Onstage and backstage, Burgians abound in the arts
When was the last time you got a bear-hug from Clint Eastwood?
For Kevin Thomas ’58, it was at the Board of Governors Ball after the 65th Academy Awards.
Eastwood “had just received a pair of Oscars for Unforgiven,” said Thomas. “He spotted me in a crowd of people waiting to congratulate him, and made a beeline.” Thomas holds the title of the longest serving film critic at the same daily newspaper in American history. For nearly half a century the Los Angeles Times employee reviewed everything from Funny Girl to Garden State, and loved every minute of it.
He is one of dozens of Gettysburg College alumni who have made it professionally in the performing arts and entertainment industry. We caught up with a few. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at some fascinating careers.
And please, hold your applause until the end.
Joseph Adamson ’67 decided early in his life that he wanted to get involved with motion pictures. And to this day, he hasn’t changed his mind. A film buff since he was a child, Adamson serves as archivist in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library. He’s also an award-winning independent filmmaker, noted author, and university professor.
“Some of the greatest satisfaction I’ve derived from this business has been getting to know and spend time with people whose work I’ve always admired.”
Sarah Sigal ’05 is a playwright and director in London. A theatre arts major at Gettysburg, Sigal wrote and directed a play every year while a student. “I feel my experiences at Gettysburg College encouraged me to be independent enough to have faith in the strength of my own work,” said Sigal. After graduating, she enrolled at Goldsmiths College (University of London), and has since earned an M.A. and Ph.D. “Sarah Sigal is a genius,” said Prof. Susan Russell, chair of the theatre arts department. “Ever since she arrived and had her first play produced in Stevens Theatre as an 18-year-old, I knew she would go far. Now she has successfully completed her Ph.D. and has had her plays produced in the U.K., and I couldn’t be prouder of her.”
Sue Useem ’05 is the founder of Spotted Frog Productions, a documentary production company based in Bali, Indonesia. Her first documentary film, “Which Way to the War?” premiered at the Action on Film Festival in 2009 and took home the Best Female Filmmaker award. The documentary, which she directed, produced, wrote, and edited, continues to receive awards and has been purchased by universities and organizations worldwide. In addition, her stock footage has been used in productions featured on Animal Planet, Geographic Expeditions, National Geographic Society, Voice of America, and for Wharton Business School. “Being a filmmaker lets you be an artist, human rights advocate, and an entrepreneur, and it’s a perfect fit for me,” said Useem. “I get to travel, meet people, and tell interesting stories to the world.”
Joseph Costa ’68 is a professional actor who has spent more than 30 years working in film, television, and theatre. Performing in more than 120 productions, he has collaborated with celebrities such as Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, and starred on TV shows that include The Sopranos, Law and Order, and Mad About You.
The life of an actor is never boring, at least not for Rick Holmes ’85. Whether he’s up and on set at 6 a.m. filming, or rehearsing all day long for a show, he’s busy doing what he loves. A Broadway actor, Holmes graduated from Gettysburg knowing he wanted to pursue a career in acting. He’s appeared in television, film, and theatre, and most recently starred as Lancelot in the Broadway production and national tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot. “The personal challenge inspires and motivates me to continue in this business,” said Holmes. “How will my character penetrate the audience members and make them think of their own lives in a way that makes it all seem real?” Look for him next in the Broadway production of Peter and the Starcatcher.
As props master for People’s Light and Theatre Company in Malvern, Pa., Elizabeth Stump ’05 is responsible for set dressing and managing any “property” an actor moves or interacts with while on stage. With eight productions a year, she must research, plan, shop, sew, build, and borrow around the clock.
“For each play, we have to consider the time period, setting, and specific character traits,” said Stump. “I found six-foot-wide purple balloons and used them as giant grapes in our last show.”
Charlotte Wilcox ’69 decided not to become a Latin teacher after graduating. Instead, as the owner and general manager of the Charlotte Wilcox Company, she has built a successful career managing Broadway shows and tours in New York City. Wilcox and her staff are involved in nearly every aspect of their client’s productions, including bidding, budgeting, contract negotiations, scheduling, marketing, and more. West Side Story, Grease, The Full Monty, and My Fair Lady are just a few of the shows her company has managed. So what made Wilcox choose Broadway over Latin?
“My mother’s best friend was a Latin teacher, and she told me not to pursue the field because I’d make no money and meet no men.”
Maggie Langtry ’09 is a post-production coordinator for Half Yard Productions in New York City. She’s working on the second season of the reality TV show Jersey Couture, which airs on the Oxygen network. Before moving to the Big Apple, Langtry worked in Los Angeles for Bunim-Murray Productions. She also served as an assistant to actor Romany Malco, famous for his roles in Weeds, The 40 Year Old Virgin, and The Good Wife.
“I’m proud to have worked in the industry on both coasts,” she said. “These experiences have taught me a lot about myself, both personally and professionally.”
Kathryn Munnell Rossetter ’73 is the head of the acting department in the MFA program at the New School for Drama, a division of New School University in New York City. She’s taught and mentored more than 300 students, many of whom work on and off Broadway and in regional theatre, film, and television. Rossetter is also a professional theatre, film, and television actress who’s worked with dozens of renowned actors, directors, and writers for the past 25 years. For example, she appeared on Broadway with Dustin Hoffman in Death of a Salesman and reprised her role in the film version. “I’ve learned from everyone I’ve worked with, and I continue to learn and grow,” she said. “Acting is an art form that always presents a new challenge and a new reward.”
The stage isn’t the only setting where performative skills matter. Communication coach, publicist, speaker, author, and global media relations specialist Soni Dimond ’79 began her career as a news reporter, went on to hold num-erous positions in corporate communications, and eventually started her own business, Soni Dimond Media. She now coaches hundreds of corporate executives, government leaders, and public speakers from coast to coast: “I like to say I take their talent out of their stockroom and display it in their showroom.” Dimond is also the author of the book series Life’s a Pitch! and frequently presents at workshops and conventions around the nation.
Even though Laura Martinez ’10 didn’t win the Super Bowl, she still gets to go to Disney World — every single day! She’s an attractions hostess for The Great Movie Ride, an attraction that celebrates Hollywood and the history of film. Martinez provides a scripted tour to approximately 70 guests at least 10 times a day.
“I get a round of applause and cheers every time I finish a tour — that’s what performers thrive on!” she said.
She’s also an attractions hostess for The American Idol Experience, where she helps replicate the look and feel of the popular show American Idol for guests.
“Why don’t you try running orchestras?” This seemingly simple suggestion made by Prof. John “Buzz” Jones ended up leading Brian Ritter ’99 to the career of his dreams. For the executive director of the Albany Symphony (N.Y.), there is no such thing as a typical day. But one thing never changes: he thinks about music, talks about music, and listens to music all the time. In May 2011, Ritter’s orchestra travelled to New York City and played at Carnegie Hall.
“I feel like I found a profession that’s making a difference in the community, now and in the future,” he said.
But wait, this show isn’t over yet — there are a few more alumni stars to bring on stage:
Owen Roizman ’58 is a five-time Academy Award-nominated cinematographer, known for his work on films such as The French Connection, Wyatt Earp, Tootsie, and The Exorcist, among many others.
Carson Kressley ’91 is an Emmy Award winning television actor, celebrity stylist, author, and fashion guru. He currently hosts Carson-Nation, a reality show on the OWN network, and has appeared on numerous TV shows including Dancing with the Stars, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Live! With Regis and Kelly.
Margaret Selby ‘81, president of Columbia Artists Management Inc. Spectrum, joined Joseph Costa, Carson Kressley, and other star alumni in welcoming students to New York City during a recent career immersion trip.
And of course we can’t forget Gettysburg College theatre arts Profs. George Muschamp ’66 and Christopher Kauffman ’92. Muschamp has been a part of theatre, film, radio, and television productions for more than four decades. An actor, writer, director, and producer, he’s taught intermittently at Gettysburg since 1996. Kauffman has created, directed, or acted in theatre productions for more than 20 years. He’s been on the faculty since 2004 and was recently granted tenure.
That’s a wrap!
Do you know of other alumni in the performing arts? Send info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story by Tracey Dukert
Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
Posted: Sun, 29 Apr 2012
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