In August, recent Chico State grad Teddy Spencer will be headed to Southern Methodist University’s prestigious theater program at Meadows School of the Arts in Texas. The three-year master’s in fine arts program has just eight openings in alternate years, investing $60,000 in each student with personal training and trips to New York and Paris to hone their skills. Spencer finished up his undergraduate work in December with dual majors in musical theater and psychology. During his time in Chico, Spencer has had starring roles in a variety of productions, such as The King and I, Murdering Marlow, Urinetown, and A Little Night Music. “I have been really blessed with the opportunities I was given in Chico by the professors,” he said.
How did you become interested in acting as a career?
In fourth or fifth grade my parents signed me up for an improv class—I wasn’t that good at sports. After high school I went to L.A. and did some stand-up. I am originally from Concord, but came up to Butte College when my parents moved to Paradise because I felt like I needed to go back to school.
Tell me about the SMU selection process.
I went to the grad school auditions for acting in Chicago last January. I auditioned for four days straight. I got a call-back from SMU to audition two weeks later for the artistic director of the Dallas Theatre Center. Eighteen of us went and were able to take a “mini-masters” class.
What did you include in your audition?
We use three-minute audition packages that include contrasting pieces, with one classic, like Shakespeare or Moliere, and one contemporary piece. I chose monologues from The Winter’s Tale and a comedy called Protest. I also sang 30 seconds of a piece from Mack & Mabel, a Broadway musical.
Of all of the roles that you have played on stage, which is your favorite?
It’s a close tie between Lockstock in Urinetown and the playwright in Enter the Guardsman. I love interacting with the audience and breaking down that fourth wall. I enjoy thinking back on my experience as the king in The King and I. It was a strange part to play and took a complete change in mindset.
What is your ultimate career goal?
I would love to work for a professional theater company like Ashland’s and also be able to fly down to L.A. to shoot a recurring character on some TV show or film. Just working and getting paid would be good.
But you like to sing, too, right?
Yeah, but sometimes being a musical-theater major comes with a pretty strong stigma of being over the top and showy. It was frustrating at first. When I did well in my auditions, people were surprised [about my background].
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming theater students?
Always work on bettering yourself. Read, do acting exercises, and work on new skills.