Senior Voice Performance major Wallis Lucas has just completed an exciting summer of performing and travel. Yet Lucas is no stranger to the stage, as she has been performing in school and community productions since she childhood. More recently, she started in Furman’s own productions of  Into The Woods (Furman Lyric Theatre) and Little Women (Pauper Players). However, this summer was unique, for her musical and dramatic skills took her all across the country — and even across the world — as she participated in the Chicago Summer Opera program and traveled to Saluzzo, Italy to star in an international opera!

“I grew up loving music,” Lucas said, recalling her earliest performances in church choir and school shows. Despite these experiences, she actually came to Furman intending to major in Biology and only later switched to Voice Performance. “Eventually I had to stop denying the fact that my passion lies in the arts,” she reflected, “Without a doubt the best decision I’ve made to date.” Her first show at Furman was Pauper Players’ production of Heathers, which she says helped her make lasting friendships and connections. Since then, she has continued to perform with this group while also starring in productions with Furman Lyric Theatre and the Theatre Arts department. Plus, she also performs with Furman Singers and the Paladin Regiment — talk about commitment! “When you want something so badly, you can’t stop yourself from jumping at every chance you get,” she said of her extensive work.

 Yet Lucas’s passion does not reside solely within the Furman Arts department; she seeks out opportunities to learn and grow even when not in school. The productions she did this summer were both part of young artist programs: short sessions where universities or opera companies offer classes, lessons, and performance experience to singers who are still completing their education. She first worked with the Chicago Summer Opera, where she was the cover, or understudy, for the role of Morgana in Handel’s opera Alcina. After finishing in Chicago, she went to the Saluzzo Opera Academy in Italy, where she sang the role of Barbarina in their productions of The Marriage of Figaro. Lucas found it especially rewarding to perform this music because these operas were first written and staged hundreds of years ago (Alcina in 1735 and The Marriage of Figaro in 1786 to be exact). 

says her first step in to know any new role is trying to relate the character to her own experiences. Both of these works were especially inspiring to her because they feature complex and intelligent female characters. Alcina is the story of two sorceresses who rule an island with magic and trap any men who come there, only to eventually be defeated by a heroine who comes to the island to rescue her fiancé. Likewise, in The Marriage of Figaro, the women devise a plan to expose the Count Almaviva, who has been unfaithful to his wife. “The most important part of understanding an opera is stripping it down to themes which transcend the centuries of societal changes since their premieres,” said Lucas. “Getting to do this twice has been an enormous blessing.” She also does an in-depth analysis of each new role she learns. For Alcina, she found the original source material, a 16th century epic poem, at the James B. Duke Library and read it to get more information about her character. She keeps an extensive character work journal, which she is “very proud of,” where she writes quotes from the play or opera and assigns each character an Enneagram type to better understand their motivations.

 “Furman prepared me for everything I did this summer,” Lucas said, reflecting that her education has equipped her with the time management and organization skills she needed to work on a professional level. She credits her advisor and voice teacher Dr. Alison Trainer and her musical coach Dr. Brent Funderburk for working with her in preparation for these roles and helping her “learn the ins and outs of Italian opera style.” Dr. Trainer reflected that Lucas’ own skill has put her on the path to success. "Wallis' talent, flexibility, work ethic, and careful training allowed her to perform at a level well beyond her years, singing back to back roles on two continents in two different high-level opera apprenticeship programs. She is well on her way to a brilliant stage career."

There will be many opportunities to see Lucas on stage this academic year. She is starring in Furman Theatre’s production of As You Like It, a musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s famous work, and  Pauper Players’ production of Jekyll and Hyde. She will also perform in Furman Lyric Theatre’s opera scenes production An Evening of Opera in English.  Lucas will also star in Furman Lyric Theatre’s mainstage production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, set to air this spring.

Thinking back on all the roles she has performed, Lucas stated that her favorite character that she has played so far has been Diana from the musical A Chorus Line. The story in this work resonated with much of Lucas’ own experience as an artist, as it follows a group of dancers who are all auditioning for the same show. She recalled that putting so much of herself into the part helped her come to many important realizations about what it means to her to be a performer. “I got to know myself so much better and really understand what it is I want,” she said, “a community of driven, unique individuals working together to create a work of art in which we allow our souls to shine without fear of what anyone else thinks.”