September 26, 2010

Letter to the Editor: TFD Reshuffle Damaging to Actors

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To the Editor:

Re: “In Wake of Cuts, Performing Arts Face Upheaval From Within, Faculty Say,” News, Sept. 9

It is without hesitation that I say the department of Theatre, Film and Dance at Cornell is the reason I have become an actor. As I write this, I sit in holding, on set for a job that is giving me my American Federation of Television and Radio Artists card — my second of the three actors’ unions. Simply stated, I would not be here without Cornell’s program. After having been scared away from the thought of becoming an actor, it was through working with the Resident Professional Teaching Associates (RPTAs) and staff that renewed my love of the theater and allowed me to have the courage to pursue it.It’s not just the RPTAs who changed my life. I still, seven years later, remain in contact with my professors. Two years ago, five years after graduating, Prof. Bruce Levitt, theatre, was kind enough to spend an hour on the phone with me and provide feedback on a full-length script I wrote … this script was later produced off-broadway, and I have my Equity card because of it.To my knowledge, there is no other theater program that allows students to gain academic and practical experience the way in which Cornell’s does. The added bonus of being able to participate in the Equity Membership Candidacy program, allowing students to begin working towards joining one of the actors’ unions, makes Cornell’s program unique and gives graduates added credibility as they attempt to gain success in one of the most difficult careers.To rid Cornell’s Theatre, Film and Dance department of the RPTA program is a mistake of massive proportion. One of the best things about working with the RPTAs was that here, as a non-major undergrad, I was able to work closely and learn from real-life, working actors and could experience first-hand “how they did it.” I was given the opportunity to watch how they conducted themselves in rehearsal, to learn about their approaches to acting and the real-life experience they brought to the classroom and beyond, not to mention practical information about the business of the business. I keep in touch with many of the RPTAs I met during my time at Cornell, and continue to learn from them. I have nothing but gratitude for Cornell’s department of Theatre, Film and Dance, and the way it continues to shape my life as an actor.

Daina Schatz ’03