It is no secret that many of St. Ambrose University's theatre students go on to find great success after they graduate. And 2012 graduate Anthony Stratton is no exception.
While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly altered his plans, this school year will undoubtedly bring Stratton new skills, new friendships, and new learning opportunities, as he begins his first MFA intensive semester which will be held virtually through the American Conservatory Theatre (ACT).
Originally from Oxford, Iowa, a small town of about 700 hundred people, Stratton said he was left to navigate the uncharted territory of college on his own, as he was a first generation high-school graduate. After meeting Dr. Corinne Johnson at KCACTF during his second year of study at Kirkwood Community College, Stratton decided to make the trek to Davenport to audition for a theatre scholarship.
"Cory was the only professor of any school who reciprocated an interest in me," Stratton said. "I harnessed a willingness to learn and grow as an actor, but just needed one person to see me, to believe in me: it was Cory."
After receiving a theatre scholarship from SAU the following year, Stratton quickly became an asset to the department landing roles in productions such as Columbinus, Lady Windermere's Fan, and The Drowsy Chaperone to name a few. In addition to acting, Stratton also held a job in the costume shop, where he worked alongside Dianne Dye who taught him essential skills such as how to stitch and sew buttons back onto clothing, a skill Stratton said he frequently resummons.
However, Stratton's biggest accomplishment at SAU would have to be when he won the Irene Ryan Acting Competition at the Region 5 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival alongside his acting partner, fellow 2012 graduate, Morgan Griffin.
Living in Los Angeles, Anthony made a stop back "home" in Iowa this past summer to film a TV show pilot.
Now a professional actor, Stratton found work in Los Angeles; a television pilot brought him back home to Iowa for the summer.
"I just wrapped production on a TV pilot called Complete Bull," Stratton said. "I was really passionate about the production because of its coverage of life in rural Iowa, disavowing the stereotypes of what it means to be a ‘Midwesterner.' I'm equally excited that the production allows me to join the SAG-AFTRA Union. I've been grinding towards the moment for the past eight years, so I'm very eager to join the union and participate in awards voting!"
While there is no word yet on if the pilot will be picked up, Stratton is already on to his next project: graduate school. After deciding he wanted to go back to school, Stratton was guided to Backstage's article "19 MFA Acting Programs You Should Know About." After researching every program mentioned, he examined and weighed all 19 schools' tuition costs, locations, curricula, and noted which had esteemed reputations and distinguished alumni.
After receiving callbacks from elite theatre universities such as Yale and Julliard, Stratton ultimately landed on attending the ACT in San Diego. However, it will not be a typical school year.
"Unfortunately, due to the unforeseen impact of COVID-19 in our near future, ACT made a tough decision to omit an incoming MFA Class of 2023," Stratton said. "However, the school re-interviewed me for their newly remote SF Semester Program, which functions as an MFA intensive semester, like a trial run. I saw the door open, so I went through it. I start at American Conservatory Theater this month!"
All in all, Stratton is a glowing example of making the most out of your college education. Everyone in the SAU Theatre Department could not be prouder of Stratton's accomplishments, and he will undoubtedly achieve great success. The department holds fond memories of the time spent with Stratton over the years, and likewise, Stratton holds great memories as well.
"For me, most might assume that winning Irenes would be a highlight," Stratton said. "But being on the other side of my memories, I can honestly say that it's the feelings of community, support, and exploration that resonate with me today. My time learning and creating costumes with Dianne Dye as a work-study student will always hold a special place within me."