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Ava Quaale

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Franciscan Faces

Ava Quaale

The Next Stage

Summer 2024 | Maura McKeegan

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In 2021, Ava Quaale was in Spain, spending her freshman year of college studying abroad at the University of Navarra and wondering what she was supposed to do with her life. One day, as she was praying in a nearby church, a thought hit her: What if she majored in theatre at Franciscan University?

Ava had never been to Steubenville, and majoring in theatre wasn’t on her radar, so the idea seemed to come out of left field. Back in high school, she had heard great things about Franciscan’s Theatre Department from her drama teacher, Dr. Kristin O’Malley ’10, whose passion for the art of storytelling had inspired Ava’s love of theatre, especially Shakespeare. Ava had spent many happy hours on stage, both in her high school productions and in community theatre. Still, she’d always considered theatre a hobby, not a career path. But in that Spanish church, the thought of making theatre her major captured her attention.

After returning home to Virginia, Ava reached out to Franciscan University theatre professor John Walker, who explained how he sees Catholic art as a way to evangelize the culture.

“That one conversation changed everything for me,” Ava remembers. “I realized theatre could be used as something more than just a hobby; it has the power to influence a lot of people for the good. I thought, ‘Wow, I’d love to do that.’”

By the fall of 2022, Ava, now a theatre major, was performing in Beauty and the Beast with Franciscan’s student-led musical theater troupe. A year later, she played Jo March in Anathan Theatre’s production of Little Women, directed by Theatre Department chair Dr. Monica Anderson, whom Ava calls “an absolute genius.”

“I grew up reading Little Women, so getting to perform it here was an amazing experience,” Ava says.

The oldest of seven children, Ava entered the Catholic Church along with her entire family when she was 14, and she’s especially grateful to be receiving a strong foundation in Catholic principles of theatre.

“Coming to Franciscan has been a really awesome experience for me, in that a lot of the culturally Catholic things that I didn’t experience growing up, I can experience here,” she explains. “Being here has helped me to take my faith and make it my own.”

As she enters her senior year, Ava is once again wondering where life might take her after she finishes school. And just like that life-changing day in the Spanish church, she’s listening for what those next steps might be.

“I’m trying to allow God to show me the way,” she says.

She’s thinking of getting a master’s degree in theatre history or Shakespeare, teaching drama, or even starting a Catholic theatre company. The next stage of life is full of promise, with God directing the show.

Maura Roan McKeegan writes from Wintersville, Ohio.

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