Spartans of UD: Steven Cortez

Apr 4, 2018 | University Relations staff

Spartans of UD highlights what makes University of Dubuque special – the people who live, work, and study on campus. Steven Cortez is a senior double major in human resource management and fine and performing arts. The Highland, California, native has been involved in numerous campus activities such as 10 theatre productions, Concert Choir, Chamber Singers, Drama Club, Alpha Psi Omega, CASA (Courage and Social Action), and intramural sports. He also was a resident assistant for three years.

Spartans of UD: Steven Cortez
Senior Human Resource Management and Fine and Performing Arts Major

1. Why did you choose to attend the University of Dubuque?

“Most people would classify my choice to leave California as a lapse of rational judgement, but I had several reasons to choose UD. First of all, the Midwest is a beautiful place to live. You have to look a little closer, but once you see it, you can’t help but fall in love. Also, I used to have family in town and I have a sister who graduated from UD’s business program. I currently have a brother here who is in the nursing program and a cousin who does accounting. What really brought me to UD was the opportunities that a brand new theatre department could offer me. If I had attended a larger college, especially focusing in the arts, the competition would have seriously limited my opportunities for stage time and leading roles. Here at UD, I was cast as a lead in the spring musical – as a first-year student. That’s like being the starting quarterback as a first-year student. The University of Dubuque offers the best of both worlds: the benefits of a small theatre department with the use of state-of-the-art facilities.”

2. When did you know you wanted to study theatre?

“Most people give an answer like, ‘I knew I was an actor when I played baby Jesus at my church’s nativity scene.’ I had an idea that this might be what I want to do my junior year of high school. I say ‘idea’ because I never actually took a drama/acting class before college. I knew I liked being on stage and acting, but I didn’t know the craft. Now, I can’t see myself doing anything else. As an actor, I get to explore the human condition. My craft can take me to places within myself and outside that I couldn’t have dreamed of. Long story short, I had an idea of what I wanted to do and, as all things do, my idea of acting changed. It transformed into a passion that is rooted to the core of my being.” 

3. What is your role in Antlia Pneumatica, the spring musical presented by the UD Department of Fine and Performing Arts? Do you find it easy or difficult to relate to your character?

“I am playing the role of Adrian in Antlia Pneumatica. The difficult thing about the character Adrian is that he is the most real character I’ve ever played. Because he is so real, the choices I make for him must be authentic to the moment. Most people think acting is pretending. Well, there’s no pretending in Adrian. I need to find the truths of the moment so Adrian can live in within those moments. In my opinion, it’s much easier to be a pirate or some larger-than-life character.”

4. What advice do you have for students thinking about going into theatre?

“The one thing I wish I would have told myself when coming to college, would have been to leave behind my bad theatre habits. Those bad habits will only hold you back from truly living in the moment and discovering other moments. The funny part is that the bad theatre habits I’m talking about are usually the things that you focus on in high school or community theatre. Presentation, facing out, overacting, using facial expressions to show emotion, using broad strokes of emotion to paint a scene, instead of living in the moment. Try and be open to changing your process, because, unless you’re perfect, it’s probably going to suck … and that’s okay. That’s why you’re in college.”

5. What are your plans for after graduation? I heard you plan to move to LA to pursue a career as a professional actor. How has UD helped prepare you for the next step?

“You are correct. I plan on moving to LA at the end of summer to start my life as a professional actor. Sounds scary, right? Oh yeah. But UD has given me a set of skills to use along my path. Every time I came up short, every mistake, every failure has made me a better person and an even better actor. I wouldn’t have been able to make so many mistakes without the opportunities and safety that UD has provided me. Once you leave college, you will still continue to learn and adapt. An important skill I acquired while at UD was to learn and adapt in the right direction without the help of a professor or instructor. To be self-sufficient. In the professional world, you won’t have a professor holding your hand every step of the way. You need to be able to tackle scripts and auditions on your own. Because of UD, I can confidently say I’m an actor.”