Getting a Taste of Broadway at MSU

portrait of a man with brown hair in gray sweater

During his time at Michigan State University, incoming senior Theatre major Mike Merluzzi has experienced what it is like to work on Broadway shows through his work with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).

To help cover college expenses, Merluzzi works on a freelance basis for the IATSE, which has hired him to construct and tear down sets for the Broadway shows that perform at the Wharton Center.

“It’s incredible to be able to work on Broadway sets,” he said. “I am an actor by my degree, but I also do scenic design. It’s just something I really enjoy doing, and it helps me build great connections.”

MSU’s Department of Theatre has allowed Merluzzi to explore his talents as both an actor and a carpenter.

two men fighting with swords
Merluzzi practicing sword fighting.

“The students and faculty in the department pride ourselves on calling MSU a school of choice, which means that there’s no set direction of study I have to follow,” he said. “Through this department, I’m given the opportunity to explore both of my interests.”

In addition to the department’s flexibility, Merluzzi also chose MSU for the diversity of the Theatre faculty.

“We have faculty who are so spread out and specialized,” he said. “We can learn about topics more in-depth than a lot of other universities because we have professors who are researching and working in such specific areas.”

Merluzzi is the 2016 recipient of the Audrey and John Leslie Endowed Scholarship in Arts & Letters. In order to win the $3,000 award, he was prompted to write an essay about the importance of funding the arts.

man performing on stage in costume
Merluzzi performing on the Department of Theatre stage.

“Arts funding is something that I’m very passionate about, and right now, it’s especially important with what’s going on with the NEA,” Merluzzi said. “The arts are always the thing that’s quick to get cut, so it was nice to have that support system through the scholarship fund.”

Merluzzi also received a University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) grant that gave him the opportunity to conduct research at the Williamston Theatre for its showing of 1984. Merluzzi was the dramaturge, or head of research, and set designer for the production.

During his time at MSU, Merluzzi also has contributed to nine Department of Theatre productions and was in charge of the 2016 Haunted Auditorium, held during the fall semester.

“Right now, my life consists of a lot of learning, a lot of hard work, and a lot of late nights, but I enjoy it,” he said. “I love every second of it, and that’s why I do it.”

We can learn about topics more in-depth than a lot of other universities because we have professors who are researching and working in such specific areas.

After graduation, Merluzzi, who is working on a BFA in Theatre with a concentration in Acting, would like to move to Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington, to pursue acting.

Written by Alexandria Drzazgowski, Professional Writing Major