Aramaki — a native of West Linn, Oregon — graduated in December with a BA in theatre arts studies
The road to graduation looks different for every student. This truth especially hits home for senior Alyssa Aramaki, who will represent the Department of Theatre and Media Arts for spring 2021 convocation.
“My journey has not been the traditional four-year path,” she said, in part due to difficulties with anxiety and depression. “I had several semesters where I was just floating, surviving, taking part-time classes to keep going. It was a huge struggle for a while.”
Being asked to speak for convocation reaffirmed that her story was an important one to tell.
“When they asked me, it was a reminder that all of our stories are different and that’s OK,” she said. “For a while I felt like I needed to hide how long I’d been in school. But we don’t need to be ashamed of our struggles. It’s not about those little details or mistakes you make; it’s about who you are and whether you persevere.”
As a theatre arts studies major with an emphasis in playwriting, Aramaki came to BYU already interested in theatre and performing. But settling on a major was not as straightforward as she expected. “I started out wanting to be a theatre teacher,” she said. “I was drawn to being an educator.”
She shifted gears after serving a performing mission in Nauvoo for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“My personality was growing and changing. I was still drawn to the arts and really wanted to learn more. I felt more confident in my understanding of the emotions and issues they explore,” she said. “Over time I felt more drawn to deep emotions and the hard stories that people experience. I wanted to be part of telling those stories, embracing my anxiety and depression to help people feel less alone, because it made me feel less alone.”
During her time at BYU, Aramaki was a member of the a cappella ensemble Noteworthy. She played the lead in the George Nelson play “Single Wide,” and more recently played a ghost in October’s Illusionary Tale “Balete Drive.”
Performing in “Illusionary Tales” allowed Aramaki to experience first-hand how ingenuity could fill in the gaps created by pandemic restrictions. She and one of her fellow cast members never met in person, but interacted through a 19th century projection technique known as Pepper’s Ghost. “It was so cool to see technology inspired by something so far in the past,” she said. “We could still make theatre happen and tell stories even when we were limited by the pandemic. I love seeing how the technical aspects, the design, and the crew come together for every play.”
Aramaki’s message to her fellow graduates is one of optimism. “We never need to feel like we’re behind or too old or missing out. All of our journeys look different. For everyone who has made it this far, now they just need to take the next step.”
Aramaki and her husband are expecting their first baby in a few months. “It’s a great thing that came from COVID,” she said. “I had a lot of time to think about my life and what I wanted. That’s the next big step in my life.”
After graduation she hopes to pursue an acting career, focusing on voice acting and voiceover work while pandemic restrictions are still in place.
“I want to audition for more film and theatre opportunities, whatever that looks like,” she said. “It’s really what gives me life and fulfills me. Telling stories through the arts help me feel a connection to others.”