Syracuse University Magazine


Drama Alumni Showcase

Showing Off Orange Talent

For SU alumni seeking careers in the entertainment industry, Los Angeles is often an ideal choice after graduation. However, since many people are looking for opportunities in the city, it is hard for those who are new there to catch the attention of acting and film executives. To overcome this obstacle, 22 alumni from the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) and the Newhouse School created the Syracuse University Drama Alumni Showcase in LA. Together, they demonstrated their diverse talents as producers, actors, writers, and film crew in a summer showcase that featured six short films and five staged live scenes.

Alex Alcheh ’11, the showcase creator, director, and actor, originally pitched the idea for the showcase to Professor Ralph Zito, chair of the drama department, and VPA Dean Ann Clarke. Zito and Clarke encouraged Alcheh to launch the showcase. Showcase co-producer Mary Ann Pianka ’13 says the college, as well as families and friends of the participants, contributed to their fundraising.

The collaboration in organizing the showcase was challenging, but an incredible experience for the team members. They produced the filmed scenes with 26 pages of dialogue in two days last June. “It’s an unrealistically tight schedule,” Pianka says. “But if you have to make it work, it will work. Being from SU, everybody was on board to make it a success.”

Showcase writer Robert Axelrod ’14 says the hardest part was finding out what the actors really wanted in a scene. He sifted through tons of information from the actors, figured out what told the story, and synthesized it into scenes that lasted four to five minutes. He says he kept asking himself questions during the teamwork and made changes in the scripts if necessary. “For me, the questions are: What’s the immediacy of the scene? What’s going on right now? What is the current issue at stake? What is the current need?” he says.

Photography director Stephen Darby ’13 says his favorite moment in the project was sharing common Syracuse bonds with other alumni. “Everybody knows what we mean when we are talking about things like Marshall Street,” Darby says. “The whole project was a lot of fun with jokes all around.”

After finishing the filmed scenes, the team spent the rest of its time rehearsing the live ones until August 25, when they displayed their talents to guests from the entertainment industry at the ACME Comedy Theatre. According to Alcheh, an agent who attended the showcase said that it was the most entertaining showcase he had ever been to and one of the best in general.

For the alumni, the project has facilitated the transition from college to the real world and helped them expand their professional networks. Some team members have since signed contracts with companies or gone through interviews. “You really need to be willing to put in your hours and start from the bottom,” Darby says. “I wasn’t expecting somebody to throw me a contract right away. You cannot expect that everything will happen on the next day. It’s a process.”      —Jessie Shi

For more information, reach out to the SU Drama Showcase team at