Of Computer Science and Theatre


Andrew Atkinson

Throughout high school, Andrew Atkinson had quite diverse interests. Music. Acting. Engineering. Sports. When it came time to think about college, he applied to a wide range of schools that were known for engineering. Or theatre. Or music. Atkinson ultimately decided to enroll at Oregon State because of its engineering program.

But he’s not limiting himself to just engineering. A native of Medford, Ore., Atkinson is a sophomore double-majoring in computer science and theatre arts, and minoring in psychology. He just finished a stint as the lead actor in the university’s production of The Coming of Rain.

When he first started at OSU, Atkinson knew he wanted to major in engineering, but hadn’t decided on a discipline. After taking the introductory computer science class, he knew that was the major was for him. “Computer science encompasses all the things I like: creativity, logic, math and design,” says Atkinson. He’s especially interested in human-computer interaction. And that’s where the psychology minor comes into play: figuring out what people expect when using computers — and ways to improve that interaction.

At first glance, computer science and theatre might seem like very different disciplines, but Atkinson says they involve a lot of the same skills. At first glance, computer science and theatre might seem like very different disciplines, but Atkinson says they involve a lot of the same skills. He will be directing a play during winter term, which, he says, is similar to developing a large computer program. “In theatre, we work in teams, have deadlines to meet and need to do problem-solving. Everyone has different ways of doing things and as with computer programming, we have to figure out the best way to get things done to create a good end product.”

Unlike many actors, Atkinson didn’t always seek the spotlight. He’s been a musician since the sixth grade, playing the clarinet and saxophone, and during high school played in the orchestra for the school’s musicals. Watching the actors, he thought he would give that a try, too. “I amazed myself the first time I acted in a play,” says Atkinson.

Last year, Atkinson acted in OSU’s production of A Bright Room Called Day and played Banquo in Macbeth as part of OSU’s Bard in the Quad series.

Atkinson notes that acting is not just memorizing and reciting lines. “I like the psychology aspect: understanding how people interact and what makes people do things. You need to analyze the characters in order to play a part and deliver it well.”

Andrew Atkinson as Emil Traum in "A Bright Room Called Day."

He’s also excited about I See God / I See Allah, the play he’ll be directing next term. The play is being produced in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Student Association and will star nine Saudi actors. The play, which was translated into English for the OSU production, “will help people understand eastern cultures and Islam,” says Atkinson. “There are a lot of misunderstandings about these topics.”

Surprisingly, Atkinson finds spare time to play intramural volleyball and sing in the OSU men’s choir. And he recently joined the iPhone/iPad development club that focuses on creating applications for those devices.

“I planned on staying at OSU for two years and then transferring to another university because the theatre program here isn’t very large.” says Atkinson. “But there are good professors and students here and lots of opportunities for involvement everywhere on campus.”