Theatre student lands HBO role, agency interest

April 26, 2010 | Arts, UToday
By Angela Riddel



Theatre major Tyria Allen was cast in an episode of HBO’s “Hung,” which was shot earlier this month.

She was selected from a pool of 70 people that included professional actors and students from master of fine arts and conservatory programs.

“It all happened so fast. I auditioned on Thursday [April 8] and they called me on Monday [April 12]. That Thursday I was on set!” Allen said. “When I got the phone call, it felt like I was nominated for an Oscar! This is the best moment of my life. It was very exciting.”

She added that everyone on the cast and crew that she met was outstanding. “I met some very cool other actresses, and we friended each other on Facebook. I also worked with Anne Heche, and she was awesome. I also got to meet one of the directors and one of the writers; it was a great honor for me.”

Initially, representatives of Pound & Mooney Casting, a nationally renowned casting company in the Michigan area, contacted Cornel Gabara, UT assistant professor of theatre, and expressed interested in auditioning students for TV and film work being cast locally.

Tyria Allen, left, shown here with Betsy Yeary in the 2009 UT production of “Machinal,” will appear in an episode of HBO’s “Hung” this summer.

Tyria Allen, left, shown here with Betsy Yeary in the 2009 UT production of “Machinal,” will appear in an episode of HBO’s “Hung” this summer.

Allen responded to that audition and was chosen for the role of a friend of one of the main characters, Darby, on “Hung.”

This role is not Allen’s first on-camera experience. In addition to her course work, she has acted in a number of local TV commercials. Still, she was amazed at the difference in intensity.

“I knew that when filming a show, the director will call for the scene to be shot from multiple angles. But they do many more than you would think they do,” she said.

While excited about her first major acting job, Allen is tight-lipped about the nature of the episode and her role. She said she doesn’t want to spoil it for fans of the show. She will appear in episode No. 202, which is slated to air sometime in July during the summer ratings period.

Whether her role becomes recurring or not, this opportunity marks a turning point for Allen’s career as an actress. A national talent agency, the Talent Shop, learned of her role and sought her out to represent her and expressed an interest in representing her in the future. As a result, she is eligible to join the Screen Actor’s Guild and has embarked upon her professional career while still a student.

Irene Alby, UT associate lecturer in theatre, who has taught Allen and also directed her in several plays at the University, said, “This is a significant achievement for us and our students because it shows the versatility of our students. Although our main focus is on classical acting, we have demonstrated that our actors are well-trained enough to get cast in highly competitive jobs in both theatre and TV/film.

“Having a student land a role like this is very high-profile for a small department like ours,” Alby continued. “Many students leave for cities like New York and L.A. for similar opportunities. Detroit, however, has been recently drawing a lot of film and TV work out of the more expensive cities and, fortunately for us, word of the professionalism of our program has been spreading.”

Talented students have been building the UT Department of Theatre and Film’s reputation.

Last summer, three students netted major internships. Film major Meg Sciarini was accepted to the 2009 Creative Minds in Cannes Film Program and interned in Cannes, France; film major Branden Cobb interned with MTV’s New York promotion department and appeared in an MTV online ad; and theatre major Jason Santel interned with Samuel Goldwyn Films in Los Angeles, where he reviewed scripts and independent films.

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