Syracuse University seniors land first professional roles at Syracuse Stage during its 2002-03 30th anniversary season
Syracuse University seniors land first professional roles at Syracuse Stage during its 2002-03 30th anniversary seasonJanuary 28, 2003Judy Holmesjlholmes@syr.edu
Tamara Johnson, a senior acting major at Syracuse University, had planned to spend Spring Break on a beach in Jamaica with a group of friends-that was before she was cast as Mary Warren in Syracuse Stage’s upcoming production of The Crucible, a role for which she had not even auditioned.
“We were auditioning for three minor roles in the play, not any of the major roles,” Johnson says. “When I saw the cast list, I was speechless.”
Senior acting major Kelly Trumbull had to modify her winter break vacation plans when she landed the dual roles of Jenny and the Nurse in the Stage’s premiere of Michelle Lowe’s “Backsliding in the Promised Land,” which required Trumbull to return to campus two weeks early for rehearsals. For both students, the opportunity to make their Equity debuts in a professional theater production more than compensates for a little lost vacation time. Equity roles are those in which the actor performs under a professional Actors’ Equity Association contract.
Because of the special relationship between Syracuse Stage and the SU Drama Department in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, students frequently have opportunities to audition for minor, non-Equity roles in Syracuse Stage productions. But Johnson and Trumbull are among a handful of students who, over the years, have been fortunate to land Equity roles before graduating from the program.
“Both students were cast in age-appropriate roles in the respective plays,” says James Clark, director and chair of the SU Drama Department and producing director for Syracuse Stage. “We had all the confidence that their skills are such that they could absolutely fulfill the roles.” Clark notes that this is the first time two students have been cast in Equity roles in two different productions during the same semester.
In Trumbull’s case, “Backsliding” director Robert Moss, who is also artistic director for Syracuse Stage, announced at the beginning of the Fall 2002 semester that he planned to cast one student in the production.
“I was so excited when he made the announcement,” Trumbull says. “I really like Michelle Lowe’s work and was thrilled to have a chance to audition for ‘Backsliding.’ After rehearsals began, it was awesome to work with Michelle and the rest of the professional actors. I learned so much just from watching them.”
Johnson, who was introduced to “Crucible” director Timothy Douglas when she was in Syracuse last year for “A Lesson Before Dying,” would have been thrilled to have landed one of the minor, non-Equity roles for which the students were encouraged to audition. She simply wanted an opportunity to work with Douglas.
“I wanted to play Mercy Lewis,” Johnson says. “I was shocked when I saw my name by the role of Mary Warren. The first thing I said to my friend was: ‘Are they crazy?’ It’s such an honor to be given an opportunity to work with (Douglas). I can’t even put it into words.”
“Backsliding” ends Feb. 2 and rehearsals for “Crucible” begin Jan. 28. In addition to the excitement of making their Equity debuts, Johnson and Trumbull have shared a number of experiences during the past couple of years. Both women had roles in the SU Drama productions of “Getting Out” and “Jersey City.” Two years ago, Trumbull played the role of Abigail Williams in a “Young Company” production of “The Crucible” at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, which was also directed by Douglas.
“After Kelly and I did ‘Jersey City’ together, our friendship bloomed,” Johnson says.
Says Trumbull, “We’re a very tight-knit group in the Drama Department. We do a lot of things together both on and off the stage. Many of us have apartments in the same building across the street from Syracuse Stage.”
And like many of their classmates, both Trumbull and Johnson plan to head to New York City after graduation with the hope of finding work as professional actors on the stage, in films or on television. Their shared passion, however, is live theater.
“I love the rush of live theater,” Johnson says. “You can do the same show night after night, but each performance is different because you have a different audience. It’s a challenge to go out every night and make the show fresh and new, like you are speaking the words for the first time. The thrill is in the audience response to the show.”