Gillian Mackay-Smith – Actor
Gillian Mackay-Smith ’04 is an actor in the Boston area. She has performed regionally with the Lyric Stage Company, Bad Habit Productions, Fresh Ink Theatre Company, and Apollinaire Theater Company, among others, and devised work with New Exhibition Room and Project: Project. She appeared in the web series Conversations From The Afterlife and the feature film The Beverages, for which she received the award for Best Supporting Actress at the 2009 British Film Festival Los Angeles. She was nominated for an Independent Reviewers of New England Award for her performance in Apollinaire Theater Company’s production of Greenland and an ArtsImpulse award for her work in Fresh Ink Theatre Company’s The Housekeeper. She reads with Rhombus Playwrights Group and has sat on the boards of Fresh Ink and Gurnet Theatre Project. While at Northeastern, she was the 2003 recipient of the Eugene Blackman Scholarship for Excellence in Theatre.
“I am extremely grateful for my undergraduate education at Northeastern. I was given so many opportunities to learn and explore my work as an actor in a practical environment while simultaneously being challenged intellectually in an academic space. Exposure to design, dramaturgy and stage management in addition to my acting studies provided me with a greater ability to collaborate professionally and a greater respect and reverence for the art form. When I enter a rehearsal space, I am prepared and ready to work. I learned a sense of humility, gained a groundedness and drive; I learned that I am always learning. My career as an actor would not have been possible without my educational foundation at Northeastern.”
Saheem Ali – Director
Born in Kenya, Saheem Ali ’03 has enjoyed a successful directing career in New York City. 2016 projects include A Lesson From Aloes (Juilliard), The Seagull (NYU Tisch), Hair (Pace University), and The Booty Call (Inner Voices). Last year he was Associate Director of The Tempest starring Sam Waterston and Jesse Tyler Ferguson at the Public Theatre/Shakespeare in Central Park. Saheem has worked on and off Broadway with George Wolfe (The Normal Heart) and Michael Greif (Angels in America). Other directing credits include the Public Theater, O’Neill Musical Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Lincoln Center, Theatre de la Jeune Lune, and Signature Theatre. He received a Presidential Scholarship in Theatre at Northeastern University.
“My undergraduate education at NU’s Theater Department was instrumental in launching me into the professional world in New York. The combination of theoretical in-class learning, practical rehearsal and performance, and experiential co-op opportunities equipped me with the tools that I needed to enter the professional arena. When I began the program, I was undecided about which specific role I would fit into. All I knew was that I wanted to be in the theater. The structure of the program, where you are exposed to the different aspects of theater-making, was invaluable. The ability to try the different fields — acting, design, dramaturgy — was essential in helping me identify that my passion lay in directing. It prepared me for the application and eventual admission into the graduate directing program at Columbia. I look back at my time in the Theater Department as the essential foundation to my career as a director.”
Michael Underhill – Actor, Administrator, and Arts Entrepreneur
Boston born Michael Underhill ’10 is an IRNE nominated actor and creative leader in Boston’s thriving fringe theatre scene. Committed to the creation of original and devised work, he has been artistic associate with Imaginary Beasts since 2009 and has served on the artistic board of Happy Medium Theatre Company since 2011. “With these roles comes an extra layer of responsibility in administration and production,” he explains. “In return for that commitment, I have a voice in the room where artistic decisions are made.” Michael has received critical acclaim for performances with SpeakEasy Stage Company, Stoneham Theatre, Theatre on Fire, Whistler in the Dark, Heart & Dagger, and ShakespeareNow! He has also worked with the film companies Thompson Films, Greenview Entertainment, Malarkey Films and Joel Marsh Films.
“When I entered Northeastern, my confidence as an actor was, shall we say, slim to none. In acting classes, I was challenged and pushed to places I thought I could never go — mentally, physically or emotionally. I received so much individual attention, encouragement and analysis because the student-professor ratio is small. In analysis class, I learned how to read a script, by crawling over every word of text, forwards and backwards, in a quiet room with no disturbances. In tech classes, I picked up the practical skills required to physically put on a play, even though I attended as a performance concentration. I became president of Silver Masque, and I left my senior year ready to conquer the world. I have not had more than a month off in between projects since graduation.”
Kevin Deane Parker – Stage Manager, Technical Director
Kevin Deane Parker ’15 received a 2016 Arts Impulse nomination as Best Stage Manager for Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them at Company One. While studying industrial engineering at Northeastern, he found his home in the theatre department. Multi-faceted and interested in all things backstage, Kevin has worked with Huntington Theatre Company, SpeakEasy Stage Company, Boston Children’s Theatre, Bad Habit Productions, Actors Shakespeare Project, Theater Offensive, Ogunquit Playhouse, A.R.T. Institute, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Wooden Kiwi Productions, Argos Productions, and Boston Theater Company. Immediately upon graduation, he served as Technical Director for the Gloucester Stage Company. Favorite projects include stage managing BHP’s Gross Indecency (IRNE Award – Best Fringe Production) and technical direction for Company One’s The Flick (Norton Awards for Outstanding Design and Production).
“The theatre department at Northeastern provided a laboratory for me to not only learn theatre-specific skills, but to apply engineering to a creative setting. My particular interest is translating the principles of industrial engineering (reducing cost, increasing efficiency) to the complex world of theatrical production. The theatre faculty always supported my efforts. Theatre co-ops allowed me to take on projects where I applied these experiments in professional theatre. I was able to develop a cross-departmental relationship at Northeastern that wouldn’t have been possible with other theatre programs or universities.”
Heidi Nelson – Dramaturg
Heidi Nelson ’06 studied performance at Northeastern and is now a freelance dramaturg focused on new play development and ensemble-based theatre in the Washington DC area. She was Dramaturgy and Outreach Fellow for the inaugural season of ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage and later served as their New York based programming consultant. Heidi’s experience includes working with such companies as Clubbed Thumb (NYC), Transit Lounge (at HERE Arts Center, NYC) Flux Theatre Ensemble (NYC), Gurnet Theatre Project (Boston), and Company One (Boston). She was dramaturg for the A.R.T.’s Elliot Norton Award-winning production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and the world premiere of Ellen McLaughlin’s Ajax in Iraq. Her article, “Bryan Doerries’s Theater of War” was published in the LMDA Review. Heidi earned her MFA at the A.R.T./MXAT Institute for Advanced Theatre Training.
“My experience at Northeastern has proven invaluable. Interesting coursework complemented by hands-on production experience fueled my passion for creating meaningful art that sparks dialogue and inspires social awareness. The mentorship of an exceptional professor set in motion a chain of events that led to my being accepted into an excellent MFA program and making crucial connections with influential colleagues in my field. None of my accomplishments would have been possible without the educational foundation and artistic inspiration I acquired at NU.”