Accepting God’s call to theatre

Former SPU student turned theatre professor Candace Vance reflects on her journey to acting

Isabella Tranello, Features Editor

The life of an actor is not perfect. The excitement that comes when booking a role can serve as a distraction from the overwhelming fear of rejection, but that feeling is ephemeral. After auditioning for countless projects and only getting cast in a select few, hopes for success may start to disappear. Performers may wonder if acting is really what they are meant to do. 

However, the actors and actresses who rise above rejection and create unique definitions for their success are the ones who accomplish more. A good actor must know what success looks like for them, not what it looks like for others. 

Being able to acknowledge how an individual’s success may differ from another’s is the advice that Seattle Pacific University’s associate professor of theatre and head of performance, Candace Vance, has for young performers looking to continue in their acting journey after graduation, as she did in 1995. 

“It is a totally ruthless world, but at the same time, there is lots of community and goodness to be found once you get in. But it is hard to get in, so I guess I would say it might be valuable for you to write down what you think your definition of success is at that moment in your life,” Vance said. “Then, ascertain if you feel successful based on your definition of success. Reevaluate that every five years and really give yourself five years to achieve that level of success.” 

This is a lesson Vance had to learn for herself as she made her way through the theatre program at SPU, Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance in London, and her current career as a theatre professor and actress. Even before coming to SPU to study theatre as an undergraduate, Vance found a deep love for acting that has roots in her childhood. 

“I think I always wanted to be an actor ever since I was a little girl, I always had a super active imagination. I grew up in church, so I grew up singing and doing plays at church, and I did a lot of ballet,” Vance said. “Eventually, I kind of just fell in love, and even though I could sing and dance, I fell more in love with the craft of acting.” 

Despite the love Vance found for acting, she was unsure of her path. She did not know if acting was the correct career path for her take. 

“I was torn as a first-year student because I knew I was an actor, I knew it in my soul. But, I also really felt called to the mission field. I think I also just had a wanderlust because I grew up in the church and loved to travel, so I thought that must mean I was meant to be a missionary,” Vance said. “But then, I was actually on the mission field during a short-term mission in between my freshman and sophomore year when I felt like I got a clear calling from God that I was made to be an actor, I was supposed to be an actor and that was a blessed activity. God had important work for me to do.” 

Since graduating from SPU, Vance has been in countless productions including “Romeo y Julieta” as Julietta, where she got the opportunity to do a national tour and perform in Spain among many other accomplishments. More recently, Vance performed in Taproot Theatre’s production of “A Woman of No Importance” where she played Mrs. Rachel Arbuthnot. 

When preparing for this show, Vance felt connected to the cast and crew of the production, which made the experience more impactful for her.

“I would say the people I got to work with were the most special part of this experience. I really love working with Karen Lund as a director. I also would say that every cast is new, and even if you have worked with people before, the combination is always new,” Vance said. “This one is a particularly wonderful combination because a handful of us have worked together off and on at different theatres for years, but then there are some people who are fresh out of college. It’s fun to have that mix of new faces in the industry and also actors you already know.” 

While continuing to act around the world and in the Seattle area, Vance also has the responsibility of being a theatre professor and the head of performance at SPU,  where she manages and tracks the progress of every acting and directing student up until they graduate. However, Vance was not expecting to ever teach theatre to students, especially not at the university level. 

Despite teaching not being on her radar, she has fallen in love with it and does not intend to stop teaching or acting. Instead, she hopes to continue to do both. She wants to continue acting for as long as possible while also encouraging her students to find their place in the industry. 

“When I taught my first college class, it was because I was covering for another teacher who was on maternity leave. However, I found out that I loved it. I love working with college kids because they are so energetic, curious, hungry and inquisitive,” Vance said. “They are all the things I feel like I am, which is sometimes ignored in the adult world because other adults are not like that. College kids are like that, so I feel like I really found my tribe with them.” 

Her path to becoming an actress began at SPU, and now, Vance is leading the way for future talent as her journey comes full circle back to the place where God called her to the stage.