TCNJ, when my kids and grandkids ask what college was like for me, I’ll say it was wonderful. Because of ACT, it was wonderful.

ACT’s fall show, “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot”, is a dark comedy that tells the story of the final days and trial of Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus Christ. Our show runs from October 3rd to October 5th at 8 p.m., and October 6th at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. I and the rest of the production staff and cast have worked so hard in the past month to put on a great show for our friends and families, and we would love it if you would come to one of our performances.  Come to a show and see why we exhaust ourselves over an entire month to put on a show for you. Come to a show and see why I’ve found my home here. Come to a show and see why I consider these people my family.