Fordham Alum Returns to FCLC as Guest Theatre Professor

Ron Marasco, FCLC ’83, Swaps Teaching Duties With Director of Fordham Theatre Program Matthew Maguire


Published: November 18, 2010

Fordham University’s theatre department recently added a new faculty member to its roster, but only for one week. Ron Marasco, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’83 and professor of theatre at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in Los Angeles, and Matthew Maguire, director of the theatre program at FCLC, traded teaching positions for seven days. Each guest professor taught the other’s courses while the actual professor observed the class.

On Nov. 9, when Marasco took over one of Maguire’s acting classes, FCLC’s rehearsal room, Franny’s Space, emanated with student laughter over the guest professor’s personal anecdotes and interesting ideas. “The greatest thing to hit theater was pizza,” Marasco exclaimed to the class. When theatre companies can no longer work efficiently, he explained, taking a break over pizza allows them to come together and collect their thoughts and ideas. The production can then be brought back into focus.

“The class was amazing,” Aishling Pembroke, theatre major and FCLC ’14, said. “He just had so much wisdom and used all these references from theatre and told us funny stories from his life. It was a great class.”

In mid October, Maguire traveled to L.A. and took over Marasco’s Acting I and Directing classes, where students were doing scene work for the first time. Maguire had to respond to their scenes, offering a critique of their acting. Marasco’s Creative Process class, which Maguire also guest taught during his week at LMU, allowed Maguire to practice some collaborative exercises, such as making a hand gesture and then asking Marasco’s students to transform it into another gesture, “giving them a sense of where their impulses are,” Maguire said.

A few weeks later, Marasco returned to his alma mater FCLC, teaching two of Maguire’s theatre courses from Nov. 8 to 12. Marasco took over Maguire’s acting and collaboration classes where he taught FCLC students about the creative process of putting theatre together by acting out scenes.

During his time at FCLC, Marasco was a large part of the theatre program and acted in close to 30 plays.

“There are more similarities between LMU and FCLC than differences,” Marasco said. “There is a strong sense of camaraderie, you run into the higher-ups, it’s a warm school. Not like the Waldorf-Astoria but more like the Algonquin, and I’d rather stay at the Algonquin.”

The idea to swap teaching positions came from FCLC ’83 alum and Academy Award-nominated actress Patricia Clarkson. In April 2007, after speaking to the FCLC theatre department about how to launch their careers as actors, Clarkson told Maguire to get in touch with her old classmate Marasco and get him out here to teach at FCLC, according to Maguire. He was happy to oblige.

After communicating via telephone and e-mail for several months, the two professors formed a friendship when Maguire went to L.A. to perform his show “Wild Man,” from May 25 to 28 and Marasco came to watch. “I loved it. He has such a great spirit about him when he performs,” Marasco said.

According to Maguire, soon after his performances in L.A., the two professors started to discuss swapping places more seriously. Then, weeks before trading places, they discussed what classes they would be guest teaching and what they were then working on with students in those courses.  However, they mostly wanted to give each other free reign.

“Our teaching methods are complementary,” Maguire said. “I’m more interested in the physical or the Adler approach and making students do actions, while Marasco is more interested in the connection with people and listening, more like the Meisner approach.”

Marasco agreed that he and Maguire have different teaching styles. “Well, first of all I am from New Jersey, so I’m a little more off the cuff and have a more snobby style,” Marasco said. “I am also pretty blunt and willfully disorganized because I like what comes out of the chaos of the room.”

There are also differences in the students and the theatre programs at FCLC and LMU. Loyola has a smaller program than Fordham, and the theatre major is more history-based, Maguire said. Students at Loyola have to take five theatre history classes, two surveys and three seminars. An acting class is not required for acting majors; it has a more relaxed curriculum than Fordham, according to Maguire.

Marasco felt a noticeable difference between the students at FCLC and his own at LMU.

“I think being in New York does amp people up in a good way,” he said. [Students] are extremely attentive here. L.A. has a way of making everybody seem like they’re sun-bathing, but these students have a New York edge.”

Despite the differences between their students, both professors agreed that theatre students at FCLC and LMU are similar in the way that they are eager to learn and open to suggestions and criticism.

“Theatre students are extremely honest, not comfortable expressing themselves yet,” Marasco said. “But I am very surprised how mature this generation’s voice is.”