It’s no secret that numerous famous comedians, film and TV actors, and long-standing broadcast journalists have graduated from Towson University's College of Fine Arts and Communication, a college that takes the lead in molding the future of entertainment and culture far beyond its Maryland campus. From dance to electronic media and film, Towson is making its mark across the world.
Take Towson's Master of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts program, for example. It has focused on global perspectives since its formation some 20 years ago. And nowhere was that more evident than when six students, accompanied by the program's director Naoko Maeshiba, took their production, "Post-Everything," to the recent International Theatre Festival in Varna, Bulgaria.
"International collaborations have long been important to our program," said department chair Robyn Quick, who credited Philip Arnoult, director of Baltimore-based international performing arts nonprofit Center for International Theatre Development, for making connections with artists from across the globe.
This is the second straight year Towson has had a presence at the international festival, also known as Varna Summer, and it is part of an ongoing collaboration with Hungarian artists such as Venelin Shurelov, founder of the Subhuman Theatre and curator of the International Digital Art Festival in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. Shurelov spent weeks working with students at the Towson campus and their creations culminated in "Post-Everything," an installation/performance piece where the audience is drawn into a world composed of new technologies, ancient objects and mysterious figures.
The Towson program prides itself on creating the all-around theater expert — from costume designer to playwright to producer — and avoiding strictly fixed roles. "We are dissolving the boundaries," Maeshiba said.
Michelle Mitchenor was looking for more than a dance program to study at after graduating from Ocean County Performing Arts High School in Lakehurst, N.J. That's why she opted for Towson University.
"I wanted an excellent dance program, but I didn't want to go to a school that only focused on the arts," she said. "I wanted the full college experience, a college with a football team and with Greek life, and a college with a great dance program."
She wasn't disappointed. After graduating cum laude with a bachelor of fine arts in dance performance in 2010, Mitchenor moved to New York and began working and performing with top choreographers. She later moved to Los Angeles and landed a role in the new film "Chi-Raq" as Indigo, Cyclops' girlfriend. She's been busy with auditions ever since, while also traveling internationally to teach dance.
"Towson's fine arts program is amazing," Mitchenor said. "I had a lot of opportunities to perform through the Towson University Dance Company. We worked with a lot of different choreographers from other dance companies, and one of our professors was with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater [and] was able to bring directors and choreographers from one of the top dance companies in the country, if not the world, to Towson for workshops.
"I was able to learn so much about who I was as a dancer."
He may not be a household name, but Jack Dunlop is a well-known voice around Electronic Sports League gaming tournaments.
The Towson University student — he's currently wrapping up his studies online and will graduate with his mass communications degree later this year — is based in Los Angeles as an Electronic Sports League play-by-play announcer for Call of Duty World League competitions. Anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand spectators attend the events, and about 200,000 spectators stream the competitions.
"It's pretty incredible to see what's being done in the competitive video game industry today," Dunlop said.
Dunlop broke into the industry as an intern for Major League Gaming, a professional e-sports league headquartered in New York, when he was a sophomore at Towson.
He said his experiences at Towson have been critical to his success.
"The Electronic Media and Film program was a great fit for me," Dunlop said. "Add to that the campus is beautiful, all the professors are passionate about what they're doing, and people at the university are so friendly and welcoming."
—David Ogul for Towson University