Casting Call: MFA Graduates Create New Approach to Launching Careers

Attention movie and stage casting professionals: theater students about to graduate with their MFA degrees from UT are ready for their close-ups.

For students graduating from actor training programs, seeking employment takes more than a slick resume. They’ve got to market their talents on a national stage.

UT MFA 2016 ClassBack in the 1980s—well before the digital age and when there were only a handful of training programs to compete for the attention of agents and casting directors—the showcase model was developed. In a showcase, actors perform live in front of casting directors and industry reps, often at a large cost to their respective university, in an effort to market themselves for future acting opportunities.

These days, agents and casting directors can get more than 100 showcase invitations each spring. Grabbing their attention has become a challenging feat.

“It’s no secret that being an actor is hard, but the actors that struggle the most are the ones that believe you have to get lucky,” said graduating actor Brian Gligor. “My classmates and I have taken a proactive approach to our careers by sharpening our technique and by finding new ways to market ourselves.”

So UT students completing their Masters of Fine Arts degrees have gone a step beyond the showcase.

With support from the Department of Theatre, the actors created a website and short film to market themselves online in addition to their showcase.

The film parodies an action movie trailer, satirizing agents’ attitudes toward showcases and showing off each actor in stereotypical film genres.

“We wanted to make something that appeals very directly to agents and casting directors. We wrote a piece that shows off each of our personalities, our ability to act for film and television, in a format that they could watch and share in minutes instead of giving up an afternoon or evening to attend a showcase with actors they have never even glimpsed before,” said Gligor.

The graduates and some of their Clarence Brown Theatre roles include:

  • Melissa David of San Francisco, California, who played Audrey in Hank Williams: Lost Highway and Freya in The Open Hand
  • Andrew Drake of Huntsville, Alabama, known for his roles as Crooks in Of Mice and Men and Aaron in Titus Andronicus
  • Brian Gligor of River Vale, New Jersey, who played Richard Hannay in The 39 Steps and Lieutenant Cable in the upcoming South Pacific
  • Kyle Maxwell of Worchester, Massachusetts, whose roles have included Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lennie in Of Mice and Men
  • Lindsay Nance of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, known for her roles as Lavinia in Titus Andronicus and Allison in The Open Hand
  • Cynthia Anne Roser of Stafford, Virginia, known for her roles as Curley’s wife in Of Mice and Men and the waitress in Hank Williams: Lost Highway
  • Steve Sherman of Olympia, Washington, known for his roles as Patsy in Spamalot and George in Of Mice and Men

Gligor said the group’s greatest hope is to get consistent work in theater and film. Some are aiming for Broadway, and others are moving to Los Angeles.

“Ultimately the greatest achievement for an actor is to find themselves in a production that they really believe in where they have an outlet to apply their artistry,” he said.

The website includes the film, production photos, headshots and résumés for Gligor and each of his classmates. It also has a direct link to reserve seats for the live showcase, which will be held in New York City on April 25.

Jed Diamond, associate professor of acting at UT, said the efforts show just how talented and current the graduating actors are.

“The live showcase model is struggling, often providing little assistance to actors entering the profession, and costing schools a lot to produce,” Diamond said. “As in every other field, the business of acting is being transformed by digital capabilities. This class has been highly innovative in attending to realities of the business that must be taken account of to have any kind of career in their art form.”

To date, the video has received more than 1,300 hits online, and reservations for the April 25 showcase are more than double those of prior years. The digital marketing innovation appears to be working.

The UT group will hold its showcase at 1:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. on April 25 at the Studio Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 W. Fourty-second Street, New York, NY. The showcase also will feature the Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory.