Kavin Sivakumar sweeps the audience off their feet with his refreshing acting chops in the remake of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, put on by the University of Nevada, Reno.

Sivakumar plays Theseus in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with his co-star, Ilyana Hobson, playing Hippolyta as they engage in song and a romantic duet.

Isaac Hoops/Nevada Sagebrush
Sivakumar plays Theseus in UNR’s remake of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with his co-star, Ilyana Hobson, playing Hippolyta.

Sivakumar, however, is not a theater major.

“I was not a theater kid,” Sivakumar said about his high school life. “I didn’t do anything in front of the camera.”

He was always interested in STEM-related fields and subjects, which led him to double major in biology and nutrition.

Once Sivakumar became interested in public speaking, he became consumed with finding opportunities to get his name and face out there.

“I’m actively pursuing something in STEM while at the same time pursuing something in show business,” he said. “I’m trying to combine those two worlds.”

Sivakumar had never performed in front of a live audience before. He had some experience with work in front of a camera throughout his college career, but nothing like a theater performance.

When he found out about the auditions last semester from the Listserv of the Theater and Dance programs, Sivakumar decided to try his luck with the Shakesperian classic.

“I [went] in with the mindset thinking … this is going to be a lesson in rejection therapy … I need to be able to hear the word ‘no,’” Sivakumar said. “I was called back for three different roles … I was only able to do two of them before [the director] said ‘I’ve seen enough everyone’ … and I was the first person that she sent home.”

He was moving on from his rejection a week later, as he tried to convince himself he would have better luck next time. When he saw the email that casted him as Theseus in the play it was a monumental moment for Sivakumar. He unlocked an entire new world of opportunities, he said.

Despite his excitement, entering this new theater role was new and daunting territory. 

“We talk about imposter syndrome a lot in the STEM field,” Sivakumar described. “When I entered this field completely, I was thrown, I was taken aback.”

Sivakumar had to re-adjust to the new language and references the people around him used. He was the only one in the play who was not a liberal arts major, faculty or graduate. The whole situation made him wonder if he actually belonged in the theater world, especially when he struggled throughout the practices.

“I was the last person to be off book, which means the last person to memorize all my lines,” Sivakumar said. “The hardest thing or like the most challenging was memorizing my lines … that was probably my biggest learning curve.”

However, Sivakumar knew he was chosen for a reason, and there were people who believed in him.

He started falling in love with theater.

Kavin gets ready to perform on stage for "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

Isaac Hoops/Nevada Sagebrush
Sivakumar prepares for his first theater performance in front of a live audience.

He specifically liked the clothing and costume design, though the low budget of the university’s theater program did not allow for a lot of costume leeway for the production.

After his experience with the theater program and having the opportunity to develop his own likes and dislikes, it was a wonder to know if he did want to pursue the theater program further and perhaps change up his path.

Sivakumar already had an answer.

“My dream job is to become a notable food scientist, slash media personality, slash TV presenter,” he explained. “If I could pick a job right now, I would love to host my own TV show talking about food and culture and food science.”

Though he doesn’t think his theater experience will go anywhere career-wise, events like this have taught him he wants to take his degrees and combine them with some type of on-camera job.

Sivakumar was able to jump into theater and embrace the new depths of the program.

“I think we’re all gonna be kidding ourselves if we say that there isn’t a stigma associated with theater students,” Sivakumar explained. “There is stigmas between majors all the time, and I’ve never been someone who major-shamed.”

Sivakumar, an Indian American, said he has experienced similar criticism coming from a STEM background. He explained he is surrounded by the common stereotypes in these areas of study.

“I’m never in a place to judge what someone wants to pursue,” Sivakumar said.

Based on his own experiences, having a positive and focused mindset helped him adapt better to the theater program as he embraced fun adventures with his fellow castmates.

Even though he may not be interested in going into acting specifically, Sivakumar still says he would love to do it again.

“Whether it be a theater production or short film or any other opportunity, I’m always looking for them. And I’m always auditioning for them … always putting myself out there,” he said. “I’m putting out that energy and seeing what pops up.”

Sivakumar knows what he wants to do and is always looking for new challenges and opportunities for himself. He’s set on the path he wants and advises all students at the university level to do the same.

Sivakumar works as a Resident Assistant and said he almost had to drop a class at one point to do this production.

“Don’t ever be afraid to pursue what you want to pursue,” Sivakumar said, offering wisdom to other students. “You never know where [these opportunities] are going to lead you … they can all happen at their own time.  You can do it.”

His work ethic and commitment to helping others work as hard as he does helped with the balance of his own responsibilities.

“Especially being in my position as an RA, this is the biggest message that I give out to all of my residents or people that I encounter,” Sivakumar stated. “It’s just like, have that growth mindset where you can push yourself in different avenues or different fields, because you never know where that’s gonna lead you or where that’s going to take you.” 

Jaedyn Young can be reached at jaedynyoung@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.