By Michela Arlia
The end of each spring semester brings on the usual feelings of stress and cramming as finals must be taken and papers must be submitted. For some students, it marks graduation and the end of their undergraduate journey. Amidst all this chaos comes an important mark for the Theater Department’s graduating BFA class: its annual senior showcase that debuts May 19 at 8pm.
The BFA showcase is a highlight of each senior’s journey throughout the conservatory-style program and their solo pieces that give a glimpse into all their hard work and training.
This year, the department has teamed up with BC’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, since the pandemic in spring 2020 delayed the showcase indefinitely.
The showcase event will be livestreamed on YouTube and the seven BFA actors will present four two-person scenes in the form of short films, one to two monologues per actor, and introduction videos to let audience members in on who they are not just as artists, but as people with everyday personalities.
While looking ahead to the excitement of the showcases, the graduating class looks back on the roots of their training at BC and their time throughout the program.
Senior Christian “DOVA” Cordova reflects on her initial applications to the program years ago, after realizing that an associates degree from BMCC in theater did not cover enough skillfully to her passion of acting.
“I had heard really great things about the BFA Acting program at Brooklyn College,” said Cordova. “I missed being part of an ensemble and realized I had a lot more to learn about what it takes to be a professional actor.”
Fellow graduate Alleyne reminisces on being drawn to the program for the opportunities he was offered.
“I saw people like me. I did not want to go to school where I had to constantly code switch because I did not belong,” he said.
A major highlight to the BFA showcase is that all students have the opportunity for access to various artists, talent representatives,and other leaders in the arts world that will view their pieces and meet with the ensemble for discussions.
Heading this aspect of the showcase is Graham Schmidt, who holds the title of showcase coordinator. His duties range from sending notices to alumni, talent reps, and press, to managing social media accounts.
“The two most exciting roles I fulfill right now are to recruit artists and arts leaders to connect with our grads in a series of panel discussions that take place during the week or Showcase (and sometimes leading up to Showcase week),” wrote Schmidt to The Vanguard. “The purpose of these panels is to create a bridge to the professional community for our grads, so there are some well-placed friendly faces for them.”
For the showcase, Schmidt was able to design a round robin event for the actors where following the premiere of the showcase, the ensemble will meet with elite talent representatives and industry professionals to have private one-on-one sessions.
Described as a sort of speed-dating event, Schmidt says it is a great opportunity for initial exposure to the industry.
“It allows our grads to make a valuable first impression, and also to get some experience pitching themselves under their belt.”
The collaboration with Feirstein was a long time coming, and finally springboarded by the new BFA program chair, Patrick Sabongui.
Sabongui, who has a long list of credits in the film industry acting in main roles on television shows such as “Homeland” and “The Flash,” served as the glue between the theater and film departments on campus, an idea already in the works, as told by Schmidt.
“Our program was mostly oriented toward straight plays, and a bit toward musical theater,” said Schmidt. “When Patrick was hired and brought the force of his connections, vision, and passion for film and television to the program, he super-charged the program.”
Sabongui did not respond to the Vanguard’s request for comment in time for print.
Senior Randy Arbujo sings praises to the school of cinema in its collaboration with the graduates to create a vision of performances that everyone involved can be proud of.
“We presented this idea that seemed impossible to do in a couple of weeks and dove into the work,” said Arbujo. “Although it was big, we didn’t hesitate nor give up. We gave them the play/scene we wanted to do and they created the world in which we as actors created the magic.”
The process for creation of this event was far from easy, as most students in the graduating class expressed hardships to get to the spot they are currently in.
“I was full of overwhelming feelings,“ said senior Antonyio Artis. “Not just the pressures of graduating but answering the question of who I am and how my pieces showcase that the best…In the end, I have grown a lot throughout this process alone.”
Following both this showcase and graduation, all the students have a common goal of broadening their horizons after speaking with professionals in the business, and some are even ready to pursue their firsts projects post grad.
“It would be nice to leave with a manager and/or agents interested in meeting and signing me,” said Artis. “The biggest goal for me is to look back at my work and recognize how far I have come.”
Cordova also expressed similar outcomes of hope, crediting the BFA program to her success thus far.
“I hope to walk out with an agent that can help me break into this industry. As a graduate, I am walking out with the tools and professionalism that will ensure my work ethic, and endurance in this industry,” she said.
Amidst all the excitement of new pathways for the actors with the potential for opportunities of a lifetime, what keeps them grounded are the skills they learned and built within their three years in the program.
“This industry is about perseverance. It’s within you that keeps you working, not an agent or manager,” said Artis.
The trailer for the class showcase is set to be released this month. For more information visit https://www.brooklynshowcase.com