Ashton Byrum helps students find their feet on the stage and in life.
Theatre associate professor Ashton Byrum brings years of experience from the stage to the classroom. Byrum has performed on Broadway in A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden, with the national touring companies of The Producers, Fiddler on the Roof, Will Rogers Follies and Grease!, and with regional theaters all over the country. He also holds an MFA in directing from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Byrum says that one of the biggest advantages to the program at Columbia College Chicago is each professor’s industry experience.
“We have faculty members who do what they teach, across the board, which is more unusual than people think,” says Byrum. “One of the common denominators of students who have reached a high level of success is that they were taught by people who have professional careers.”
Byrum has ample experience with the professional life of an actor—and he brings that knowledge to the classroom, instructing his students on the intricacies of performance contracts, self-management skills and becoming an Actors’ Equity Association or Screen Actors Guild member (or not).
Byrum is intent on helping students find their voice, their fit and their ultimate goals. “It’s tricky when you’re graduating from college,” Byrum says. “You know it all, and you’re ready to take on the world, but there is a lot to figure out about the business once you are in it. I think I’m good at helping a student prepare for that transition, because I’ve done it.”
One aspect of the theatre industry that Byrum distills into a teachable formula is how to find your type and expand your skills into a marketable acting portfolio. The New Student Showcase is an opportunity Byrum developed, which does just that for students at the beginning of their college careers.
“It’s about finding that spark in the student, and helping them realize it and make a career out of it,” says Byrum. “We do that really well here.”