Student Spotlight: Nicholas Gutierrez '20 shines as a playwright

by Elizabeth Garrison | 10/31/19 2:00am


Nicholas Gutierrez ’20 is involved in anything and everything creative at Dartmouth. Gutierrez, a native of Miami, FL, is a playwright, actor, film projectionist, opera singer and leader. As a film and theater modified with anthropology and geography double major with a minor in linguistics, his passion for pursing diverse interests goes beyond his extensive extracurricular involvements. In his work as a playwright, Gutierrez has staged two of his plays with the theater department. He is also acting in the theater department’s fall mainstage production of “The Living” and is a singer with the Dartmouth Opera Lab. 

In addition to theater, Gutierrez is passionate about film. He is the director of the Dartmouth Film Society and works as a projectionist at the Hopkins Center. This year he is serving as a film fellow at the Hopkins Center, which has enabled him to further pursue his interest in the performing arts. No matter what he is doing, according to Gutierrez’s friends and coworkers, he always brings infectious energy and vibrant creativity to every project. 

Last fall, a staged reading of Gutierrez’s play “Gallery” was featured as part of the theater department’s PlaySpace (now called Studio Lab) presentations, a program that allows students to explore unconventional performance art. “Gallery” takes place in an apocalyptic world where scholars have to decide which works of art should be preserved in an impenetrable container. 

Gutierrez lets his imagination run wild through his playwriting.

“I’ve been writing stuff for as long as I can remember,” Gutierrez said. “I write plays to work through ideas I have in my head. I like to jot down random thoughts I have in a document on my computer.” 

In “Gallery,” Gutierrez said he was inspired by his surroundings to explore philosophical topics in an unprecedented manner.

“For ‘Gallery,’ I had just taken a class about what constitutes good art and bad art, and I was very frustrated with the idea of people telling me what to think and what we should value as a society,” Gutierrez said. “So, I came up with an extreme scenario to explore if it would make a difference if we didn’t have art.” 

This fall, Gutierrez’s play “Tires of a Dream” was one of two works featured in the theater department’s fall 2019 New Works Weekend, which showed original performing art pieces from students. While writing “Gallery” was spontaneous, Gutierrez wrote “Tires of a Dream” with the intention of it being staged at Dartmouth. While he was working in Los Angeles, Gutierrez deliberately designated large amounts of time to writing a full-length play. “Tires of a Dream” tells the story of an aspiring professional clown grappling with the expectations of his immigrant parents. Gutierrez thought it was important to bring unconventional Latinx stories to Hanover.

This term, theater professor Jamie Horton has directed Gutierrez in the theater department’s Fall Mainstage production of “The Living.” According to Horton, Gutierrez is a generous actor with a big heart and a strong commitment to what he’s doing. When Horton saw “Tires of a Dream,” he was impressed with Gutierrez’s writing ability. 

“As a playwright, his work ‘Tires of a Dream’ was an incredibly interesting piece,” Horton said. “We were all struck by his great wit and his ability to tackle important themes.” 

Naomi Agnew ’20 directed the staged reading of “Tires of a Dream” and has worked closely with Gutierrez on many projects throughout their time at Dartmouth. Since living on the same freshman floor in the Humanities Living Learning Community, Agnew and Gutierrez have become friends and artistic collaborators. 

According to Agnew, Gutierrez’s unique voice as a writer shines through his productions. 

“When I read his scripts, I hear my friend Nick coming through,” Agnew said. “He is such a unique, caring, intelligent person with a hilarious sense of humor, and all of that shines through his work.”

Agnew said that what makes Gutierrez’s work stand out is how much of his personality he puts into his productions.

“I know ‘Tires of Dream’ has been a seed in his head for a while and when you read it out loud it is truly the epitome of everything Nick Gutierrez is now at this moment,” Agnew said. “The fact that the person shines through is what makes his work truly special”  

Gutierrez brings this dynamic energy to his work as a film fellow for the Hopkins Center. As a film fellow, Gutierrez plays an active role in programming, event administration and student outreach. 

Hopkins Center film programming and operations manager Johanna Evans said she first met Gutierrez when he started working as a film projectionist. Quickly, Evans said, he became a reliable team player who took initiative to make sure things ran smoothly. According to Evans, he was an obvious choice for the position of film fellow because of his contributions to the film department. 

“It is very rare to have a student who comes up with great ideas and has the capacity and willpower to see them through,” Evans said. “Since he is so exceptional at his job, I’ve gotten to know him on a more personal level, and we’ve gotten to talk extensively about film. When deciding what movies to bring to the Hop, I value his opinion as much as my own.” 

Evans also said she appreciates Gutierrez’s ability to make connections with people, a skill he honed through his work in theater. According to Evans, Gutierrez is collaborative and always comes up with new ways to engage students with film. This fall, he worked with the Asian American Student Association to host a discussion after a screening of ‘The Farewell.’

“Through his work, Nick turned a typical film screening into an event that people wanted to go to,” Evans said. “In doing so, he doubled the student attendance we normally see at this kind of event.”

After he graduates from Dartmouth, Gutierrez hopes to attend graduate school for playwriting and continue pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. As he reflects on his time at Dartmouth, he said he appreciates the great opportunities to get involved in the arts on campus. 

“I came to Dartmouth with the assumption that this school was not the best conduit of the arts,” Gutierrez said. “Now as a senior, I’ve realized that if you seek out opportunities in the arts there are so many people here who are willing to help you or to connect with the right people. Moving forward this year, I have a lot of responsibilities but I feel happy knowing that I’m helping to facilitate great opportunities in the arts at Dartmouth.”