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Actor shares insights about craft

Tony-award winning actor Reuben Santiago-Hudson, a 1978 University graduate, returned to campus last week to accept an award and share his thoughts with current students about Hollywood and Broadway.

On Thursday afternoon, about 60 people gathered in the Casadesus Recital Hall to hear him speak. That evening, Santiago-Hudson received the Glenn G. Bartle Distinguished Alumnus Award, which serves as a memorial to the first president of Harpur College. The award honors alumni who have served Binghamton University through the Alumni Association and the Foundation while also serving their communities, their careers and their country.

Santiago-Hudson’s talk was a frank, sometimes funny, reflection on his career and his academic preparation for it. Theatre students in the audience leaned forward with interest as he described working with stars such as Halle Berry and Samuel L. Jackson.

“I think theater, film, TV, art should be transform-ative,” he said. “It should change you.”

Santiago-Hudson’s performances have earned critical praise, including the 1996 Tony Award for Best Featured Performer in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. Other work includes Jelly’s Last Jam, in which he made his Broadway debut, and Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. Among his film credits are Domestic Disturbance, Devil’s Advocate, Shaft and, for HBO, Their Eyes Were Watching God. In 2001 he won an Obie Award for his writing debut, Lackawanna Blues, which aired on HBO earlier this year to critical acclaim.

Santiago-Hudson discussed Wilson and his influence on his career throughout the talk. “August loves me,” he said at one point, trying to convey the depth of feeling he has for the late playwright’s characters.

Although he has appeared in many films, it’s clear Santiago-Hudson’s true love is the theater. “The theater moves me,” he said. “In the theater I’m whole, I’m safe.”

He also talked about the unexpected results of actors’ choices of roles. For instance, he said, he got the part in Seven Guitars after Rocky Carroll turned it down so he could be in the movie Crimson Tide. But Santiago-Hudson turned down a chance to be in The Iceman Cometh with Kevin Spacey.

He told students they’re looking not for one big break but for a series of perhaps hundreds of breaks if they want to succeed as professional actors. To stay sharp, he said, he reads and observes constantly.

“I live, eat, drink and sleep theater. I work every day,” Santiago-Hudson said. “An informed actor is the best actor.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08