Julian Stetkevych

Julian Stetkevych  - MFA (2016)

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?
Pre-Pitt, I had completed an MFA in Acting from the American Conservatory Theater and was living and working in NYC as an actor (and paying the bills as a legal secretary). I was getting tired of the grind and expense of living in NYC and was looking to make a change in my career in the arts. I had done monologue coaching and was a teaching artist for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in my last year there, so I had determined that teaching was something I enjoyed and was probably good at. But looking at the academic job market, all the jobs asked for a minimum of two years of college-level teaching experience, which seemed very out of reach while living in NYC. The competition for those jobs is fierce.
Why did you choose to pursue your degree at Pitt?
I researched the very few master's programs available for acting pedagogy in the US and UK. Pitt's was unique because they were taking artists who already had experience and training and were looking for a path to transition into teaching. It was also immensely helpful that there was a graduate stipend offered, which made the degree feel attainable without too much additional financial strain. Also, I remember thinking, "At a bare minimum, at least I'll leave with two years of college-level teaching experience."
How did the degree program help prepare you for your career?
Not only did I get the two years of experience, but it was a mentored experience, which made it much richer. Having my program head (Dennis Schebetta) and cohort observe and discuss our teaching and processes helped me improve much faster. I left feeling very confident in my abilities as a teacher and knowing what I had to offer and my style/voice as an instructor. Additionally, having to/getting to take classes with the other professors and PhD cohort at the time served me well in gaining a deeper understanding of the requirements and the ins and outs of academia and succeeding in a future theater department. As well as practice in writing, presenting research, etc., that was new to me coming from a performance background.
What is your current position and what does it involve?
I switched jobs last year and am in my second semester as an Assistant Professor at Elon University's BFA Acting program. This has been a positive move for me because I had always desired to teach in a BFA program. The young artists are from all over the country and world and are talented and driven. My acting teaching specialty is the Michael Chekhov Acting Technique, a psychophysical approach to the tenets of the Stanislavski system. The foundational acting sequence at Elon combines the Meisner Technique and grounding in Stanislavski, which I approach from the embodied practice of Chekhov. Additionally, I teach parts of the movement and voice sequence using my background in Middendorf Breathwork, Linklater Voice, and Lecoq neutral and larval masks, among others. This summer, I plan to begin the Fitzmaurice Voice certification process. I also continue to work as an actor to keep my artist-teacher-scholar self-growing and inspired.
Thoughts and/or advice for current graduate students?
Skim the job ads every year you are in school and keep tabs on what they are looking for. How can you add those things to your resume during your time at Pitt? I knew that having some directing experience would be crucial. So, I made directing my secondary emphasis at Pitt and co-directed, assistant directed, movement directed, and finally directed a one-act. Additionally, I kept seeing all the certifications that were preferred/required in job ads. Though I couldn't complete a certification during my time at Pitt, I could start one in the Michael Chekhov Technique that I could continue to work on at my job as I worked towards tenure and promotion. So, figure out what your "thing" will be, and use this time to pursue it.
Good luck!