Spartanburg, S.C. -
A senior communications major, with a concentration in speech and debate at the University of South Carolina Upstate, was awarded the prestigious Theatre Merit full scholarship, worth $24,000 per year plus stipends and assistantships, to the California Institute of the Arts for his graduate study. Ben Womick, 29, from Spartanburg, will leave for CalArts, located in Valencia near Los Angeles, this summer to begin his masters in fine arts studies in theatrical technical direction and production.
“CalArts is one of the top five programs in the nation in the field of performing arts,” says Womick, who was recruited by the head of the program and several of his grad students, and supported by USC Upstate’s Theatre Department and the Chair of Fine Arts and Communications Studies, Jimm Cox.
“Ben will represent USC Upstate and our theatre program very well at CalArts,” says Cox. He adds that “The CalArts program will further elevate his lighting, stage craft, and technical production capabilities to new heights. The program is highly competitive and all of us in the theatre department were extremely supportive of him as he went through the grueling University/Resident Theatre Association interview and selection process.”
A combination of serendipitous discoveries led Womick to his choice of major as well as his desire to proceed to the graduate level. In high school and in his first years at USC Upstate he was interested in engineering and computer science and he even led and designed a solar powered race car that travelled from Dallas, Tex. to Los Angeles. But his major soon changed to communications after he took a speech class and became involved in USC Upstate’s Mock Trial team. The team advanced to the national level in collegiate championships with Womick as a team captain.
Soon thereafter, an Introduction to Theatre class pulled Womick into the world of lighting, stage craft and the behind-the-scenes aspect of theatre productions. He worked with USC Upstate’s Shoestring Players, the Spartanburg Little Theatre, the Spartanburg Repertory Company and the SC Children’s Theatre on numerous productions including Working, Footloose, A Christmas Story, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sordid Lives and Noises Off in lighting design or in technical direction. He is currently working on the upcoming production of Beehive at the Chapman Cultural Center.
In short, the dabbling in different areas helped Womick realize that “technical theatre is all about the engineering side of art – and all of my dreams are now focused on one discipline.”
He also discovered along the way that he has a love for teaching. He is currently mentoring students in the theatre department to take over his responsibilities on USC Upstate’s Shoestring Players productions, Spartanburg Little Theatre productions, and with USC Upstate’s newly-founded chapter of the U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology.
“I enjoy watching others learn from me,” he says. “The satisfaction that comes from watching them do something ‘out of the box,’ watching people realize their own talents – you can’t put a price on that.” His vision for the future after CalArts includes returning to South Carolina to teach undergraduate classes and freelance work.
“I am falling in love with teaching,” he says.
Womick’s parents reside in Spartanburg. His mother, Dr. Patricia Griffin, is a physician and his father, Buddy Womick, is a contractor.