Beyond Vassar

Steven Mazzola '93 is "One to Watch"

By Jessica Winum

A young man goes to college, is cajoled by his friends to join them in a campus play, discovers a love for the theater and sets his sights on a flourishing career as an actor and director. He dreams of seeing his name in lights on... Pennsylvania Avenue?

Actor and director Steven Scott Mazzola '93 is making a name for himself in theater circles, not in New York, but in our nation's capital. And it seems that everyone in town is taking notice of this Vassar grad, who was just recently named one of "100 People to Watch" byWashingtonian magazine.

When Mazzola came to Vassar, he had no idea what kind of post-college career he wanted. Feeling welcomed and encouraged by the sociology department, he declared it as his major but found himself getting more and more involved in theater as the semesters passed. He became a member of Philaletheis, acted in a production at the Powerhouse Theater, wrote two plays-kinfolk and Facts and Figures (which he also directed)-all the while discovering that sociology and drama fit together naturally.

"When a playwright writes, he looks at incidents and how they affect groups of people," he said in a phone interview shortly before Christmas. "Sociology allowed me to investigate a lot of types of people."

In short, if it weren't for his sociology classes, his design classes, his Davison dormmates, and the support and encouragement of the faculty and the administration, Mazzola would not be beaming at you from page 77 of the December 1999 issue of Washingtonianmagazine.

"At Vassar I came to believe that if you had the drive and the do that it would happen," he said.


But how did a budding actor/director end up in Washington, DC? "I came to visit a friend while I was getting my master's in fine arts in dramaturgy from SUNY at Stonybrook and loved the city," he explained. A postgraduate internship at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts gave him a ticket into Washington's theatrical world, which he found to be encouraging and welcoming.

In 1996, he began working at the Shakespeare Theatre, where he is now assistant to highly acclaimed artistic director Michael Kahn. Mazola's myriad duties there include coordinating the Classical Reading Rediscovery Series; working with schoolchildren from nearby inner city schools in the Southeast Project, an organization in which children who show talent and dedication write plays which are performed by Shakespeare Theatre actors; supporting the theater's senior staff; and studying closely what it takes to be as successful as his boss.

After eight hours at the Shakespeare Theatre, Mazzola heads to rehearsal for one of the many smaller theater groups in the capital, all of which share the local talent pool. He recently traveled to rural Galway, Ireland, as director of A Streetcar Named Desire with the Virginia-based Andrew Keegan Theatre to take part in the Galway Arts Festival. The experience is one of the highlights of his career.

"We got a standing ovation on opening night," he recalls. "And I thought, how wonderful that these people are hearing Tennessee's (Williams) words and seeing his view of the human experience, which is so honest. I think that's why you do it (theater)."

His fulltime work coupled with moonlighting is grueling, but he's thrilled to see the combination succeeding. And though Mazzola is uncertain about the specific direction he wants to take in theater, he does hope for "bigger budgets, bigger shows and better resources. And I wouldn't mind having time to read the paper in the morning."