Educating the Whole Artist

For many people in creative majors, there’s a bit of a stigma around whether or not they’ll get a job. It’s unfortunate, but “more practical” majors are sometimes the only ones taken seriously. Many of us fondly remember telling people we were English, Theatre, or Art majors and being met with raised eyebrows and the question, “And what are you going to do with that?”

However, contrary to popular belief, the people in these majors and career paths are thriving. Many alumni of Le Moyne’s Visual and Performing Arts programs have gone on to have successful careers on the Syracuse arts scene.

Audrey Flynn, a Syracuse native who graduated in 2018 with a BA in Theatre Arts and French, has been extremely grateful for her VPA education at Le Moyne. “My VPA background has given me the confidence and knowledge of all aspects of theatre which has opened many doors for me so far.”

Audrey is currently the Production Management Apprentice for Syracuse Stage. She manages special events alongside company management and assists in the production management process for both Syracuse Stage and the SU Drama Department. “Being able to work for not only Syracuse Stage but the SU Drama department as well has been an exciting experience! This is a new job for me and a new position for Syracuse Stage so I’m doing or learning something new every day!”

Jacob Ellison, a 2012 graduate with a BA in English Creative Writing and a Minor in Theatre Arts, has also found success at Syracuse Stage. He is currently the Audience Services Manager where he leads the Front of House customer service teams for both Syracuse Stage and SU Drama Dept. performances, and assists in the coordination of special events and access services for patrons. Prior to Syracuse Stage, he was the Audience Services Coordinator at Writers Theatre in suburban Chicago.

“The hallmark of the VPA Dept. during my time at Le Moyne was its ability for students to get involved in any aspect of the production process that peaked your interest,” Jacob said. “The ability to learn just a little bit of everything makes you very aware of how necessary each and every department is to the production of the art on stage. Having the knowledge and appreciation of how each department works together to produce the art on stage is invaluable.”

Emily Piraino from Liverpool, NY graduated in 2014 with a BA in Theatre Arts and a minor in Dance. She is currently in her third full-time season as a Stage Management Apprentice at Syracuse Stage where she fulfills the needs of an Assistant Stage Manager. Emily credits the overall diversity of Le Moyne’s Theatre program to the success she’s had at her job.

“I say this constantly because I’m surrounded by SU Drama Department students while at work, but my involvement and education at Le Moyne prepared me for everything I do and more,” she said. “I was trained in stage management, set design and construction, costume design, construction, and maintenance, wig styling and maintenance, lighting design, sound design, acting, and directing. I was also practiced in Front of House management, ticket reservations, audience services, concession sales, proper organization, and so on.”

Life after graduation can seem big and scary and uncertain, especially for more non-traditional jobs, so there’s plenty to miss at Le Moyne. For Audrey, Jacob, and Emily, it’s the close-knit community at the Performing Arts Center. “Although the VPA is small it’s always had this overwhelming sense of family and community which was an amazing experience,” Audrey said. “You were able to make strong connections with everyone there. This is something I find myself missing now that I’m working somewhere that’s ten times the size of the VPA.”

“The VPA Dept. is an amazing place to find a community of people on campus who are passionate about making art, and who enjoy the process of putting it together,” Jacob added. “You’re under the tutelage of a talented faculty who cares about your success. I’m also a proud Jazzuits alum of three years, and I miss performing alongside Carol, Jerry, and the choir.”

“I get to keep great company here at Stage, but I miss having my friends and professors in such close quarters,” Emily said. “I learned so very much from my peers and superiors, and of course am still learning every day, but being taken out of that comfort zone that is the PAC is hard, even still.”

And after graduation, these alums found there were a few things they definitely don’t miss. Jacob jokes that “I was never much help in the scene shop. They probably don’t miss me much either!”
“I don’t miss washing the dishes in the green room,” Emily said. “But… sometimes that’s also part of my job, so I guess I got over it.” Audrey is just grateful to finally be free from homework and finals. “I don’t miss having to balance schoolwork and whatever show I’m working on. It’s great to be able to dedicate all of my time to the theatre.”

Going into their jobs, there were a few things Audrey and Emily wished they’d known beforehand. “I think I could have benefited from learning more about is Company Management. There are certain things in Company Management that I didn’t realize was such a huge part of a theatre company.” Audrey said. “For example moving and transporting actors, designers, and directors to a theater once they’re hired. This is something I knew happened but didn’t ever stop and think about who was responsible for this and what went into making it happen. Now that I do I think it’s important for anyone studying theatre to know about because it’s another vital aspect of making theatre happen!”

“I think I could have benefited from learning more about Unions. I currently work for two Stagehand Unions, and I work under an Equity stage manager. So for acting and stage management focused students, it would have been helpful to have a workshop, or a 1 credit class to learn about Equity rules, standards, guidelines, fair wage, etc.” Emily said. “And for the more technical focused, to learn about the Unions that encompass their department of choice. I think it would be beneficial for students planning to continue in this industry to know what they’re getting involved in.”

However, Jacob has found that Le Moyne is still helping him learn today. “In my experience, the faculty and staff of the VPA department are just as gracious and willing to be a resource to you after you graduate too.”

Overall, Le Moyne’s VPA program has made a huge impact on the lives of its students. These program graduates are looking to the future with excitement, confident in the education they’ve received here on the heights. The dedication to educating artists within an all-encompassing Jesuit tradition has made countless college experiences worth it and created even more successful careers for our Dolphins.

“It’s exciting to be back in Syracuse and a privilege to be earning a living as a member of the creative community here,” Jacob said. “I look forward to settling into my role here at Stage for a while and getting our community excited about our plays and programs.”

“Working here has taught me to not look too forward and live in the now because you never know what opportunity will come your way!” Audrey said.

“If I hadn’t taken full advantage of my training and education at Le Moyne and within the VPA Department at the PAC, I wouldn’t be as humbly successful as I feel I am today.” Emily said of her time at Le Moyne. “I’ve learned a lot more about myself through working with this company. About my comfort level, my communication skills, my passions within this industry, which is helpful. But I don’t necessarily make plans further out than a few months. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Life changes. Theatre changes you.”