Partially thanks to the Career Development Office’s many emails, it is impossible for Kenyon seniors to forget that the threat of post-grad unemployment looms large. Luckily, the drama department has noticed the high stress, and has chosen to take action.
On Saturday, Jan. 31, casting director and Kenyon parent Stephanie Klapper — mother of Caitelin McCoy ’17 — held a Q-and-A workshop to better inform drama students of what to expect when entering the theater profession. The workshop was split into two parts: a discussion of Klapper’s past experience and a set of mock auditions.
It is no surprise this is the second year that Kenyon has invited Klapper to lead a workshop. From being a member of The Casting Society of America to casting projects that have won Tony Awards, Klapper has a lot of experience and advice to share.
“In response to demand for a greater focus on career tracking, the drama department has made a real effort in recent years to prepare majors for the more pragmatic aspects of a life in the theater,” Assistant Professor of Drama Ben Viccellio ’98 wrote in an email to the Collegian. “[Klapper] is a Kenyon parent; bringing her in to share her wealth of knowledge and experience was a no-brainer. It would be irresponsible of us to ignore such a valuable resource.”
While Klapper has been in the business for over 20 years, her path toward opening her own agency, Stephanie Klapper Casting, was complicated, and was the product of having tried her hand at a number of different areas in the performing arts before casting.
As a senior in high school, Klapper dabbled with filmmaking, and came to the conclusion that this was the career for her. Though she had never made a film before, she was accepted into the film program at State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase, and found herself in a freshman class of 60 students — more specifically, 58 men and two women.
Klapper struggled with the demands of the department and took a semester off during her sophomore year. She jokingly explained during the workshop that the school wanted her to “suffer more” and that the time away was useful because when she returned, she realized her heart was in drama.
During her remaining time at SUNY Purchase, Klapper developed her producing and directing skills. After graduating, she found herself falling into the casting field. At first, the job was meant to supplement her interest in directing, but that soon changed.
“Casting was about making a picture happen,” Klapper said. She enjoyed placing actors together in order to help make a story unfold, and eventually, Stephanie Klapper Casting was born.
Klapper acknowledged that her path was rare, and typically professionals do not fall into the casting field. However, sharing her experience helped workshop participants, including drama major Rachel Kaplan ’15, understand that nothing is set in stone, and that drama students have the option to dabble in many fields until they find their passion.
“She went through a lot of different stages in her theatrical career, and clearly had a lot of different interests within theater from the beginning,” Kaplan said. “I feel like hearing about the path that her career took was enlightening, and definitely relevant to me because I could see my career going a couple different ways within the theater.”
Klapper devoted the second part of the workshop to mock auditions. She brought in “sides,” or scenes from plays, and invited participants to audition in order to help them understand what she looks for when she casts a production.
Playwright-in-Residence and Professor of Drama Wendy MacLeod ’81 was particularly excited about this aspect of the workshop. “Our graduates are very well thought of in the wider world,” MacLeod said. “They know what to do when they get the job, but they need to know more about how to get those first jobs. [Through the workshop,] they learn the lingo, … they learn about headshots and résumés and they learn how much preparation is involved for a single audition.”
The workshop is just one example of how the department hopes to better prepare their students for graduation. On Friday, Feb. 4, they will hold another workshop at 4:10 p.m. in the Hill Theater, with Megan Dobkin ’95, who worked in development and as a producer along with her husband, director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers).
“As a department, we put great focus on the work, but probably not enough on navigating the transition into the ‘real world,’” Viccellio said. “We are working to remedy that.”