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Alumni Perspectives

Courtney Vinson

Penn State Berks ‘11

Courtney Vinson

"I am one of the first graduates of the Bachelor of Arts Theatre major at the Berks Campus. This fact means more to me than a degree because, I was an active member of the program before the major was official at our campus; it’s a feeling of pride and love because I was part of its development. From the first day of my freshman year to my last day as a senior I received a Theatre education that was well rounded in all aspects of Theatre; from Acting, Directing, Playwriting, Design, and Management/Administrative."

"My professors at Berks were crucial to my development as an Actor and a young adult; to say they care about their students and their success is an understatement. They thought me the fundamentals of my craft and gave me the opportunity to apply them. By staying at Berks to complete my Bachelor of Arts degree I got the most out of my time as a Theatre student because, our program truly values education and application of everything they teach. Earning the chance to be the lead in several plays, writing two One-Act plays, directing several shows, and being the Assistant to the Technical Director (Theatre Design), I was able to apply everything I was learning in class in professional settings. All of the Theatre Professors at Berks are working professionals, which makes all the difference in giving their students career advice, guidance, and skill sets on how to become a financially independent Theatre Artists."

"I am now a second year Graduate student, at New York’s The New School for Drama Master of Fine Arts – Acting program. Being accepted into my Master’s program was not only due to my talent, hard work and potential, but from the assistance I received from the Theatre at Berks faculty. In writing my recommendations, prepping me for my auditions, and being supportive and encouraging through every step of my audition process they were a significant part to my admittance. When you are a senior in the program the faculty wants to help you in every way possible to get you into the next phase smoothly. They are there to prepare you for, auditioning at Theatre companies, sending out portfolios of your work, interviewing, and auditioning for a Master’s program, etc."

"As a proud alumnus of this rapidly growing program I strongly urge anyone considering a life in the Theatre to “Be part of the drama!”

Tarah Yoder

Tarah Yoder

PSU Berks ‘11

"Being in the theatre at Berks really helped me adjust to college, making friends and getting more comfortable with myself in the Berks atmosphere. Also, aside from the productions, I really enjoy the theatre classes that I took really helped me to become more comfortable on stage and to try new things."

Brian S. Clark

Managing Director of Theatre Exile, Philadelphia, PA
PSU Berks ‘96-98

Berks Theatre students rehearsing"On Thursday, November 6th, 2008 I attended the opening night performance of BUG performed by the Penn State Berks Theatre Department. To an ordinary audience member, this may have been the first introduction to a world of theatre not commonly witnessed. To me, I witnessed the exclamation point on a statement I helped make more than 12 years ago." "I attended Penn State Berks from August 1996 to May of 1998. While I was there, I participated and helped build Penn Players and served as their President. In the time I spent at Berks, I fell even more in love with theatre as I discovered there was a wider world of performance beyond what I saw in high school, or on Broadway. I attribute my maintaining my love of theatre to the time I spent at Berks and the people I knew there. Eventually, I moved to University Park… Eventually I left State College and Penn State altogether and finished my degree at Temple University…"

"Since my graduation, I ran the gamut of theatrical duties throughout the Greater Philadelphia Area. Professionally, I have acted, directed, worked as an electrician, a carpenter, in administration and have written several plays that have been produced in this great city. I serve now as Managing Director for Theatre Exile in Philadelphia. In April of 2008, our company produced BUG. Cleo House purchased tickets for this show, and almost randomly, I saw that the transaction came from your University. As I further explored why Penn State Berks was coming, I learned that the university I attend many years ago, was growing up fast."

"… [The] campus offers a unique quality that [will] be instrumental in the future of students: complete hands on training. At Berks, I needed to manage a company, (including organizing volunteers, determining budget, and leading the direction of a company) act, direct, write, and be a liaison with the University, all the while taking 17 credits or more. Today, I have to balance a budget, organize a core of volunteers, determine the future of the company and all while I answer phones, help with production, marketing, and development. In short the lessons learned at Berks have carried me to a prosperous present."

Jonathan Hendrickson

PSU Berks ‘09

"In a typical liberal arts class, a person needs only to strive for an 'A,' but in theatre, an 'A' is never enough--enough is when you have done your absolute best and gone far beyond what you ever imagined you could--and even then, you're still working to improve.  In a literature class, a person who hands in an A-grade paper (but perhaps not their best work), receives the grade and is glad for only a moment.  In science, a person who ends up with all the right answers gets a high grade--and there is delight, for a moment, in that grade.  But in theatre, when everyone has given of themselves for months, improved to 150% percent of who they were before rehearsals began, and given of their time, energy, sweat, and blood, the results are never merely an 'A.'  The reward … is a spectacular show, designed for the pleasure of hundreds or thousands who might attend over the six nights of performances, and the personal memory and joy of a job very very well done--a memory that will last far longer than any 'A' grade could ever muster."  

Michael Schnitter

PSU Berks ‘11

"I am not a theater major; nor am I an avid follower of theater; however the commitment to excellence that is present in every production at Penn State Berks is further proof of the potential for greatness."  "I have taken a few theater courses during my time at PSU Berks, and they are among my favorite classes.  I took Gender and Theater with Professor House in my first year at PSU Berks. The class was very heavily laden with group discussion, and it was because of this that I was sucked into the subject matter.  In this class I learned a lot about the way society interprets genders, sexual orientations, race, and a myriad of socio-cultural influences on theater." "I also took The Fundamentals of Acting with Professor Radhica Ganapathy. This was possibly my favorite class during my college career.  There was strong emphasis on group work, and individual work in a "hands on" environment.  The study of acting also proved to be a study in human nature.  Learning about soft focus, and developing sensitivity to the thoughts and emotions of the people around you is not just for acting and theater, but it also helps one develop as a human being."

Theatre student booth

Courtney A. Kline

Penn State '09

"One of my fondest memories of my years spent at the Berks campus was of my work in the theatre program. The theatre program opened me up to meeting new friends and getting involved in the campus. I experienced leadership opportunities and became immersed in the Penn State experience."

Savannah Ganster

PSU Berks ‘10

“The theatre program at Penn State Berks is a wonderful program.  I am currently a Professional Writing Major at Penn State Berks and I became involved in the theatre program at the end of my freshman year.  It was at this time that I began developing my play The Unlikely Martyrs into a production draft under the supervision of Professor "Cleo House.  During the fall semester of my sophomore year, I worked closely with Professor Radhica Ganapathy to further develop The Unlikely Martyrs through revisions and staged readings.  Production work began on The Unlikely Martyrs in the spring of 2008 and The Unlikely Martyrs was produced in April 2008. Since then, I have been working on a short play titled A First Encounter, which will be produced as part of the NOW program in the spring of 2009 at Penn State Berks. Additionally, I will be directing the short play Possessions, which is also a part of the NOW program (spring 2009)."

"In addition to working on these projects which are in stages of pre-production and post-production, I am also currently working on two full-length scripts titled Broadcasting Death and The Adventures of Young Satan. I hope to see one or both of these plays produced by the Penn State Berks theatre program before I graduate in the spring of 2010."

The theatre program at Berks has offered me many great opportunities to foster my work as a playwright.  By working closely with the theatre department and the professional writing department at Berks I have been able to tailor my education to fit my wants and needs and I can only hope that my achievements through my major and through the theatre program at Berks will aid me in gaining acceptance into a Performance Theory/Performance Studies PhD program. I couldn't imagine my time at Berks being nearly as productive or rewarding if the theatre program were not here. I am so thankful for the theatre program and for the professors who have helped to foster my playwrighting abilities.”

Dominique Williams

PSU Berks ’07-‘08

“The Berks Theatre program has truly been an inspiration to me while attending the Berks campus. I learned that being an actor not only calls for "acting", but also researching. Due to the unique rolls offered, research became a necessity in order to gain more knowledge of the background of the character and the play itself. As a cast member, I worked closely with the directors and stage managers which allowed me to gain a better understanding of the "backstage workings" of theatre which many never see. With much practice, diligence, and patience from the directors, we were able to put on shows which amazed audiences and even ourselves."

"The ultimate benefit of being a part of these productions was the fact that I could have fun doing something that I loved. Learning vital info and receiving credit didn't hurt, of course. The rigorous practice schedules actually helped me to stay on top of all the school work which I accumulated daily. It was nice to be able to head to theatre practice and relieve some of the stress which college life could so easily cause at times. This program has significantly made a strong indentation in my life which has helped me, is helping me, and will help me in many ways for my future theatre productions to come!" 

Theatre student assisting another student with costume

Emily Edelstein

PSU Berks '07 

“Theater was my creative and social outlet while at Berks. It is where I spent many long nights and where I met some of my dearest friends. It gave me practice in management and people skills. And it was fun! I loved my time in Berks Theater and hope that it continues and grows.”

Nick Roman 

PSU Berks ‘06

“Theatre played a huge role in helping to shape me into the person I am now; a person that I'm happy to call 'myself.' I can't imagine how it would be for someone whose passion was 'theatre' who found that they couldn't pursue that passion. Theatre presents as ample a method for self-discovery as any other major, and is as genuinely engaging. I feel it goes without saying that others should have the opportunity to have an experience similar to, if not greater than, my own. If nothing else, the people one encounters in theatre is enough to validate the enterprise, as some of my best friends came from that experience.”

Jessica Rose

Penn State ‘09

“Theater at Penn State Berks has been a wonderful experience for me (2005-2007). Being a part of productions at Berks taught me not only to be a better actor, but also a better student. I was able to learn time management skills and how to work well in a group, skills that have helped me long after my theater experiences at Berks. At Berks, theater gave me opportunities I would not have had anywhere else. I was able to stage manage a production and learn how to call lighting and music cues as well as run a production. These skills were very valuable to have when I went to University Park to pursue my major in broadcast journalism and run various televisions shows there. Without these skills I never would have had the confidence to continue with my career plans.”

Matthew Karminski

Penn State ‘11

“I’m now in my second year student at Penn State Berks Campus (‘07-‘09).  When I first came here to go to school, I had the original intent of majoring in Mechanical Engineering.  Nearing the end of my first year of school, I came to the realization that I wanted to do something different with my life.  It is then that I decided I would try to take the path of my other interest in life, the technical world of theatre.   I had scheduled a meeting with Cleo House, and spoke to him about my interest in theatre.  He was more than helpful with giving me a lot of useful information and giving me the contact information for Rob Napoli and Radhica Ganapathy.  These three individuals helped me along my way to the transition into my interest in theatre.”