Alum spotlight: Victoria Kesling Councill (BFA ’08)

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Victoria Kesling Councill BFA Theatre Education ’08 (and BFA in Art Education ’08)

In addition to being the theatre teacher at New Kent High School, Victoria is also the Artistic Director for the Kent England Exchange Production. The two “Kents” co-produce a musical every two years in both countries with casts combined from both countries. “We cast both shows together, then rehearse and try to be as parallel as we can. When we did Cabaret, Sally was always British and Cliff was always American.”

International production of West Side Story in 2019 for NKHS/ Astor College for the Arts in Kent, UK

Thinking back to the school experience that got Victoria interested in theatre, “I was in elementary school and the Virginia Beach school system had a program where students attended dress rehearsals for the Virginia Opera. I was seeing Carmen and they stopped the rehearsal because a gate came off its hinges and the techs came out to fix it. I remember being struck by that, because I didn’t have this awareness of these other people.”

International Production of Chicago 2017 for NKHS/ Astor College for the Arts in Kent, UK.

Victoria chose VCU, because they allowed her to be a double major in Theatre Performance and Art, but she later learned, “the only tracks that required directing were Stage Management and Education.” So, she switched to Education halfway through her Freshman year. “I love all of it and when you’re an educator, you’re going to do all of it.”

NKHS Cast and crew of “The Laramie Project” with Zach Sneider (friend of Matthew Shepard) and Dr. Rulon Stacy (who flew in to see our production) at the International Thespian Festival in 2018. Dramatics Magazine article on the production here!

She still uses the safety tips that Kevin McGranahan ( Scene Shop Foreman) taught in shop, because “kids aren’t inherently safe. Lou (Szari – former Technical Director) used to tell us amazing horror stories and it’s good to share them with my students to get them to put on goggles!”

Presenting the Administrator of the Year Award as the VA Thespian Chapter Director in 2022 at Shenandoah University.

When Victoria was a student teacher, “I had an experience with a student with autism.” That resulted in her job teaching at the Faison School for Autism, where it was “a great opportunity to learn and get a pay check.”

With students in 2021’s “Dress Like a Teacher Day” at NKHS

In 2010, Victoria accepted the position as the theatre teacher at rural New Kent HS. She’s also expanded her influence to VCU, where she takes her students on the bus to the student matinees. “I have tons of kids who went to VCU. I have three kids in department now and two of the 15 students for next year’s Musical Theatre are mine.”

Visiting a former student and now fellow VCU theatre alum (Destiny Martinez – BFA ’21) on her first professional Stage Management gig in DC in 2019.

Victoria pursued her Masters in a summer program at the University of Houston that sent them to work at a different location each summer, including:

  • New York at Lincoln Center
  • Chicago with Steppenwolf
  • London with RADA

She muses, “My dream future job is working for VCU and creating a program like this there.”

Taking courses at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London for the University of Houston MA program in 2016

Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the March 2022 Theatre Alumni newsletter