Daina Robins has theater in her blood. Her maternal grandmother was involved in theater in Latvia, and Robins considers her to be her first director. Robins, her grandmother and her parents would go to a Latvian-speaking Lutheran church, where part of Sunday school involved learning about Latvian culture, as well as putting on plays.
Theater was a part of Robins’ childhood. Robins grew up in Minneapolis-Saint Paul where she would visit The Guthrie Theatre, an important regional theatre, with her parents.
“There’s a picture of me with blue glasses in a daisy costume that my mother sewed, walking around with other flowered girls,” Robins said, reminiscing about the days when her grandmother directed plays at her church.
Since Robins has been around theater from an early age, it’s easy to see where her passion originates. She started off as an actress, acting in college at Tufts University in Massachusetts, where she helped to start a theater company during grad school. The theater company, called Double Edge Theater, is still running today and is unique because it is situated on a farm and does not really follow the traditional form of theater. Robins used to be an actress for Double Edge Theater but since then, she has become a director and thrives in that role.
“I really love rehearsal because that’s really when you have the freedom to discover,” Robins said.
Discovery during the rehearsal process is important, not only for the actors but for the director. Many different types of discovery can happen during rehearsals; characters are developed, scenes become more authentic and profound and the show comes alive. While the actors do make discoveries during the process, it can take longer and be more difficult. For the director, this is an important time and explains why Robins likes directing so much.
Robins joined the Hope College Theater Department in 1991, and in 1997, she became the chair of the department. In the past 25 years, she has enjoyed working here and is proud of the college theater and the shows that are performed.
“I’ve enjoyed watching students develop and grow as young adults and young theater artists,” Robins said. “I’m proud of the quality work that we do.”
Most recently, Robins has directed “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare for Hope’s Theatre Department. Many students have had the pleasure of working with Robins on shows at Hope and have learned how to be better actors from her and her style of directing.
“She teaches you so much about how you can get the best performance possible,” theatre major Matison Landman (’18) said, after working with Robins on “The Children’s Hour” last year.
Landman also mentioned that she liked how helpful Robins was even outside of rehearsals.
“She’s willing to set aside some time to work with you one on one if you want to,” she said.
Landman is not the only student who has had good things to say about Daina.
“She’s the kind of director that will really push you and make you work hard,” theatre major Rachel Kennedy (’18) said. “The way she approaches directing is in a way that makes you want to work hard as well.”
Robins praised the college for its theatre department and the work that it does. She appreciates how all of the different parts of the theater department can work extremely well together to create amazing productions for the school and the community.
“I think for a small liberal arts college in a small little provincial town, we do have a strong theatre department,” Robins said.