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University of Tennessee MFA Showcase to Be Held in NYC This Month

The talent showcase model for actor training programs developed in the 1980's, well before the digital age, and when there were only a handful of training programs to compete for the attention of agents and casting directors.

Today, industry reps can expect over 100 showcase invitations each spring at the same time that they are more and more likely to turn to YouTube to discover new talent.

In response to this, the University of Tennessee's MFA acting program took a new approach. With Theatre Department support, the actors created a short film and a website to market themselves online in addition to their showcase. The film parodies an action movie trailer, satirizing agents' attitudes towards showcases and showing off each actor in stereotypical film genres. Kyle Maxwell, one of the actors, wrote the script, with creative input from his peers. A local media company, Visual Cohort, was hired to produce the film.

"We wanted to make something that appeals very directly to agents and casting directors. We wrote a piece that shows off each of our personalities, our ability to act for film and television, in a format that they could watch and share in minutes instead of giving up an afternoon or evening to attend a showcase with actors they have never even glimpsed before," said graduating actor Brian Gligor.

In addition to posting the video on YouTube, Mr. Gligor created a website for the UT MFA Class of 2016: The website houses the film, production photos, headshots and résumés for each of his classmates, and has a direct link to reserve seats for the live showcase that will be held in NYC on April 25th.

"Industry reps can now follow up directly with any of the actors from the film, go to the website to have a closer look, or then go to the live NYC showcase to see the actors' work in person," said Mr. Gligor.

Jed Diamond, Head of Acting at UT, comments: "The live showcase model is struggling; often providing little assistance to actors entering the profession, and costing schools a lot to produce. As in every other field, the business of acting is being transformed by digital capabilities. Actors and training programs need to find creative ways to leverage the power of digital media to showcase their abilities, creativity, and readiness for the profession. This class has been highly innovative in attending to realities of the business that must be taken account of to have any kind of career in their art form."

To date, the video has received more that 1300 hits online, and the reservations for the April 25th showcase surpass prior years of showcase by many times. The film and digital marketing innovation appear to be working.

The University of Tennessee MFA in Theatre, Acting showcase will be held in NYC on April 25th, at 1:00 and 7:00 p.m., at Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street. The showcase will also feature the Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory. Visit to watch the video.

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