April 2021 – The Drew University Theatre and Dance Department invited several alumni to share their experiences in professional theater, wisdom about life at and beyond Drew, and tips for coping with the pandemic.
Dozens of Drew students gathered virtually for “The Big Schmooze” to hear from Madeleine Blossom C’18, a NYC-based actor and stage manager; Carrie Capizzano C’95, a film and TV scenic artist with credits in works like Ghostbusters (2016) and Castle Rock (2018-19); Marilisa Del Plato, a Rome-based actress with three films currently in post-production; Michelle Kim C’16, an actress and casting assistant for shows on Netflix, SyFy, and YouTube Original; and Samantha Wilkerson C’14, a teacher at the Newark Academy and a Policy and Advocacy Fellow focusing on education policy reform in New York City.
“One of the best things students can learn is how there are many varied paths to becoming successful, and how to determine success on their own terms,” said Rosemary McLaughlin, professor of theatre arts, who hosted the event.
“Connections often lead to internships and other opportunities for theater majors and minors. Students learned a lot about networking at the event.”
The five alumni offered their thoughts.
What was the most valuable skill that you gained from your time at Drew?
Blossom: “Adaptability and collaboration. I learned how to take two (or 10) completely different ideas and merge them into one cohesive vision that everyone is excited about and working together on, and I continue to use those skills every single day.”
Capizzano: “Drew really allowed me to play. Working creatively and cooperatively with a group of people is as close to the kernel of effective work, and effective humanity, as you’re going to get.”
Wilkerson: “Dedication to perseverance. In the face of adversity we have to be able to adapt. If a lighting design doesn’t work out or a song doesn’t get approved, I learned how to move forward without letting setbacks get the best of me.”
Del Plato: “How to organize your time! It is a necessary and life-saving skill.”
Kim: “Becoming more judicious about how I spend my time and energy.”
What advice would you give to prospective students looking to enter into theater-dance?
Blossom: “Try working on all sides of the table. Creating theatre takes a huge team of people, and when we can all understand what others are doing, our empathy and collaboration skyrocket.”
Capizzano: “Two big myths I’d like to dispel. One, that there aren’t jobs in the arts. Two, that you need to have clear, long-term goals to achieve success. It’ll probably scare your parents, but playing it too safe is another way to fail.”
Wilkerson: “Look abroad, look in smaller communities, look in underserved areas. Sometimes it is better to make a huge impact on a small stage than to fight for two seconds of glory on a huge platform.”
Del Plato: “Know that this is a real field with real job prospects—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Someone a lot smarter than I am once said that dreams with a plan become goals. Goals are reached all the time.”
Kim: “Take advantage of everything the department provides and expand your horizons. Don’t take anything for granted, whether it’s utilizing the spaces and opportunities available, living with or near your friends, and having fun.”
What do you hope to gain from connecting with current students in Drew’s theatre program?
Blossom: “I’ve learned a great deal watching current students’ art come to life, seeing the stress of dealing with this pandemic and virtual learning, and how incredibly hard they work to make the department their home and hub of creativity.”
Capizzano: “I’m an adult who works in the arts, and I’ve had my boots on the ground for decades, and students learning from me still seems secondary to me learning from them, because I never really leave that mindset.”
Wilkerson: “Let me read your résumé or watch your audition! I will reach out to other alums and connect you. Building a network is the most important thing you can do.”
Kim: “I hope that current students make the most of their time at Drew and remember that it may feel small, but the world outside of it is pretty big. You don’t have to do everything, but you should enjoy everything that you do.”
This story was written by Morgan Alley C’22
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