Michael Pepp: Alumni Advice
Life after undergraduate programs can seem like an ungraspable unknown, loosely determined solely on difficult application processes and an evaluation of your first four years of college education. Alumni are an invaluable resource in terms of gauging the reality of what comes next, as they have already taken their plunge and can speak to the successes and failures of the next steps as a professional artist.
Michael Pepp, an acting major alumnus of SFUAD’s Performing Arts Department, had but a handful of weeks between his graduation and entrance into the MFA acting program at Louisiana State University. At SFUAD, Pepp was a voracious artistic mind, taking every opportunity to be on stage or simply working to improve his craft. Department Chairwoman Laura Fine Hawkes speaks glowingly of Pepp’s time within the Performing Arts program.
“Michael is a truly unusual person—he is fearless, hysterical and unendingly interesting to watch,” Hawkes says. “Fantastic actor. He was probably most memorable starring in Scapin and Den of Thieves here on the main stage, among several other shows. He is now in last portion of his MFA program at LSU in Baton Rouge.”
Pepp agreed to an interview via email from his current residence in Louisiana, operating under the hope that current students or soon-to-be graduates will find it helpful and informative.
Jackalope Magazine: So, when did you graduate?
Michael Pepp: Hi Jackalope! [In] May 2015 I received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance from the wonderful Santa Fe University of Art and Design.
What did you do right after graduation (school, travel, work, etc)?
My immediate exploration after school, and literally after the day of graduation, was basically a road trip from Santa Fe NM in a 12-passenger van, with all of my family, my mawmaw, my aunts and uncles, sisters, and cousins. I was so overjoyed to have seen so many faces on my graduation day. It just felt really
good to have so much love and support, they were very proud. In a very large Ford Travel Van, we drove 19 to 20 hours with all of my family back home to New Orleans of which I grew up.
How has your education at SFUAD carried over into what you are doing now?
SFUAD has influenced and flourished me so much as a young artist and scholar. I was under the mentorship of the Greer Garson Theatre program and so many of their incredible professionals such as Jon Jory, Joanne Camp, Shepard Sobel, Gail Springer, Robert Benedetti, George Johnson, Victor Talmadge, Lise Hilboldt, Shannon Elliott, Laura Hawkes, Marcia Jory, and Medea. The list is long and effortless. Also, a lot of my peers and colleagues of the department and of many of the artistic departments outside of theater really influenced me and enriched my artistic transition and development. In my senior year, I auditioned and reached a MFA position at the LSU school of Music and Drama.
How have you developed as an artist, and how have you stayed the same?
I’ve stretched and gotten to extend myself and my artistic authority in such a demanding and necessary way. Graduate school allowed me to expand my way of preparation for the artist work, and for detailed attention and commitment to the goal objective. I find it hard to stay the same, even though I am very much stubborn
about it. I am understanding now that the growth is always in support of the ‘you’, and whatever it is that you represent as an artist, actor and most importantly as a human.
What was the greatest challenge for you after graduating from SFUAD?
My greatest Challenge after SFUAD had to be my graduate thesis…I remember being in New Orleans on a Sunday, thinking ‘Oh my gosh, what the hell am I going to write about? Tomorrow’s Monday!’, and there I was in the middle of a Second Line, surrounded by a parade of people and musicians, Social Aids and Pleasure Clubs, and Mardi Gras Indians. I couldn’t help but receive the sign and the story that was happening right before me, and honestly the story that has always happened before me growing up in New Orleans. So I decided that my project was so. I titled it Main Line, in honor of the funeral event that takes place before the proceeding events, typically called the Second Line.
What advice would you give to seniors who are about to graduate?
To fellow soon-to-be graduates, I would advise them to take a moment to breathe and enjoy their recent labors, and then to swiftly get back to work. It’s important to motivate ourselves, find new heights and creative exploration. Truly submerge yourself in art and of the art which you represent, the ride is enjoyable and quickly approaching.
What advice would you have to SFUAD students who still have a year or so left in order to help prepare them for the world outside of their program?
To my SFUAD family who still have a year or so to go, my best advice would be to simply enjoy it! Take your time, complete your projects, meet people, talk to others outside of your specific department, create and work together. Build a global community of artist and activist so that we begin the change that the world is so in need of.
This interview has been edited for style and clarity.