What do Kathy Brier ’97, Brian Sgambati ’97, Bret Shuford ’01, Scott Barnhardt ’01, Christina DeCicco ’02, Renée Marino ’04, and Haley Carlucci ’08 all have in common?
Not only have they all had major roles in Broadway theater productions (see the end of this story for specifics), but they were also all taught acting by John Jamiel, associate professor of speech and theater at Wagner College.
Jamiel left some big shoes to fill when he retired this summer, after 18 years at Wagner. For most of that time, he taught the whole series of acting classes to theater performance majors — an era when Wagner’s theater program has steadily gained in renown. (The Princeton Review’s annual college guidebook, for instance, has listed Wagner among the top collegiate theater programs for 10 years running.)
Jamiel started teaching at Wagner in 1994, just a few years after earning his MFA at Brooklyn College, and immediately began raising the bar for theatrical performance at Wagner. Through his involvement with the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, Jamiel’s students started vying for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. His most memorable moment in teaching was sitting with then-Provost Richard Guarasci, watching Jen Nevergole ’99 perform on the stage of the Kennedy Center in the national level of the Irene Ryan competition.
“He just always reminded me to put yourself out there and be vulnerable and allow yourself to go,” says Renée Marino, who has most recently played the character Mary Delgado in Jersey Boys on Broadway. When she won the Mary Delgado role in the movie version of Jersey Boys, directed by Clint Eastwood and forthcoming in the summer of 2014, Jamiel was one of the first people she told the news.
Not only was his passion for acting “infectious and inspiring,” Marino says, but his practical advice was invaluable — techniques like Uta Hagen’s nine questions for developing a character, and career advice like “saying ‘yes’ to everything” when you’re just starting out.
Scott Barnhardt ’01 emphasizes that Jamiel was as committed to his students outside of the classroom as he was in the classroom. “I think of his open-door policy now as I begin to teach,” says Barnhardt. “What we do as artists requires an openness to dialogue, and the ability to give and take support selflessly. John has that in spades.”
Continuing that connection with his former students is one of the things Jamiel is looking forward to doing in retirement — he even started a Facebook account to help him keep in touch. “It all comes back to the students,” he says. “That’s what makes it all worthwhile. I had some wonderful students. Now that I’m retired, I have the chance to actually see the alums either in a show, or go out for lunch.”
Jamiel is also working on his bucket list of travel destinations and getting more involved in volunteer work — so, for any alumni out there who want to see their old teacher: Make your plans in advance.
— Laura Barlament | Editor, Wagner Magazine | November 26, 2013
Selected roles for the alumni listed in the first paragraph: Kathy Brier ’97: Marcie Walsh on ABC’s One Life to Live, Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray on Broadway, Sophie Tucker in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire; Brian Sgambati ’97: various roles in Tom Stoppard’s The Coast of Utopia: Parts 1, 2, and 3 on Broadway, and ensemble for King Lear at Lincoln Center; Bret Shuford ’01: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Broadway; Scott Barnhardt ’01: The Book of Mormon on Broadway; Christina DeCicco ’02: Sister Act, Evita (Eva Perón), and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark on Broadway; Renée Marino ’04: Wonderland, Chaplin, and Jersey Boys on Broadway, and Jersey Boys movie directed by Clint Eastwood; Haley Carlucci ’08: Maria (understudy) in West Side Story revival on Broadway.
READ MORE: Retirement Profiles