Acting and algebra: UW student pursues dual passions through summer courses

photo of Bryanna Plaisir smiling next to a graphic image of a sunburst and the words Summer Term Pursue your Passions

The thought of majoring in both theater and math could intimidate any student. Trying to graduate on time while pursuing those distinct passions might feel impossible to most. But not so for Bryanna Plaisir.

“My majors allow me to explore so many aspects of the arts,” says the UW–Madison senior. “The jobs I could have are infinite and will definitely keep me on my toes.”

Plaisir has enrolled in Summer Term courses every summer to stay on track for graduation next spring. Last summer, she studied Theatre: 501 Business of Acting and wasted no time putting it into practice. On top of six college credits and a summer job, she performed in three community theater productions, receiving praise for her roles in All Shook Up, Parade and Hephaestus. A review in the Isthmus newspaper noted that her advanced vocal training stood out in the latter play, in which she was cast for an entirely new (and the only mortal) character.

Fitting for her math background, her favorite part of theater production is the technical rehearsal.

“I love seeing everyone’s hard work come together right before having an audience. I love when costumes, scenery, lighting and all the other elements come together for the first time,” Plaisir told the Middleton Players Theatre last summer. “It’s almost a magical experience.”

This summer, she’s taking a slight break – if studying the Math: 421 Theory of Single Variable Calculus can qualify as such. She’s also starting a new internship and taking a second course on the computer-programming language MATLAB. Her math major has an emphasis in computer science.

Plaisir’s slate of summer courses over the years – from acting to algebra – demonstrates the depth of summer offerings at UW–Madison. With steady expansion, Summer Term now offers a variety of sessions with more than 1,000 total courses.

When the coronavirus pandemic forced all spring and summer courses to shift to virtual delivery, it was a new learning experience for many students. But Plaisir, who had enrolled in online summer courses in the past, was familiar with the format.

“The coursework is somewhat similar to an in-person class, but online courses require more time management and self-reliability,” Plaisir says, noting that the condensed timeframes can result in intense study sessions. “It’s a lot of work, but I’m able to keep up if I plan out my time.”

She offers this advice to fellow students foraying into online learning: “Get a head start, because it sets you up for success. I always try to complete as much as I can right away. That way, if I have unexpected things come up in my life, I don’t have to catch up on coursework.”

After she graduates, Plaisir hopes to move to New York and work in the arts, either on stage or backstage. One thing is for sure: the possibilities are infinite.

Search summer courses and enroll for Summer Term at MyUW.