Alumni Profiles: 2000-2005

Class of 2005

Chuk Obasi, Class of 2005

  • Director/Actor, TE'A Project, NYC
  • Company Choreographer, The NiteStar Program

I consider my time as a student in Geneseo to be an aspiring performing artist's dream. The relatively small class sizes, the multitude of outlets where you can perform, even the encouragement of students to create work for themselves...

If you are serious about your craft, there is no excuse not to thrive here.

As for life after college...My first professional acting job in a play was offered after I auditioned with a monologue that I polished with coaching in the Department of Theatre and Dance for my junior review. From there it eventually becomes quite subconscious how Tricks of the Trade that you learn in school come in handy, but whenever you stop and reflect, you get it...

Melissa Lauricella Bergstrom, Class of 2005

  • M.A. in Theatre Education (focus on Theatre For Social Change), Emerson College
  • Currently working in Boston, MA, as a freelance teaching artist, actor, and teacher and playwright

SUNY Geneseo gave me a well-rounded theatre education that has enabled me to wear many different hats in the field. In fact, during my time as a Theatre Performance major at Geneseo, it was both required and encouraged to examine theatre from multiple points of view, and to be mindful of how all the different elements of performance, design, and production worked together to create a unifying experience. The program allowed me to examine theatre in the context of society at large, investigating the role of the theatre in our world and the possibilities that lie in the power of performance. This point of view has continued to inspire me to never stop searching for innovative ways to use theatre as a transformational tool for dialogue and social change for communities at large.

During my study there, Geneseo often brought in theatre artists from around the country and world to work with the students, and the effect of these encounters was monumental for me. I was able to work with Moises Kaufman (Tectonic Theatre Project), Roy Kift (Camp Comedy), and Theatre Mitu (NYC-based artist collaborative), all of whom influence the kind of culturally resonant work I strive to create today. At the present time, my interest as both an actor and writer lie in creating documentary pieces of theatre that have the potential to affect social and political change, and I find that the seed for this passion was planted during my time at Geneseo. My work with professors and peers at Geneseo also inspired me to found my own theatre company in 2007, the Charlottesville Women?s Theatre Project.

I am currently a Boston-based actor and teaching artist, earning my M.A. at Emerson College in the field of Theatre Education, with a focus in documentary theatre, theatre for social change, and community engaged work. I find each day in my work at Emerson that I am grateful for my education at Geneseo and can say with confidence that the caliber of the program at Geneseo matches and often surpasses the experience my peers received at private undergraduate institutions. The chance to take on leadership roles in Geneseo?s Theatre Performance program have served me well; I am currently a Graduate Assistant for two of my professors at Emerson, sit on the Executive Board for the program?s student organization, and am currently developing a solo documentary theatre piece about women and war. Geneseo taught me that you should never limit yourself and that if you willing to focus and do the work, the possibilities are infinite.

Hara Kang, Class of 2005

  • Professional Actor
  • Licensed Real Estate Broker, Prudential Douglas Elliman, Easthampton, NY

The day I came to Geneseo, I didn?t expect anything from the school when it came to my ethnic background. I found that I was wrong, and I felt like I was given this unbelievable opportunity. That opportunity was GENseng, an Asian American student performance ensemble within the Theatre/Dance Department. Surprisingly I learned more about my culture from the four years that I?ve been at Geneseo than I ever did at home.

In thirteen years GENseng has done numerous productions about Asian and Asian American culture and history. I honestly have to say that I would not be where I am today without GENseng. I am a Real Estate agent in the Hamptons and an actor. GENseng helped me learn numerous skills that have helped me land ? and keep -- a job in the Hamptons and enabled me to act in films, video game voice overs and theatrical productions.

Because of GENseng and the other opportunities I had to act in main stage shows at Geneseo, I have pursued an acting career and also met some of the closest friends that I will ever meet in my whole life. You come to rehearsal and you feel like you belong to something that really matters.

This is not just an experience, its a chance to get to know who you are and where you came from, your culture and yourself.

Most of all, I learned, "To be great, be whole; exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is you. Be whole in everything. Put all you are into the smallest thing you do."

Class of 2004

Fiona Lee, Class of 2004

  • Ph.D. Candidate, English Literature, City University of New York

GENseng has given me fond memories and grown friendships, but it has also helped lay the groundwork for my Ph.D research. As a Ph.D candidate in English specializing in postcolonial studies, my days are filled with reading histories of colonialism and resistance; decoding theoretical texts about power, oppression, culture, aesthetics, race, gender and nationhood; and mulling over the relationship between politics and culture, globalization and identity to write my dissertation.

It dawned on me recently that the stuff of my intellectual pursuits was being nurtured while I was involved with GENseng without my being aware of it. Recently, I met a scholar working on Korean comfort women and it occurred to me that my ability to engage in conversation with her about the subject was partly the result of all that I learned from the production of Falling Flowers as Ok Yeun (Spring 2004). When

I took a class on Chinese cinemas in which we talked about the impact of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on filmmakers, I realized that my knowledge of the subject began not from a lecture, but from playing Karen in Letters to a Student Revolutionary (Spring 2003). In a discussion about the history of Chinese immigration to the U.S., my contributions about Angel Island were not learned from a book, but from playing Chin Moo in Paper Angels (Spring 2002). GENseng taught me that ideas do not just come from books and classrooms alone, but that they germinate, take root and grow through performance and imagination.

Kylie Pike Fassler, Class of 2004

  • Development Manager, Rochester City Ballet

My time in the dance department at Geneseo prepared me for life in this field in so many ways. Our training went beyond the studio. We learned the history of various forms of dance and how the body works to make each movement. Going into graduate school, where I received my MFA in performance and choreography, I knew so much about dance history and the body and I could apply that knowledge in each of my classes. Working for a professional ballet company as the development manager, I write and talk about dance every day. My time at Geneseo gave me the voice to do so. I am forever grateful for everything I gained: knowledge, discipline, confidence, and appreciation.

Alizon Baretsky Santamaria, Class of 2004

  • Costume Shop Manager, Department of Theatre Arts, Towson University

Having a degree in theatre doesn't mean you won't find work. It does mean you might end up working outside your field for a time and being uniquely qualified for the position. Theatre people are accustomed to working long hours against hard deadlines. They're creative problem solvers, collaborators, and mediators. They're students of human nature, philosophy, and history. They're used to getting their hands dirty to get the job done. Don't ever let someone give you a hard time for having a theatre degree. Continue learning, creating, observing, and leading. The world is your audience; let them watch as you blaze the trail.

Luke Sworts, Class of 2004

  • M.S., Nazareth College
  • Mental Health Therapist and Preventions Specialist, Neighborcare Health, Seattle

Being a "Brodie-ite" means different things to different people. For me, Brodie Hall served as a studio space to explore and display my work in ceramics and painting. But it also served a second valuable purpose. Working in the theatre scene shop allowed me to develop and solidify my abilities as a craftsman, an artist, and a professional counselor. These experiences helped me to acknowledge the leadership style I enjoy working under, taught me to Lead by Example, and helped me recognize the value of teamwork and communication. You wouldn't believe the similarities between coordinating a group of work- study undergrads to build a platform and facilitating a collaborative art therapy project for elementary students! The patience, communication, and flexibility needed backstage in Alice Austin or the Black Box are the skills I use everyday with my clients. It was also these ?Behind the Scenes? experiences that instilled an appreciation for the details and the technical components when I watch a performance. Because of my experiences in the scene shop, I have learned to recognize and respect the dedication of people?s actions on and off the stage.

Class of 2003

Chaelon Costello, Class of 2003

  • Actor, Yoga Instructor
  • M.F.A Acting, The New School for Drama

Many a late night was spent in Brodie Hall, as I remember, in my time at SUNY Geneseo. English was my major track, but somehow I managed to find a home for myself amidst the MTC?ers and School of the Arts. My involvement in the Theatre Department would actually be the catalyst to push me toward pursuing my MFA in Acting, which I received in May 2010 from The New School for Drama in New York City. NSD prides itself and its program upon collaboration and the ability for artists to get in a room and work together smoothly, respectfully, and hopefully, creatively. Each ?cell? in my graduate program was comprised of actors, directors, and playwrights. We spent a great deal of time on the new works of these budding playwrights with our directing peers at the helm and our mouths, bodies, and spirits wrapped ourselves around these new works. What I had no unawareness of, until I hit the stride of my first year at NSD, was that Geneseo laid the foundation for me to be an excellent collaborator. I learned how to be in a rehearsal room, the absolute importance of -- if not demand for -- preparation, and generally just a love for my fellow artists. Whether it was a late night spent in Alice Austin getting ready for the next MTC show or those early morning weekend rehearsals or the rigor and sometimes athletic rehearsal processes of the Geneseo faculty for Main Stage and Black Box productions- it all translated into my becoming a reliable and generous actor, scene partner, and frankly, person.

I have no doubt that my time at Geneseo laid the literal mortar for me to have a strong, focused foundation to stand on as I progressed and the confidence to know that if I am prepared and determined, I can accomplish exactly what I want. So not only have I completed my MFA: within a year of graduating I was selected to participate in the T.S. Eliot Old Vic/New Voices US/UK Exchange program. Thanks to that opportunity I spent a week in London with fellow New York City actors, directors, and playwrights putting on seven respective new works on the Old Vic stage for a full audience, workshops with The Factory, Frantic Assembly, and Kevin Spacey himself. I have also been a member of The Bats at the Flea Theatre, one of New York City?s most reputable Off-Off Broadway resident theatre companies. People always have told me that you become aligned on a path that is meant for you. I transferred into Geneseo almost on a whim my sophomore year and without that change, I would not be where I am today. I could not be more grateful.

Class of 2002

Michel Marrano, Class of 2002

  • Sound Designer and Engineer, Blazing Music and Sound, North Carolina

The theatre program at Geneseo gave me the opportunity to discover a lifelong passion for sound design that led me to the career I have today. The direct, personal, one-on-one faculty support gave me the tools to be successful beyond my years at Geneseo. The program also taught me how to meet the demanding challenges of live theatre by giving me real world practice in a supportive environment. But most of all ? it was fun! Some of my closest friendships were forged in the halls of Brodie Fine Arts Building which always felt like a ?home away from home.? I would highly recommend this program for anyone who is interested in theatre.

Class of 2001

Carl Marcelo, Class of 2001

  • Founding Member and Coiner of the name, GENseng
  • Store Planner, Aeropostale, Inc.

What was only supposed to be a short play reading turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my Geneseo college career. When GENseng first debuted in the Fall of 1999, only three roles were in Flipzoids, the first GENseng play ? and only three students auditioned including myself. After quite a few meetings discussing the first idea and coming up with the name 'GENseng', the performance ended up being a huge success despite the little publicity, if any, GENseng got at that time. GENseng started out with no budget of any kind, no props, and minimal costumes. Since the first staged reading of Flipzoids, GENseng has "snowballed" into what it is today. After each performance, the audition count got higher, the talent got better, the audience got bigger, and before we all knew it, we had to turn people away from the Black Box because there just weren't enough seats or spaces left for people to sit in.

GENseng means more to me than just a play reading ensemble. What makes GENseng so special is that I was a part of something special. I remember going through long rehearsals late at night, making sure everything and everyone was achieving their best. I have seen many student actors, most of whom were not even Theatre majors, grow as actors as well as people. I learned a lot about different Asian backgrounds, histories, cultures, and theatres of which I was not aware before becoming involved with the Fall 1999 staged reading of Flipzoids. I met many different friends along the way through every production in which I participated from 1999 to 2001, some of whom I still keep in touch with today. It was definitely a very great and rewarding experience for me to be present on the ground floor and play a significant role in creating one of Geneseo's most popular theatre ensembles. Today I am proud to say I am serving as a consultant to the GENseng production of Eye of the Coconut and giving back to the College and the GENseng family.