Was there a specific faculty member or peer who especially inspired you while at the School of the Arts? If so, who and how?
The late Ted Kazanoff was the most influential teacher I have ever had. Ted had a huge impact on me during the time I spent at Columbia's School of the Arts. He had an incredible skill set in his ability to communicate with actors. Under Ted's guidance, actors were able to find a deep level of honesty in their performances. I carry Ted's words of wisdom with me every day and have employed them in acting and the related fields I also work in. (Television writing and teaching at UCLA). The greatest gift I received while studying at The School of the Arts, was the opportunity to have Ted Kazanoff as a teacher and a mentor. We miss you Ted.
How did attending the School of the Arts impact your work and career as an artist?
Attending Columbia's School of the Arts gave me confidence as an actor. I knew that I had a technique that I could always rely on. I began to work as an actor, almost immediately after Graduate School, landing a job in the Broadway show Grease.
What were the most pressing social/political issues on the minds of the students when you were here?
In 1972, Columbia made a decision to shut down the graduate Theater Program in the School of the Arts. We would be the last class of actors in the MFA program. We felt abandoned by the university. We demonstrated and wrote petitions, but our attempts to be heard fell on deaf ears. It was difficult to be a part of a program that the University looked at as being disposable.
If you could revisit any piece you created during your time at the School of the Arts, which would it be? Why?
Our thesis production of The Three Sisters was done in a conservatory process. We rehearsed for several months and it gave me the opportunity to live as the character and continue to make discoveries. I will never have an experience like that again and will always treasure it.
What was your favorite or most memorable class while at the School of the Arts?
Ted Kazanoff's Acting class.
About Barry Vigon
Barry Vigon is a television writer, producer and actor who teaches Television Writing at UCLA Extension. He has appeared on Broadway, television and film. His writing credits include Soap, Fame, Roseanne, Who's the Boss?, Martin, Sabrina the Teenage Witch and many more.