Collegiate Theatrics: USC's CHAE CHAPUT
The next generation of actors will come from all over the globe, to be certain - and they are now likely honing their craft, polishing their skills, and burnishing their timing on stages and in academic settings - but somehow there's an astonishing concentration of impressive actors to be found on the campus of the University of Southern California, where the list of candidates for the Master of Fine Arts in acting rivals any group to be found anywhere.
Chae Chaput - a native of Manchester, New Hampshire, who did her undergraduate work at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey, where she earned her BA in Theater Arts with a double concentration in Acting and Technical Theater with a minor in film - is one such member of the group.
Now, through March 6, Chaput joins her classmates, her friends, her comrades - her very theatrical family, to be sure - to take the stage during this year's MFA Acting Repertory at the Scene Dock Theatre, bringing to new life onstage productions of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera (adapted by Marc Blitzstein) in which Chaput plays Jenny Diver, and Anna Deveare Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, in which she plays Judith Tur. And she's cast as Clytemnestra in The Oresteia Project, inspired by Aeschyus' Oresteia, written and directed by David Bridell in collaboration with the MFA Acting Class of 2016.
Despite a harried schedule, she found time to sit down and consider our questions - and to offer some elucidating answers - about her time at USC and how her experiences there have prepared her for the future. Here is your opportunity to get to know USC's Chae Chaput in this week's edition of Collegiate Theatrics...
What's been your favorite part of studying at USC? My favorite part of studying acting at the University of Southern California's MFA program has been the unique training style. USC's MFA Acting program teaches you how to work from the inside out-first by bringing awareness to your instrument and then fine tuning it with specifics. I've been trained to be a smart, impulsive actor who is in tune with my entire instrument. USC's MFA program is taught by working industry professionals (such as David Warshofsky, Andrei Belgrader, Natsuko Ohama, David Bridel, Andy Robinson, Matt Walker, and more!), which has made all the difference. I have learned an enormous amount during my three years because I have been exposed to a variety of artists. They have prepared me for both the stage and screen, and have made me the well-rounded I am today!
Has grad school at USC lived up to its advance hype? Graduate school at USC has most certainly lived up to its hype. From the moment I met Andy Robinson and David Warshofsky at my New York audition, I knew I had stumbled upon a unique training program. They, along with the rest of the MFA Acting faculty, have taught me how to act from a deeper, more truthful, and impulsive place and it has made all the difference.
What stands out in your mind as the best/favorite/most impactful (I hate using "Impactful," just so you know...but it works here) experience at USC? It's difficult to choose the most impactful experience in grad school because this entire three-year journey has changed my life, for the better. However, if I have to choose, I would say that the most important part of this journey is the process me (and the rest of my ensemble) is in now-the Three Play Rep. This is an invaluable experience because by rehearsing and performing three different plays in rotation for a month, I am learning how to put together and create my acting process. USC has given me many tools over the last few years and now I get to open my tool box and play!
What's been the biggest difference in studying theater in grad school vs. undergrad? The biggest difference between studying acting in a graduate program as oppose to an undergraduate program is the intensity in which you train. My undergrad training gave me a well-rounded foundation in theater arts. I not only learned the basics of acting, but I also learned directing, stage management, stagecraft, playwriting, the history of theater, and more. It introduced me to the world of the theater and allowed me to get my feet wet and discover what interested me. My graduate training has been highly specific and focused solely on acting. I've taken classes in acting, movement, voice, singing, clowning, Commedia dell'arte, acting for the camera, voiceover acting, and much more.
Have your dreams/aspirations changed over the course of time spent at USC? Yes, my dreams and aspirations have changed over the course of my time at USC. Prior to USC, I used to think that I only wanted to be a New York theater actor and a medical clown. However, over the last three years I've also been exposed to and have fallen in love with television, film, and voiceover work. My time in USC's MFA Acting program has taught me that I am capable of anything and the possibilities are endless.
Where do you hope to find yourself in five years? In five years' time, I plan on finding myself as a working actor in television, films, and theater. Two goals I want to complete by 2021 is to have made appearances on Once Upon A Time and How to Get Away with Murder. In addition to acting, I will also be working as a Clown Doctor in children's hospitals. Medical clowning is a passion near and dear to my heart. I believe that laughter is the best medicine for the soul. Between all the testing and treatment a sick child endures, he/she must have hope and feel empowered. What better way to do that than to bring in a clown (whose pockets are filled with joy and laughter) who will play with and in the child's world?
If anyone could play me in a stage or film version of my life story, I would choose Robin Williams and the title of the script would be Reassembling the Wings.
In addition to the MFA Acting Repertory from February 6 to March 6, USC's MFA Class of 2016 will be featured in a pair of showcases in New York and Los Angeles:
- NEW YORK: Wednesday, April 20, at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at The Ailey Citigroup Theatre at The Ailey Studios, 405 West 55th Street
- LOS ANGELES: Tuesday, April 26, at 7 p.m. and Wednesday, April 27, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Odyssey Theatre, 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard
For more information about USC's Class of 2016 MFA Actors, who also will be featured in Collegiate Theatrics for the next few weeks, go to www.dramaticarts.usc.edu/showcase 2016/mfashowcase/