Kalyani Singh ’18 is a tour de force. An actor, singer and songwriter with a passion for social justice, she is looking to combine her loves to effect social change.
Singh, the Theodore U. Horger ’61 Visual & Performing Arts scholar for 2017-18, says it was the opportunity to combine her interests in theatre and political science that drew her to Lehigh.
“I knew I wanted to dual major in theatre and political science when I was looking at colleges,” she says. “Theatre has been an integral part of my life since I was small. I always sang. I played an instrument, I sang in the choir. I loved performing, and I wanted a school that would allow me to balance both majors.”
Singh says the fit was perfect when she met with Augustine Ripa, professor of theatre, at a Diversity Life Day for accepted students.
“When I spoke with Gus. I told him I wanted to make theatre as strong a priority as political science,” she says. “I liked the vibe I was getting from him. He’s very welcoming, very inviting. He said it could be done and that theatre majors often pursue multiple interests. And since the department is small, students have opportunities to become involved in productions their first semester.”
She balances her theatre experience with internships focusing on social justice. This past summer, she interned with Just Leadership USA, whose mission is to halve the prison population by 2030. She commuted from her home in Parsippany, N.J., to Harlem daily to work on criminal justice advocacy campaigns in an effort to change policies at state and national levels. In 2016, she worked with disadvantaged urban teenagers in Newark, N.J., on social change issues as an education and youth services intern with Jersey Cares. There, she directed, shot and edited video journals for ServiceWorks, a program that uses community engagement and volunteer service to help underserved youth develop the skills needed to prepare for college and careers.
Beyond her academic pursuits, Singh is also an active member of the Mustard and Cheese Drama Society and Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society, wherein she will serve as secretary next year. She will be the upcoming assistant manager of Dolce, Lehigh’s all-women’s choir, and is treasurer of the Lehigh University Choir. She is energized by the artistic paths open to her.
“One of the great things about the arts at Lehigh is you can be involved in any way you want. If you are interested in theatre, you can act, you can design a show, you can do whatever you want,” she says. “We’re here with open arms. I totally believe that about theatre at Lehigh. I’ve worked on shows with so many people who are majoring in something other than theatre, but they want to be here.
They really want to be part of productions. And there are opportunities to take a breadth of courses in theatre. You can study design, acting, whatever your interest.
“I definitely appreciate that there is this rich, diverse range of experiences by being part of the theatre department—and not just limiting it to acting. I want to act, but the breadth of courses I’ve taken have given me a better perspective of what it takes to make a production happen. I’ve seen costumes I helped build worn by actors on stage. I helped construct a set. I put my handiwork into something, and now I have these skills in my back pocket,” she says. “It’s an advantage for me, because when I continue with theatre m y skill set is so wide because I’ve done so much in the theatre department. I feel I’m equipped to be part of a team that’s working collectively to create something. Creating something requires that you’re entrepreneurial, and having these tools is a huge asset.”
Singh is exploring her options as she looks at opportunities after Lehigh. Her interests lead in many directions. She’s open to life showing her which path to explore next.
“Post-graduation is not the end-all,” Singh says. “I can’t think about what I want to do for the rest of my life because there are so many opportunities. I want to perform, but I also want to be involved with reform work. I want to change policy. I want to affect people’s lives and reduce inequality. I want to help people who are marginalized to have a voice. I want to empower people, and theatre can effect social change. Theatre can help educate, which is critical to making a difference. I’d like to find a way to merge theatre with politics to help empower people and help communities to change for the better.”