Dennis Quaid...Jim Parsons... Brett Cullen...Robert Wuhl...Brent Spiner.
The University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance has produced stars both big and bright. In its efforts to locate tomorrow's top talents, the school is looking deep in the heart of Texas.
At a time when many universities are heavily recruiting football prospects from high schools, UH is taking a close look at the next crop of star actors, directors, dramaturgs and playwrights. Already, three top graduating high school seniors are being formally invited to UH by the School of Theatre & Dance director Steven Wallace.
Wallace is venturing from one end of the Lone Star State to the other to have these students sign letters of intent and discuss how they can apply their creative energies to UH courses and performances.
On April 30, he will travel to the Panhandle, to meet with Sawyer Bryan Estes, a promising actor and playwright, who is graduating from Perryton High School in Perryton, Texas. On May 4, he will venture to the opposite end of the state, McAllen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley. There, he will meet recruits Mike Garcia, an actor graduating from Pharr-San Juan-Alamo (PSJA) Memorial High School, and Edgar Guajardo, a theater technician graduating from PJSA North High School.
"At the University of Houston, every student who enrolls here is important," Wallace said. "I am traveling to these communities to make that point."
Wallace and other School of Theatre & Dance professors met these students and their parents during recent in-state recruiting trips. Some of these future Cougars were already well aware of the learning opportunities available at the school. Likewise, they were intrigued by its experienced, award-winning faculty, which includes Tony winner Mark Medoff and Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Albee.
"I heard about UH through my admiration for Edward Albee and his work," Estes said. "When I discovered that he was on faculty there, I immediately grew interested in the playwriting program. This soon developed into an interest for acting as well. And knowing that the Alley Theatre is so near, I couldn't help but put the UH School of Theatre & Dance at the top of my list of colleges."
For the high school teachers who have mentored these students, the experience of watching them sign these commitment letters is bittersweet. While they are pleased with their students' decision to expand their talents at UH, it will be hard to say "good-bye" after years of working together.
"I worry for Mike, as I worry for any of my students who choose to pursue a rewarding, but challenging, career in the performing arts," said Robert Gomez, Garcia's theater teacher at PSJA Memorial. "At the same time, it's exciting to see a young man pursue his dream. Mike can act, sing and dance, but most importantly, he realizes that he has a great deal to learn and is looking forward to developing his skills through the professional training that UH will offer."
Wallace will conduct the letter signings at April 30 in Perryton and May 4 in McAllen. Garcia, Guajardo and Estes will begin their freshman year at UH this fall.
"They have developed their skills for many years," Wallace said. "They are the future leaders in their particular field of interest, and as such, the UH School of Theatre & Dance applauds their success and achievements and invites them to become a part of a highly recruited incoming fall 2010 freshman class."
Other students signed by UH's School of Theatre & Dance include two graduating seniors from Friendswood High School in Friendswood, Texas: AmyJo Foreman (daughter of astronaut Michael J. Foreman) and Chase Harris.
The UH School of Theatre & Dance offers bachelor's and master's degrees in theatre, and a bachelor's degree in dance. Each fall and spring, the school produces four plays performed in the Wortham Theatre and the Jose Quintero Theatre, two dance concerts, four graduate directing projects and two Theatre for Young Audiences plays. The Houston Shakespeare Festival is provided each summer. In addition to Albee and Medoff, its faculty includes Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow and veteran dramaturg Mark Bly. Among the greats who have taught at the school in previous years are Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. For details on UH's School of Theatre & Dance, visit www.theatredance.uh.edu.