Syracuse University

SU News

SU's Department of Drama, Casting Society of America form premier training program

December 06, 2011

Scott McDowell
(212) 826-1449

The Tepper Semester program in the Department of Drama at Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) and the Casting Society of America (CSA) announce a new premier training program partnership and apprenticeship. SU is the only institution of higher education to connect in such a meaningful and collaborative relationship with the CSA, the premier organization of theatrical casting directors in film, theater and television. The program, set to begin in the spring of 2012, is a joint effort to maintain a high standard of professionalism and artistic integrity within the field. 

Tepper Semester“We could not ask for a better partner than the Casting Society of America and are excited that their talented members have agreed to share their expertise—in the classroom and in the real world—with the students in our program,” says Arielle Tepper Madover, SU alumna, trustee and Tepper Semester program founder. The semester-long immersion program is designed to provide drama students with rigorous training in New York City’s Theater District. “From the beginning, my vision for the Tepper program was to help drama students interested in all areas of the theater and entertainment industry to find their way and to be successful, and this partnership definitely expands that mission.” 

Casting Society of America“When we learned about the intense immersion and training that takes place during the Tepper Semester program we knew right away that this was just the kind of collaboration we were looking to create,” says Pam Dixon, CSA president. “With the design of the new casting concentration, we are confident we are successfully preparing future casting directors.” 

“Casting directors are an essential component to our business as artists,” says Ralph Zito, professor and chair of VPA's Drama Department. “This collaboration provides the department with an opportunity to deepen the relationship between casting offices and other parts of the theater community and create a greater sense of synergy within the industry itself. The premier program will also mentor and educate young casting directors entering the profession.” 

The syllabus for students in the casting concentration is being meticulously planned and the program itself is highly selective. Only four to six students per semester will be accepted. This will allow for an intimate, intense and focused training. Prospective students will be interviewed by Lisa Nicholas, director of the Tepper Semester, as well as a CSA committee member to ensure students are just the right fit and have the dedication needed to succeed in this competitive industry. 

Marc Hirschfeld is a SU alumnus, former EVP of casting at NBC Universal Television and the owner of Hirschfeld Casting. Hirschfeld is linked to numerous hit shows, including the iconic "Seinfeld," as well as "The Larry Sanders Show," "Married with Children," "That 70’s Show" and ABC’s newest hit comedy starring Tim Allen, "Last Man Standing." “We want to find students who not only participate, but are able to ask ‘why;' be an active participant,” says Hirschfeld. 

Hirschfeld has been active in working with Nicholas to make the program as beneficial and successful as it can be for both partners. “There’s a long learning curve to be able to read a script and be able to say, ‘Hey, George Clooney would be the right fit for that role.' We need someone who asks intelligent questions, someone genuinely interested in finding talent—going through agent submissions, reviewing video auditions. Our goal is simple. When they complete this semester, they will be ready to be an immediate asset to any casting office.” 

The program has been designed specifically for casting students, including key professional components and some core courses with fellow Tepper students. Participants in the casting program will be trained on industry software such as the Cast It system. They will tour New York City museums, attend actor showcases around the city and see as many as two shows a week—about 28 shows in all—during their semester. Students will also receive special assignments like attending acting workshops and film festivals and going to improv clubs to scout out new talent. All of this is designed to develop their skills and instincts as future casting directors. 

The final and perhaps most important component to the new casting concentration is the internships these students will have access to. Leading theatrical casting directors will participate, and currently signed are major companies like Warner Brothers, NBC and ABC as well as casting director heavyweight Tara Rubin Casting. “The exposure these select students will have in the casting world will provide a lifetime of benefits,” says Nicholas. “Graduates of the Tepper program will enter the field with established relationships, the skills, knowledge and confidence necessary to enter the profession and succeed.” 

All student casting apprentices will be called upon to assist in preparing and delivering casting sessions. Students will be exposed to what it takes to evaluate a resume and to learn why or why not an actor was a smart selection for an audition. They will also interface with assorted industry reps, producers and actors, and be expected to present the most professional image for that casting office. 

“Even in its infancy, this program is very much in line with Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s vision for Scholarship in Action,” says Zito. “These chosen students will be working in the world of casting, where the work they do will be framed in the larger context, and at the same time give them an opportunity to develop considerable communication and management skills. I look forward with great excitement to where this new path will lead the program.”

The Casting Society of America is the premier organization of theatrical casting directors in film, television and theater. Although it is not a union, its members are a united professional society that consistently sets the level of professionalism in casting on which the entertainment industry has come to rely. Its more than 490 members are represented not only in the United States, but also in Europe, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

Recent News