Professional Connections: Guest Professionals

Every year, students at the SFA School of Theatre benefit from fresh and diverse perspectives of active professionals that visit our campus from all across the nation.

I thought SFA’s Festival [of New American Plays] was outstanding.... You engaged your students in meaningful, central ways and you provided them with opportunities few of their peers at other institutions will ever have in the course of their undergraduate education....

The Festival was very well run and I was extremely impressed by the caliber of your student actors and technicians. You are to be commended for providing such good preparation to your students. The student actors, across the board, brought the plays to life so well that I often forgot they had scripts in their hands. The technicians executed often complicated sound and lighting demands with aplomb.... I look forward to attending in 2012!

I also enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the panel discussion with your students. I found them attentive to, and engaged in, the conversation. They asked insightful and relevant questions and seemed to be focused on the challenges and opportunities that await them in the ‘real world.’

—Robert Hupp, Producing Artistic Director
Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Little Rock

In 2011–12

Barry Doss, associate costume designer of the current hit Broadway revival of Evita starring Ricky Martin and Michael Cerveris, came to SFA as costume designer for the Summer Repertory Theatre production of Steel Magnolias. Mr. Doss has previously served as associate designer of five other Broadway shows, assistant designer of two, and wardrobe supervisor of three more. He has designed for regional theatre, dance and cabaret, and worked in the costume shops of major companies including Washington D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company, Papermill Playhouse, and the Texas Shakespeare Festival.

Randon Pool, costume manager of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, returned for a third season of Summer Rep, this time as costume designer of How I Became a Pirate.

Richard Ellis, resident designer of the American Theatre Company in Tulsa and guest designer Off Broadway and at numerous American regional theatres including the Alley, Joanne Woodward’s Westport Country Playhouse and Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse, returned for yet another season as scenic and properties designer of our Summer Rep season. Richard has also designed for Radio City Music Hall, the Helen Hayes Theatre and Carnegie Hall, among other prestigious venues.

Lighting executive Jim Waits, Marketing/Sales Director at CommuniLux Productions in Dallas and a member of the original programming team for the Vari-Lite (the world’s first automated moving light fixture for performances), spoke to SFA students emphasizing theatre design and technology. Mr. Waits is an SFA graduate.

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World-renowned playwrights John Cariani (Almost, Maine) and Constance Congdon (Tales of the Lost Formicans) joined us to work on their latest works, Cariani’s Love/Sick and Congdon’s Take Me to the River, in public staged readings at the eighth biennial Festival of New American Plays. Cariani is also a Tony Award-nominated musical theatre actor (Fiddler on the Roof) and television star (Law & Order). Congdon, who teaches at Amherst College in Massachusetts, also gave a playwriting workshop, both writers held Q&A sessions with students and audiences, and both shared multiple meals as well as rehearsal time with student casts and crews.

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Two-time Daytime Emmy Award-nominee Brad Maule BFA ‘74, a lecturer in the Schools of Theatre and Art at SFA and winner of the School of Theatre Distinguished Alumni Award, appeared as a guest artist in Jack Heifner’s staged reading of Take Me to the River by Constance Congdon for the Festival of New American Plays.

Equity actor Kathleen Mulligan gave a workshop on vocal "Heroics," teaching SFA acting students to explore the limits of their speaking voices without endangering their vocal health. Her acting credits include The Acting Company (Off Broadway and national tour), American Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, PCPA Theatrefest, Fort Worth Shakespeare in the Park, and the Texas Shakespeare Festival. Ms. Mulligan has taught voice and speech at Cornell University, the University of Illinois and Ithaca College, where she is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Theatre Arts.

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Four-time Joseph Jefferson Award-nominee and national Irene Ryan Award-winning actor David Studwell played Chebutykin in Dr. Rick Jones’s production of Three Sisters. Mr. Studwell, a visiting assistant professor of acting at SFA, has performed Off Broadway, in Chicago at the Goodman Theatre and Wisdom Bridge Theatre, at Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, PCPA Theatrefest, Indiana Rep, Syracuse Stage, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre and other regional companies as well as in network television and on film. The cast also featured Dr. Jason Davids Scott, assistant professor of theatre and cinema at SFA, in the role of Fedotik. Dr. Scott has performed with Shakespeare Santa Barbara, in the web series The Director and in numerous short films.

2011 Emmy Award-winning actor Margo Martindale spoke to SFA students about performing, careers, and life in a session moderated by SFA playwright-in-residence Jack Heifner. Martindale won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her performance as Mags Bennett in Justified on the FX network. She has also appeared in many dozens of films including Clint Eastwood’s multi-Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby with Hilary Swank, The Hours with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, and Dead Man Walking with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn. She was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance as Big Mama in the Broadway revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Ned Beatty and Ashley Judd.

Hollywood casting director, producer and screenwriter Gabrielle Berberich taught workshops on career development and on-camera auditioning to SFA students. Berberich, who is best known for the award-winning feature film Greetings from the Shore (which she co-wrote and produced) also operates New York City’s longest-running private acting school, Michael Howard Studios.

Voice actor Luci Christian, best known for her work in the English-language versions of Japanese animated films and television series, gave a voice-over workshop for SFA acting students.

President of the American Society for Theatre Research Rhonda Blair, who wrote the translation of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters used in our production, gave a workshop for the cast and other interested students on the application of cognitive neuroscience in acting Chekhov. Dr. Blair is also a director, solo performer, actor and professor of Theatre at Southern Methodist University.

Associate Artistic Director and Casting Director Sandy Ernst of Milwaukee Repertory Theater auditioned our BFA acting students for Milwaukee Rep’s Artistic Internship program and gave an orientation to the program as well as feedback on the auditions.

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Internationally acclaimed director, coach and movement specialist Chuck Hudson was in residence at SFA for five weeks to direct our production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mr. Hudson, the 2012 Schmidbauer Artist-in-Residence, has directed Off Broadway, throughout the United States, and in South Africa. He has taught in Italy, France, Australia, South Africa, Germany and Mexico as well as at the Juilliard School, the University of Southern California, Indiana University, Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, North Carolina School of the Arts and the University of Houston among other U.S. schools. He was formerly artistic director of Seattle’s Immediate Theatre and movement director of the Intiman Theatre and the Alley Theatre. He studied and performed with legendary mime Marcel Marceau.

David Studwell, an award-winning stage actor with 27 years’ experience in Actors Equity Association, played the role of Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Mr. Studwell, a visiting assistant professor of Theatre at SFA, has played Oliver in As You Like It and Benvolio (opposite Michael Cerveris’s Romeo) in Romeo and Juliet at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, Macduff in Macbethp at PCPA Theatrefest, and Hamlet under the direction of Tony Award-winner Robert Falls.

Grammy Award-winning, Drama Desk Award-nominated singer-actor Gary Morris, star of Les Miserables on Broadway, gave a master class for theatre majors and other SFA students interested in show business careers. Morris also starred opposite Linda Ronstadt in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of La Boheme, and has worked extensively in front of the camera on leading television series and specials. He is perhaps best known as a country music concert and recording artist.

Robert J. Martin, assistant costume designer of more than a dozen Broadway productions (including his current assignment, Mamma Mia!) designed the costumes for SFA's production of Rabbit Hole. Robert, who also designs scenery and costumes for theatre and opera in New York City and regionally, was in residence for two weeks working with students in classes as well as the costume shop.

New York-based dancer/choreographer/actor/director Dana Maddox taught two half-day workshops on "Surviving the Dance Audition: a musical theatre workshop for actors."

In 2010–11

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Emmy Award-winning character actor Anthony Zerbe interacted with theatre majors and cinematography majors in a variety of ways over the course of an exhilarating three-day residency. Over the course of his stay, Zerbe individually coached all ten students currently enrolled in the BFA-Acting program on the SFA campus, one-on-one, for a full hour each.

The residency also included an interactive lecture drawn from Zerbe’s extensive theatre experience. He co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor in “The Little Foxes” on Broadway, played Iago opposite James Earl Jones’s Othello, and twice played the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac at major American regional theatres. He spent five seasons at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre (where his roles included Coriolanus, Richard III and Macbeth), two seasons at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., and a season at Canada’s Stratford Festival. He also starred on Broadway in “Terra Nova” and “Solomon’s Child.” Theatre majors peppered Zerbe with questions about these and other acting experiences.

Zerbe spoke from his deep experience as a screen actor during another lecture, this one primarily for cinematography students in the SFA School of Art. They too had many questions.

Zerbe has made practically countless primetime network television appearances in series from “Naked City” to “Frasier.” He won a Primetime Emmy Award for his role as police Lt. K. C. Trench in the acclaimed private-eye series “Harry O.,” and starred along with Josh Brolin and Melissa Leo in the series “The Young Riders.” Of more than fifty feature film roles, some of his most memorable were in “Cool Hand Luke” with Paul Newman, “The Omega Man” with Charlton Heston, “Papillon” with Dustin Hoffman, “The Turning Point” with Shirley MacLaine, as James Bond villain Milton Crest in “License to Kill,” and as Vice Admiral Dougherty in “Star Trek: Insurrection.” His last major motion picture appearances were in “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions.”

Zerbe’s work at SFA culminated with his renowned one-man salon-performance of poetry: “It’s All Done With Mirrors: an avalanche of e. e. cummings.” After the show he socialized with the many students that had come to love him in his all-too-brief visit to SFA.

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Members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, creators of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), gave a high-energy workshop on comic improvisation for SFA theatre students.

Randon Pool, costume manager of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, returned for her second Summer Rep season as cutter/draper in our costume shop.

Richard Ellis, resident scenic designer of the American Theatre Company in Tulsa, returned for his third Summer Rep season and his sixth and seventh productions as guest scenic designer.

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SFA students interested in all aspects of theatre met with actors and staff on national tour with a children’s play produced by TheatreWorks USA, one of the nation’s largest professional theatre companies. Theatre majors at SFA are often employed by the College of Fine Arts to work as front-of-house staff and backstage crew on professional shows that visit campus for the Children’s Performing Arts Series and University Series. Occasionally performers and road staff meet with a wider range of students, sharing insights into the industry and the touring experience before moving on to their next venue.

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Senior Miguel Maymi (pictured, left) traveled to New York City to serve as dramaturg for the off-Off Broadway Phoenix Theatre Ensemble's "concert reading" of Charles Marowitz's play "Silent Partners." He and assistant director Brandon Polanco BFA '09 (right) met with 94-year-old theatre legend Eric Bentley, who is the play's protagonist, and attended rehearsals as well as the first public reading. In this photo they are flanking Phoenix co-artistic director Brian A. Costello, who portrayed Bentley in the play.

Students participated in two live, interactive videoconference seminars connecting them with New York City. The Broadway League's Speakers Bureau is set up to share information about non-performance careers in the arts. The speakers see our students in a video-equipped classroom while the students see them simultaneously in an NYC studio, and student questions are encouraged. In the fall our "guests," chatting with students emphasizing stage management or theatre technology, were the production stage manager of the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway rock musical "Next to Normal," and one of Broadway's top production managers. In the spring SFA students with an interest in arts administration spoke with Kenneth Waissman, original producer of "Grease" and the Tony Award-wining "Torch Song Trilogy;" Alia M. Jones, producer of the recent revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" starring James Earl Jones; and a general manager associate from Nina Lannan and Associates who has worked on such Broadway hits as "Billy Elliot" and "Mamma Mia!" By the end of that conversation, all three had explained, "this is how you get a summer internship in my office."

In 2009–10

Andy Long, a Dallas-based actor, director and one of the region’s leading voice-over artists, also returned to SFA in the fall semester to give two workshops for theatre majors.

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Consultant, director and award-winning high school theatre teacher Tress Kurzym spoke to SFA Theatre Education majors about how to build a winning secondary school drama program.

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Internationally renowned dramatists James McLure (“Lone Star” and “Laundry and Bourbon”) and Barbara Lebow (“A Shayna Maidel”) joined SFA playwright-in-residence Jack Heifner in Nacogdoches for the seventh biennial Festival of New American Plays. Student casts performed staged readings of new works under development by these authors and interacted extensively with the writers, who gave multiple talks and visited several classes during their week-long residencies.

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Los Angeles-based Richard Robichaux, a successful commercial and television actor and the West Coast admissions coordinator for the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, taught two workshops on auditioning (for the stage and for the camera) at SFA in November.

Richard Ellis returned for his first Mainstage design at SFA, creating the imposing scenery for Woyzeck.

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School of Theatre director Scott Shattuck moderated a discussion on “How It Really Works: Jobs, Gigs, Careers and More” with Samantha Wyer, Associate Artistic Director of Arizona Theatre Company, and Robert Hupp, Producing Artistic Director of Arkansas Repertory Theatre. These leaders of the largest resident theatre companies in their respective states shared real-world insights with students in acting, directing, design, technology, stage management and playwriting.

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Veteran cutter/draper Randon Pool gave a hands-on workshop in which interested theatre majors constructed corsets using established and innovative professional techniques.

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Working Equity actor Jolie Garrett, passing through Nacogdoches on the national tour of a New York production, stopped long enough for an in-depth conversation about the art and business of acting with selected theatre majors.

In 2008–09 (click to view)

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Actors, singers and dancers from the SFA Schools of Theatre and Music performed alongside veteran professional actor and musical theatre expert Dr. Alan Nielsen in the Mainstage presentation of Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dr. Nielsen, who is also the founder/director of SFA’s musical theatre cabaret revue troupe, The Original Cast, played Mark Twain’s unforgettable swindler, “The King.” He is pictured here with junior theatre major Austin Chason, who played his partner-in-crime, The Duke.

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Early in the spring semester, Kerby Thompson, producing artistic director of New York’s Cortland Repertory Theatre, visited SFA to audition theatre majors for his 2009 summer season. He also provided invaluable feedback on every student’s audition. That came in handy when Brent Hazleton, artistic associate of Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, arrived to audition BFA performance candidates for his company’s prestigious year-long artistic internship program. Soon thereafter, Raymond Caldwell and John Dodd, artistic director and managing director, respectively, of the Texas Shakespeare Festival, conducted auditions and interviews with SFA theatre majors for positions onstage and off- in their upcoming summer season.

For the Summer Repertory season, costumes for two of the three productions were designed by April Cooper, an SFA alumna with an MFA from Illinois State University. Richard Ellis returned to design the scenery for Master Harold... and the boys.

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Internationally renowned movement and voice specialist Aole T. Miller, who served as Michelle Williams’s acting coach for her Academy Award-nominated performance in Brokeback Mountain, gave an intensive three-day workshop on using imagery in movement and character. Best known for his mask work, he is the first African American ceremonial mask dancer of Bali. Brooklyn-based Miller teaches and directs extensively in Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and Denmark and has previously taught at American universities including Yale, NYU and Southern Cal.

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Los Angeles and Las Vegas-based musical theatre star Ali Spuck, an SFA Theatre alumna, gave a day-long workshop on audition techniques for musical theatre. Spuck, who was a member of The Original Cast at SFA, has starred in national and international tours, regional productions and television/film, and was nominated for an Ovation Award for her performance in “It Came From Beyond” in LA. She also appeared in the Pasadena Playhouse production of Vanities: A New Musical by SFA playwright-in-residence Jack Heifner.

Melissa McMillian-Cunningham, who as vice president of the Texas Educational Theatre Association’s K-12 branch serves as leader of all of the state’s elementary and secondary drama teachers, met with SFA’s theatre education majors to discuss issues confronting high school drama teachers today, and to help the instructors of tomorrow develop a positive vision for teaching theatre in Texas public schools. McMillian-Cunningham, who is director of theatre at Central Heights High School and an SFA alumna, led a lively discussion with more than a dozen prospective drama teachers.

In 2007–08 (click to view)

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Guest scenic designer Richard Ellis worked with student crews to create sets for the Summer Rep productions of Androcles and the Lion, Driving Miss Daisy and Crimes of the Heart (pictured). Ellis has served as resident designer at Houston's Tony Award-winning Alley Theatre, scenic coordinator at New York’s Radio City Music Hall, professor of design at the City University of New York and resident designer at Joanne Woodward’s Westport Country Playhouse, among many other professional credits. “He had a mountain full of advice and information that would definitely help us on our paths,” wrote student assistant technical director Miguel Maymi. “Not to mention his great set designs which I absolutely love.”

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In a dynamic workshop, our students learned about the professional audition process from Lewis Magruder, who coordinates casting as associate producing artistic director of The Acting Company, the Tony Award-honored classical touring theatre company based in New York City. In a second workshop, Mr. Magruder also taught SFA students how to produce their own work in off-Off Broadway theatres in New York.

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In addition, SFA student performers worked side-by-side on stage with Equity actor Kyle Kennedy in our main stage production of Lend Me a Tenor. Mr. Kennedy is an assistant professor of acting and directing at SFA.

In another exciting workshop, actor/director Bill Kincaid, head of the acting program at Western Illinois University and founder of Bard in the Barn, immersed SFA acting students in Patrick Tucker’s stunning “Unrehearsed Shakespeare” technique.

Our students auditioned and interviewed for backstage positions at the renowned Texas Shakespeare Festival when TSF artistic director Raymond Caldwell visited the SFA campus in January. SFA students, alumni and faculty work frequently at the Kilgore-based Festival.

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SFA students learned high-level techniques from David Zimmerman, makeup artist for top models and actors, Broadway shows (“Wicked”), and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He is currently head of hair and makeup design at Santa Fe Opera, Dallas Opera, and Tulsa Opera.

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SFA students performed in rehearsed readings of three scripts in our biennial Festival of New American Plays, founded by playwright and School of Theatre visiting professor Jack Heifner (Vanities). Dramatist Staci Swedeen of New York, playwright and screenwriter Richard Strahle (My Samurai) of Colorado, and Tony and Emmy Award-nominee William M. Hoffman (As Is) visited campus for the length of the festival, working on their plays and interacting with students in a variety of ways.

Stage management students were visited by guest lecturer George Boyd, a veteran of Broadway and regional theatre who served as production stage manager of the international tour of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” among many other shows.