Class of 2019
Currently Studying :
"I think I can safely say that I’ve really taken advantage of all the opportunities that New York affords to enhance my education. "
– Chad Kennerk, Class of 2019
How did you discover your interest in acting?
I have always loved movies and good stories. Growing up out in the country with no neighborhood kids to play with, I would entertain myself by taking on an important role in an epic story. When I was in fourth grade, the high school needed kids for The King and I. That was my first experience on stage. In college, I took a theater history class. It was my experience in that class that led me to an undergraduate degree in theater.
What did you do after earning your bachelor’s degree?
As an undergraduate, I maintained a high GPA and received three American College Theatre Festival Irene Ryan scholarship nominations, but when I graduated in 2009, everyone was still reeling from the recession. After a number of odd jobs, I found myself in financial services and later worked in development at a university in Kirksville, Missouri. I had the opportunity to return to theater in Fort Wayne, Indiana, near my hometown, and I also took Inside the Actors Studio very seriously. It was my master class, and it helped me continue thinking about the craft. I’ve managed to get my hands on all but fifteen or twenty of the really hard to find episodes, and I’ve kept an extensive notebook of direct quotes and detailed notes. That’s how I became familiar with the master’s degree program, as well as Pace University.
Are you currently working?
I’ve always maintained at least one job. In my first year I had three. I looked for roles that would be beneficial to what I was cultivating in my program. Equinox has been a big part of my experience. Health is important to all of us, but I think particularly for actors, because our bodies are our instruments.
At Pace, I am a Student Support Services (SSS) advisor. SSS is a federally funded TRIO grant program servicing undergraduate students who fall into at least one of three categories: first generation college student; student from a low-income background; and/or student with a disability. Participants receive additional resources and services to help them succeed, things like early registration, one-on-one tutoring and mentoring.
Part of me wonders what I could have accomplished if I would have had the luxury of not working, but in an ironic way, I think it gave me more determination, and it has certainly taught me a lot about time management.
How is ASDS preparing you and helping you to grow as a person and as an artist?
It’s hard to put into words, honestly. I’ve learned an entirely new system of working that I didn’t have before. ASDS draws from a rich tradition of technique. The program asks you to dig deep, take risks and excavate. The material I use for my work all comes from my own experiences and imagination.
What makes you stand out as an ASDS student?
I think I can safely say that I’ve really taken advantage of all the opportunities that New York affords to enhance my education. I see as much theater and film as I possibly can, and I’ve become a bit of a wizard when it comes to finding cheap tickets. I also have tried my best to take advantage of resources like the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive at the New York Public Library, as well as the Billy Rose Theatre Division Archives.
Additionally, I’ve been fortunate to receive financial awards. Funding for a graduate education in the performing arts is rare, and I was offered the Pace University President’s Graduate Scholarship, as well as two other unique scholarships. The Shubert Foundation Scholarship is provided by the Shubert Organization, the oldest professional theater company in America, through its foundation. It’s an honor to be a beneficiary of the Shubert legacy and to be named a Shubert Scholar two years in a row.
The Edward “Eddie” Layton Endowed Scholarship came to me by complete surprise. Most Pace alumni and students likely remember Eddie as the organist for thirty years of Pace commencements, as well as seeing his name on One Pace Plaza’s student union, prior to the recent construction. Eddie is a member of the New York Sports Hall of Fame, a distinction he earned by playing the organ at Yankee Stadium for forty years. When he retired in 2003, he played his final performance of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with fans cheering “Eddie!”
I’ve been paying it forward by sharing what I’ve learned. I taught free sensory workshops at Purdue University, my alma mater, and at a performing arts academy in my hometown, and guest lectured at Indiana University on the history of The Actors Studio.
What’s next for you after you graduate?
I’ve always been one to say that I’d like to wear all the hats. I’m fascinated by producing, and I’d really like to develop a theater company with other graduates from my program. I recently joined the American Theatre Wing Intern Network, and I'm proud to be a part of Broadway Cares NextGen Network, a community of young professionals committed to supporting the work of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
I have gained a lot of practical experience working in fundraising and with students. At the university in Missouri, I identified a neglected performing arts scholarship started by actor Vincent Price, who visited there more than any other college in the country. I reached out to his daughter, Victoria Price, and together we developed an event to celebrate his legacy. In one night, we nearly doubled the value of the scholarship. I also organized a gourmet dinner celebrating the 50th Anniversary of his gourmet cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes. That project led to a continued friendship with Victoria, and eventually the opportunity to become a part of the Vincent Price Family Legacy. I’m passionate about celebrating the legacy and work of artists, particularly classic film actors. I’ve started collaborating with a few other families, and I hope to really delve into that further after I graduate.
Last fall, I had the pleasure of collaborating with the Schimmel Center to bring director, actor, puppeteer, producer, and writer Frank Oz to campus. He referenced A Star is Born, from actor, writer, and director Bradley Cooper, an ASDS alumnus, saying that you never really know what’s in the heart of an actor. That hit home for me. I’ve got a big heart and a lot that I want to say.