Here at Gannon, we like to check in with recent graduates from time to time to see what life after college is like, and where their path here at the University has led them. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment and optimism that comes from these encounters; and it is with those emotions in mind that I am proud to bring you our first feature on alumna Alaina Manchester.

Having graduated in 2007, Alaina was a theatre and communication arts major. While here, she was heavily involved with our beloved Schuster Theatre, serving as president of Alpha Psi Omega as well as another term as vice president following. Luckily, her interests have carried over into her current occupation as manager of the Young People’s Chorus of Erie. Perhaps most exciting, is how much Gannon’s program has helped her prepare for life after graduation.

“Gannon’s programs taught me the value of process of product; it’s not that product isn’t important, but art shouldn’t be considered art without involving some kind of message behind it. I began to apply the principles of the theatre everywhere, doing some work for Americore before eventually returning from graduate school in Florida. Life is crazy and constantly changing, but it’s also quite like college; you’re going to get whatever you put into it,” said Manchester.

While one of Manchester’s favorite things was certainly not the weather, there were plenty of reasons she felt attracted to the Gannon community – specifically the amount of difference and diversity promoted on campus, as well as the common moral code held by many of the professors and students here.

“Whether it’s the result of being a Catholic campus or carefully choosing their employees (and probably a combination of the two), it leads to an incredibly open and warm feeling around the University,” said Manchester.

Her first experience with theatre was in the sixth grade, playing the cook in her school’s rendition of “Alice in Wonderland.”  She hung back from continuing theatre until high school, where Manchester then started with a role as a dancer in a production of “Footloose.”  Being shy and a bit of a late bloomer, she has come far from the teenager she once was.

When asked about her current plans, Manchester begins to tell us all about her current production (to be opening at our very own Schuster Theatre), entitled “The Melancholy Play.”

“I’m directing, and it’s a farce- currently using themes like slapstick comedy and plot twists- but going deeper, including mask work to explain a story about love, longing and finding the missing piece in your life. It really is a great show to put on around Valentine’s Day,” she said.

Lastly, she provides some excellent advice for prospective students.

“Choosing the right school can be nerve-wracking; people tend to think school is like a soul mate, and that there’s only one that’s perfect for you. I don’t believe that’s true. You really need to visit the community, speak with students and the professors in your field in order to get a feel for the university. That’s what brought me to Gannon. If you don’t have a field, try and think of the things that interested you in high school; you can look at as many numbers and statistics as you’d like, but nothing’s going to feel quite like that gut feeling.”

While is it completely important to take your time in finding the right place for you, we are happy that Manchester experienced such a productive and successful time here at Gannon University. She is clearly doing the things she loves, emotion that is bound to show in the work she does.

Those interested in attending “The  Melancholy Play” can see it on its opening night, Feb. 13, at Schuster Theatre.