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Alum spotlight: Maria Forte (BFA ’96)

collage of photos of maria

Maria Forte, BFA ’96, Performance

When Maria heard rumors that George Mason University was phasing out their theatre program, she transferred to VCU. “I liked the eclectic and artistic quality of the people I saw around campus—a very different environment from George Mason. When I went in for my audition and portfolio review, I got to see this amazing set with tons of red clay earth for Caucasian Chalk Circle. Seeing the production quality and some of the stuff that they were able to do sold me.”

maria and friends posing
Maria and classmates at ‘Art in the Park’

She attended VCU from 1990-93, then joined the Navy and worked as an Electrician’s Mate—partially to earn money for school. She returned to VCU in ’96 and graduated that May. One of the professors she singled out was Richard Newdick whose classes would have a lasting effect, even as she found a new career path, “I learned a lot about analysis and research by reading a great deal of plays and listening to his lectures.  Historians need these skills.”

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Maria’s Navy headshot

After graduation, Maria moved to Chicago and worked at local theaters. She saw a listing for a summer job as a program interpreter at the Museum of Science and Industry and that began her new path as a museum educator and historian.

Her career flourished, and she worked all over the country, including: The National Holocaust Museum, The Navy Museum at the Washington Navy Yard, The Texas Army Medical Museum,  Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, Fort Bragg JFK Special Warfare Museum and the US Army Center of Military History.

woman in dress beside plane
Maria at an Air Force ball

Maria also spent three years with 86th Airlift Wing in Germany as a civilian historian, responsible for thirty one units on the Ramstein Air Base in Miesenbach.   Here’s an article she wrote about the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

She’s now back home as a Historian for the US Army Center of Military History in DC. “I work with a grant program for PhD candidates, I assist with conference planning for our U.S. Army Historian Conference, I work with our international counterparts and occasionally get to do Staff Rides.”

three people in air force uniforms sitting on plane hangar
Maria on a ‘staff ride’

Of course, Maria can reference the skills she honed at VCU for their enduring relevance. “Getting on stage can be scary sometimes, but it’s the same with doing presentations and meetings. Being comfortable with that and with taking criticism. The variety of classes and passion that our professors had helps mold you.”

There have also been occasional ventures back into theatre, including tech and performing in Germany. Plus, she concludes, “Any opportunity I have, I go see shows.”

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Maria at Gilbert Theater for “Hollowmen” in Fayetteville, NC

Compiled by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the November 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter