Emily Hunt ’13 knows empathy, if her senior thesis on its role in theater is any indication. With the thesis wrapped up, she now spends her time teaching Zumba to groups of students through WesBam, playing music with friends, and taking care of her new baby bunny. Hunt sat down to talk with The Argus about cognitive dissonance, a cappella, and how to piss off your parents post-graduation.
The Argus: So, what makes you a WesCeleb?
Emily Hunt: I think it’s because I’m involved in a lot of theater through Second Stage and the department. Maybe people know me through music stuff? I was just in Mel [Hsu ’13]’s show, and I’m in Quasi[modal]. I did a lot of research stuff in the Psychology Department, and I make smiley-face lattes at Pi. Maybe people know me from that?
A: What do you do that’s closest to your heart?
EH: Probably theater.
A: How long have you been involved?
EH: Since freshman year. It’s what initially drew me to this school, and it’s what I plan on pursuing after graduation.
A: What productions have you done, and what about theater do you like?
EH: I’ve done a lot of musicals. I was in “[Title of Show]” and “Urinetown” last year and “Into the Woods.” I’m a double major in psych and theater, and I think what I like about theater the most is how much they’re interrelated. I really like empathy in theater, which I explored in my thesis a lot, and just how when you’re acting as another person, you can just totally feel a complete humane experience without going crazy, which I think is pretty awesome.
A: How did you come to that idea?
EH: In psych, we were talking about this thing called cognitive dissonance, which is when you have two conflicting behaviors or ideas—cognitions—and the human brain always wants to try and dissolve this dissonance in any way that it can. In theater, I feel like you have this dissonance between yourself and the character you’re playing, and I just love figuring out how the brain tries to solve that problem.
I think it just happened because in my junior year here, I was in this play called “The Great God Brown” [by Eugene O’Neill], and I played this prostitute named Cybel, who’s also a maternal Mother Earth figure. It was someone I thought I didn’t have anything in common with, and that exploration is what inspired my thesis and my love for theater.
A: You said you’re also involved with music. How did you get started in that?
EH: In terms of life span, I started playing the violin when I was three and the piano when I was four because I grew up in Japan, and they start you early there. As I grew older, I hated practicing, so I started kind of hating those instruments, so I quit in high school. I started singing in high school instead, but then once I came back to campus…I don’t know, the music scene is so cool here, and I think the Wesleyan music scene is especially known for playing off classical theory and playing off jazz theory and finding new ways to play with them. That’s when I started playing the violin again, a lot with Mel Hsu, who’s just a genius because she plays the cello, and we were like, “Hey! String instruments!”
Senior year [of high school], I did a cappella, and I fell in love with a cappella singing and arranging for a cappella. I started doing that a lot here, too. Quasi’s been great, and just sticking with me when I’m like, “Let’s try this really weird arrangement.” I think it’s something that I’m not going to pursue after Wes, but it’s been so much fun here just because of just how out there people are willing to go with it.
A: Do you have any idea what you are going to pursue?
EH: I’m planning on moving to New York. Oh, and I’m also a Zumba instructor here. I forgot to say that, which is why people might know me, too. Anyways, I’m planning on auditioning for shows in New York because I have my Equity membership card already. My parents do not like me for this, but I’m going to probably do some waitressing or barista-ing and also teach fitness as a Zumba instructor. Also, I’m getting my group fitness certification this summer so I can teach other classes.
A: Tell me a little about Zumba.
EH: It’s so great. It’s a Latin-inspired fitness exercise dance program, and it’s basically a way to do really, really intense, high-interval cardio for an hour without realizing that you’re doing it. We do salsa and merengue and reggaeton and cumbia, and I throw in some Bollywood and hip-hop and even some country. I choreograph routines, and then I teach them, and it’s super fun and awesome and such a great way to stay in shape because I hate the treadmill and lifting weights.
A: Where did you find out about Zumba, and how did you become interested in teaching it?
EH: I got certified last summer in Vermont. I started doing it I think in high school; I was living in New York for a summer, and I went to a class because it was just getting started. I was like, “Woah, this is great,” because I’m not the best dancer, but you didn’t really have to be good in order to have fun with it. I kept doing it all the time, and eventually one of my instructors was like, “You should just become certified and teach it.” And I did, and it’s my favorite job that I have here.
A: What do you like about teaching Zumba rather than just taking it?
EH: I think it’s watching my students get the moves and get more comfortable with themselves as the weeks go by, because people come pretty regularly, so just watching them from the first time they came in the fall to now and seeing them being so much more comfortable with the movements and their bodies has been really, really rewarding. It’s really cool.
A: Where would you teach in New York?
EH: Oh, so many places. Gyms and studios and dance studios—it’s everywhere. It’s just to make sure I stay in shape, and I think my parents feel a little better about that because I have something else that’s really in high demand. But it’s definitely for fun. I would never consider doing it for a full profession.
A: It seems you’ve been adding more activities in your time here. Has it ever been difficult to balance them, time-wise?
EH: It was my junior year, because I think one semester I ended up taking eight credits and just went crazy, because I wanted to be involved in theater and I also wanted to do psych research, and I decided to do it all in one semester. That was really overwhelming. But then this semester, I’m taking three dance classes and Ebony Singers, so it pays off, getting it all out of the way. I literally have nothing to do.
I don’t know if this is going to get me in any trouble, but my housemates actually got me a pet rabbit recently. Now I just play with that and take care of him all the time because [he’s] still a baby.
A: Are you taking him to New York?
EH: I think so, if I can find an apartment that takes rabbits! Oh my god, I couldn’t believe it—I literally just walked home one day and my housemates were like, “We got you something, and it’s in the living room, but you’re not allowed to scream,” and I was just like, “What?” I’d wanted one since I was four, so that was one of the happier moments of senior year.