Tia Hockenhull (‘23) is soon to be a Hope College graduate. Despite the fact that she is a chemistry major, she has had a passion for acting for as long as she can remember. She always thought that theatre was just going to be a hobby for her until she came to college and got to work on her pursuit of the art form.
In my interview with Hockenhull, she commented on her acting journey thus far, saying, “I started acting when I was ten years old.” She continued into high school, but during those years, theatre was just a hobby for her, “I was super shy in high school so auditioning was really bad. I was in musicals in high school but I was doing the chorus and background parts of it and then I got here and that’s when I got my first lead role. And I’m not shy anymore.”
This is when she started to get her wings– “I did theatre in high school but I didn’t decide to take it seriously until my sophomore year of college. I came in wanting to do forensic investigation for the FBI, so that’s why I decided to do a chemistry major. And then sophomore year, I did ‘Detroit 67’ and that play made me really want to actually be an actress and actually take it seriously.” From this point on, she decided to dedicate time to pursuing her craft, but she wasn’t sure about changing her major.
In the end, Hockenhull decided to stick with chemistry. “I’m getting a BA in Chemistry, but it’s my backup. I really want to be an actress, on a TV show, so that’s really what I’m pursuing.” Despite her love for the stage, she would prefer to do work in film acting. This is why she chose to go to New York City last summer (2022) to work through an intensive film program called New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. This made her dream more accessible to her and she was able to learn how to make this dream come to fruition.
After graduation this spring, Hockenhull’s original plan was to move to New York and pursue acting. “However,” she said, “New York is very expensive. So I figured the best thing to do is to go home, live rent free, work, save my money up and then go. Since I have a degree in chemistry, I’m going to try to use it until I become an actress. So I’m going to try to work in crime scene investigation or something like that while auditioning for shows and working on sets.”
Being a chemistry major is hard, but Hockenhull was able to plan it so that she could be mostly done with her chemistry credits by her senior year, in order to focus on theatre and studying abroad.
Last semester, Hockenhull went to Barcelona, Spain for its Arts and Humanities program. It was hard for her to be away from campus and all of the connections with friends and campus and theatre events she was missing but she said, “Looking back, I went at the perfect time. It was hard but I ended up having a lot of fun. I learned so much about myself, it was actually insane. The growth that I had just from going abroad was perfect. So it was a really helpful semester and I think it needed to happen.”
Hockenhull recommends studying abroad for students who are interested in it. “I recommend it, I definitely think you should go. I love to travel, I love experiencing new things. While I was out there I got a tattoo that says ‘evolving’ on my arm. And I feel like that’s what I did while I was abroad. I experienced so much […] I did so much new stuff and if you really like doing that, if you really like trying new things, then I think you should go for sure.”
Hockenhull is from Southfield, Michigan and when she was applying to colleges four years ago, Hope was actually her last choice. But looking back she’s glad she committed to staying here. “I’m a big person on, ‘everything happens for a reason.’ And I believe that God led me here and I feel like if I went somewhere else I don’t think I would have known that acting is something that I really wanted to do.”
At a different college, Hockenhull would’ve majored in theatre but she’s not sure if she would’ve stuck with it. “I also got a lot of opportunities from [going to Hope], I’ve done a lot of chemistry research and then once I finally decided that theatre is what I wanted to do, I moved to New York for the summer and I did a film program there. And that was when I was like okay this is truly what I’m going to do. And that all came from doing the shows here. So yeah I love it.”
The advice that Hockenhull gives to Hope students is, “If you have an inkling to try anything at Hope, try it. You have nothing to lose. I’m a senior and I joined the cheer team this semester. Now I’m on it and I’m having a ball. So, if there’s anything you want to try, just give it a chance, it doesn’t hurt to try out.”
Hockenhull is one of the four women actors in Hope’s spring play, “The Revolutionists.” She plays Marianne Angelle, a Haitian revolutionist who is fictional, but inspired by many real women around the time of the Haitian Revolution. Hockenhull is really glad to end her college theatre career with this role.
She said, “I’m really happy that this is the show I’m ending with… I remember telling my best friend ‘I really want this role’ like ‘I hope I get it’. My character is so strong, we’re almost kind of alike […] we’re both sassy and she’s a fun character. Also I’ve always had a problem with portraying vulnerability in shows and just in my own life. And this character goes through something where like you have to be vulnerable, you have to show love, show that vulnerability. And I’m learning how to do that through this character. I feel like that’s a really good one to end on. This show’s a comedy, it’s really fun, it’s been really fun to work on.”
Reflecting on her growth through her four years at Hope, Hockenhull remembers the letters freshman write during orientation for their graduating selves. “I remember writing the letter to myself, one thing I remember writing is to get a lead in a show. The first show I did I was a supporting [character] and my last show, I’m a lead. I feel proud of myself, and this is something that I’m ending on.”
If you missed your chance to see “The Revolutionists” last weekend, there are still 5 more chances to see it with performances on Feb. 23, 24, 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 25 and 26 at 2 p.m. They are selling out quickly, so get your tickets soon, they’re free for students!