A high-profile Red Deer College graduate says he’s “devastated” by the closure of the theatre and film acting programs, which catapulted him to success in life, as well as in the television industry.
Trevor Milne, who played police officer Chris Diaz in the now syndicated TV series Rookie Blue for six seasons, said “it breaks my heart” that RDC’s influential performing arts programs are coming to an end.
“I was shocked and overcome with emotion when I heard… I owe all of my success to that program…”
Last week, Red Deer College announced the theatre and film performance streams of the applied degree in film and live entertainment program were being cancelled due to low enrolment and provincial funding cuts to post-secondary institutions.
RDC president Peter Nunoda suggested the tough economy, as well as demographics and “evolving industry needs,” could have influenced the decline of interest in the programs.
Milne can’t fathom why there would be low interest, since he describes the program as an arts and business course crammed into one when he attended in the early 2000s.
“I’m glad I picked acting over becoming a petroleum engineer, any day,” said Milne.
For as important as honing his acting chops was at the college, Milne feels he was also equipped with the entrepreneurial know-how to start his own production company and to successfully invest in real estate.
“The career planning course (at RDC) talked about everything — from how to file your taxes to how to run as an independent company… We were taught how to think outside the box, how to think independently.”
And Milne feels those skills are badly needed in a province that wants to diversify and in a world where many traditional jobs are being lost to advancing technology.
“Making a living can be precarious unless you can become entrepreneurial.”
The actor admitted he’s done well, financially, largely due to being on a successful show that aired on the ABC network, and his smart investment decisions. He now owns a Toronto condo and is looking to buy another in downtown Vancouver.
The Lac La Biche native grew up “super shy” and was encouraged to try theatre in high school. He auditioned at RDC, and “when I was accepted, I started to blossom, socially.”
He was in the local musical Cabaret and played the lead in The Country Wife at the RDC Arts Centre.
“I grew more confident,” he recalled, learning from RDC instructor Thomas Usher, as well as Larry Reese and Tanya Ryga (who are now both retired).
Since graduating, he’s seen many classmates go on to successful careers — including Lewaa Naserdeen, “one of the up-and-coming screenwriters in Hollywood.”
Milne said Nasserdeen is a producer, as well as the head writer who planned the third season story arc for the TV series Daredevil.
He believes RDC’s highly regarded and unique performing arts programs set the college apart from other Alberta learning institutions. He’s disappointed he hadn’t heard they were in jeopardy of folding.
“I would have done anything, I mean anything, to help promote them,” said Milne.
Meanwhile, more than 1,400 signatures have been collected on a student petition to have RDC’s performing arts programs reinstated.
Although Nunoda said a petition won’t bring the programs back, organizer Rena Fakhreddine is unfazed: “Once we hit around 2,000, we will be showing our signatures to the president of the school, our MLAs and the school’s board of governors.”