Hoping the stars of tomorrow don’t make the same mistake she did, Susan Basile established the Syracuse Area Live Theater (SALT) Scholarships to stress the importance of education to theater majors. The latest round of scholarship winners will be announced during the SALT Awards—which every year honor the best of the Syracuse stage—slated for Sunday, May 1, 6 p.m., at the Palace Theatre, 2384 James St.
“This is what I did, I left school before I had a degree,” said Basile, scholarship founder and president. “These kids need a solid base that will prepare them for the real world. There are hundreds of job opportunities in theater that aren’t performing. Talent is going to bring them only so far. If they don’t get all the tools they need to be in this very difficult profession, chances are they won’t last too long.”
The first recipient of a SALT Scholarship exemplifies what Basile is saying: All must major in some aspect of theater in order to be eligible for the money. Alex Brandt is a 2010 graduate of Emerson College in theater design technology with an emphasis in lighting design. Brandt graduated from Jamesville-DeWitt High School knowing he wanted to pursue that major in college. Brandt was awarded $1,000.
In addition to the money—a nice bonus for sure—Brandt noted that winning confirmed that he had support back home. “Being able to go to school knowing there were people rooting for you back in the community, that meant as much as the money,” he noted. “Susan has called me a couple times to check up and see how things were going. It’s cool to have that reminder that people really do believe in you.”
That support is another part of the scholarship Basile stresses. “Through this scholarship, we’ve acknowledged their existence, that’s No. 1,” she said of the winners. “This is a very underserved population, especially compared to sports. This is always going to be a competitive field, but this scholarship lets them know they’ve got the stuff. My organization’s goal is to help these students achieve the highest standards. Get an education, build a solid foundation, because that’s what you’re going to need to survive in this business.”
Indeed, just 23, Brandt is serving a paid internship at the Huntington Theater Company in Boston. “I am an electrics intern,” he said, “working with the master electrician. A lot of internships, like those in New York, you have to pay them. By taking this internship, I’m saying, ‘I graduated from college, my skills are valuable.’ Ultimately, I would love to be a master electrician.”
Like most scholarships, there is an application process, and Basile sends the paperwork to all area high school guidance offices well ahead of the March 1 deadline, or those interested can call her at 445-9635. An audition and interview are required, and those in the technical aspects of theater must also show a portfolio. “I have four judges that represent the different facets of the profession,” Basile said. “I do not vote. Those judges make the final decision.”
This year, Basile said, two students have won scholarships of $1,000 each. That brings the total number of SALT Scholarship winners to 17, with a total of $20,000 awarded in the scholarship’s sixth year. Find out who won this year at the SALT Awards. Tickets are available for $20, $25 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased at The New Times, 1415 W. Genesee St., or over the phone with a credit card and picked up at will call. To do so, call 422-7011.
Learning curve: Susan Basile (background) founded the SALT Scholarships, one of which was won in 2010 by Jesse Pardee, a musical theater major at Pace University.