Devin Altizer, who signed a contract for one of his first acting jobs before he graduated from Emory & Henry last year, recently received an Ostrander Award for Leading Actor in a Drama.
The awards ceremony was held in August at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee.
“The work itself is its own reward, but it was a surprise and an honor to be recognized for it,” said Altizer, a pre-professional music theatre major who credits his education at Emory & Henry College for laying a sturdy foundation for building a career in theatre.
The Ostrander Awards are given annually in a variety of categories, in both college and community divisions. Every aspect of stage production -- acting, directing, technical work, full ensembles -- is recognized.
Altizer received the recognition for his role in the play, Tribes, which he performed at the Circuit Playhouse in Memphis.
“The role was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done as a performer,” said Altizer, who spent six weeks learning American Sign Language (ASL) for the bilingual play performed in English and ASL.
“Sign language is different everywhere you go, and there are colloquial dialects as with any other language, which is why we had help from Deaf Connect Mid South, an advocacy center, to help it make sense specifically for the Memphis deaf community,” explained Altizer.
“One of the best things about theatre ---as an actor or an audience member--- is that it’s all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. This production was a unique experience, and I felt privileged to have been part of it.”
As a resident actor, Altizer spent a year performing in shows at the Playhouse on the Square in Memphis. “I’m incredibly lucky not only because it was what I wanted to do but I was able to do it right out of school. I graduated from Emory & Henry and after a few weeks, I moved and started rehearsals,” he said.
Altizer’s passion for theatre started years ago while a freshman at Pulaski County High School. “I was homeschooled, so theatre helped me come out of my shell once I entered high school.”
His first theatrical role in high school was Winthrop in the play, Music Man. “I didn’t stop performing after that. It felt right and made sense.”
Altizer knew the career he wanted by the time he came to Emory & Henry College. While a student at the college, he accompanied E&H theatre professors to the Virginia Theatre Association (VTA) three consecutive years, which is the largest state association in the country. At VTA, Altizer auditioned before a panel of judges to gain entrance to the South Eastern Theatre Conference, where cattle call auditions are conducted by professional companies from throughout the country.
“You perform a 90-second audition package for casting directors. That’s where I met the folks from Playhouse,” said Altizer.
"I got the callback from Playhouse and they kept asking to see more audition material. I was a little nervous and tried to cover as many bases as I could ---everything from Shakespeare to glam rock, you name it."
His next artistic venture will be performing the character Toby in Sweeney Todd, which plays at the Springer Opera House in Columbus, Ga., beginning in February.
After a three-week run of the play, Altizer plans to relocate to New York to find more theatrical work.
"A lot of companies throughout the country go there to cast, and that doesn't begin to cover the work being done there in the city. For an actor, it's the place to be."
“What makes a good performer?” he asked. "I think it's all about connecting with the audience. If you can do that, then it's easy for those watching to forget their troubles for a little while, and, hopefully, leave a little different than they came."
Hometown: Radford, Virginia
Major: Pre-Professional Music Theatre
Extra Curricular Activities: E&H Theatre, Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, Chambers Singers, Alpha Psi Omega, Opera Workshop, and graduated Magna Cum Laude