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Carisa Barreca interview

By Kiley Peters, Comm '08, guest writer

When I got brought on to the Second City team, it only seemed natural that at some point I would be able to sit down and chat with fellow Marquette alum and Second City resident actor Carisa Barreca, Comm '02. During our chat, she shared a bit about her time at Marquette, as well as a few words of wisdom for those looking to follow in her footsteps.

You're a resident actor for the Second City in Chicago, but you received your undergraduate degree from Marquette. Now, Marquette isn't exactly known for its performing arts. It's very supportive of the arts, but it doesn't necessarily have a strong focus on the arts. Why did you ultimately choose Marquette?

The biggest influential factor in me deciding to go to Marquette was meeting Phylis Ravel. She was the woman in charge of the theatre program at that point. I honestly didn't think I was going to consider Marquette.

How did you meet Phylis?

I met her at the end of a tour of Marquette. She was so dynamic and immediately captured my attention. After I received my acceptance letter, I was also notified that I had to join the Freshman Frontier program because I'm a terrible tester. I decided if I had to do the Freshman Frontier program, I didn't want to go. I didn't want to give up my last summer at home with my friends. But Phylis Ravel called our house just about every day to make sure I was still going to Marquette.

Seriously? Do you think that was a standard follow-up she was doing with everyone or do you think there was a special connection?

I'm not sure. I think she just cared about her people and wanted to make sure they were taken care of. My parents fell in love with Phylis, and they loved that Marquette wasn't "just an arts school" and that I would be able to have a full education.

Exactly. And if the arts was still something you wanted to pursue, you could have that as well.

Yup, so the deal I made with my parents was that I had to graduate with a few majors if I wanted to do theatre too. I received dual bachelor's degrees in communication and theatre, then minored in dance and also got a musical theatre concentration.

Sheesh. Well, you clearly had your plate full. Where did you end up living on campus?

I lived in McCormick my freshman year, Schroeder my sophomore year, and the Sovereign my junior and senior years. It was the best. All of the theatre people were living at Sovereign, and we took over this one corner of the building and it was just so wonderful.

Do you still stay in touch with friends from Marquette?

Almost all of them, especially the theatre group. I don't think there was a closer group of people.

Are they in the Chicago area?

They've spread, but there are a lot of them in Chicago. You'd be surprised how many people from the Marquette theatre program are still in theatre now, working as professionals.

There you go, a plug for the Marquette theatre program!

Keep it up, guys!

What advice would you give to current or incoming students at Marquette that also wish to pursue a career in the performing arts?

Prepare yourself not to do theatre. Just prepare yourself. Make sure you are taking your other classes or majors seriously or just make sure you have some other outside skill you can apply, say, at an office. Because chances are, you will be working at an office if you want to do theatre. There are very few of us who leave Marquette and just become an actor. There's still a lot of work to do once you leave.

In what ways did Marquette help you prepare for this career path?

I think Marquette gives you the passion that you need to keep doing what you want to do. They prepare you in the sense that they help you discover all the tools that you have. And they don't only help you discover the tools; they help you figure out what you're good at, what tools you work best with and why they're important. Phylis Ravel once told us that she wanted to hold the ladder for people to climb. That's what Marquette does. It gives you a ladder and holds it for you as you climb your way up.

Read the full interview with Carisa on Life's A Funny Scene and watch for more on Carisa in the winter issue of Marquette Magazine.


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