Rural America providing the stage for FHSU’s Camarena

By Diane Gasper-O'Brien on July, 8 2021

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Olivia Camarena says she couldn’t have found a better internship than the one she landed at Main Street Arts Council (MSAC) out of Hoxie.

Olivia, who is majoring in early childhood education with a minor in theater education at Fort Hays State University, is working this summer as a student assistant director for the 2021 Main Street Summer Theater Festival. MSAC is featuring summer productions in five towns in northwest Kansas.

“I love working with kids, and I really enjoy theater,” said Olivia, who will be a sophomore at FHSU this fall. “I thought it was the perfect match.”

She also has experience in both those areas. She directed three elementary school programs as a high school student in Osage City, a small town about 40 miles south of Topeka. She also helped teach summer school and has acting experience as well. Olivia has been around the theater since she was 3 years old. Her mom, Kathy Camarena, even started a theater program in their hometown.

“We knew she would be a good asset to us this summer, and any job I’ve asked of her, she has just taken it on,” said Karl Pratt, executive director of Main Street Arts Council.

One such job for Olivia is playing a major role with choreography for the Quinter show, “101 Dalmatians,” when the lead choreographer went on maternity leave.

“It’s been great – another opportunity to do what I love,” Olivia said. “Not only have I learned a lot working with youth in general, but I’ve done some fundraising and marketing, something I hadn’t done before. So it’s been a great learning experience.”

Olivia was introduced to working with children at a young age. Her mom was a speech and drama teacher in the Topeka school system while Olivia was growing up.

Olivia said her mom has been a big influence in her career decision, and she decided to check out her mother’s alma mater – Fort Hays State – when she was looking for colleges.

“When I came and toured FHSU, it felt like home to me right away,” Olivia said. “I loved my first year in college and am really looking forward to next year.”

Olivia is excited about returning to school this fall following her in-depth, hands-on experience this summer.

She worked at the ticket booth in Fort Hays State’s Felten-Start Theatre during the school year. But after this summer, she thinks she is ready for the next step.

“I took an acting class last year, wanted to get the feel of what theater in college was like,” she said. “I loved it, and now, I want to start auditioning for shows my sophomore year. I’m excited about becoming more involved in acting at Fort Hays State after learning more about theater this summer. It’s been a great internship.”

Diane Gasper-O'Brien

I am a content specialist at FHSU, and storytelling is part of my DNA. Those close to me say I was born talking and that I haven’t stopped since! Writing began at a young age for me, and my entire professional career has been spent putting words down on paper. My passion for telling stories has taken me many places over the years, and some of my most memorable moments have been covering Tiger Nation. I am a Tiger through and through. My entire family – my husband, our two sons, and I – all attended FHSU, and we will soon have four degrees in the family when our youngest completes his MBA. I am honored to spread the great news of Fort Hays State by telling the stories of our Tiger family – students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the university. God bless, and go Tigers!


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