New graduate found service through theater at Kennesaw State

KENNESAW, Ga. | Dec 11, 2023

Issa Solís
Issa Solís
As a teenager, Issa Solís found a community in the world of theater. At Kennesaw State University, she connected with the concept of immersive storytelling, telling her own story and helping others tell theirs.

Solís will graduate this week with a bachelor’s in theatre and performance studies, as well as a slew of experiences in building community through theater.

“My love of theater comes from wanting to be involved in something bigger than myself and wanting to find a community,” she said. “And I’ve always felt that theater is a way to walk in someone else’s shoes, to understand other people’s experiences and to help people communicate their experiences in an authentic way. Those things make theater so important.”

Solís grew up in New Orleans but fell in love with theater one summer in Atlanta through the Collision Project at the Alliance Theatre. The Collision Project is a program where teenagers work together to create and perform a play. She moved to Marietta as a high school junior, and when she asked her mentors at the Alliance for their thoughts on where she might study drama, they recommended Kennesaw State. Many of the faculty in KSU’s Department of Theatre & Performance Studies have connections and working arrangements at the Alliance, including senior lecturer Margaret Pendergrass.

Solís met Pendergrass during the Collision Project, and after Solís came to KSU, she got involved in Pendergrass’ New Connections Collision Project, where theater students joined criminal justice students in bringing writing and performance training to incarcerated youths as an opportunity for storytelling. Solís also presented research on the project at the KSU Symposium of Student Scholars in Fall 2021, the Spring 2022 National Council of Undergraduate Research, and the Spring 2023 College of the Arts Research Forum.

“Margaret has given me such a love for bringing the blessing of art to others,” Solís said. “Throughout my research for the New Connections Collision Project, the thing that I was most impacted by was just breaking the monotony of being incarcerated. Creativity is a way to combat involvement in the justice system, and so I’ll always fight for people to continue to dream, to create, to explore in as many ways as possible in any community.”

In Spring 2023, KSU’s College of the Arts staged the 1996 Broadway hit “Rent,” and Solís brought her experience in research, direction for the stage and dramatic art to the production as assistant director. In addition to the achievement of bringing a beloved musical to fruition with a student cast and crew, Solís said it served as validation of her career path.

“As assistant director, I was present at all rehearsals and helped actors to understand their characters, as well as advised director Amanda Wansa Morgan on cultural and historical accuracy,” she said. “It was a very large production that I saw touch so many audience members. The experience solidified for me that this is exactly what I'm meant to do.”

Outside of theater, Solís has been involved with the sorority Lambda Theta Alpha and with the Animal Justice Association. Along with her diploma, Solís leaves KSU with a certification in community engagement for better behavioral health, which rounds out her experience in theater. Following graduation, she will use those skills, first with a project designed to steer Atlanta-area teens away from vaping.

“I came here for a dynamic theater degree, and I left with multiple certifications and experiences that I hope impacted people in some way and will impact my future as well,” she said. “Whatever major someone chooses at KSU, there are multiple ways for you to feel fulfilled of impacting people's lives because it's not only about filling your cup with knowledge, but also, in return, filling the cup of others as well.”

– Dave Shelles

Photos by Darnell Wilburn Jr.

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit