Presentation decides if acting majors continue in program

By Mary Zemaitis

Adam Shalzi, sophomore in FAA, is getting more and more anxious. On Friday, he, along with all sophomore acting majors, will find out if they are allowed to continue in the acting program. This decision will culminate a year and a half-long evaluation process and will affect the students’ educational path with the University.

“It’s exciting because it will decide the rest of my college life,” Shalzi said.

The evaluation process begins when students are admitted as freshmen, said Tom Mitchell, undergraduate adviser for Fine and Applied Arts. In their first year, majors learn the fundamentals of acting and scene work. During their third semester, students expand their acting by taking Theatre 270, Relationships in Acting I, in which they spend much of the class preparing a scene. The acting faculty will watch the final version of the scene work Friday and Monday, and will use the scenes as one of the determining factors in the decision, Mitchell said.

A majority of students are promoted, Mitchell said. If a student is not promoted, they are encouraged to discuss their options with advisers. Some students choose to stay in the theater department, but switch their major to theater studies, said Nathan Luzwick, junior in FAA. It is a flexible program that focuses more on directing, producing and writing.

Others may switch to a major outside of FAA, or transfer to other universities with “programs that can train them better than we can,” Mitchell said.

Since students find out their status in the fall, they have a transitional semester where they can make arrangements, he said.

Lina Belkin, sophomore in FAA, said she likes this aspect of the program and said some programs at other schools wait until the end of the year, forcing students to rush to find other plans.

The presentation is not a performance, but a process demonstrating how the actor works, said Alex Berg-Jacobson, sophomore in FAA.

“(The faculty) might stop and coach us during the scene,” he said. “They want to see how we’ve progressed and how we take direction.”

Mitchell said they want to see if students have control of voice and body and a sense of what is truthful onstage.

“We want them to be able to create realistic characters and present their character in an interesting way,” he said.

The evaluation process is used to benefit the student and produce actors who will be able to find work, Shalzi said.

“This program might not be right for a certain student,” he said, “or acting might not be the right profession for them.”

This year’s sophomores have been stressed about the upcoming decision, Luzwick said.

It became a regular topic of conversation at the beginning of this semester, Belkin said.

“I try not to think about it because then it consumes you, and you won’t be able to work freely in class,” Belkin said.

Since the process has been ongoing, the acting majors have done all they can, Berg-Jacobson said.

“Now all I can do is keep my head in the game and try not to worry about it,” he said.

In the event that she is not promoted in the program, Belkin said she has thought about transferring to another university.

“This is what I’ve wanted to do all my life,” she said.

While the process may be stressful for the students, Shalzi said it is very fair and takes into account how well an actor takes coaching, how well they work with others, and their progression.

“The people who evaluate us care about us,” Luzwick said. “They want us to succeed.”