portrait of Jacob Pursell

Jacob Pursell

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I am from San Antonio, Texas and received my BA from Trinity University. During my time there, I became very fascinated with Theatre for Social Change and working with communities to address oppression and stigmas. During my undergraduate course and in the two-year gap before coming to Leeds, I worked on many different projects addressing issues including immigration, domestic abuse, sexual assault, HIV/AIDs, and masculinity. I have become very passionate about using my art and theatrical tools to help individuals work through problematic situations that they experience on a day to day basis.

What made you want to apply to your course and to Leeds?

The MA Applied Theatre and Intervention course has an emphasis on the intervention aspect of work. Many other institutions were just offering courses as just Applied Theatre, but Leeds added that intervention aspect. This got my attention as I am very interested in this area of work and how we can healthily and successfully inspire intervention. When I visited the city in Christmas 2018, before I decided to attend, I fell in love with the city. It is a big change from what I am used to in Texas, but I wanted to be able to have the experience of living abroad.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

Being able to help oppressed communities and individuals makes me want to do this work. I love applied theatre and working alongside communities. A big part of applied theatre is learning with a community about the specifics of their oppressions and stigmas. The theatrical tools then enable us to go a step further by identifying solutions and ways to deal with their oppressions. This collaborative effort excites me. Ultimately, I am very passionate about helping young people adjust to the university life, and I am especially passionate about helping young men transition healthily into university life and not succumbing to the unhealthy stigmas that men face in the university setting.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

I have really enjoyed being around like-minded individuals who share my passion for social change. I have enjoyed our discussions in seminars as well as the practical workshops that have been available for us. These have given me an insight into what our work will look like as well as exposing me to professionals who are already successful in the field.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

I knew that Leeds had a number of universities, but the diversity of the city still surprised me. There are always many different events to attend and always something to do. It is an exciting city to live in!

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

There are many diverse learning facilities available across the university. Because there is a large population of students, to make sure you secure a facility, you usually will need to book it ahead of time. Specifically, for the school of Performance and Cultural Industries, we have many theatrical spaces and black box theatres that can be reserved for our own work. I love that the spaces are available for more than just the work related to our course.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

There are countless clubs to join across the university. From any sport you can imagine to several different theatre clubs. Personally, I have tried out for the basketball and darts club and am a regular participant of the meditation group on campus.

Did you take a work placement or study abroad year? If so, how did you find this experience and what have you gained from it?

I am currently doing a work placement at an activist organisation called Tidal. I am finding it very useful and Tidal is very open to tailoring the position to my special interests. I do computer work and social media work, but I am also able to assist with anything theatre related. For example, Tidal will be hosting some theatre workshops and I am able to help plan and organise them. I am learning a lot about how an activist organisation runs and about activism in general, which is important for my work as I am hoping to inspire individuals to become activists through my work.

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

Do it! It is a great course with tutors and leaders who assist you along the way. You can get lots of real-life experience in the field and you can tailor the assessments to your own interests and passions.

What do you plan to do once you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

Ultimately, I hope to work at the university level. I am considering working towards my PhD after this with the goal of becoming a university professor. I am also wanting to be able to put together a project proposal that addresses masculinity and sexual assault prevention training that I could take to universities as a freelance artist.