The School of Theatre’s New York Showcase is an opportunity for BFA and MFA Acting students to present their work to entertainment industry producers, agents, and casting directors. It is often a first step to a career on stage or screen, as it can lead to audition offers and agency signings.

In years past that meant a live, in-person performance and recently a combination of live and some taped scenes. This year, because of the pandemic, Showcase had to shift to completely virtual. Students filmed their scenes and songs which were then edited together in one showcase reel and distributed.

Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre Erin Speer says, “It was a challenge to decide which direction to go with Showcase this year. We spent a lot of time reaching out to industry contacts and colleagues at other programs to see what kind of showcases were being planned. Ultimately we decided to go with a digital showcase through The Growing Studio in New York.”

Musical Theatre Program Coordinator Dominick Amendum says there were actually some positive outcomes from having to stay home:

“Our students had the opportunity to virtually meet with 5 major agents representing NYC, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, and beyond. The agents watched their work and then had individual meetings with each student to give them feedback and get to know them better. Our showcase reel was then e-blasted to over 1,000 casting directors, agents, and industry professionals around the country. The other advantage is that since so much of our students’ showcase material was written specifically for them they now have it for use in their own reels and websites without copyright issues.”

Speer says the offers are already starting to come in:

“The students had incredible responses from the agents at the Growing Studio, and one of our students has signed with a major bicoastal agency. It looks to be one of our most successful showcases ever.”

Thomas Mendolia (’12 BFA Acting) shooting a scene for the 2021 Theatre Industry Showcase Reel

With everything being recorded and not live, the stakes are high when it comes to the production side of things, but the School of Theatre already had that covered. For the past several years, Thomas Mendolia (’12 BFA Acting) has been making the trip to UNCG from Los Angeles to shoot, edit, and direct scenes with students. Addendum says Mendolia’s expertise is invaluable.

“Given that he just signed on with a major studio to make his first feature film, working with him is now an incredible educational experience for our students. Thomas works at an incredibly high level and our students get to engage with him and learn from him as they create their showcase segments. Additionally, they now have clips that are directed and filmed by a true ‘Hollywood Director.’”

So what happens next? Travel is opening back up, and the lights are coming back on, on Broadway. Speer says the performance faculty are already discussing what Showcase will look like in 2022.

“The success of this year’s showcase and the benefits of the digital format for this year are obvious. There are also advantages for the University to do an in-person showcase. We want to be in line with what the industry wants.”

Amendum agrees:

“The reality is that this year’s model reached more people in the industry, and our students had really meaningful contact with major agents and came away with high-quality media for their own use. I anticipate that future years will blend this virtual model along with some work in NYC.”

Whether live and in-person or recorded on a reel, Speers says CVPA Theatre students shine.

“This is a hardworking, resilient group of actors and musical theatre performers. What I love about them most is the way they support and care for each other, and how truly unique and individual they all are. This is a diverse and gifted group, and I can’t wait to see what happens for them next!”

Watch the 2021 Showcase Reel here.


Story by Terri W. Relos
Photo credit: Martin Kane