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Share Your Story: #CFACGrad Cameron Cox

Graduating theatre student Cameron Cox reflects on his time at BYU

What I appreciate most about having a major centered in the arts is that I can point to specific projects and performances that have shaped who I am as a theatre maker and what each performance taught me. I am disappointed to have the last year of my undergraduate cut short, but am happy to comply with responsible social distancing measures advised. Given my lack of a formal graduation and the opportunity provided by the College of Fine Arts and Communications #CFACGrad campaign, I would like to pay tribute to the academic opportunities my BYU experience has given me.

My first BYU production was stage managing a student Mask Club production of Sarah Ruhl’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone.” I was young and eager, and definitely had a learning curve realizing all of the different responsibilities that I would have to adopt as a part of this job. But the text was beautiful and introduced me to a subspecies of less mainstream theatre to discover. Working on this also provided me with the contacts to become a resident stage manager of the Nelke Experimental Theatre. That job has been the catalyst for my volunteer work on so many different Mask Club projects including stage managing a production of “The Little Prince,” which to this day may be the most successful concept execution of a student performance I have ever seen. This also allowed me to jump into the world of lighting design by working on a production of “Finding Nemo: The Musical” and “Lord of the Flies,” most recently.

I was then somewhat thrown into the world of new play development, becoming the third stage manager in as many months of an original work entitled “happysadness.” This script tackled the difficult subjects of anxiety, depression and suicide with the stark juxtaposition of bright colors and puppetry. It may be the most powerful text I have been able to help bring to life. Anyone who worked on the project will agree that on several levels there were organizational shortcomings along with misunderstandings on every level. But I was taught the important lesson that shows that have the most obstacles put in front of them often have the messages that need to be heard the most. I was also later able to take my experiences working with a new work on tour as stage manager of “Romeo y Julieta.”

My junior year I began to expand my interests. I continued to stage manage, starting with work on the production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” But my close work with directors and dramaturgs on my previous productions led me to explore directing and dramaturgy as well. I found myself in the position of taking directing classes during the day and watching those principles at work in the evening. This process also helped me develop one of the skills I most treasure: the ability to make myself enjoy whatever I am working on. I will be the first to admit that absurdism is not my favorite genre, and I really struggled with “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern” at first. But prolonged exposure offered me the choice to either be miserable or expand my horizons. I chose the latter and developed a love of the text and the show we were creating, even if I still won’t be going out of my way to watch another absurdist piece.

Concurrent to my work on “Rosencrantz” was my introduction to dramaturgy through Mask Clubs “The Twilight Zone’s The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” and “Weirder Things.” I am captivated by the flexibility of its scope and its potential to reach out so directly to audiences as well as to the rest of the production team.

I packed my senior year with projects, and while at times I certainly felt overwhelmed, I could not be prouder of the work that I produced in this period. I stage managed the opera “The Magic Flute,” was assistant director on “Much Ado About Nothing,” lead dramaturg on BYU’s “Little Shop of Horrors” and directed a 35-minute Mask Club adaptation of the film “What’s Up Doc?” This year was a culmination of all of my experiences up to this point.

Assistant directing “Much Ado About Nothing” was probably the most fun I have had in a rehearsal room ever. Watching my professor and peers put together this show was so informative. The love and sense of community that this cast was able to foster with one another epitomizes what I love about what live performance can do. The final product was also so good. This was the first time where the show I worked on did not require my physical presence for every performance, but I couldn’t stay away because I just wanted to see how the audience was going to react every night.

Cameron Cox (left) during a rehearsal for BYU’s “The Magic Flute.” (Courtesy of Cameron Cox)

“Little Shop of Horrors” is the most ironic project I worked on in my college career. As lead dramaturg, I was able to dive into a research hole about the history of the story and its various adaptations. I also had a really fun time exploring the history of science fiction as a genre and creating articles about it for the BYU dramaturgy website and an engaging study guide. I also created fun lobby displays that highlighted everything I love about dramaturgy. The irony is that despite all the work I put in, I never actually got to watch the show with an audience due to social distancing.

I am very happy with the work I have done at BYU but the most rewarding project I did in my time here was the directing capstone Mask Club production of “What’s Up Doc?” that I staged in February. The idea of adapting that text for the stage came to me when I was in high school. Through my years working on projects at BYU, I compiled a list of what I think makes the most successful work. From that, I cast, rehearsed and mounted the show. I am so proud of what my cast was able to create and the final product that came together. This idea — five years in the making — was only possible because of the forum provided to me by the department and the experiences, also provided by the department, to help me shape it.

Remotely — and in the midst of a pandemic — is not how I had planned on or would have chosen to end my BYU experience. But I would be remiss to not acknowledge how grateful I am for every professor, peer, performer, mentor and technician I have worked with to get to where I am today. As I am considering where to go to complete my graduate degree in theatre, I cannot and will not forget everything BYU provided me.

The publication of student articles allows the College of Fine Arts and Communications to highlight the experiential learning opportunities and behind-the-scenes experiences of students and faculty and tell stories with a unique voice and point of view. Submit your story at