Michael Judah, a senior studying theatre and political science, will soon begin rehearsing for his final performance with the University of Nebraska at Omaha theatre department.
Since he was a freshman, Judah has played many roles. He has been on the cast in shows such as Titus Andronicus, Elektra, Freakshow and Dracula. Judah will soon begin rehearsing for Kwaidon, a story of Japanese ghosts and demons. As he enters his final performance, he looks to become a professional actor. Judah has applied for three professional acting schools and has already been accepted to East 15 acting school near London.
Scott Glasser, chair of the UNO theatre department graduate program, has directed Judah as a cast member in Titus Andronicus, and as Dracula in Steven Dietz’s “Dracula.” Over the course of Judah’s four years, Glasser has seen him grow and become a professional.
“Rarely do you have a student that’s open to taking risks, looks deep into the script and is willing to be vulnerable to multiple types of roles,” Glasser said. “His versatility and ability to take on extreme roles that are physically and emotionally taxing make him very unique.”
In “Freakshow”, Judah played the Human Salamander and was immersed in a tub of water for the entirety of his performance. Glasser explained that instead of complaining about the physical obstacles of the role, Judah problem-solved and did whatever was necessary to meet the demands of the script.
Judah’s acting has reached farther than UNO though. For the past two years, Judah was part of an ensemble that performed at the Po Saule International Theatre Festival in Lithuania. Judah explained that being part of the unique festival expanded his horizons of theatre.
“Everything was ensemble based and relied heavily on physicality,” Judah said. “It was interesting to learn about their culture and about my own acting while watching them.”
In the role of Dracula, Judah said that he was given freedom to explore his character.
“My director had worked with me before and trusted that I could look deep into the character and see what wasn’t apparent on the script,” Judah said. “It was a unique opportunity that let me grow more as an actor.”
Glasser, who directed Judah in his freshman year, also directed him in his senior year for Dracula. Glasser said it is rare to be able to give a role to a college student and know that they can handle the role like a professional.
“Every few years, we have someone come through our program that shows tremendous potential, and Michael showed potential right away,” Glasser said. “After working with him his freshman year, and working with him in the classroom, I knew he could develop the character more by digging deeper himself rather than my direction.”
Judah’s craft has proven valuable to both UNO and local theatres. Judah’s high school alma mater, Skutt Catholic High School, consulted him for advice when they put on Steven Dietz’s “Dracula.”
To Judah, acting means not only rehearsing for the show, but also working hard in the classroom as well.
“I focused on theories and movement, and learned to become open to possibilities for a role,” Judah said. “Much of what I learned from the classroom helped me on stage as well.”
Glasser said Judah has grown extensively in the classroom.
“The classroom is a safe environment and Michael allowed himself to try new things, fail and learn what he could do better,” Glasser said. “His self exploration in the classroom often led to work that you wouldn’t typically see from an undergraduate student.”
After graduating in May, Judah will be performing professionally in Omaha over the summer. From there, he will attend acting school and hopes to be in repertory theatre, work in regional theatre or act in New York.