Finding his voice, performer also finds a career

Published: May 5, 2017 By

The disciplines of theatre and speech-pathology approach the same issue from different vantage points, outstanding graduate says


When William Kristofer Buxton was in middle school, vocal nodules left him with “essentially no voice.” Instead of surgery, Buxton did two years of speech therapy, and gradually his voice returned.

“Once it came back, I realized I couldn’t keep taking it for granted,” he said. So he tried out for the school musical.

Buxton, an Arvada resident and fourth-generation University of Colorado Boulder student, graduates next week summa cum laude with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre performance and a bachelor of arts in speech, language and hearing sciences.

He is the spring 2017 outstanding graduate in the College of Arts and Sciences. He has clearly found his voice.

For his honors thesis, Buxton directed a CU Boulder production of Distracted, a play by Lisa Loomer about a boy diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. Characters in the play also have depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Planet

William Kristofer Buxton kneels on stage during a 2016 performance of Return to the Forbidden Planet.

“In its analysis of each disorder, the play fundamentally challenges the audience to re-evaluate their understanding of mental disorders in the context of a technological, contemporary world,” Buxton wrote in his honors-thesis proposal.

Buxton’s Distracted produced six sold-out shows in October 2016.

As director, Buxton cast the actors, designed the set, conducted background research on ADHD, analyzed the play, made artistic choices, designed and produced marketing material and organized read-throughs and rehearsals.

In short, he performed the roles of a leader, manager and boss—skills not necessarily associated with a degree in theatre and dance, noted Dean Steven R. Leigh, who praised the breadth of Buxton’s liberal-arts education.

Theodore Stark, a senior instructor in theatre and dance, echoed that praise, calling Buxton the “ideal liberal-arts student.”

Buxton’s fusion of the arts and sciences made sense. After enrolling at CU Boulder, Buxton pursued his degree in theatre and dance. To fulfill a core-curriculum requirement, he took a course in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

Taking that course convinced him to pursue speech pathology as a second major, partly because the discipline helped him when he was in middle school:

“That was such a crucial time for me. For me to discover my voice again and start performing was huge, and so I wanted to share that with other people,” Buxton said. “I decided I wanted to start pursuing a speech-pathology path. It was sort of the process of me discovering my voice and wanting to help others discover theirs.”

In Buxton’s view, the disciplines of theatre and speech-pathology approach the same issue from different vantage points. “Theatre is applying the concept of voice and actually having the experience of having voice, whereas speech pathology is taking a scientific approach to that idea of having voice.”

Besides taking the director’s chair for his honors thesis, Buxton has performed in 11 theatre department productions and four productions of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. In last summer’s Comedy of Errors, Buxton played a mime, a role that, he notes, is ironic.

“After finding my voice, I was playing the mime.”

This summer, Buxton will join the CSF’s cast in Hamlet, playing the role of Osric, memorably performed by the late Robin Williams in Kenneth Branagh’s film version of the great play.

After graduation and a summer of Shakespeare, Buxton plans to spend the next year doing auditions and applying to graduate school. His plan is to earn an advanced degree in speech pathology and continue working on the stage.

“I feel torn between the two worlds,” he said of theatre and speech pathology. “For me, it’s going to be about finding how to combine them.”