Success Stories

courtney chaplin

Courtney ChaplinThe technical theatre major helps artists to become very well rounded people. At most universities you would have to learn your one concentration and only stick with that for four years. At Clarion, we learn every skill with designing, building, along with on-stage work by taking acting classes, and learning from other departments such as the art department and communication. Becoming a well-rounded individual in this setting can help you become more marketable and understand all aspects that go into a project.

My career is as a non-union stage manager for theatres in the Pittsburgh area. As a stage manager, I work on productions from beginning to end. I also work in the rehearsal room by organizing and keeping everyone on task as well as running productions when we get to the theatre.

Besides using my stage management classes to give me my foundation of my work, my design classes have helped me communicate to designers and actors if I need to explain something. I work as a carpenter and costume overhire as well (this is when a theatre reaches out for extra help for a small period).

While at Clarion, I learned all my carpentry and sewing skills for practical use in my field. With this I have helped build shows at City Theatre, Little Lake, and many others.

I tried to be involved as much as possible in my department in my four years and I made sure to go to every class, stay long for shop hours, and learn all sides to a production. I wanted to get the most from my degree and my professors noticed that. My professors saw I wanted to work hard in projects so they helped when it was needed and graciously gave me more challenges to help me excel in my class work. They also knew when to give us a break and reward us for the work from the semester.

Besides working on all the theatre productions while at the university, I either was on stage or behind the scenes with stage management or designing. I also was part of the Clarion University dance team for a year. Through both programs, I learned team building and being supportive through the tough times and success.

I really believe clarion was the right choice for me because I could learn all aspects of theatre and I still practice most of them to this day. I still have a long time left in my career but I'm very happy for choosing a degree in humanities.

  Nic barilar

Nic BarilarI was a double-major at Clarion. I earned a BFA in acting and a BA in English. I came to the latter by way of the former.

I was a theatre kid throughout middle and high school. When I decided that I wanted to try to be a professional actor, I began looking at different programs. Clarion's theatre program was on my list from the start. I went to high school in Punxsutawney and we took a field trip to see Clarion's production of Shakespeare's Macbeth. It blew me away. I still remember that production very vividly. It was so cool and I remember wanting to be a part of that and wanting to make theatre like that. And I wanted to learn how to do what they were doing.

Later, I came to theatre day, a visitation day during the summer season, and I saw just how much the students did. They acted, danced, and sang in the shows, of course, but they were also designing the costumes, sets, and lights. They built and painted the sets - everything.

In a meeting with the late Marilouise Mel Michel, she told my mother and me that she couldn't promise me a consistent career onstage, but I would learn how to do a wide range of theatrical jobs. And that's exactly what happened.

I learned how to act, but I also became a pretty competent scenic painter. CU Professor Ed Powers taught me how to paint. At some point - and I don't remember when or how - he saw something in me and taught me how. By the time I was a senior, he could give me a picture and some instructions for what he wanted a set to look like, and then leave me to it - say to make a wooden set look like marble.

I got to learn just about every aspect of theatre on a nearly daily basis. I was reading about it, and doing it. And my fellow majors and I talked about it constantly. We were totally immersed in the work of making theatre.

This led me to major two. Part of my acting major included courses in dramatic literature. These classes helped to nuance and complicate the way we thought about plays, and I really liked that. I immediately saw the utility of learning how to analyze texts for making theatre.

I think it is impossible to understate the profound impact that the faculty in the theatre and English departments had upon me as an artist and thinker.

Another major element of my education at Clarion was the courses that were offered. I consider the education I had extraordinary. I've continued to do what I did at Clarion in both collegiate and professional spheres. When I act I continue to use methods I learned at Clarion. I use my major, too, any time I audition.

Finally, another element of the curriculum that was essential to me: summer theatre. Each musical ran for three weeks at two different locations. We rehearsed one during the day and performed another at night. It taught me how to memorize quickly. It was exhausting. But it was also exceptional training because it really replicated what my first job at the Barn Theatre ended up being. I did the exact same work there in the exact same way, just a bit faster and for a longer time.

I am a director and a proud member of Actors' Equity Association - the union of professional stage actors. Some of my professional credits include working at the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Michigan, the Virginia Samford Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama, the Pittsburgh Festival Opera in Pittsburgh, and Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center in Midland, Pa.

I'm pursuing a Ph.D. in theatre and performance studies at Pitt, and although the way I think about how theatre has changed through the additional years of education and experience, it's all been built up, complicated, and nuanced from the foundation Clarion provided me.

Drew leigh williams

Drew Leigh WilliamsI knew from a very young age that I was going to be an actor but I also knew that the skills theatre facilitates (i.e. interpersonal, critical thinking, writing, etc.) couldn't be honed without an education.

After one year at an out-of-state college, I transferred to Clarion because, as a musical theatre major, I wouldn't be limited to the numerous other disciplines I could explore and study. Receiving training in the technical arts and gaining experience in theatre marketing/business was also of importance to me, and I knew I couldn't get that at my previous institution.

How many actors can say they've also been a master electrician, sound designer, and director/choreographer? More specifically, at Clarion, I was given applicable practicum with the Summer Musical Theatre Festival and I learned how to rehearse and perform in a rep style, including opening full-scale productions in less than 10 days, which is something I am now accustomed to in the real world.

The faculty and staff were fully invested in my education and the trajectory of my future career. They helped me see my potential and I appreciate that they didn't pigeon-hole me into one specific type of student or performer. They always held nurturing conversations with me to keep me in the loop about their casting decisions for me and they constantly challenged me to be a better person. I was treated as an individual in a team setting because of the department's student-faculty ratio.

I was a member of Alpha Psi Omega (Alpha Upsilon chapter), the honorary theatre fraternity, and was its president during my senior year. I gained a lot of responsibility and further honed my collaborative skills to continue community and campus involvement/enrichment in the theatre arts.

I also appreciated the work-study offered as a theatre major. I was able to work on the administrative and advertisement side during summer sessions and know that experience contributed to my success as a self-employed businesswoman.

I am now a professional stage actor (a proud member of the Actor's Equity Association) and an on-camera actor with Docherty Talent Agency in Pittsburgh, so I'm truly living my dreams. I used my training and degree from Clarion to further my education and receive my MFA in Acting from Roosevelt University's Chicago College of Performing Arts, which ultimately, led me back to Clarion where I taught and developed a variety of theatre courses for 11 semesters. I have a website at

  Darcie buterbaugh

Darcie ButerbaughI am working in the film and entertainment industry as a wardrobe supervisor. I started as a stitcher working at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre. I worked there for several years as a stitcher, first hand, and dresser. The work I did and experiences that I got at Clarion in the Theatre department are skills that directly transferred to a professional atmosphere in both film and live theatre. I was able to work in both with confidence and as a result, I moved up to a supervisor role rather quickly.

My degree was in Technical Theatre. I knew from a young age that I wanted to work in the arts. Originally, my plan was to be an onstage performer. The spark for working in the technical side of the theatre world was not ignited until I toured Clarion as a prospective student. Walking through the scene shop and costume shop showed me a world that I had not previously considered. I immediately shifted gears and put the wheels in motion. Originally, I had intended to be a lighting designer but very soon upon arrival, I met Myra Bullington and she inspired me so much I wanted to move toward the costume department.

The faculty in the Theatre Department, hands down, made the biggest impact on my university experience. Ed Powers was my introduction to the technical theatre world and he welcomed me from the very beginning as part of the family. His talent and passion to pass along his endless knowledge to create beautiful scenery to his students was unparalleled. Rob Bullington had so much charisma and a personality that even the most uninspired student gravitated to him -- perfect for an acting coach. Bob Levy was like a walking theatrical encyclopedia. His awareness of theatre history and theater fun facts could keep students engaged for hours. The late Mel Michel was a master at creating entertaining live works and bringing awareness to the department.

Last but not least, Myra Bullington (at the time a volunteer) was my mentor, my friend and my mother figure. The amount of blood, sweat and tears she gave, pro bono, because she loved the students was enthralling. She inspired hard work, dedication, passion and commitment. When talking with colleagues, I often credit her for all of my success in this career. I am forever humbled and grateful.

While at Clarion, I was a member of Alpha Psi Omega, the Theatre National Honor Society. This club allowed me to grow an even deeper relationship with the faculty and the student body in the Theatre department. The memories made with APO will be carried with me forever.

The arts and Humanities classes that I was able to participate in while at Clarion were by far my favorite and allowed me to enjoy my college experience. I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of a small department that truly was a family. I look back at my time there and am forever indebted to the faculty for preparing me for a hugely successful career. (Some of Buterbaugh's professional credits can be found on her IMDB page.)

Last Updated 4/22/20