Theater Program Spotlights Student Successes
By Mike McKissack
A large number of former College of DuPage theater students have recently found success in a variety of roles and venues locally and nationwide.
Click here for a list of recent Theater department success stories.
Naperville native Matt Armstrong attended College of DuPage after securing a John Belushi Memorial Scholarship, which he received for two consecutive years. Since then, his acting career has flourished. After leaving COD, he worked with the Buffalo Theatre Ensemble and appeared on stage around Chicago in productions such as the Shakespeare Repertory Theatre’s production of “Hamlet” and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's 1998 revival of “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” In addition, he made his TV debut in 1999 on the CBS police drama “Turks.” He has since appeared in a variety of television shows, including “CSI: Miami,” “Bones,” “Body of Proof” and “Supernatural,” as well as having recurring roles on “American Dreams,” “American Horror Story: Asylum” and “Heroes.”
In a recent article in the Daily Herald, Armstrong credits College of DuPage, and specifically the mentorship of Director of Theater Connie Canaday Howard, with playing an important role in his success as an actor.
“I think College of DuPage had a better theater department than I would find at any regular four-year school, with the repertoire company they have there and all the professionals they have coming in,” he said.
Armstrong now lives in California with his son and wife, actress Ashley Crow, who he met working on “Turks.”
In addition to acting and performing, the College of DuPage Theater Program also offers state-of-the-art behind-the-scenes technical training. After earning an Associate in Science degree at College of DuPage, Paul Graham went on to earn a Bachelor in Fine Arts degree in Technical Theatre from Penn State University. He followed that with a two-year stint as a draftsman with scene and exhibit design, fabrication and management company Chicago Scenic Studios. In addition to behind-the-scenes work on The Oprah Show and Good Morning America, Graham also spent eight years as the Assistant Technical Operations Director for Cirque du Soleil in the U.S. and internationally. He is currently sharing his considerable technical expertise as Production Manager at Elgin Community College.
College of DuPage theater program alum Tobiasz Daszkiewicz has taken more than his share of hard knocks. In fact, as a professional stuntman, hard knocks are his bread and butter. His resume illustrates an impressive list of credits, including the films “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” “Public Enemies,” “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “U.S. Marshalls,” as well as in television shows such as “E.R.,” “Chicago Fire” and “CSI: New York.”
The winner of the 2009 Taurus World Stunt Award, Daszkiewicz began his journey at College of DuPage where he earned an Associate in Arts while studying theater and went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theater from Southern Illinois University. To this day, he counts the theater program and Connie Canaday Howard as major influences in his career.
"If anyone wants to attend a professional school for theater, go to COD,” he said. "Connie is absolutely the best, and she taught me more than anyone in my entire career.”
For her part, Canaday Howard believes the success of the Theater program at College of DuPage is due to a committed faculty, a supportive environment and the extensive practical experience offered to students.
“Our wide-range of beginning level classes enables students to see all of the elements and every side of what goes into a production. Our program prepares them to make good choices professionally,” she said. “In addition, having the Buffalo Theater Ensemble in residence acts as a model and allows students to connect with professionals.”
Associate Professor of Theater Amelia Barrett believes that in addition to a high level of professionalism, the program also offers a nurturing environment that helps fledgling performers and technicians on their artistic journeys.
“We create a very open atmosphere that allows students to feel free to experiment and push themselves in ways that a more restrictive environment wouldn’t allow. We work with students to tear down their inhibitions and just let go,” Barrett said.
The Theater program at College of DuPage is designed for students who intend to continue their studies at a baccalaureate-granting institution, for students who want to broaden their education with theater electives, and for community members and students who want to participate in college theatrical performance groups. College of DuPage currently offers an Associate in Arts degree in Theater.
For more information on the Theater program at College of DuPage, visit www.cod.edu/programs/theater.
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