FLUSHING, NY, May 10, 2013—Yale Drama School, N.Y.U Tisch School of the Arts, American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, Juilliard, Rutgers, London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts—any conservatory would be proud to have some of its graduates admitted. For among these elite schools, the acceptance rate is only 1.5%--for every 1,000 students who apply, between 8 and 15 are accepted.
So what to make of the fact that all four undergraduate drama students in Queens College’s MFA preparatory class have gained admission to at least one of these programs, and some have multiple acceptances? For a drama department in a liberal arts college, the results are astonishing: Thomas Stagnitta to San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater; Gabrielle Georgescu to the London Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Arts; Rosanny Zayas to Juilliard, and Shaunette Wilson to the Yale School of Drama. In the past four years, six other grads also landed at prestigious graduate drama programs, including Yale, the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard, NYU, the American Conservatory Theater, and Rutgers.
“It’s a testament to our program,” says Professor Claudia Feldstein, a Queens College and Yale Drama School alumna who has been dedicated to this class for the past three years. “The department offers enough foundation to be a strong launching pad to these very competitive theatre schools.”
Whatever Queens is doing, it’s working. “One student told me that the head of Juilliard said, ‘Thank the program. They’re doing something very right at Queens,’” says Feldstein.
The prep course, which the department provides at no cost, is essentially “boot camp for the audition,” she says. The grueling process requires candidates to demonstrate their talent by presenting four monologues, a maximum of two minutes each, of both classical and contemporary texts. Feldstein helps students select their monologues, and then works individually with each one as coach, director and mentor.
The students, who Feldstein says are “so supportive of one another,” recognize the value of this class.Feldstein “helped me with the basics, with notes, direction, character, text, in a very clear and concise way,” says Queens native Shaunette Wilson. “We would work for hours.” Wilson hadn’t come to Queens with acting ambitions. She transferred from Marymount Manhattanville, where she had been a playwriting major. Three drama classes with Feldstein revealed the path she needed to take.
Feldstein also inspired Thomas Stagnitta, another Queens native, who came to Queens College for the “phenomenal” math and physics departments.” He hadn’t even done high school drama—but when he happened to take an introduction to acting class the first day of college, he was soon hooked.
Working with Feldstein was indeed life changing for Stagnitta. “Claudia has a tremendously deep understanding of acting that flows into life. I’m finding the two not to be mutually exclusive,” he says.
Queens resident Gabrielle Georgescu moved into acting from dance. A double major in Theatre and Media Studies, Georgescu caught the drama bug in high school, where she also took up singing.
She treasures the time she’s worked with Feldstein. “I’d email a lot,” says Georgescu. “She was very gracious. She pushes us all in ways that I didn't know we could be pushed in.”
Rosanny Zayas, who was raised in Ozone Park, wasn’t sure about pursuing acting and the theater when she arrived at Queens College. By the time she took Acting 2 with Feldstein as a second-year student, Zayas knew she had found her vocation. “Claudia was the only one who took an interest in what I had done. I tried and tried to be better. It’s more than just acting. The lessons I learned will carry with me the rest of my life.”
The Department of Drama, Theatre & Dance offers a balanced combination of theory and practice in each area as a foundation for graduate study. It aims to develop the individual talent and skills of students who intend to pursue conservatory training for a stage or dance career.
As it celebrates its 75th year, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. With its graduate and undergraduate degrees, honors programs, and research and internship opportunities, the college helps its over 20,000 students realize their potential in countless ways, assisted by an accessible, award-winning faculty. Located on a beautiful, 77-acre campus in Flushing, the college is cited each year in the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. More info on Queens College at www.qc.cuny.edu.