It is nearly impossible to miss Talia Fermantez when she takes the court for the Eastern Washington University women's volleyball team. The imposing middle blocker stands 6-1 with an athletic build and powerful swing that strikes fear into the hearts of opponents.
The Hawaiian native finished the 2013 season with 103 blocks and 179 kills, partnering with fellow middle blocker Allison Doerpinghaus to form one of the most talented duos in the Big Sky Conference.
After tremendous success on the volleyball court in her three seasons in Cheney, Fermantez will take her talents to another kind of stage this offseason, appearing in the university's production of William Shakespeare's classic tragedy, Macbeth.
"I like being able to put myself in different shoes and get into the minds of different characters," Fermantez said. "I helped out with some of the plays at my high school in Hawaii before taking a class my freshman year at Eastern, and I loved it."
Fermantez, a double major in theatre and communications, has never appeared in a stage production prior to her performance in Macbeth. Cast as one of the three witches who hail Macbeth's ascendance to the throne of Scotland, Fermantez has had a lot of fun with her role in rehearsals.
"Our director (Jeffrey Sanders) has allowed us to make the characters our own," said Fermantez. "He'll tell us to go up in the studio and create a spiritual ritual from scratch, so there are a few bits in the play that the three of us made up."
Auditioning for a role in a stage production for just the second time, Fermantez credits the tight-knit group of theater students with helping her get through the process.
"I performed a monologue from Lady Macbeth for my audition," Fermantez said. "I got a call back for both Lady Macbeth and one of the three witches. The theatre program here at Eastern is pretty close and we all work together a lot, so we know each other. A lot of them helped me through the process."
Sanders credits Fermantez's improvement in his acting classes and her ability to work with heightened text and Shakespearian themes as reasons for casting her.
"From the first time I worked with Talia to now, she has shown this great improvement," Sanders said. "She was shining with heightened text and Shakespeare. She just seems to have an affinity for it. In the audition process, I thought she was taking the tools she was learning and doing great work with them. She deserved the call backs for both roles."
Despite being new to the acting stage, Fermantez has been able to draw on a number of skills she uses when competing on the volleyball court for the Eagles.
"Acting has a lot of things in common with athletics," Fermantez said. "Things like being in front of a crowd and being able to stay focused are important in acting and volleyball. The repetition of movements and taking stage directions are similar to remembering what plays to run and what coaches say. The rehearsals are a lot like volleyball practice. People would be surprised how much hard work it is. I'm finished with rehearsals and I'm literally dead, just like I feel after practice."
Sanders echoed Fermantez's thoughts on the similarities between athletics and acting, citing the team-oriented mentality necessary to crafting a successful production.
"We don't use the word team, we use ensemble or company, but that mentality is the same," Sanders said. "Talia's sports background also helps because she never gets sensitive to the feedback I give her. Instead of it being derailing, it is refocusing. She is more of the type that you give that feedback to and she goes back, works on it and gets better. That must come from athletics, having that mentality."
Fermantez credits the support system at Eastern for allowing her to balance her time between acting rehearsals and volleyball practices this quarter.
"I told my coaches, teammates and the administrators that I was in a play, and everyone wants to come see it," Fermantez said. "Everyone is really supportive of it and thinks its cool. Since it's the offseason, my coaches understand and they've let me work around my schedule. The theatre department is also really helpful and willing to work around my schedule."
Wade Benson, EWU's head volleyball coach, believes Fermantez's performance in Macbeth will do nothing but help her with volleyball.
"I think Talia is finding herself right now," Benson said. "She is moving from being someone who was kind of a follower to a woman who is making her own choices, which are good choices. She is excited about the theatre, and I think this is going to allow her to shine more in other facets of her life while giving her a well-rounded situation that will help to avoid burnout with volleyball."
Eastern's athletics director, Bill Chaves, sees Fermantez's involvement in theatre as evidence that EWU provides student-athletes with opportunities to expand their roles outside of athletics.
"I always liken Eastern to the land of opportunity in which you have the chance to do various things," said Chaves. "One is to play high-level athletics and also figure out what you're going to do beyond Eastern, as well. To be able to be in a play such as Macbeth and also be a high-level volleyball player is a great recruiting tool for us because others might want to do multiple things and see EWU as a place to be."
On track to graduate from EWU in the spring of 2015, Fermantez would like to continue to act in productions, but doesn't plan on becoming the next Jennifer Lawrence.
"Realistically, I probably won't be in any Hollywood films anytime soon." Fermantez said. "I'd like to try and get into film, but not as my main career. I'll lean more on my communications degree for my full-time job but on my off time I'd like to do some auditions."
Macbeth opens on Friday, Mar. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the University Theatre. A full schedule of times and dates may be found here.