Thomas Chavira, MFA ‘22
Program: MFA Performance Pedagogy
How did you come to the decision to get your MFA in Performance Pedagogy?
For many years I had wanted to get into teaching, specifically at the university and college level. I was eager to share the experiences I had collected over years as an actor and producer in Los Angeles. A terminal degree in performance pedagogy was the logical step to bridge experience to application.
Why did you pick LMU?
At the time, there were only two programs in Los Angeles that offered a Performance Pedagogy program. I chose LMU over the alternative because of its reputation, its standing in both the academic and artistic communities, and from word of mouth through many of my friends who were proud Lion graduates.
I scheduled a Zoom meeting with then-Program Director and Professor Stacey Cabaj to learn more about the program. Not fully understanding what Zoom was (this is pre-pandemic), I showed up on campus and stumbled into her office where she graciously hosted me for an extended meeting. I immediately fell in love with the program and knew it was exactly what I was looking for.
What did you do prior to beginning the program?
Before LMU, I was working sporadically as an actor and theatre producer, taking the occasional food service/hospitality job to make ends meet. The MFAPP program offered an opportunity for more career and financial stability.
Did you have a particular experience that led you to that path?
I can pinpoint my desire to teach starting from leading acting workshops where I discovered a new thrill: to educate and help others discover and carve out artistic choices. In my previous collegiate experiences, I benefited from excellent mentoring and development and sought to pay it forward.
Tell us a little about your career goals and aspirations.
I am blessed beyond measure to have landed a teaching job prior to graduation. I will be spending the next school year teaching at Texas Christian University in my hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Some of my classes include Acting 1, Survey of Theatre, and Professional Seminar, where I’ll be helping prepare graduating college seniors for the professional world of acting and theatre.
I’ve also been accepted this summer into the Teacher Development Program as part of the National Alliance of Acting Teachers. This is a two-week intensive workshop in Los Angeles that will further deepen and sharpen my pedagogy using specific acting techniques alongside some of the best professionals and educators in the country.
How do you feel your experience at LMU prepared you for this next step?
That so many of my classmates and I have been able to secure employment this soon in our careers is a testament to the exceptional instruction provided by LMU and the theatre faculty. There is no question that the Performance Pedagogy program developed the necessary tools to compete in the marketplace.
In the span of two and a half years, I went from having only taught a handful of workshops to fielding multiple interviews and offers from colleges and universities across the country.
Preparing my portfolio, understanding the interview process, and developing specific areas of expertise were all areas of focus at LMU that directly relate to my current employment.
What does it mean to you to be among the first graduates of this program?
I consider it a great privilege to be among the first graduating cohort of the MFA in Performance Pedagogy program. My peers have inspired me with their dedication and immense talents. The journey to this degree through the pandemic has made my time at LMU even more rewarding. It’s an honor to carry LMU’s reputation of exceptional work to my future endeavors. The personal investment that so many of my professors have made in me further fuel to provide the same for my students in the future.
What is your favorite thing about LMU?
The breathtaking view from the Bluff, which will always serve as a reminder of my time at LMU, as will the spirit of collaboration that lives in the theatre arts department.
What advice do you have for students just starting the program?
One of the great strengths of the program is that it’s tailored to fit the needs and curiosity of the student. Allow yourself to be led by your impulses! If there’s an artistic or pedagogical space to occupy, then you have permission to fill it with the full support of the faculty.