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SFA School of Theatre sees influx of professional talent

NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS—Students in the School of Theatre at Stephen F. Austin State University are working with more top professionals in their field than ever before. A new assistant professor from New York and Hollywood, two professional actors serving as visiting assistant professors and two major guest artists in the Fall 2011 semester alone have brought new techniques and perspectives to SFA’s well established academic and production programs in theatre.

Dr. Jason Davids Scott, assistant professor of theatre and film who joined the faculty in August, holds a BFA degree in cinema studies from New York University as well as an MA and PhD from the University of California Santa Barbara. His master’s degree focused on improvisation, and his doctoral dissertation is on the history of film acting.

Scott, who originally hails from Southern California, has more than a decade’s experience working on both publicity and script development in New York and Los Angeles, where his employers included Castle Rock Entertainment and Oscar-winning actor Helen Hunt.

He is currently the president-elect of the Mid-Atlantic Popular/American Culture Association and recently completed more than two dozen entries for the upcoming Cambridge World Encyclopedia of Actors and Acting.

Scott came to SFA after two years on the faculty of the School of Theatre and Film at Arizona State University.

David Studwell joined SFA as a visiting assistant professor of acting after teaching acting and performing in the professional acting company of Ivy League Cornell University. Studwell is an award-winning professional actor with a long career in classical, dramatic and musical roles at many of the most prestigious regional theatres in the United States.

At Chicago’s Goodman Theatre he played the title role in “Pal Joey” as well as major parts in Shakespearean plays. At Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, he portrayed St. Stephen in “She Always Said Pablo,” and at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, he played the title role in “Sweeney Todd” and the physicist Niels Bohr in the historical drama “Copenhagen.”

He has also appeared as Hamlet under the direction of Tony Award-winning director Robert Falls and acted Off Broadway in New York, on prime-time network television and in studio feature films.

Studwell holds a BFA in musical theatre from SUNY Fredonia and an MFA in performance from Purdue University. He won the national Irene Ryan Acting Award competition in the American College Theatre Festival.

Another visiting assistant professor is Toni Smith, a professional actor with roots in both Los Angeles and New York as well as Texas. Originally from Austin, Smith earned a BFA in musical theatre performance at New York University and an MFA in acting at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Her work onstage ranges widely, from dramatic roles to children’s theatre. She was nominated for an Austin Critics’ Table Award for her role as Meredith in “Batboy: The Musical” and won a StageScene LA “Best of” award for her portrayal of Cathy in Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years.”

At SFA, Smith teaches dialects and theatre speech (voice for the actor) as well as acting.

Two prominent guest artists have also worked extensively with SFA theatre students in 2011-12. Robert J. Martin, who currently works as the assistant costume designer of Broadway’s “Mamma Mia” and has held the same title on 13 other Broadway shows, returned to East Texas to design the costumes of SFA’s recent production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Rabbit Hole.”

Martin, who is originally from White Oak, now lives in New York and designs both scenery and costumes for theatre and opera Off Broadway and regionally. He earned his MFA in theatrical design at the University of Washington.

Chuck Hudson, an internationally acclaimed director of musicals and operas as well as Shakespeare, served as the 2012 Schmidbauer Artist-in-Residence to direct SFA’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Hudson, who is known for visually striking productions featuring extensive creative movement, studied and performed with the legendary mime Marcel Marceau and is the only American that has ever taught at Marceau’s school in Paris.

Hudson’s directing credits include an award-winning Off Broadway production of “She Stoops to Conquer” as well as shows for Wolf Trap Opera (Virginia), Seattle Opera and Children’s Theatre Festival (Houston).