‘We learn as much from them as they do from us’: ArtsEmerson honors Rocío Pérez and Lemar Archer as Cutler Fellows

By Adri Pray, Editor-at-large

ArtsEmerson recognized two students as its 2022 Cutler Fellows, inducting them into the year-long program designed to cultivate theater production skills.

The college’s affiliated production company named Rocío Pérez and Lemar Archer for its fellowship, created in 2019, to foster the careers of students in theater-related fields. The program targets those deemed to have demonstrated a dedication to their craft through experience and commitment.

“Through guided inquiry, Fellows investigate the space between community and the arts, an understanding they can then apply in their work as American theatre professionals, and study with guest artists from around the world,” an article about the Fellows read. 

Pérez, a senior theatre education and performance major, currently serves as performing arts senator for Emerson’s student-led social justice group POWER, and chairs Flawless Brown, the college’s artist collective for women and non-binary people of color. Archer is a second-year graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in theater education. An educator, actor, dancer, and director, he previously attended the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica, and is a member of a Jamaica-based theater group working to bring social issues to light through performance.

“We are so privileged to work with Lemar and Rocío,” said ArtsEmerson Creative Producer Kevin Becerra in an email to The Beacon. “Their work before the Office of the Arts to make Emerson an empowered space for international students and students of color is in deep alignment with the work of the artistic engagement team at ArtsEmerson. Their approaches building community and analysis of art are invaluable contributions and I’m so excited to see where their work takes them.”

As Cutler Fellows, both Pérez and Archer will work with industry mentors to further their careers.

“Each year we are amazed at what the students bring to the program and how they center the practice in their academic and professional work,” wrote Akiba Abaka, another creative producer at ArtsEmerson. “This year Rocío and Lemar have brought a social justice lens to their work with us in the questions they ask and in the ways that they problem-solve. We learn as much from them as they do from us.”

The fellowship was named in honor of Ted Cutler ‘51, an Emerson alum and trustee emeritus who was a noted patron of the arts.

“This is very much is in the legacy of Teddy Cutler and his way of looking at art and the theater in combination with community as being so important and such a rich part of the landscape of Boston,” said Creative Producer Susan Chinsen.

The program looks to students that have established themselves in their major and are set on performing arts theater work as a profession. 

It is split into two halves; in the first, the students work to establish a relationship with their mentors, and in the second, they are expected to take on productions themselves in order for a more hands-on experience, Chinsen said.

ArtsEmerson Director of Artistic Programming Ronee Penoi said she hopes that theater and performance students at Emerson can look at the Cutler Fellow program as a launchpad. Most fellowships of this kind are interchangeable with internships, she said, but they also provide valuable foundational experience.

“It’s not so much about coming in and supporting the work that ArtsEmerson is doing in that internship way,” she said. “It’s more about, holistically, who these individuals are and what the best fit for them is in terms of where they want to go and the work that we’re doing. The intersection of those two things could be of great benefit.”

As a relatively new program, Chinsen said, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, didn’t pose as much of a challenge for them, since they were able to easily adapt to a hybrid model.

“It probably actually helped a little bit that we could be more dynamic, considering how we navigated through COVID,” they said. “Changing the opportunity for this fellowship to adapt to that probably made us a little bit more fluid and limber.”

Chinsen advised students that want to get involved with the Cutler Fellow program to work with faculty members or become a teaching artist for a play reading book club.

“The ultimate goal is not in the vein of selling tickets, it’s transaction and entertainment,” Penoi said. “While we do hope the work was entertaining, really our ultimate goal is one of civic transformation.”

Pérez and Archer both declined to comment to The Beacon.