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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., April 2, 2020—Williams College senior John “Jack” Romans has been named a Thomas J. Watson Fellow for 2020-2021. Winners of the fellowship receive a stipend of $36,000 for 12 months of independent study and travel outside of the United States.
Romans joins 46 other students selected as Watson Fellows who hail from eight countries and 20 states. Selected from private liberal arts colleges and universities across the United States, Watson Fellows will travel the world exploring a diverse range of topics and disciplines.
A theater major from West Saint Paul, Minn., Romans will use the fellowship to pursue a project titled “Never Growing Up: Learning from Children’s Theatre Practices.” Working with artists, theatre companies, and festivals around the world, his project aims to explore ways in which theater practices for young audiences teach us about universal storytelling.
“As an aspiring director, much of the personal growth in this project will come from the risk of mingling my own artistic ideas and craft with the unique works of international companies,” said Romans, who participated in a student-run theater company at Williams and also served as a director, stage technician, and teaching assistant. “But there will also be moments like learning how these companies present their shows across cultures that will become incredibly influential for my own work.”
Romans’ research will take him to Australia, South Africa, The Netherlands, and Indonesia, where he will work with various children’s theater companies, including the Papermoon Puppet Theatre, an Indonesian puppet company that is one of the most active international puppet companies from the Asia Pacific region. He will conclude his year of study and travel in Cape Town, South Africa, where he will work with the Magnet Theatre Company, supporting its mission to tell stories through dance and puppetry.
“Researching the work of these companies and others like them has already impacted the ways in which I make [art], especially as a writer and director,” said Romans, who spent a semester in 2019 at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and has worked in productions of the MNOpera, Children’s Theatre Company, NYU Tisch, and Ordway Center. “However, the real growth of an artist requires immersion, getting my hands dirty and putting myself into real work.”
Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.