Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Musical theatre professor follows theatrical path to Augie

New Musical Theatre Professor Michael Carrera. Photo by Lu Gerdemann.

Augustana’s new musical theatre professor, Michael Vincent Carrera, is a man of experience. He has worked in musical theatre, dramatic and comedic plays, television, and many other facets of acting. The story of his journey to to Augustana could be the plot of one of works he’s performed in.
“I always lived in my imagination,” said Carrera. “The artist’s mentality and the artist’s soul was always there.”

New Musical Theatre Professor Michael Carrera. Photo by Lu Gerdemann.
New Musical Theatre Professor Michael Carrera. Photo by Lu Gerdemann.

Carrera, a native of Brooklyn, New York, said that he grew up in New York during a time where it was very different from the stereotypical New York that is thought of today. He was not involved in theatre as a child, instead playing sports with the other children in his working-class neighborhood.
He first was introduced to the arts through dance. However, he did not encounter dance through the stage,  Instead it was through films, starting with Saturday Night Fever.
“It was about people I knew and guys I knew, that age, I was almost that age, I was a young teenager,” remembered Carrera. “So for the first time, I saw a male dancing in a way that looked very masculine. It was filmed in the clubs of New York, and I went there, so I started to dance and fool around in those places.”
From Saturday Night Fever, Carrera also was introduced to the films of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, which is where he was first introduced to what he described as “theatrical dance”.
Carrera began taking classes in a small studio in his neighborhood, although he kept that a secret from most people he knew.
“Where I came from, you didn’t tell people you danced if you were a guy,” said Carrera on his secret lessons. “It was pretty frowned upon.”
Carrera then got introduced to the stage his senior year of high school, when he did a tap duet in the musical Anything Goes. From there, he was hooked.
When it came to acting, Carrera grew up in the era of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, men who changed the face of what a leading man was.
“They all looked like real people. They came from the city, they were urban guys. They were ethnic like myself,” said Carrera on his idols. “The guys of my generation looked up to them. We thought, ‘Well if they can be actors, we could too.’”
However, Carrera did not immediately follow his dreams of going into theatre. He started taking acting classes his senior year of high school, but did not enjoy the classes as much as he had hoped. So in college, he only had a minor in dance.
However, at the age of twenty-four, Carrera decided to once again enter the world of theatre. After returning to college with the goal of entering law school, he was asked to perform with his school dance conservatory. After performing, he was once again hooked and decided to “throw his plans of law school down the drain.”
From there, Carrera received his MFA at the University of Iowa. From there, Carrera returned to New York and began to work on film, which he fell in love with. Carrera stayed in New York for an extended period of time, before deciding to make another change in his life.
“I started to work on film, which I fell in love with,” said Carrera.
After the passing of his mother, Carrera decided it was time to make a fresh start. There wasn’t as much film work in New York as he had hoped and he wanted to challenge himself with a new acting scene. So with that in mind, Carerra moved to Los Angeles. It was there when he met the teacher who changed his life.
Although he was forty-years old, Carrera’s acting style changed he was introduced to Diana Castle. She was an acting coach who Carrera went to in order to become for accustomed to the LA scene and style. She then became the teacher who changed his life.  She started to teach him from scratch, which is something he really appreciated.
“It was almost like I had to become a newborn baby,” said Carrera.
After spending another extended period in Los Angeles, he returned to New York seven years ago. It was there that he started to work with Fresh Films, where he took the lead role of the Father in the Emmy-nominated “Moochi Kalala Detective’s Club”.
With Fresh Films, Carrera also has had parts in all the films they produced, along with working as an in-house casting director and acting coach for the child actors. Fresh Films also pointed him towards Augie.
When Fresh Films partnered with Augustana and opened up an office in the basement of Sorenson, Kelli and Estlin Feigley returned to Augie as alumni and the head of Fresh Films. After learning that Augie was in need of a temporary Musical Theatre professor, they decided to call up their friend and see if he was interested.
“Forget it, it’s crazy,” were Carrera’s first thoughts.
Carrera hadn’t taught since he was in graduate school and had moved away from the world of musical theatre. Where he had lived before were also different from Rock Island, to say the least. However, he was convinced to call Jeff Coussens, the head of Augie’s theatre department. He then decided to come out and at least see the campus.
Then, just as happens with many visiting students, Carrera stepped on the campus and fell in love.
“I thought to myself, ‘You’d be stupid not to do this,’” said Carrera, reminiscing on his decision to take the position.  “New York and LA can wear on you, unless you are one of that 1% of actors who are also working and not going through the grind day by day . . . I realized I kind of need a little break from that.”
Although Carrera is only at Augustana through this year, he is hoping to help develop Augie’s blossoming musical theatre major. He is teaching a musical theatre dance class, an acting class, and a musical theatre history class this term. He said that all three classes bring different challenges and skills to the table, but he’s been very inspired by how receptive his students have been.
“It’s a big class, but they’ve already gelled as an ensemble,” said Carrera in regards to his Acting class.  “(Coming back to teach) is a big challenge, but the students are helping.”
Carrera said that he hopes to bring his own experiences from the professional world into his classroom. He’s been up and down the acting block, performing everywhere from huge stages to an intimate performance as Antonio in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.
When it comes to just Michael Vincent Carrera, he has some theatre views shared by many. His favorite musical is the classic West Side Story and his favorite play is “the one I’m working on at the time.”  However, from Brooklyn to LA to Rock Island, from sports in his neighborhood to dance to film, and everywhere in between, Carrera’s journey to Augustana has taken him across the country. It is clear that Carrera is ready to use this experience in his short period at Augie to do everything he can for students.
“I bring what I do every day into the classroom,” said Carrera.  “That is being a professional actor and being a professional performer.”

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Musical theatre professor follows theatrical path to Augie