Curtain Up! Light the Lights! UST Theatre Alumnus Sharing Talents & Gifts at Trike Theatre
Credits UST with “making me who I am today”
Chris Tennison, B.A. ’02 in Drama, is the only one in his family with an artistic bent. The first time he realized it, he was a Houston kindergartener playing the role of a bird in “Noah’s Ark” and sporting a big beak.
When You Know, You Just Know
“As I walked out onto the stage, I fell flat on my face, and the audience thought it was hilarious, and I thought that was cool,” Tennison remembered. “What I didn’t know at the time was that when I fell, my beak was knocked sideways. So every time I spoke, the audience laughed and laughed. I loved the response, and the idea was planted.”
Not far from the University of Arkansas where he earned his MFA, the actor, director and educator serves as Head of Academy (a position created just for him) at the thriving Trike Theatre in Bentonville, home of Walmart’s global headquarters. The presently shaggily bearded, immensely likable and rich-voiced Tennison enjoys what he does and spreads the word on local TV.
He said, “We’re all about cultivating creativity, building character and supporting community. We make better humans through theatre at Trike. I bring an awareness of the power of theatre to impact cultural change—to grow empathy, tolerance and compassion for other people.”
Tennison has helped to attract more older youths to Trike’s classes. He believes it’s where many troubled teens need to be.
He explained, “I teach so many kids who are on the ropes and who get pulled off the ropes by the arts. We accept kids for who they are—it’s extremely validating.”
His UST Experience Was Formative
Tennison speaks about his experiences at University of St. Thomas with obvious affection. “UST made me who I am today. I can’t imagine how I am the person I am professionally and internally without UST. It was so formative to how I think and believe, and it led to my conversion to Catholicism.”
He talks with fond appreciation about Professors Sam Havens and Claire McDonald and adds, “I was blown away by the intellectual prowess of every professor at St. Thomas. Professor McDonald was the person who first introduced me to theatre for young audiences and lit the flame that has guided me to where and who I have become.”
Tennison is transitioning to the job of Assistant Artistic Director at Trike. But like most people in the professional arts, he has worn several non-theatre professional hats over the years.
“When I wasn’t in theatre, I worked in education at UST and Rice,” he said.
UST Chair of Fine Arts, Drama & Dance Claire McDonald said, “In my almost 40 years of teaching for UST Drama, Chris Tennison is one of our graduates whose talent and accomplishments are among those I most admire and of which I am most proud. It is particularly gratifying that he is pursuing a career in theatre for youth. Not only is Chris introducing young people to the magic of theatre, he is building creative and receptive audiences for theatre’s future.”