Anna Torchia ’17 was 13 and playing a munchkin in a community theater production of “The Wizard of Oz” when she first heard about Stephens College. The young woman playing Dorothy told her she would be attending Stephens and that Toto was coming to college, too.

Intrigued, Torchia, who grew up in Overland Park, Kan., researched Stephens and discovered a school, not too far from home, with an excellent theatre program and room for pets in the dorms


“That’s when I decided, ‘I’m going to go to Stephens College,’” she said. “It was never really a question or an option; I just knew that’s where I was going.”

On Dec. 15, Torchia, who is majoring in theatre arts, will deliver the undergraduate commencement speech for Stephens College graduation. She is among 40 undergraduate and graduate students who are receiving degrees at the event, which begins at 6 p.m. in the Kimball Ballroom of Lela Raney Wood Hall on the Stephens campus.

Rob Doyen, professor of theatre at Stephens, nominated Torchia to speak at the commencement ceremony.

“She is an excellent student and has been an integral part of our program since her arrival,” he said.

Torchia was a little girl when her mother began taking her to theater productions in the Kansas City area. Before long, she took the stage herself, performing in community theater and school productions.

At 15, Torchia made her directing debut for a one-act festival at her high school. She was hooked.

“I fell in love with directing,” she said.

Once Torchia discovered her passion, a career in theater was never in question.

“It was never really a choice in my mind,” she said.

When Torchia arrived at Stephens, she was in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program for theatre management. However, she soon realized she wanted to write more than was required and switched to the Bachelor of Arts program, which allowed her to take more English and history classes. It also meant she would need to find summer internships because B.A. theatre students don’t participate in Okoboji Summer Theatre, the College’s summer stock theatre in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

But that was no problem for Torchia. She spent one summer with the InterUrban ArtHouse in Overland Park, Kan.; and two summers with the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass., one as intern and the other as an associate company manager.

She’s already interviewing for a number of permanent jobs out East. Her goal: move to New York City and work in arts administration.

Dr. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, dean of the School of Creative and Performing Arts, isn’t surprised by Torchia’s success.

“Anna is a remarkably gifted young woman, an amalgam of talent, intellect and discipline,” she said. “It has been rewarding to witness all her accomplishments at Stephens.”

Torchia said a number of people inspired her at Stephens, but those who made the biggest impression are Mardirosian; Lee Heinz, assistant professor of musical theatre; and Lamby Hedge, associate professor of theatre arts, who once gave her some simple but powerful advice.

“Lamby said, ‘You have to follow your bliss and do what makes you happy,’” Torchia said. “I don’t know if she remembers telling me that, but it has stuck with me.”

Torchia’s advice for younger students is to be their own best advocate.

“Ask for what you need, and more often than not it will come through for you because people at Stephens want to see you succeed,” she said. “People will advocate for you once they know what you want, but you have to make the first move.”

Tags : Student Success, School of Creative & Performing Arts, Theatre

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