Senior Spotlight: Gunner Joachim

Leah Boynton

FEATURES EDITOR

Fourth-year Gunner Joachim will be boarding a plane to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, April 10 to compete in the National Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival for his senior seminar project. He won at the Region 8 Festival with his dramaturgical research for the play Gaslight, which was performed in the  Ruth B. Shannon Center Oct. 12-16 of 2017. 

Joachim is a double major in Theater and Communication Arts and History with a minor in English. He is the coach of Whittier Tells Funnies (WTF), the Whittier College Improvisation Team, and President of Phi Alpha Theta, the history honors society. He is also a member of the theatre honors society Alpha Psi Omega. As an active member of the Whittier College Theatre Department, Joachim has participated in many shows. 

When Joachim visited Whittier College with his cousin, alumna Hannah Ellett, he immediately felt at home. “As soon as I got on campus, it felt kind of right, and it clicked. I really enjoyed seeing the community and the way the professors were interacting with students. It felt like the environment I wanted to be in.” 

With encouragement from Professor of Theater and Communication Arts Gil Gonzalez, Joachim decided to pursue a double major after originally only declaring a History major. “Whether it was a history or theater class, I was able to find connections between what I was reading and talking about,” said Joachim. He said that neither degree would have been the same had he not been a double major. 

For his senior project in History, Joachim looked at antebellum New Orleans, focusing on the idea of performance. He studied enslaved people of color as well as free people of color and how they presented themselves in real life. He also looked at cultural activities and how they related to identities in resistance to the white power structures.

Another way Joachim has left his mark at Whittier College was through working on and participating in the Theare Department. He immediately became involved as a first-year when he played Louis in Angels in America by Tony Kushner. “It was certainly a challenge coming into a new program, but was a rewarding experience,” said Joachim. “It set this tone throughout the rest of my experience here at school with the positivity, the support, and the ability to grow and learn in the department.”

Joachim was in other shows during his time at Whittier College, including As You Like It, Big Love, Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged, and, most recently, Hamlet. His favorite show to work on was the Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged because he developed a tight bond with the cast. “It was such a tight knit group. I like doing smaller shows in regards to how many people are in the production because you make a really tight, close connection with them,” said Joachim. 

Joachim started theatre when he was in the fifth grade. He played a guard in the play Robin Hood and had only one line, but it made the audience laugh. He was inspired by this moment and really enjoyed the feeling of making people laugh. After this, he started to take classes at Playhouse Merced, the community theatre in his home city, Merced, California.

Joachim is passionate about storytelling through theater. “Story is very important in our lives. The stories we tell ourselves and what we learn from other people’s stories. Both on an individual level . . . and on a wider cultural level, theatre is interesting because it brings those stories to life,” said Joachim. Joachim is also fascinated with the way theatre is ever-changing, and how a show does not remain the same performance-to-performance. “It’s never set in stone, but rather, it keeps growing and evolving,” said Joachim. 

 Joachim's work "Gaslight" won at the Region 8 Festival and he will be heading to Washington, D.C. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GUNNER JOACHIM)

Joachim's work "Gaslight" won at the Region 8 Festival and he will be heading to Washington, D.C. (PHOTO COURTESY OF GUNNER JOACHIM)

For his senior project in Theatre, Joachim did dramaturgy for Gaslight working alongside the director, Professor of Theatre and Communication Arts Katie Liddicoat. “Dramaturgy is like working as a researcher, but as a researcher for a production of a show,” said Joachim. “[Liddicoat and I] identified several themes and key elements in the show that we wanted to research and elaborate on, and have discussions on with the cast.” 

To complete the project, Joachim created multiple video essays for the cast of the show discussing topics such as gender and class in 1880s Victorian London. He also gave multiple presentations for the cast that covered the period as a whole and gaslighting as a form of psychological abuse, answering questions throughout the rehearsal process. 

“The interesting thing about Gaslight is that it is so rooted in a particular historical time in regards to its context,” said Joachim. “My track in history is European and Latin American. I’ve taken a lot of classes on this time period [and was] able to incorporate a lot of the readings and ideas about what was happening during the time.” 

Joachim was grateful for the experience, which led him to want to do more research of its kind in the future. “It was a way of making history come alive through the play,” he said. “It is different reading about it than seeing it truthfully reenacted on stage with historical precision.” 

The project allowed Joachim to connect his passions for history and theater. “I’ve always felt very strongly about the interdisciplinary method, and my experience here has emphasized that. What was cool about the Gaslight project was that it allowed me to demonstrate, through a practical means, how those two disciplines can come together,” said Joachim. He said that both disciplines helped to inform each other through the project. 

Joachim submitted his project to the Region 8 KCACTF  Festival. He prepared a case book that detailed his entire process, a poster board, and a presentation, and he spent the week in Arizona taking workshop classes from a professional dramaturg. Joachim competed against approximately nine other students and won the opportunity to resubmit his research to Washington, D.C. for the national festival. He then was selected from students all over the country to compete in D.C. 

“When it came time for the awards ceremony . . . I wasn’t expecting my name to be called. I was definitely floored and it was really exhilarating,” said Joachim. He is looking forward to experiencing the festival and taking more master classes in dramaturgy. “It is going to be really great for building professional connections and learning more about dramaturgy. I’m excited to have this opportunity to work alongside professionals,” said Joachim. 

When he is not in the Shannon Center working on a show, Joachim leads the Whittier Tells Funnies (WTF) Improvisation Team as their coach. He has been involved since his second year. The club plays improvisation games and enjoy making people laugh, all on the spot. “It is very cooperative and team intensive, and that’s what I really enjoy about it, the creativity and spontaneity of it,” said Joachim.  WTF meets every Tuesday in Diehl 118 and Wednesday in Diehl 104 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. each week. The club is putting on a senior show to celebrate their graduating members on April 27 in Club 88 at 7 p.m. 

Joachim is currently applying for fellowships to do more research for theatres. During his year working in a new theatre, Joachim would develop practical skills and apply for graduate school to pursue a Master’s and later a PhD in theatrical research, specifically, dramaturgy. 

“I always feel like the professors at Whittier do such a good job encouraging you to branch out and try your hardest, while also setting achievable but high standards. My experience with professors is that they’ve always pushed me to go beyond what I thought I could do,” said Joachim. 

He encourages all students to consider auditioning for Alpha Psi Omega’s showcase, his last theater performance on campus. Students can audition on April 14 with a monologue, a dance, a song, or any kind of performance. 

“Everything is going too fast,” said Joachim. He is going to miss the community he has built with his friends, the clubs and organizations that he has been involved with on campus, and the memories he has made through his time as a Poet.