Michael Underhill – Class of 2010
When I entered Northeastern University’s Theatre Department as a Freshman in 2006, my confidence as an actor and a person of theater was, shall we say, slim to none. In acting classes, I was challenged and pushed to places I never thought I could mentally, physically or emotionally go. I received so much individual attention, encouragement and analysis because the student-professor ratio was so small. In analysis class, I learned how to read a script, by crawling over every word of text, forwards and backwards, in a quiet room with no disturbances. In Tech classes, I picked up the practical skills required to physically put on a show, even though I attended as a performance concentration.
I became involved with the student group, Silver Masque, very early on in my college career. When I joined, they mainly put on one student production per semester and promoted the department shows. As a sophomore and candidate for Cabinet membership, I asked the question ‘Why not more?’. Our university preaches the value of practical experience, so why don’t we take advantage of our department endorsed student group? I joined the group and was president of Silver Masque for the next three years. I left my Senior Year ready to conquer the world, rather than quiver in fear of graduation day.
I have not had more than a month off in between projects since graduation in 2010. I have become a company member with Imaginary Beasts, member of Happy Medium Theatre Company’s advisory board, and performed with Commonwealth Shakespeare, Stoneham Theatre, Theatre on Fire, Whistler in the Dark, ShakespeareNow!, Heart and Dagger Productions as well as the film company Greenview Entertainment.
Jenna Stelmok– Class of 2012
Since graduating with a BA in Theatre from Northeastern last year, I have had the opportunity to move to Philadelphia and participate in the Arden Theatre Company’s Professional Apprenticeship Program. Arden apprentices work for one season, gaining a well-rounded, comprehensive knowledge of the nonprofit regional theatre world by working in every aspect of operations. On a daily basis, we rotate through departments such as production, finance, marketing, stage management, education, and multiple others. While I am still in the process of figuring out which area in the field is for me, the Arden has already instilled in me a greater level of confidence and a deeper work ethic, in addition to an incredible support network of talented artists and administrators, and new skills that I acquire on a daily basis. As apprentices, we face high expectations every day –I would not feel up for the challenge without such a complete learning experience from the theatre department at Northeastern.
Anita Shriver – Class of 2012
My time at Northeastern was split between mainstage performance and production, as well as student-initiated projects. Without this kind of diversified experience, I would not have felt confident in entering the professional theatre world. Since graduating with my BA in Theatre, I have worked as a properties designer and scenic artist for Guerilla Opera, Opera del West, and Boston Lyric Opera, as well as a scenic artist for several interactive designs at The Bronx Zoo, The Coney Island Aquarium, and ION Television. I have also revisited Northeastern as an assistant director on their mainstage production of Company, directed by Jonathan Carr. My success outside of Northeastern was due in large part to the excellent group of professors and the visiting artists they brought in. Their push for students to be a part of as much theatre, inside and out of the university, as possible, created a drive and excitement for hard work and creativity.
I entered Northeastern as a theater major, but fully expected to find another discipline or group of people that interested me more. I never did. So, 4.5 years later, I graduated from Northeastern as a theatre major, with a concentration in production. In that time, theater changed for me from something that I could do in college to something I must do in life. How? Mostly because the opportunities I was provided showed me what a diverse, creative, collaborative, and intellectually challenging career theater can be. Throughout my time at Northeastern, I was lucky enough to assist lighting and scenic designers on professional productions in Boston and New York, as well as design two main stage shows for the NU Theater Department. Then, and now (as I figure out where in the world I want to be making theater), I tell people that the best thing about the Northeastern department is that it is small–you get to do so much, to dabble in almost any aspect of theater you please. I always felt that my time was valued, that just showing up to help in the scene shop, or the costume shop, or to hang lights, went a long way. The faculty were supportive of student initiatives, whether associated with the student group, Silver Masque, or outside of the department altogether. I worked with a group of my peers to create our own play from scratch, complete with script and sound design, which we performed in a small theater at Northeastern and another space outside the university. Upon graduation, I found myself already connected with theater communities in Boston and New York, thanks to the co-op program, theater department alumni, and working professors; and, thanks to my fellow students, eager to make more theater from the ground up.
My years at Northeastern University not only allowed me time to grow as a theatre artist but more importantly as an individual. The most important thing I learned from the Theatre Department was how to explore plays and get to the heart of why we do theatre. This intensive research and exploration has helped me immensely in the real world. I have chosen to go to a conservatory school for my graduate degree at Carnegie Mellon University but would encourage all undergrads to go to a liberal arts school such as Northeastern. With the liberal arts requirements it allowed me to grow intellectually and expand my experiences beyond that of the theatre department. This education inspired and prepared me for my time after graduation.
Heidi Nelson – Class of 2006
My undergraduate experience at Northeastern University’s Theatre Department has proven invaluable. During my first few years, interesting coursework complemented by hands-on production experience fueled my passion for creating meaningful art that sparks dialogue and inspires social awareness. As a senior, completing an honors project and thesis gave me the confidence to challenge myself, set high goals, and effectively navigate the world of professional theatre. The success of my honors project and mentorship of an exceptional professor, who became my advisor and good friend, set in motion a chain of events that led to my being accepted into an excellent MFA program and making crucial connections with influential colleagues in my field. At this stage in my career, I have earned a graduate degree, completed a fellowship program with a major theatre company, published an article in a peer-reviewed journal, and begun building a theatre career in New York City. None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the educational foundation and artistic inspiration I acquired through the NU Theatre Department.
Saheem Ali – Class of 2003
My undergraduate education at NU’s Theater Department was instrumental in launching me into the professional world in New York. The combination of theoretical in-class learning, practical rehearsal and performance, and experiential co-op opportunities equipped me with the tools that I needed to enter the professional arena. When I began the program, I was undecided about which specific role I would fit into. All I knew was that I wanted to be in the theater. The structure of the program, where you are exposed to the different aspects of theater-making, was invaluable. The ability to try the different fields — acting, design, dramaturgy — was essential in helping me identify that my passion lay in directing. It prepared me for the application and eventual admission into the graduate directing program at Columbia. I look back at my time in the Theater Department as the essential foundation to my career as a director.