Five minutes into meeting Vidusshi Hingad PO ’25, it becomes clear why the first-year was offered an assistant directing role in one of Pomona College’s Department of Theatre productions.
Hingad’s experience ranges from a paid job directing children in a production of “The Wizard of Oz” to playing Fantine in “Les Misérables” at the National Center for the Performing Arts, a prestigious cultural institute in India. Back in her hometown, Mumbai, she called her school’s performing arts center a second home.
A delayed club rush has contributed to a slow start to the school year for many first-years looking to pursue their passions at the 5Cs. The COVID-19 pandemic has also left many opportunities in a state of flux — especially in the arts. But this did not stop Hingad from bursting onto the Pomona theater scene by auditioning for a role in “Circle Mirror Transformation” written by Annie Baker.
“I was just glad to be back,” Hingad said, reflecting on auditioning after a year and a half away from theater. “I had one thought to myself: ‘I do not care if I get [a] role… I just am glad to be back in this space.’”
Alongside productions for which students write and produce their own work — such as Green Room Productions and Spotlight Theatre — faculty from Pomona’s Department of Theatre direct plays each semester. Hingad was primarily drawn to “Circle Mirror Transformation” not because of the content but because of the professor directing it, Jessie Mills.
Hingad had heard of Mills before she even got to Pomona, even writing about the professor in her college application. At New Student Orientation, older students insisted Mills’ class was the one to take.
“I honestly did not even know about this play at all; I read it for the first time during the [callback],” Hingad said. “But I knew that Jessie was directing it, and … she’s taking [a] sabbatical next semester.”
When Hingad went to her audition, she never envisioned that she would be offered a position to assistant direct a few days later. But after Hingad’s callback, Mills asked her what her interests were, and Hingad told her of her interest in directing.
“I told her I like acting, but I love directing,” Hingad said. “And I never knew it was possible.”
After sending her resume to Mills a few days later, Hingad was asked to be one of the assistant directors for “Circle Mirror Transformation.”
“I was over the world,” Hingad said. “I was so happy that I called back [to] Mumbai, and I think it was 3 a.m. out there … my parents got out of bed. [They] were scared that I was not fitting in, but the moment they heard, they knew it would give me purpose on campus.”
Initially nervous about assistant directing a play of mostly upperclassmen, Hingad said that no one has made her feel inferior. On the first day, she experienced impostor syndrome, which was resolved quickly.
“[Theater is] about collaboration and community … and I feel like I thought that it was more in my head,” Hingad said. “But the moment I walked in this space, I was just valued and just welcomed with open arms.”
With Hingad, Mills said she simply checks in on the first-year. She is mainly concerned with ensuring that everyone in the room is being valued and synthesizing their thoughts and ideas.
“Year level is helping to carve our experience in any given moment,” Mills said. “For me, it’s so much about … what you as a human bring … [We carry] so much amazing expertise, experience, gifts, values into this space.”
De-centering inexperience — at least in regard to a college theater scene — and centering strengths has helped Hingad focus more on what she can bring to the table as an assistant director.
“[Mills] is using our personal strengths as mechanisms to improve the player,” Hingad said. “For example, I’m a psych student as well, and I love characterization … what I have to look at is character arcs. I have to remind the characters that ‘OK, this is where you are right now. This is your relationship with this person, [and] your emotional standing [is this] at this point in the play.’”
Mills looks to Hingad to help clarify how characters are moving through their arc throughout the play.
“We have this sort of joy to look to Vidusshi for in terms of having her as a resource and having her as an eye towards something really specific in this world,” Mills said.
Hingad has also been involved in other aspects of theater, such as writing and acting. She began drama in elementary school but took a break after a few years, not enjoying it to the extent she later would. In seventh grade, drama was a compulsory subject and Hingad was drawn back in under the direction of a different teacher and material that was much closer to her heart.
“I was getting bullied at that time but then after [I performed], I got a huge, huge, huge applause, and that just made me feel so much better about myself,” Hingad said.
Hingad then went on to take drama for her General Certificate of Secondary Education elective exams and completed her IB diploma with it as an upper-level subject. Outside of school, one opportunity led to the next. She performed again at the National Center for Performing Arts as a part of a United Nations-directed program called Climate Change Theatre Action. In the spring of her sophomore year, she went to the Czech Republic to take part in a workshop on how theater can celebrate and capture memories as markers of experiences.
“I think I understood my identity … through [theater] — it gave me so much confidence.“ Hingad said. “[Theater] gave me self-belief and self-efficacy that I can do something … if I truly put my head to it. “
Hingad is a model for any student who is scared of putting themselves out there in a new setting or who is feeling lost. She encourages students to live their college experiences with the understanding that one and a half years were taken from their ability to engage in passions old and new.
“I am still finding my place every single day,” Hingad said as a reminder to fellow first-years. “At the end of the day, I wanted to find a community where I was accepted.”
Curtains open for “Circle Mirror Transformation” at the Allen Theatre on Oct. 7, and the production runs through Oct. 10. Tickets can be purchased here.