Vaughn Haynes-New Life in Theater Directing

Man with brown hair wearing a blue sweater
Vaughn Haynes

How would you describe your time as an English or Film Studies major at MSU?

I’ve had so much fun throughout my time here! The best thing about studying English is its applicability to everyday life. Being able to appreciate stories and media on a deeper level is so enriching and makes consuming them so much more fulfilling. I’ve been able to read so many diverse works that broadened my horizons to the world beyond what’s just in front of me.

Which classes, instructors, or experiences particularly stand out for you and why? How did they prepare you for the next phase of your life?

Too many to count! Dr. Aslami’s intro classes were eye-opening to me and set me up for success both in college and in facets outside of the classroom. She showed me how to use, and in turn, give, feedback to others, but more importantly, to always remember that why we do is just as important as how we do it. I still find myself four years later coming back to pointers and comments she gave me when I’m backed against a wall. Dr. Rachman’s Seminar in Critical Theory and Dr. Ma’s Honor Seminar in English were some of the most intense yet rewarding classes I’ve taken. They both covered literature across different periods of time but both ultimately revealed a profound truth that human nature is always evolving. These professors’ standards never quavered and the rigorous yet extremely supportive environments they created pushed me to produce some of my best work. Dr. Figueroa’s class in women authors introduced me to some of my favorite books that I still reread to this day, like Kindred, Ordinary Girls, and The Gangster We Are All Looking For. Whenever my friends ask what they should read next, I often find myself recommending authors I first encountered in this class. And of course, I have to give a shout out to Dr. Guzzetta who served as my advisor for my senior honors project. She was so kind and insightful and always honest with my ideas, even if some were more outlandish than others.

What advice would you give future English or Film Studies majors, based on your experiences in the department?

Be unabashedly yourself! Professionalism is so lame. The best way to do anything is to have the most fun while doing it, and if that means bending the rules a bit, then do what you can to make it your own. 5 years from now, the people that’ll be remembered the most are the people who left their mark on the people around them.

What coursework-related projects were/are you working on this year, and what interests or excites you about them?

I was able to marry my two majors (Theatre & English) together by doing an honors thesis project last Fall. I wrote a full length-play and was able to stage a production of it with my friends. I explored the relationship between theatre and its audience by basing its story off of standard theatrical conventions that require suspension of disbelief. We offered a full-scale deconstruction of theatre and its praxis, with some silly goofs for good measure 🙂

What are your hopes and aspirations, post-graduation?

I plan to move to Chicago with my friends and jumpstart my career in directing theatre. I want to make my voice known throughout the community while bringing new and upcoming stories to life and spreading their messages to audiences. Eventually I want to go to grad school in order to teach so I can hopefully inspire students the same way I was inspired here.

If you’re interested in doing so, please reflect a bit on the strange experience of being a graduating senior during the ongoing pandemic. What resources have been most useful to you in navigating this unprecedented situation?

To say it’s strange is an understatement! Having the whole world rocked to its core really showed me just how temporary everything is. I think that that, along with the fact I’m about to be out of education for the first time after 16 years, has really shown me that what I previously thought were unshakable pillars are really just tenets I’ve held on to. The fact that now more than ever that my life is what I make it is scary but also exciting. The name of the game for me is to figure out how to not get lost in all the noise, and hopefully have a little bit of fun along the way. Having an amazing support system of friends and peers has helped me keep my sanity and to remember that at the end of the day we’re all human beings.

Faculty Shout-Out by Dr. Steve Rachman: “Vaughn is a fine student with a good aptitude for thinking about critical/theoretical studies and then applying them to literary texts. He wrote strong papers on Camus’ The Plague and another highly intelligent one on True Grit and the Western working through Richard Slotkin’s Gunfighter Nation. He also has taught me so much about the deep intricacies of Meme-culture!”