Not Your Everyday Walk in the Park
This Brandeis senior straddles the worlds of art and science, and is in no hurry to choose between them
For Robert St. Laurence ’11, the chance to play the role of pointillist painter Georges Seurat in the theater department's production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George" exceeded any expectation he’d ever had.
"The show is one of my favorite musicals, and the role of Georges is one I knew I wanted to play some day," says the Brandeis senior. "I just didn’t think I’d get a chance to do it so soon."
But even among a cast filled with a select group of third-year graduate acting students, St. Laurence stood out in a lead role that demanded tremendous range, musical sophistication and vocal dexterity.
St. Laurence is one of more than 300 undergraduates who participate in on-campus theater productions every year, either onstage or backstage. Brandeis has embraced and nurtured performing artists of all kinds from its earliest days, from Leonard Bernstein, who served on the music faculty from 1951 to 1956, to actress Debra Messing ’90.
But for St. Laurence, who had performed in regional theater groups from the age of 9, that tradition was only a part of Brandeis’ appeal. With his passion for puzzles and problem solving, the Boston-area native dreamed of becoming an engineer, and in Brandeis he saw a place where he could pursue all his interests.
And they are many. "Because of my interest in engineering, I moved toward physics, then biology," he says, "but when I took my first psychology course, I fell in love with the field. Psychology brought together all the questions that I asked myself on a daily basis, and I knew I wanted to be part of finding out more about human behavior." St. Laurence is scheduled to graduate in May with a B.A. in psychology and cognitive science.
After graduation, St. Laurence hopes to work in a research lab, while keeping his eyes and ears open for further performance opportunities.
"'Sunday in the Park with George,'" he says, "is about precisely the dilemma I face: the choice between a practical path in life and a passion for the arts. Prior to being cast as Georges, I thought I had decided in favor of life, rather than art. But rehearsing and performing this role made me realize that, to be happy, I must keep both passions alive."
"I am not yet ready to choose one path to the exclusion of the other," he says. "Thanks to the broad education I received at Brandeis, I don’t have to."