For Juliet Dempsey (C ‘24), life plays out in a series of acts. As Juliet walks from class to class, the scene comes to life in their mind. Classrooms become the backdrop of minute interactions which make up this daily performance. Each classmate bears the markers of a story waiting to be teased out. Each step in the long trek of "la vie quotidienne" is a choreographed dance in this imagined play. It’s a unique perspective, honed by years on and off the stage.
Juliet started theater when they were young, her mother enrolling her in various camps and activities to keep her and her older sister out from under foot. The sisters tried various activities, but with opposite results: Whatever their sister excelled at, Juliet quit. Eventually, they settled on theater. "There's something about performing and creating a show that I thought was so powerful and engaging," they say.
As an actor in her ninth grade play, Juliet watched as lights, sound, set, and costumes came together to make the show a cohesive piece. Juliet remembers the experience with nostalgic awe. “It felt like Broadway,” they say with a smile. The next year, Juliet wasn’t cast in the musical. It wasn’t personal—Juliet “was not a good singer.” Pulling her aside, her teacher said, “I want you to be on this side of the table. That’s where you belong.” From the other side of the table, Juliet turned to behind–the–scenes roles. They became a lighting designer and, though they’ve held other roles since, it remains their main focus.
For Juliet, lights are everything. “Think about a performance without lights,” they say. “Lights guide us to the stories,” she says as her bangled wrists dance along with her words. When designing a lighting set, Juliet doesn’t want you to notice all the work she’s put in. Her lights reveal a narrative arc that builds the emotional intensity of the show without stealing it. Juliet grants her deliberate dedication to lighting to telling the story they think should be told. Whether it’s through playwriting, directing, or lighting design, Juliet pulls stories from unlikely places and with a quiet smile, puts them into action.
A self-proclaimed “slash-ist,” she is a performer/director/designer/writer/advocate. Well–accomplished in all of these areas, Juliet uses their passion and knowledge of theater to further their engagement and learning. Theater isn’t just a hobby for Juliet, she’s eager to explore the opportunities for advocacy that a major and career in theater will bring. She describes herself as “a person who always wants to do more and learn new things.” They are constantly seeking out new ways to express themselves and work towards a more just world.
In an effort to combat the culture of forcing people into uncomfortable situations, something Juliet calls far too prevalent, she prioritizes constant conversation with the casts in plays she works on. “Working with everybody, creating the show together,” Juliet says, is her number one priority. Juliet sees theater as a path toward social change and a “modality for advocacy.” Juliet uses theater as a way to engage with advocacy. As the technical director of Front Row Theater Company, they help organized a community outreach event to pair with each production, including the upcoming show “Stop, Kiss.”
A student who recognizes both her achievements and her areas for growth, Juliet is, as she says, “always going to be finding new ways to make theater more socially relevant, or to find ways to create art in different ways and more engaging ways.”
As part of this effort, they’re committed to making theater more accessible: “I don’t want to just create art for theater people, I want to create art for everyone.”
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Julia is a junior, which we have since determined is incorrect. The piece has since been updated. Street regrets this error.