College is the time to explore interests, try new activities, join new clubs and organizations and choose a major and career path. Some might think their passions and work can’t mix, but one Loyola alumna found a way to take her interests and turn them into not only two degrees, but also two fulfilling careers.
Teresa Kuruvilla graduated from Loyola in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in marketing and music performance. Today, she holds a job at O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul — a Chicago advertising agency — and is an actress, singer and teaching artist involved with a non-profit arts organization.
At Loyola, Kuruvilla said she sang at masses at Madonna della Strada and founded the Sine Nomine choir, a church choir that focused mainly on Latin songs. While in college, she also began performing with local theater companies. Six years later, Kuruvilla said she continues to use both of her degrees and is currently performing in the Broken Nose Theatre’s play, “Plainclothes.”
“Plainclothes” is about retail store security guards who are put under investigation after a “shoplifter leaves half their team in the hospital or fired,” according to the theater’s website. They face accusations of racial profiling and must make a decision: admit to something they’re not guilty of or go against the higher-ups and try to do what’s right.
Kuruvilla — who plays a security guard named Alma — said the play has both comical and serious aspects to its story.
“In one way, this feels like a very funny workplace comedy,” Kuruvilla said. “[But] it’s also a piece that really examines the current world we’re living in — the political climate and human tensions.”
The Broken Nose Theatre is a resident of The Den Theatre (1331 N. Milwaukee Ave.), which is where “Plainclothes” will run until Dec. 15. Broken Nose is a non-profit theater company, where, in addition to acting, Kuruvilla is an artistic associate. According to Spenser Davis, Broken Nose’s director of programming, these are artists who exemplify the company’s values, but they aren’t always involved with the theatre artistically and aren’t required to dedicate as much time to the theatre company members.
Tickets to all performances are sold on a pay-what-you-can basis, making shows accessible to larger audiences — especially college students — which is important to her.
“You kind of open the door for all these other people to be exposed to something that they may not have been exposed to otherwise,” Kuruvilla said. “[Broken Nose is] kind of trying to take the class element out of theater which is really cool and something I’m really interested in.”
Kuruvilla, 28, said she began performing professionally when she was about 11 years old. Her parents wanted her to do something to help people and they weren’t sure how the arts would fit in with that philosophy until she started singing at her church.
“I was a cantor at masses and that was a really clear and visible way where you could see how music helps people … connect with something and connect with themselves; and it provided a lot of healing to people,” Kuruvilla said.
Her parents put her through voice lessons and supported her decision to pursue a music major at Loyola, she said. Her mother’s involvement with non-profits also inspired her, and she’s now a board member and associate artist at Voice of the City, an art alliance that focuses on making art and teaching artists of all ages from a variety of backgrounds, she said.
“I really believe that art has a vital function in doing good in communities,” Kuruvilla said. “I think it’s something that’s very necessary and being able to be part of organizations that focus on art, but also art as an act of service, and art as an act of community building, was really important to me.”
When she’s not working with Voice of the City, rehearsing or performing, Kuruvilla works as an account executive at O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul, making TV, radio, digital and social advertising.
The ability to easily work toward a double major contributed to Kuru- villa’s decision to attend Loyola, she said. Achieving all her goals meant having to find a balance between what she wanted and what she need- ed from her life, and she encourages everyone to do the same.
“I found as I grew older … I was happiest when I was balancing left brain and right brain thinking, [and] multitasking is what kind of really fulfilled me,” Kuruvilla said. “If you only address the wants, you’re going to end up unhappy and if you only address the needs, you’re also going to end up unhappy, so you have to find a way to balance those things.”
Tickets to “Plainclothes” can be purchased at www.brokennosetheatre.com.