Theatre grad’s work takes on tough topics
Tears and smiles follow Kirstin Lynch Walsh ’92 and cast of student actors all over New Jersey—from Hackensack to Wildwood.
She teaches theater at GCIT, which boasts an extensive program for aspiring actors. The touring theater group, called ACTing Out, consists of 22 juniors and seniors, and two sophomore interns.
Monologues and original songs address social problems specific to teens, including domestic violence, eating disorders and cutting.
“Kids would come up to us after the show and ask, ‘How did you know my story?’” says Walsh, “and they’ve identified with it.”
The Gloucester County district attorney’s office helped inspire the program when a small group of GCIT students volunteered to reenact restraining order proceedings at a domestic violence forum the office sponsored. So after a crash course in grant writing, Walsh secured funding from the New Jersey Psychological Association, and ACTing Out was born.
According to Walsh, “Journey of a Thousand Miles” was the group’s most significant production to date. The performance shed light on subjects traditionally kept under wraps, like date rape, drug abuse, obesity, domestic abuse and murder. “I think there have always been problems like these, but we deem them less acceptable now. People are more aware that there are alternatives,” Walsh says.
But they don’t just recite lines. To prepare, the young actors soak up others’ experiences by conducting face-to-face interviews and attending meetings of domestic violence organizations. They’ve even visited the Gloucester County Jail to better understand their subjects.
In December 2005, County Superintendent H. Mark Stanwood nominated the group for a Gloucester County Human Relations Commission Humanitarian award.
These days, Walsh is hard to catch between projects. ACTing Out is currently running three different shows, addressing racism, domestic violence and teen pregnancy prevention. Walsh also directs a thespian group at GCIT, and is directing “Summer and Smoke” by Tennessee Williams. “Twelve-hour days are not unusual. And when a student asks to stay after school and work on a monologue or their latest show, how do you tell them no? So spare time? Not really.”
A far cry from her former life in New York City, Westville is home to Walsh and her husband, Shane. The couple met in Ireland, where Walsh’s stepdaughter, Lianda, lives when she’s not spending summers here in South Jersey. Walsh takes advantage of her spare time to fly across the Atlantic for family visits.
Little has changed since Walsh’s busy college years. The daughter of Ben Lynch ’53, M’67, she recalls days at her alma mater working in summer stock and pulling all-nighters dismantling sets in Bunce Hall. “I loved working with Joe Robinette, Bart Healy, Curt Owens and William Morris.”
The faculty helped Walsh develop her approach to theater, she says. “Carolyn O’Donnell ran a touring company…it was all original material based upon interviews. Stage managing for the company, I learned a lot and was able to carry on and develop a similar style of socially conscious theater.”
—Katherine Riepe ’06