24700 Interview: Travis Preston and Bob Cucuzza Discuss NYC Actors Showcase

As we posted on Friday, 33 MFA and BFA actors from the School of Theater are in New York City for the annual Actors Showcase today, performing scenes before a number of industry professionals.

Robert Cucuzza

Bob Cucuzza

24700 interviewed (via email) CalArts School of Theater Dean Travis Preston and this year’s Showcase director Bob Cucuzza. Excerpts follow:

24700: What is Actors Showcase?

Travis Preston: Showcase is one of the ways we facilitate our actors’ professional careers after CalArts. It is a public address to the casting and agent communities in New York and Los Angeles—and it is also a celebration of their abilities and impending graduation.

24700: As director, what do you want these students to take away from these showcases?

Bob Cucuzza: I feel strongly that casting directors really just want to see you, so my main goal is to help each individual actor articulate and present the most genuine expression of themselves as performers. This includes everything from their selection of scenes or monologues and how they choose to play that material, to the design and format of their resumes, headshots and clothing choices for the presentation.

24700: Why is CalArts Showcase unique?

BC: The School of Theater has an acting program unlike any other. It’s rooted in traditional training techniques, yet very current in its approach to how the world of acting is constantly evolving. From the point of acceptance into the program, it’s clear that these actors are seeking a more rigorous investigation into performance than you might find in other training programs. Seeing that CalArts is exclusively an art school with degree programs in all metiérs, the actors are exposed to a uniquely broad range of techniques, styles and influences that creates what I see as greater expressivity. The actors that are accepted into this program are some of the most talented I’ve seen, and yet they are each idiosyncratic in what they bring to their craft.

Travis Preston

24700: What should an audience member expect and experience?

TP: The ‘audience’ here is very specific: agents, casting directors and other industry professionals. I would like for them to experience the wide-range of talent represented and to consider them for specific professional engagements—now or in the future.

BC: We worked hard to find material that has an emotional core, structured storytelling, clear transitions and could enable each actor to represent him/herself truthfully. Many of the scenes are from plays that were written in the last five years. Some of the actors wrote their own material. There is singing and even some dance. And this group in particular has a lot of actors who are interested in comedy, so there are many beautifully executed comic moments. Also, for the first time, we are incorporating a cinematic aspect into Showcase, so that the audience can see what each actor looks like on camera.

24700: If you have any advice for the actors tonight, what would it be?

TP: It is simply that this is one of many steps that they will take into the professional world—it is not the only step, or even the most important.  My advice is to keep perspective in terms of what they can expect. I worry more about the actors who experience immediate response in the Showcase forum because it could mislead them into thinking this positive response is all they have to look forward to—one unending affirmation after another.  Indeed, any successful career is built on tireless and painstaking discipline and perseverance—a long distance run and not a sprint. Resilience and stamina are ultimately the most crucial traits—along with tireless work.

BC: Motivate every action. Keep searching for what you don’t need and cut it. Articulate your speech, your physicality, and your actions. Be present. Make your scene partner work hard. Make stuff happen. Breathe. Reveal yourself through the acting choices you make. Move your audience. And keep in mind that Showcase is really just a celebration, rather than the audition-of-a-lifetime.

Break a leg, everyone!

New York Theatre Workshop
79 E. 4th Street, New York City
Monday, March 26 with performances at 4 pm and 7 pm (a reception will follow each performance)
To attend, RSVP online.

Los Angeles Theatre Workshop
The Falcon Theatre
4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank
Monday, April 23 with performances at 1 pm, 4 pm and 7 pm (a reception will follow each performance)
To attend, RSVP online.

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