Theatre showcases create great opportunities for students Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Elly Noble and other alums are seeing career opportunities following Showcase exposure
Each year, a select group of Point Park University senior acting and musical theatre majors perform for casting directors, talent agents, managers and other industry professionals in New York City and Los Angeles as part of the Conservatory of Performing Arts annual theatre showcases.
The students represent some of the University's top talent, having earned the chance to participate in the showcases through highly competitive auditions. A panel of distinguished faculty and local industry professionals selects the students, who then take a showcase class at the University twice a week to prepare.
The showcases are directed by Point Park faculty members John Shepard, chair of the Theatre Department, and Jack Allison, head of the musical theatre program.
Elly Noble, a 2010 B.F.A. musical theatre graduate, participated in last year's showcase and is currently living and working in New York City.
"The journey was incredible the whole way around. The class itself was challenging but fun. John and Jack are the ultimate teachers," she said. "The process while we were in school was the culmination of everything we had worked on for four years."
Less than five months after the 2010 showcases, held in New York City at New World Stages on May 10 and at the Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles on May 17, six of the twelve students who participated have already been signed with agents. All of the students received at least three or four "bites" (connections, possible interviews or auditions) as a direct result of this past year's showcase - a truly remarkable number.
"With fewer industry people than our competitors [in attendance], our students did better than almost any other school in the country," Shepard said.
"Going to New York and LA was our debut. We met so many people and saw the city. Point Park took us by the hand, took us into the city and showed the world who we are," said Noble.
Shepard and Allison began the showcase program eight years ago in New York and added the Los Angeles showcase four years ago. "It's an hour's entertainment that showcases the best of what Point Park does," said Allison.
Many different agents and casting directors attended the showcases, most notably Bauman, Redanty & Shaul; Harden Curtis; Professional Artists; Dave Clemmons Casting; Michael Cassara Casting; Telsey & Co.; Theatreworks USA; and ABC.
"They will always see Point Park students because they know they will never be disappointed," said Allison.
Noble is a prime example of the showcases' intended results. After meeting with several agents, she signed with agent Jason Lane from Kazarian/Spencer/Ruskin & Associates (KSR). She finished performing in York Theatre Company's The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd directed by Marsha Milgrom Dodge, who also directed the Broadway revival of Ragtime. "Every person in the show was a Broadway vet," said Noble. She was also offered her Equity card.
The showcase's main purpose is to feature the graduating acting and musical theatre students, but it has also opened doors for the Conservatory as a whole. Serious prospective students want a program that includes a showcase because of the opportunities it can create.
"We are now able to recruit the best students," said Shepard. Even the students that don't participate reap the benefits through the involved students' representation of the University's emphasis on work ethic and discipline. "Industry people really value seeing Point Park on their resume," Shepard said. Noble cited three key contributors to her success during her time at Point Park: the training, the day to day living and the people. "The training itself is top notch; you are learning from people who have been in the business. We had so many kids that we had that real-life idea of competition - the honest truth of the business. The classes allow everyone to experience so many different people." She also cited living off campus as the perfect stepping stone for her move to New York.
As for what the future holds, Noble said "she is constantly auditioning and getting her face seen. I want to work for it; I trained to experience every level of success." She has also found support in the robust network of alumni living in the city. Over 15 Point Park alumni are currently living in her Washington Heights neighborhood in Manhattan. They meet weekly, and Noble said she is grateful for their support at the showcases and beyond. "There are so many former students living in New York opening their doors for us and offering to advise in every way; it's literally a giant family. We've already made plans for Thanksgiving!"
In closing, Noble commented, "I would not be living in New York City without having gone to the showcase and wouldn't have gone to showcase without Point Park."
In addition to Noble, Evan Walker signed with KSR, Sam Doblick provided voiceover work for TV's The Family Guy, and Callan Bergmann is currently performing in Hairspray at the Paper Mill Playhouse. All participated in the showcase last spring.
Information about the 2011 showcase will be available in the coming months.