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Theatre Department

NBC Connecticut morning co-anchors Heidi Voight, '10, and Ted Koppy

It was a trial by fire for up-and-coming journalist Heidi Voight, ’10. “My very first live shot on air was as breaking as it gets — just minutes after a deadly EF3 tornado tore through Springfield, Mass.,” says Voight, who was working as a photographer, shooting video in the south end of the city when the twister struck on June 1, 2011. With trees downed, buildings crumbled, and roads blocked, the main anchor couldn’t make it to the scene. “Suddenly, the live truck operator grabbed my camera from my hands, switched it out for a microphone, and told me, `Stand by. You’re going to be live on the air in 10 seconds,’” she recalls.

Voight’s report — and her one-year update on the storm — won Emmy Awards. She soon signed an on-air contract and, today, is the morning anchor for NBC Connecticut with a loyal following.

“I was the first in my immediate family to attend and finish college,” says Voight, who worked full-time while majoring in theatre at Southern. In 2006, while studying at Southern, she represented the state as Miss Connecticut. She also was recognized regionally and nationally as the recipient of the prestigious National Critics Institute Scholarship through the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

“I worked with some of the nation’s most respected journalists at the Kennedy Center and at the Eugene O’Neill American Theatre Conference as a Critic Fellow in 2004, which cemented my career path,” she says. “That door only opened for me because one professor, Sheila Garvey, [Department of Theatre], took notice of my interest in writing and encouraged me to enter a competition I otherwise would never have known about.”

Voight, who is celebrating her fourth anniversary with NBC Connecticut, says she’s grateful for personal blessings as well. She’s recently married, is a new home owner, and, is expecting twin girls in June. Following she talks about her journey from Southern to the NBC news desk.

You were named the NBC Connecticut Today morning anchor in June 2016. Was becoming a news anchor a long-term goal?
Yes! Growing up in Milford, Conn., I watched local news anchors like Joanne Nesti, Janet Peckinpaugh, Diane Smith, and Ann Nyberg, and dreamed of becoming like them someday. I always had a passion for storytelling and writing. When I was still in elementary school, our school librarian, Mrs. Williams, nicknamed me “reporter lady” because I was always there researching and writing book reports, always clutching my notebook. So I can truly say I’m living my dream today as a journalist.

What’s the best part of the job? What’s most challenging?
The best part of the job is being able to shine a light on the good that is happening in the world and here in my home state. I am a believer that journalism can and should make the world a better place. The most challenging part is not losing heart when we have to cover all the bad things that happen in between those bright spots. There are some stories that haunt me. There have been some difficult moments. But I always say: the day you stop feeling human emotions in response to the tough stories is the day you need to hang it up. Never lose your empathy. The journalists I most admire, like Steve Hartman, Lester Holt, and Savannah Guthrie, are not afraid to be real [when] relating to others.

Looking back, are there stories you worked on that stand out as pivotal to your career?
My career started with a bang: My very first live shot on air was as breaking as it gets — just minutes after a deadly EF3 tornado tore through Springfield, Mass. I was in the devastated south end of the city, roaming around with my camera shooting video as a photographer. Because of all the downed trees and crumbling buildings, many roads were blocked off and our main anchor couldn’t race to the scene in time for her live shot. Suddenly, the live truck operator grabbed my camera from my hands, switched it out for a microphone, and told me, “Stand by. You’re going to be live on the air in 10 seconds.”

Wait. What?! And just like that, I was reporting live on the air for the first time. I wasn’t dressed for TV. I didn’t have a script. I didn’t even have time to collect my thoughts. I just said what I was seeing and hearing. I grabbed a man off the sidewalk and interviewed him live. He had hidden under a table when the windows in his apartment blew out. He said he felt lucky to be alive. That was truly the first day of the rest of my career. . . . I ended up signing an on-air contract shortly after. Our team coverage that day — and [our coverage] on the one year anniversary — won Emmy awards. Talk about baptism by fire!

What are some of the stories that your most proud of?
More recently, I was very proud to be recognized with six awards from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists for my reporting on a range of issues — including a series profiling fallen law enforcement officers, and an investigation into state and federal funding of Connecticut’s highway service patrol fleet.

I’m proud of stories that get results for our viewers and hold leaders accountable. And I’m proud of stories that delve deep into the human experience. I was the only TV reporter besides the Today Show’s Matt Lauer to exclusively interview Madonna Badger, the woman who lost her three beautiful children and both parents in a 2011 Christmas day fire in Stamford. Earning her trust and having the privilege of telling her unimaginable story of grief and healing was profoundly humbling.


What five adjectives describe you as a journalist?
Relentless. Competitive. Connected. Empathetic. Engaged.

Your on-air bio describes you as a “proud graduate of Southern Connecticut State University.” Tell us a bit about that pride. How did Southern help to prepare you for your career?
What really stands out in my mind is the sense of community I felt at Southern. I really felt like my professors took a vested interest in my success, not just as a student but as a person. I arrived at SCSU during a tumultuous time in my life. I needed support and direction, and I got it from so many special people on campus, from my professors to the staff at Student Affairs, the Women’s Center [now known as VPAS, the Violence Prevention, Victim Advocacy, and Support Center], and other departments. I still keep in touch with many of my professors to this day.

I was the first in my immediate family to attend and finish college. It took me a little longer than most, as I worked full-time all through college to support myself. I also took a nontraditional path into the journalism field as a theatre major, but at Southern I was always encouraged to explore my intellectual curiosities like journalism and philosophy, and taking those classes opened up new opportunities for me. I believe that multidisciplinary education made me a more well-rounded journalist.

“My second family,” says Voight,’10, of the NBC Connecticut morning team. Pictured at her wedding are [from left]: meteorologist Bob Maxon (he officiated), Voight, Ted Koppy, co-anchor, and Hanna Mordoh, traffic reporter.

Last but not least, we saw the emotional on-air announcement that you and husband, David, are expecting twins. Congratulations! What’s it like to share this journey with your viewers and fellow news team?
Thank you so much! I am expecting identical twin girls in late May/early June. (June 8 if we go full term but twins often like to make their grand entrance early!) I am so overwhelmed by all the kindness and support shown to me by our viewers and my colleagues. I’m coming up on my fourth anniversary here at NBC Connecticut, and it blows my mind to look back on how much my life has changed since I first walked through these doors. In that time, I’ve worked my way up to the anchor desk full-time, I’ve gotten engaged and married, am starting my own family, and becoming a first-time homeowner.

These are all the things I only dreamed of back when I was waiting tables full-time and riding my bike or the city bus to class at SCSU so many years ago. Now there are billboards for our morning team on those same city buses. It’s crazy. I am so grateful and I don’t take a second of it for granted. It’s all proof that if you work hard, let yourself be helped by your supportive SCSU community, and relentlessly pursue every opportunity made available to you, you WILL find your purpose and you CAN live your dream. GO OWLS!

Voight, who is expecting twins, poses with the news team’s “Snow Monster” weather vehicle and her two “snow babies.” In, perhaps, one of the most epic gender reveals in NBC history, Today anchors, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, paused in their reporting from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, to share that Voight and husband, David, are expecting girls.

At the recent John F. Kennedy Center American College Theater (KCACTF) Festival, Region I, the Theatre Department continued its long track record of producing award-winning students and productions. “We outdid ourselves” this year, says Sheila Hickey Garvey, professor of theatre. Students and their work received the following honors at the festival, held at Western Connecticut State University last month:

KCACTF Region I Invited Production
Almost, Maine

Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions
Semi-Finalists:
Marcelle Morrisey – Candidate
Teddy Hall – Partner

National Institute for Journalism and Advocacy
Region 1 Award Winner:
Kiernan Norman

Dramaturgy Program Note Regional Award for Our Country’s Good
Kiernan Norman

National Award for Excellence in Lighting Design
First Runner-up:
Christine Parrella for Tempus Fugit

Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas Award
Christine Parrella for Tempus Fugit

Merit Awards

Presented to: The Ensemble Cast of Almost, Maine
For Outstanding Ensemble Acting

Presented to: The Ensemble Cast of Our Country’s Good
For Distinction in Multiple Dialects

Presented to: JT McLoughlin of RENT
For Sound Engineering/Mixing

Almost Maine, Theatre Department
Cast of “Almost, Maine”

Directed by Garvey, Almost, Maine was one of just six productions selected for presentation out of almost 150 submissions entered from colleges across New England and New York. Garvey describes the play as “a delightful comedy/romance with cosmic overtones” and says the invitation to perform at the festival was “a great honor.” Written by playwright and actor John Cariani, the play has a small cast of eight and a minimal set, designed for the SCSU production by Theatre Professor John Carver Sullivan, who also designed the costumes.

Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing, and design. It has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country that enables theater departments and student artists to showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents.

In January and February of each year, regional festivals showcase the finest of each region’s entered productions and offer a variety of activities, including workshops, symposia, and regional-level award programs.

If you watch the Super Bowl for the commercials as much as for the game – and who doesn’t? — you saw Southern alumnus and former theatre major Erik Stocklin cavorting in the wilderness with an adorable furry critter in the Marmot “Love the Outside” spot.

Stocklin graduated from Southern in 2007 with a B.A. in theatre and during his undergraduate years acted in such productions as Romeo and Juliet, How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Arsenic and Old Lace, Pippin, Cabaret, Our Town, and Lone Star.

stocklin1Since graduating, Stocklin has found acting work both on television and in film. He has had regular roles on such series as the CBS thriller Stalker and in season one of the ABC drama Mistresses. He has also made guest-starring appearances on The Vampire Diaries, Bones, and Major Crimes and has done national commercials for Marmot, Apple, Hyundai, Mazda, and McDonald’s.

On the big screen, he has had leading roles in independent feature films Donner Pass and The Bad Guys, which recently premiered at the Austin Film Festival.

And now…the Super Bowl!

What’s the journey from Kendall Drama Lab to Super Bowl stardom been like for Stocklin? About a year after graduating, he “decided to give it a go in Los Angeles,” he says. “I piled what I could into the back of a hand-me-down two-door ‘95 red Saturn . . . and started driving. Alone.  A series of misadventures and three weeks later I arrived in L.A. and have been here ever since.”

Stocklin says the first couple of years were tough, as he worked to get into the Screen Actors Guild and find an agent. Fast forward to the Super Bowl commercial. Stocklin explains the process: “You audition several times against thousands of other actors being submitted for the part . . . You get a call from your agent saying you booked the role . . . You get a call from wardrobe asking about your sizes. Next thing you know you’re on a plane to Vancouver to film a Super Bowl commercial in the absolutely beautiful mountains of British Columbia. It’s a lot of pressure because you know the company is spending upwards of five million dollars just for the 30 seconds of airtime during the big game. Not including the huge production costs. And also 115 million people will see you in their homes at once.”

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stocklin2He says this particular acting job was challenging because his scene partner was imaginary. It took a CGI company three months to add his “sentient Marmot friend” in post-production. “Which meant while I was filming it was just me acting, reacting, and making out with thin air!”

Stocklin credits the varied opportunities he had to get on stage at Southern with him finding himself as an actor. “I will forever be indebted to its sage repertory of faculty for challenging and motivating me artistically,” he says. “Being there also helped introduce me to New Haven’s own professional equity theatre company, Elm Shakespeare, where I worked as an actor four consecutive summers while at SCSU.”

He strongly recommends that all students take at least one theater class during their college careers, and check out some of the Theatre Department’s “amazing productions” on the Lyman Center main stage and in Kendall Drama Lab. “I absolutely loved my experience there,” says Stocklin, “and will always remain grateful for that formidable time in my life and career as an artist.”

The university has entered into an exciting partnership with The Elm Shakespeare Company (ESC) that promises to bring new energy to the Theatre Department and the entire university community.

The Elm Shakespeare Company, recognized as the premiere Shakespeare company in Connecticut and one of the very best in New England, has been offering free professional outdoor Shakespeare performances in New Haven for 20 years. Southern and Elm Shakespeare recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that brings Elm Shakespeare onto campus and integrates it into Theatre Department activities and facilities.

Under the MOU, ESC is officially “in residence” at Southern Connecticut State University. For two decades, ESC has rehearsed its actors and built the sets for its productions at Lyman Center; the MOU formalizes this relationship. As part of the agreement, ESC will reserve three non-union acting or technical positions for Southern students in its summer season; provide a member of its artistic staff to teach a Shakespeare workshop (THR 228) every semester; and offer additional free workshops to SCSU theater students. In addition, when available, a member of the ESC artistic staff will direct agreed-upon Theatre Department productions, and the company will provide formal fieldwork opportunities for qualified Southern students interested in theater education. The university, for its part, will provide office, classroom, and rehearsal space for ESC; allow access to the costume shop and scene shop; and offer the opportunity for qualified ESC staff to teach, direct or design in Theatre Department courses or productions. Both organizations will acknowledge the partnership in their advertising literature and publications.

Steven Breese, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, says of the new partnership, “We are delighted that Elm Shakespeare will be taking up residency at Southern. Our artistic and educational missions are deeply interconnected and, like any good partnership, we strengthen one another by joining our forces.

“While SCSU has, for many years, had a strong relationship with Elm, having the company and its artistic staff ensconced on our campus and interacting with students and faculty every day will be a ‘shot’ of creative adrenaline — something that all artists need and welcome.”

Rebecca Goodheart, Elm Shakespeare’s new Producing Artistic Director, says, “We at Elm Shakespeare are so excited to solidify our long-time working relationship and become the theater company in residence at Southern Connecticut State University. This partnership is the best kind of collaboration. Together we will create more classical performance at the highest standards, and more opportunities for students than ever before. Together, we will ensure that everyone in this great community and beyond has access to world-class arts and education. Together, we will be the example of what is possible in New Haven.”

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Breese acknowledges the efforts of Goodheart and Kaia Monroe, Theatre Department Chair, for the work they have done to bring this partnership to fruition, adding, “It represents a giant step forward for our theater program, while offering a secure home for one the region’s most respected professional Shakespeare companies.”

An official signing of the MOU will take place on March 2, at 4:30 p.m. in the Lyman Center lobby. The signing will coincide with Elm Shakespeare’s announcement of its 2016 season. For more information about Elm Shakespeare, visit its website.

 

Almost Maine, Theatre Department

For the second year in a row, a Theatre Department production has been selected for presentation at the John F. Kennedy Center American College Theater Region I Festival (ACTF). The December production of “Almost, Maine” is this year’s New England Region I winner and will be staged at the festival in late January 2016 at Western Connecticut State University. Directed by Theatre Professor Sheila Hickey Garvey, “Almost, Maine” was one of six productions selected for presentation out of almost 150 submissions entered from colleges across New England and New York.

Garvey describes the play as “a delightful comedy/romance with cosmic overtones” and says the invitation to perform at the festival is “a great honor.” Written by playwright and actor John Cariani, the play has a small cast of eight and a minimal set, designed for the SCSU production by Theatre Professor John Carver Sullivan, who also designed the costumes. There will two performances of “Almost, Maine” at the festival on Friday, January 29, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Almost Maine

The play portrays 20 different residents living in a tiny mythical community located in Northern Maine. At 9 p.m. on December 21, during an occurrence of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, select community members are mystically gifted with a very special opportunity, one that affords them the chance to renew their lives and live them with an open heart.

“Almost, Maine” was developed at the Cape Cod Theater Project in 2002, and received its world premiere at Portland Stage Company, where it broke box office records and garnered critical acclaim. It opened off Broadway in the winter of 2005-2006 at the Daryl Roth Theatre and was subsequently published by Dramatists Play Service. To date, “Almost, Maine” has been produced by over 2500 theater companies in the United States and by over a dozen companies internationally, making it one of the most frequently produced plays of the past decade.

If you would like to support the Crescent Players’ performance at the ACTF, visit this page and in the dropdown menu next to “I would like to support the,” choose “Other,” then type “Crescent Players Fund” in the box to indicate the fund name. Thank you for supporting Southern students!