Arts Rising Stars


Just a month into their Occidental collegiate careers, first years have already created a buzz in the arts and entertainment scene. From dancing in Hyper Xpressions to photographing for La Encina, these four first years hit the ground running.

Megan McKiernan

Megan McKiernan describes herself as the girl who shows up to the first meeting with cupcakes. Yet when she arrived at Occidental, McKiernan brought her love of theater.

McKiernan had her on-stage debut at a summer camp in second grade, and her theater career has blossomed since. Now, she is distinguishing herself in Occidental’s theater community by playing Irina in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” adapted by Sarah Ruhl.

“The piece is so complicated and interesting, and I think the role is a great chance to grow as an actress,” McKiernan said. “I’m excited about learning from it and seeing how the show turns out.”

The show was an open audition for all majors and is directed by Juliette Carrillo. Performances will be held in Keck Theater Nov. 19–21 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 22 at 2:00 p.m.

The young actress credits her love of theater to the power of storytelling, the adrenaline that comes with performing and the fleeting nature of live shows. Growing up in a family interested in theater meant she was frequently on and around the stage throughout her childhood.

McKiernan is currently undecided on her major but hopes to continue her involvement in theater and music. She dreams of combining social justice and theater in her work.

Ian McPherson

A year ago, Ian McPherson sat on the sidelines of the dance floor at birthday parties. Today, McPherson is a Dance Production hip-hop choreographer and member of Hyper Xpressions and the All-styles Bboy Club.

“I used to be very soft spoken and very introverted,” McPherson said. “Dance is really just a way to express yourself. It was my conduit to get out emotions.”

Almost immediately after beginning dance, McPherson fell in love with the art form and drew initial inspiration from shows like “America’s Best Dance Crew” and YouTube videos. He describes his style as clean, intricate hip-hop.

As the only dancer in his high school, McPherson welcomes Occidental’s expansive dance community.

“I think that the dance community within Occidental is optimistic and enthusiastic, which I love,” McPherson said. “There are a lot of different styles here that I want to learn from, and I feel there are a lot of opportunities for me to improve as a choreographer and also a person.”

In addition to dance, McPherson intends to major in physics and participate in Chess Club, Beekeeping Club and Music Production Club.


Claire Van Fossen

Claire Van Fossen has been singing in a choir and dancing for 10 years. Both of these long-term artistic activities lead Van Fossen to spots on Occidental’s Glee Club and Hyper Xpressions.

“Dance lets me express myself and takes away a lot of stress,” Van Fossen said.

Van Fossen enjoys singing in a chorus because it exposes her to different languages and lets her get to know a variety of students.

Glee member Alexis Morse (sophomore) offered to practice Van Fossen’s audition piece prior to her glee audition.

“She has incredibly positive energy and she’s kind to people she works with, which is so great in the arts,” Morse said.

Van Fossen intends to major in Diplomacy and World Affairs. She is looking forward to seeing the culmination of her work through both the Hyper Xpressions showcase and the Glee Club tour in January.

“I had seen both of them perform, and I was like, ‘I’m not going to get in to Glee or Hyper,’” Van Fossen said. “So when I got in to both of them I was like, ‘This is not happening.’ I was so excited.”

Caldwell Biddle

Caldwell Biddle has been doodling geometric shapes on himself for as long as he can remember. Although it may not sound like the path to an eventual passion for photography, Biddle cites his love of drawing as the seed from which his interest in photography grew five years ago. His doodling habit eventually inspired his senior photo project, where he doodled on subjects and photographed them against Victorian backgrounds.

“I’ve loved to draw designs and shapes for as long as I can remember, and [photography] was just kind of an outlet for that at the beginning,” Biddle said. “It then turned into a passion of mine, it was something I was good at, which is a really fun feeling.”

Biddle is the only first year on the La Encina staff, Occidental’s yearbook publication. Although Biddle initially focused on digital photography, he forayed into film photography when he gained access to a dark room through his high school photography class.

One of Biddle’s favorite moments with photography occurred after he participated in a National Geographic photo expedition in San Francisco. At a subsequent show exhibiting photos from the exhibition, a gallery owner purchased Biddle’s photograph of a baseball diamond at Alcatraz.

For Biddle, working for La Encina has been a good introduction to the Occidental community.

“La Encina has impacted my Oxy experience by pushing me to go a lot of places I probably wouldn’t otherwise,” Biddle said. “I’ve been … meeting a lot of people I possibly otherwise wouldn’t have”