By: Marina Gomberg

When you study at University of Utah College of Fine Arts, you’re not just introduced to some of the finest faculty members on the planet. You oftentimes also get to enjoy the benefits of those faculty members’ vast and esteemed networks, too. 

This was the case with the graduating seniors in the University of Utah Department of Theatre’s Actor Training Program (ATP), who got to have one final guest artist experience with assistant professor, Robert Scott Smith’s graduate school buddy — oh, and Emmy and Golden Globe winner — Jim Parsons.

Smith wanted to provide something really special to the ATP students who are graduating during this global pandemic, and a visit with Parsons was his Big Bang Theory (har har), especially because the two of them had their own experience graduating during a particularly challenging time.

“We finished our graduate work from the University of San Diego after 9/11,” Smith noted. “So, I thought the students might uniquely benefit from hearing how he faced life after school in what felt like a pretty uncertain world.”

In an intimate and invite-only Zoom meeting, Smith and Parsons bantered back and forth about their time together in school, and Smith posed questions to Parsons from the personal to the professional.

 “I think the thickest common thread of our experience to this experience is that it forces you to realize your commitment to what it is you want,” Parsons said, as he reflected on how the world’s uncertainty made him surer of his own drive and passion as an artist.

The two spoke about life in quarantine, protecting art in the dollar-driven business of artmaking, Parson’s work producing the series “Special,” and his works on Broadway, navigating between playing to a camera versus a live audience, the value of being prepared, and handing life when it all feels like trial by fire.

He opened up genuinely about his own personal writing practices, the discovery of his aversion to the business side of the work, and how he overcomes his own doubts and fears.

 “I do think that’s a big part of it, is to understand that fear and uncertainty are the companions — they’re always in the side car. And when you quit fighting them — for me at least — they become smaller, for lack of engaging with them as much. But they also offer their own excitement and mystery, and you learn, sometimes, to let that be the joy.”

After about 45 minutes of what felt like watching two longtime friends catch up in their living room (which even included the recipe for Parsons’ apparently famous Velveeta chip dip), Smith opened the session to student questions, which ranged from the more pragmatic and tactical to philosophical and lofty. Each of the questions, though, was paired with profuse gratitude for the opportunity to hear from Parsons and pick his brain.

It was a big bang, indeed.

Parsons sent one final thought after the call for Smith to share with the students:

"YOU ARE ENOUGH. I think it’s THE most CRUCIAL information I ever received and it means something new and deeper to me with each passing year but, as an actor, I HIGHLY advise saying it to yourself as often as you can remember to do so and until you believe it!"

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 By: Cami Sheridan

Shout out to the Department of Theatre’s Outstanding Senior, Matthew Rudolph, who just graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre! In his time at the University of Utah, he appeared in Floyd Collins (Ed Bishop), Dracula, the Musical (Jonathan Harker), Chess (Dance Captain), The Beautiful Game, Steel Pier, Bring it On! (Ensemble) and Company (Husband Cover). Matthew was a proud recipient of the Lady Bracknell Scholarship all four years of his college career.

Matthew chose to attend the U specifically for our Musical Theatre Program, as he was looking to receive conservatory-style training while at a larger university. He particularly liked the U’s program for the supportive faculty and the unique opportunities we offered, including auditions for professional local theatre companies such as Pioneer Theatre Company and Salt Lake Acting Company. His favorite memory while at the U was performing the “Embassy Lament” from Dracula, the Musical at ArtsBash. In reflection of the experience, he said, “Getting the chance to do that crazy dance on the library plaza in front of so many people will always remain a fun and memorable experience of my time at the U.”

Matthew spent the last year serving as President of the Student Advisory Committee (SAC), FAF Grant Representative, and a CFA Create Success intern where he showcased his dedication to the department and his charismatic leadership skills. His peers sent in their congratulations and shared what they wanted you to know about him.

“Matthew has really been an inspiration. His dedication to the Department and to SAC has really inspired me. He’s one of the most dedicated and giving people I’ve met at the U. He cares so deeply about the well-being and success of his peers. I can’t wait for him to spread his kindness and talent to the world!”

Tom Roche – Actor Training Program / Vice President of SAC

“Matthew is easily the kindest, most-dedicated artist and person I have had the honor of working with in my time at the U. In my two years on SAC, what always stood out to me was his genuine and unbridled love for the Department and his classmates. No matter how busy he was, he would always find the time to listen to and support the students of the Theatre Department. If nothing else, the example Matthew set of selflessness and kindness will be the greatest legacy he could leave with the Department.”

Courtney Cohen – Musical Theatre Program / Historian of SAC

“Matthew was a great person to work with on SAC because he made everyone feel welcome. He was incredibly supportive of any ideas people had and he created an environment in which people could speak their mind without fear of causing a problem. He’s so positive and just an overall great person!”

Anna Coltrin – Theatre Studies / Theatre Studies Rep SAC

“Matthew Rudolph. One of my dearest friends and one of my favorite collaborators. Since I met him, we always had a running joke that we were (and still are) the same person. Always very funny, but now, I know for a fact we are not the same person. For you are an individual like no other. Your character and heart and charm are incomparable. You care so much about all you do. Your talent, which was already so exciting from the start, has transformed into a set of skills like no other. You are like no other. Thank you for being the bright and joyous human that you are and sharing that light with others every moment you can.”

Kimi Brown – Musical Theatre Program / Treasurer of SAC

“Outstanding doesn’t even begin to describe Matthew’s passion and personality. From the beginning of freshman year, Matthew has always brought positivity and creativity to every class and rehearsal. He cares so much about his art, as well as the artists around him. Matthew works extremely hard to push himself to be better, and by doing so brings up all those around him. If Matthew is smiling, everyone is smiling. Thanks for being a great friend, Matthew. We all love you so much! Congrats!”

Jae Weit – Musical Theatre Program / Secretary of SAC

“Matthew is incredibly hard working, talented, and thoughtful. I remember being a scared freshman and Matthew being the first one to make me feel at home. He made my experience in the College of Fine Arts internship amazing. Matthew brought energy to everything we did, was a team member you could always count on, and never failed to make me laugh. We love you, Matthew!”

Abby Davis – Musical Theatre Program / CFA Create Success intern

Congratulations, Matthew Rudolph!


Matthew Rudolph
Matthew Rudolph as Jonathan Harker in Dracula, Musical (Photography by Todd Collins)
Matthew Rudolph as Jonathan Harker in Dracula, Musical (Photography by Todd Collins)
Matthew Rudolph as Ed Bishop in Floyd Collins (Photography by Todd Collins)
Matthew Rudolph as Ensemble/Dance Captain in Chess (Photography by Todd Collins)
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