Thaddeus Kaszuba-Dias (BFA ’19, acting) spent a semester at the iconic Globe Theatre in London. “This opportunity helped me gain a global perspective on the legacy of theatre internationally and inspired me to set career goals to contribute to that legacy.” Donors to the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program made this experience possible.
Where are you from? What brought you to the U?
I am from Lake In The Hills, Illinois. I studied acting at Interlochen Arts Academy, where I was inspired to get a degree in acting for theatre and screen. I had a passion for complex texts such as Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw, and especially Chekhov. The University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program curriculum piqued my interest with their specificity and focus on these genres.
I decided to pursue a degree in acting at the U because I wanted to hone my skills as an actor of color in a world of classical texts that primarily represent white characters. I wanted to understand how I fit into the genres and industry of theatre and screen by learning the original framework and history of the theatre.
How has your BFA degree prepared you for what you’re doing now?
During my time at the U, I started to find a love for casting for theatre and screen. I had the opportunity to be a casting and artistic intern at Steppenwolf Theater Company in Chicago. Since graduating in May 2019, I have been selected as the Emerging Professional Resident in Casting at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater where I will be in residence for one year.
My acting education gives me the ability to understand the vocabulary of actors coming into an audition room. What matters to me is understanding and having empathy for actors in casting, and also knowing what to expect professionally from both sides of the table.
What drives you?
As a minority mixed-race citizen, my drive comes from a place of progressing standards and conversation around how storytelling and talent are undergoing a drastic change as we start to see different racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities become more prevalent in the entertainment industry. My goal is to create a more ethical and comfortable environment for actors to showcase their best work without judgment, hostility, or elitist practices in casting.
What difference do you hope to make in your community—and in the world?
I love theater, but we are entering an era where live storytelling is being overshadowed by the world of digital streaming and other online media. I would like to introduce the highly traditional regional theatres of the United States to new technologies that can expand audience outreach and awareness of the powerful stories that are being produced across the theatre industry. I would like to make a difference by giving the public insight into the tradition of theatrical storytelling from the comfort of their own environments. My philosophy is that if the theatre would like to continue being an institution to entertain, educate, and find catharsis with the masses, it must seek out the masses unimpeded by the small amount of time people have for entertainment.
How has your liberal arts education uniquely prepared you for your career?
My liberal arts education has prepared me not only artistically and professionally but also socially. My courses in political psychology, apocalyptic literature, anthropology, and communications collectively gave me an extremely well-rounded perspective on generational ideologies. This guides my social understanding of the world and the many perspectives that we carry. Every CLA course taught me how to analyze and understand other social perspectives and allow those perspectives to inform my own view on how to navigate an ever-changing society in arts, humanities, and science.
How has CLA helped prepare you for your next steps?
One special experience I had in CLA was with Chelsea Ochoa in Career Services. She helped me develop interview and professional interpersonal skills based on the kind of work I was attempting to find opportunities in. Chelsea worked one-on-one with me as I prepared for my interviews and helped me develop my resume, cover letters, and the way I present myself. Her help made me feel like I wasn't alone in finding my niche in my industry, helped me gain tools to create better applications, and gave me a process to organize my professional life. Without Chelsea and Career Services, I would not have the opportunities I have today!
How has your time at CLA prepared you for living and working in a connected, global community?
My BFA acting program has a required semester abroad in London, where we have the privilege of studying at the Globe Theatre. We pay special attention to Shakespeare's original practice as well as a modern interpretation of his texts. We also have a lot of opportunities to travel throughout Europe with our three-day weekends; I got to visit Italy, Scotland, The Netherlands, France, and Germany. I also had a train transfer layover in Austria and a week-long heritage trip to Poland! Through these trips, I met people my age who are navigating life in different countries, learned about the history of each country, and gained perspective on how international communities function and live. It gave me a hunger for travel and learning, allowing me to live outside of the ideology bubble in the United States.
You have received support from donors during your time at the U. What does that support mean to you now?
In an era of students struggling with federal loans, the U of M helped me find University-wide scholarships as well as BFA scholarships. As a student coming from a single-parent household, financial support was essential. We live in a social climate that expects young people to pursue a collegiate degree. I had the privilege to attend college through various scholarships and grants that supported both my tuition and living costs, allowing my loans to be manageable. Scholarships for my yearly attendance and my semester abroad greatly impacted my post-school financial state so that I was able to smoothly transition into my career without the fear of looming debt.