Faculty Spotlight: Tom Aulino, Department of Theatre
Tom Aulino is a new tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Theatre. He holds a bachelor's degree in theatre from Northwestern University and an MFA in performance pedagogy from the University of Pittsburgh. He has worked as a professional actor, director, and teacher, and has taught Shakespeare at the Steppenwolf Theatre School (Chicago) and Rutgers University (Camden).
Q: Would you please tell us about yourself?
A: I was born and raised in northern New Jersey, about a half hour west of Manhattan. I lived in the same house in the same town until I went off to college. Living close to New York City helped to fuel my early interest and love for the theatre. I studied theatre at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and spent my first years out of college living in Chicago and getting my feet wet as an actor. I then moved to New York where I connected with some friends from college who were forming a company called “Theatre-In-Limbo” and producing plays by Charles Busch, who soon became a leading playwright. His plays were very popular in the 1980s and 90s and I found myself steadily employed off-Broadway. That experience helped me to establish myself as an actor in New York, Chicago and in regional theatres across the country.
About 10 years ago, various professional experiences with young actors got me thinking about teaching. I had always been involved in teaching workshops that were part of productions I was acting in. However, I wanted to pursue teaching on the university level. And I knew I wanted to teach in a liberal arts setting (as opposed to being part of conservatory training). The value of the broad-based education I received as an undergraduate became clear to me as I worked with some of the best actors and directors in the American Theatre. I took a few years away from professional theatre and received an MFA in Performance Pedagogy at the University of Pittsburgh. I finished there in 2008 and jumped back into my acting and directing career.
When the position became available here at Auburn, I felt that it was a good fit for me. I was impressed by the expertise and dedication of the faculty. And I was excited by the prospect of being part of a BA/BFA program that was rooted in a liberal arts setting. I teach acting but I am thrilled when acting students tell me they are excited by their Biology courses. This is their chance to soak up information on a variety of subjects and bring it all to their future work in the theatre.
Q: I hear you are leaving town for a little bit, what will you be doing?
A: I’m off to the Kansas City Repertory Theatre to direct a production of another gender-bending play from the 1980s, Charles Ludlam’s The Mystery of Irma Vep. It’s a wonderful theatre where I recently worked as an actor and I’m excited to put a production together for them. Irma Vep involves two actors playing eight roles with lightning-fast costume changes. It should be challenging for everyone involved.
Q: You have worked as a professional actor and director – what advice would you give to a student who is looking to pursue a career in acting or directing?
A: Follow your curiosity wherever it leads you. Investigate places to live where you can pursue a theatre career. When you finish your time as an undergraduate, give yourself some time to experience what it takes to make a life that will support your pursuit of a career in the arts. And grad school can be a great thing!
Q: Has theatre changed since you graduated from college? If so, how?
A: Well, the ticket prices have certainly gone up! Seriously, the regional theatre movement (though challenged financially right now) is stronger than ever. Theatre (and GOOD theatre) is everywhere in this country. There are many more opportunities to get involved outside of the major cities.
Q: Have students changed since you started teaching? If so, how?
A: I’ve only been formally teaching for the last few years, but I have worked professionally with new graduates from theatre schools all over the country. A trend I’ve noticed is that more and more young actors are coming out of conservatory training with a set of soulless skills. They have learned some technique but have not germinated as artists. I want to send them back to get a liberal arts education.
Q: What other projects are you currently working on?
A: I’m always working to propose projects and keep up my activities in the professional theatre. But right now, besides preparing Irma Vep and my first semester of classes, my big project is figuring out how to use iClicker! I’m using it in my Introduction to Theatre class and I like how it helps me communicate with a large class. But it has been a challenge to use it with any level of efficiency.
Q: Do you have a favorite play/performance/experience that you’d like to tell us about?
A: I spent a good portion of 2010 and some of 2011 working as an actor in a new adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. The great director Mary Zimmerman wrote a new adaptation of Voltaire’s novel and matched it to the brilliant Bernstein score. She wrote the script during the rehearsal process and tailored the writing to the actors as she worked with them. It was a frightening, challenging and ultimately thrilling process.