From Stanley Tucci to Parker Posey, Purchase College has an uncanny ability to turn out top-notch acting talent. But what's the big secret? Presented in alphabetical order, eight graduating members of the school's Conservatory of Theater Arts gave us their answers. And it's worth paying attention to them, as one or more of these rising stars might someday be coming to a theater near you. Compiled by Chris Serico
Who: Morgan Auld
Notable roles at Purchase: Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing,” Carl in "A Devil Inside,” and Troll King in “Peer Gynt”
Why does Purchase College yield so many famous actors? “I think there are a lot of elements that come into play when an acting conservatory is successful at graduating consistently working actors. If I had to boil it down to one point though, I would say that it is Purchase’s dedication to allowing each actor to be intensely true to themselves that sets us apart. At Purchase, you can’t get away with not being up to par on your technique. More importantly though, you can’t get away with not being honest.”
Who: Benjamin Bass
Hometown: Ridgefield, Conn.
Notable roles at Purchase: Peer Gynt in “Peer Gynt,” Brad in “A Devil Inside,” and and Don John in “Much Ado About Nothing”
Why does Purchase College yield so many famous actors? “The reason Purchase College has yielded so many amazing actors is their steadfast dedication to furthering the growth of the individual. Purchase takes a very select group of incredibly diverse people from all over the world and asks, ‘How can we help you?’ You learn how to build yourself into the best professional actor that you could be, as oppose a specific ‘kind’ of actor that other schools might have shaped you into becoming. That’s why we’re great. We’re dangerous. No one knows who we are until we say, ‘Stand back. Let me show you.’”
Who: Kristina Fountaine
Hometown: Denver, Colo.
Notable roles at Purchase: Alice in "Rock ‘N' Roll,” Hero in "Much Ado About Nothing" and Lily in "A Devil Inside"
Why does Purchase College yield so many famous actors? “I believe the reason Purchase College produces so many top-notch actors and actresses is because Purchase teaches actors to tell their truth. In my time at Purchase, one thing that has stood out to me is how unique every single person in the program is. Yet, in this uniqueness, there is this one undefinable spark that unites us, that unites all purchase graduates. I feel that the faculty recognizes this spark, challenges actors to fuel their spark (as scary as it may be) and let it ignite that spark into a flame in which the that actor's individual truth can shine. That trust you develop in you own truth, allows you to be compassionate toward yourself, towards other people and therefore, an honest actor. Without Purchase, many sparks would have stayed a spark, as opposed to a fire of truth that keeps Purchase actor going and growing.”
Who: Claire Jamison
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.
Notable roles at Purchase: Hedda in “Hedda Gabler,” Lady Helena in “The Gut Girls,” and Eleanor in “Rock ‘n' Roll”
Why does Purchase College yield so many famous actors? “Professionally and academically, my time at Purchase has been beyond the training I could have ever anticipated. I don't feel as though I am some model that the conservatory has pushed out, but a citizen who has grown to understand and love my role as an artist in today's society. This is exactly why I believe the BFA program here has yielded so many successful actors. Because of that ‘authenticity’ as Parker Posey. We learn how to be aware of our insecurities and habits, so that they become a sort of tool we get to either bring back or set aside. We embrace our whole selves, cracks and all -- because without the truth of our very specific individuality, we would just be another face without much depth to offer.”
Who: Kathryn Kuhn
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Notable roles at Purchase: Caitlin in “A Devil Inside,” Polly in “Gut Girls,” and Green Woman in “Peer Gynt”
Why does Purchase College yield so many famous actors? “When you look at the Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Purchase on paper within seconds you see that the program is purposefully designed to provide actors with a toolbox of skills they can take with them upon graduation. That said, I believe the reason Purchase has yielded so many high quality actors is because the primary focus of the program is on the actor him/herself. From the moment you enter the program to the day you make your exit you’re constantly encouraged to find out more about yourself: who you are, what you’ve experienced, what you fear/hate/desire/love. Then you’re asked to take that knowledge and challenge yourself; to play the character you’d never be cast as, to do the scene that most terrifies you. In doing this, Purchase produces a group of graduating actors each year who have pushed themselves to the limits, know how to access and trust themselves and bring that awareness to their work every day. It’s hard not to appreciate an actor that brings that level of self knowledge, heart and soul to their work.”
Who: Caitlin Rose Mahoney
Notable roles at Purchase: Lily in “A Devil Inside,” Maggie in “Gut Girls,” and the devil in “Peer Gynt”
Why does Purchase College yield so many famous actors? “Purchase is not an actor factory. When I see a group of over-groomed robot actors, I cringe, and wonder why I made the decision to go into a field of people trained in the art of manipulation. Then I look at the people -- the characters, really -- that I have the privilege of working with every day at Purchase, and I remember why I do this. Purchase picks people with history and personality. We're trained to bring our flaws, quirks, and passion into our work. We don't leave it behind to become scary blank canvases. Actors like Shea Whigham, Jay O. Sanders, Edie Falco and Parker Posey catch your eye on the stage and the screen because of their unabashed humanity. We go to the theatre to see ourselves -- ugly, lonely, hungry, and hopeful -- and Purchase actors glow with their own histories, and a compassion for their audiences'. And that's what I wanna see when I buy my ticket.”
Who: Jennifer Uchechi Kagbo Mogbock
Hometown: Ottawa, Ont., by way of Nigeria, Argentina and Houston
Notable roles at Purchase: Beatrice in “Much Ado about Nothing,” Esme in Rock ‘N’ Roll,” and Esther/Queen Sheba in “Love’s Fire”
Why does Purchase College yield so many famous actors? “In this program you won’t find anyone with a sense of entitlement. Purchase fosters hard working young artists. We are a state school with a state school budget, therefore creativity is a must! In a way, we are the Macgyver’s of theater schools (with imagination, a spatula and a rubber band anything can be done). Most of all, SUNY Purchase yields the best because it accepts students with potential and develops actors full of fearlessness.”
Who: Meghan St. Thomas
Notable roles at Purchase: Mrs. Slater in “A Devil Inside,” Conrad in “Much Ado About Nothing,” and Ingrid in “Peer Gynt”
Why does Purchase College yield so many famous actors? “I think Purchase yields great actors because its a program that encourages you to be a great person — the best person you can be for yourself. I came from a small town, I lived alone with my mom and, to be honest, my life was sheltered. Purchase was my saving grace. It took my life and my comfortablility and flipped me around. Purchase asked me what I always dreamed of for myself as a women, an actor and a person and gave me permission to do it. It's that challenge to constantly live in your highest want and to face your fears that produces such great actors.”