Posted May 9, 2024

Temple’s student Commencement speaker is made for a career in theater

Senior theater major Journee Lutz was selected as the student speaker for this year’s School of Theater, Film and Media Arts Commencement and Temple’s 137th Commencement ceremony. 

Image of Temple theater student inside Randall Theater.
Photography By: 
Ryan S. Brandenberg
Journee Lutz, a theater major with an acting concentration, is interested in pursuing a career in theater like many Temple alumni who have gone on to high-profile careers on Broadway.

Name: Journee Lutz
Degree: BA, theater 
College: School of Theater, Film and Media Arts 
Hometown: North Philadelphia, Pa. 

When Journee Lutz was a young child, her grandmother, Mae Lutz, noticed that she could switch from crying and being angry to being happy on command within seconds, as part of a game they would play.  

It was clear then that Lutz was setting the stage for a future career in acting, and she took the next step toward making that dream a reality this week when she graduated from Temple University with a degree in theater with an acting concentration. 

She shared parts of her own Temple story and offered words of encouragement to her fellow graduates on Wednesday, May 8, when she served as the student speaker for the university’s 137th Commencement ceremony. 

In coming to Temple, Lutz followed in the footsteps of several family members, and it is an experience she does not take for granted. 

“When I came to Temple, it felt like home, and the university gave a very generous amount of financial aid that I needed, especially during the pandemic year,” said Lutz. “Getting things in order was difficult because my parents were furloughed at this time, but Temple’s support was a huge factor in choosing to come here.”  

At Temple, Lutz learned about the importance of the relationship between the live audience and the artists, which gave her excitement to pursue a career in theater. In the fall of 2022, she performed inside Temple’s Tomlinson Theater in her first major stage role as Zuzu in Dance Nation, a play by Clare Barron.  

“It was my dream role and proudest moment. I get energized as a performer connecting with a live audience, who are living, breathing, watching and taking in everything you are doing on stage,” Lutz said. “In theater, there is such a beauty in how much error can happen, and it’s an intimate experience that I want to live forever.”   

She credits Shavon Norris, an adjunct professor at the School of Theater, Film and Media Arts, for helping her raise the bar as a performer by teaching her how to use body movement to reveal stories that grab an audience’s attention.  

“Without her class, I don’t think I would have ever been so in tune with my body movements and what it needs to tell a story,” said Lutz. “When nourishing your instrument as a performer it is valuable to know what your body can do and what you want it to do.  

“Theater can be a daunting experience and Shavon has been so integral in helping me connect with myself and being intuitive about my choices in my art as a performer and in life,” she added.  

While pursuing a bachelor of arts in theater, Lutz was motivated to help improve the representation of people of color in theater at Temple. She co-founded Theater Underground, a program that provides space for Black students interested in theater. 

“I wanted to create a community for theater students who are people of color to have a space where they feel comfortable discussing issues that they may face in the department,” she said. “We were able to cultivate a larger community of Black theater artists at Temple.”  

Lutz was also a member of the film and media arts program’s first diversity, equity and inclusion committee for students to discuss issues to break down the systemic racism that people of color face in theater.  

Additionally, she helped revitalize the Honorables of Color, a discussion group for students of color in the Temple University Honors Program. 

“I and other students were actively meeting to connect with students to revitalize the organization,” she said. “It is exciting to see how far we have come to build a tight-knit group.” 

Lutz’s Temple journey came full circle when she was selected as the student speaker for both Temple’s Commencement ceremony and TFMA’s ceremony. 

“To be selected is gratifying as someone who has always loved writing as much as I love to perform,” she said. “Like many of us in this pandemic Class of 2024, I lost my graduation and prom too, among other things but it does not sting me anymore like it used to.  

“We had an extremely abnormal experience and a lot of us didn’t think we would make it, yet we did and are in this together forever,” she added.