The often-used adage “All the World Is a Stage” is something Morningside University English and rhetoric professor Leslie Werden takes very seriously.

So much so, she works different avenues in and out of the classroom to get more campus community members to be in tune with Klinger-Neal Theatre, Buhler Outdoor Performance Center and Eppley Auditorium shows whenever she can.

“I try to talk in my classes about the theatre department often,” she said. “Whether it’s going to see productions or getting involved on any level possible. I do my best to get them interested.”Russ Wooley, Jamie Lynn Riffenberg, Brock Bourek from Lamb talks to Werden's Page to Stage classRuss Wooley, Jamie Lynn Riffenberg, Brock Bourek from Lamb talks to Werden’s Page to Stage class

“I see there being a natural connection between the students I work with and theatre,” she added. “We do have some crossovers in our majors. Taylor Clemens, an assistant professor in the performing arts, and I have been strategizing ways to get more people involved.”

As an example, Werden is offering a full Shakespeare class in the fall term of the 2022-23 academic year and Clemens is working with a student over the summer on dramaturgical skills. Werden also teaches a Page to Stage class every other spring. “I would love to work with Taylor to co-teach some of these things in the future,” she said.

“An important idea previously mentioned is the dramaturgical one, as it can have immediate benefits,” Werden noted. “It’s researching historical, cultural, and performance information about a play and that could assist with the production and even marketing for and the overall performance. I thoroughly enjoy working with Taylor and look forward to more opportunities we can provide students.”Werden as Amanda with Brian HammanWerden as Amanda with Brian Hamman

Her personal theatre story began at the age of six. She was a narrator for a production in her hometown summer theatre company in Wadena, Minn.

“Honestly, I don’t remember much about that,” she admitted with a laugh. “I knew though that I wanted to do more.”

She has fulfilled that goal plus. Werden has performed at the Sioux City Community Theatre and the Shot in A Dark, Lamb, and New Stage Players. Her most recent role was of Amanda in the Tennessee Williams classic The Glass Menagerie. “Theatre allows you to the chance to develop a new personality,” she said. “I like the challenge of working through that process.”

“I was also able to incorporate the Williams play into the English 295 Literary Theory and Criticism class,” she reflected. “The students took to it quickly and produced some tremendous final papers.”

Werden also takes students to the renowned American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wis., each fall to watch, primarily, live Shakespeare performances.Spring Green trip in the Fall of 2021Spring Green trip in the Fall of 2021

“The students can be professional actors doing what they love on the Spring Green trip,” she added. “It’s a wonderful chance to see Shakespeare, and other playwrights, in an outdoor venue.”

Engaging the younger generation in theatre through literature and performance is the goal. “As Aristotle suggested, watching theatre can offer audiences a way to experience a variety of emotions thereby making them stronger people. That’s my hope, too.”