Drama professor Shona Tucker found roots in television

Assistant Professor of Drama Shona Tucker cannot recall a time when she was not interested in drama. A BS in speech from Northwestern and MFA from NYU, Tucker started her career in television. Photo By: Jia Jing Sun
Assistant Professor of Drama Shona Tucker cannot recall a time when she was not interested in drama. A BS in speech from Northwestern and MFA from NYU, Tucker started her career in television. Photo By: Jia Jing Sun
Assistant Professor of Drama Shona Tucker cannot recall a time when she was not interested in drama. A BS in speech from Northwestern and MFA from NYU, Tucker started her career in television. Photo By: Jia Jing Sun

From the bustle of Greenwich Village to crowded television studios, Assistant Professor of Drama Shona Tucker brings her varied experiences in the acting world to Vassar. Her involvement with the performing arts started at the age of five when she sang in front of her church.

“I do not know when I wasn’t interested in drama,” said Tucker. She went on to receive a Bachelor of Science in Speech at Northwestern University and a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from New York University, eventually participating in the Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts.

She remembers the long hours associated with pursuing her degree. “I couldn’t tell you anything about Manhattan that wasn’t within a block of NYU campus,” she said.

One of the defining moments for her during her studying was when someone explained the practicality of acting. “I had someone explain that acting was practical,” she said. “It could be discerned and accomplished. It was not just some airy-fairy concept that was unattainable. This helped me to break down my process a great deal.”

After college, Tucker played roles in several productions. She has appeared in television shows ranging from Law & Order to Trinity. She has also collaborated with numerous theaters, including but not limited to The Acting Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival and Manhattan Theatre Club..

She has also collaborated with numerous theatres, including but not limited to The Acting Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Manhattan Theatre Club, and several more. Professor Tucker acknowledged that her participation in Shakespeare has significantly influenced her work, and has helped develop her talent.

Her transition to teaching was far from expected,as she started directly after a professional career in acting. The manner in which she started was equally spontaneous. “Friends got me involved in teaching. Two friends I knew, one from my graduate school and one from my professional life, approached me at random, at separate moments, and asked me to adjunct teach on the college level. I taught the classes they asked me—first Public Speaking and then a Voice and Speech class. I discovered that I appreciated the facility and agility of the young college mind,” she said.

She was also able to use her real life experience with acting in a professional environment to aid her teaching methods. This allows her to stay grounded. “It keeps me real. I draw from my life all the time when I give examples in class,” she said. “I don’t know any other way to teach.”

As the years have gone on, she has slowly combined her experience as an actress with  skills and knowledge she has picked up during her academic career to gain a clearer perspective of the processes necessary to improve in drama. She says a liberal arts education lends itself perfectly to the study of drama due to its emphasis on varied concepts and different perspectives.

One thing she has learned from teaching itself is the importance of boundaries. “When I was acting, I was working eight-hour days and performing at night. Not much has changed. Pursuing a career in acting requires making choices and saying no,” she said.

Professor Tucker explained that everyone she knew that was successful in the field of acting at one point or another had to choose between certain opportunities. Her perception of acting, she says, is still changing.

“People often think that it is super easy—until they are in it and realize that its difficulty is predicated on your ability to be honest and open with yourself. That is the hard part. That is where the best art originates. Drama is demanding,” she said.She explained that she now sees acting less as a pursuit and more as an exercise in being aware of not only the role you are trying to portray, but also how you personally can relate to that character.

Professor Tucker does indeed have a lot on her plate, juggling responsiblities in both residential and academic spheres. She is not only the house fellow of Strong House, which she has thoroughly enjoyed, but is also currently participating in Modfest, specifically helping produce two plays that will be performed during the event.

She also has continued to appear in local productions during her teaching career, including singing in the current production, Good People, produced by the Half Moon Theatre Company.

Not only that, she is currently in the early stages of writing a show dedicated to her mother with the tentative title Music From Around the World. In addition, she is researching the migration of African Americans to the North during World War 1 in order to write a one woman show.

Even after her busy days, she explains that the students make it all worthwhile. “The students. I love them. They are innovative and willing to try the strangest exercises in class.  I enjoy it a great deal.”

Although Professor Tucker is scheduled to go on sabbatical next year, she says she is already looking forward to returning to the drama department the following year.

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