Theater alumnus and Advancement Council member names theater and dance studio

In fall 2013, Theater alum Kevin Goetz gave a major gift to Mortensen Hall to name the theater and dance movement studio. Goetz is CEO of Screen Engine, which conducts market research for the entertainment industry. The Los Angeles Times termed Goetz "The Doctor of Audience-ology" and included him among "the 100 most powerful and influential people in Southern California."

When did you first realize that the arts played a significant role in your life?

I don’t remember there being a single defining moment. I knew I was “bitten by the performance bug” as early as 3 or 4 years old, singing and dancing to the albums of The Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music and fantasizing about living in those imaginary worlds. Damn, I scratched the hell out of those records. 

The arts were always integrated into my life. Having grown up living so close to New York City, I was able to experience many cultural events ranging from theater and ballet, to the opera and museums. 

How did the Theater Department help shape you–not just as an artist, but as a person?

Wow, in so many ways. The program was rigorous. It helped me to see the possibilities of the craft of acting and that, in turn, informed me as a man profoundly. During my training, I had to peel away layers of my emotional psyche, which then opened up the world to me in a whole new way.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Mason Gross?

I have many fond memories, but, I'm not going to lie, there were also several really challenging and difficult times as well. It wasn’t a walk in the park by any stretch. For every great acting class I had, I had 4-5 classes in which I really fell on my face. I smile now, because looking back on it, it gave me a wonderful and safe forum in which to fail. Now that I own my own business, I try in earnest to create that same environment for my employees.

One of the best moments at school was at the very end of my junior year and going in to get my final evaluation from my teachers in acting, movement and voice. They went around the room and gave me what was an extraordinary assessment and said such encouraging words that still stay with me today. Anyway, I walked out of the evaluation on cloud nine, bouncing out of Levin Theater and outside onto the courtyard. I looked up at the stars...it was the clearest and most beautiful evening in late May.  I felt in the “zone,” a feeling of peace, gratitude and pride. It was that perfect moment when everything aligned just right in my life. Trying to hold onto that insanely wonderful feeling, I proceeded to my car, knowing that my chosen profession was confirmed by the people who mattered most to me at that time in my life. When I arrived at my car, I looked at the windshield and discovered a parking ticket…boy, there is nothing like a parking ticket to bring you back to reality.

Why did you decide to give this gift to Mason Gross? What does this gift mean to you?

Because it was the right thing to do. I’ve worked very hard for what I have in my life and I am extremely grateful and blessed to be in a position to give back in this way. I feel that anybody who can give, should. I urge our alumni, particularly those who have been financially privileged, to remember what it was like eating those Ramen Noodles while rehearsing your ass off and dreaming big, to not forget from where you came.

Mason Gross was a very important turning point for me as an artist, actor, and as a human being and so for me, I feel it is my responsibility to maintain the school that so inspired me and keep it successful and thriving so that other young artists have the same opportunity that I was afforded. 

Your gift is the first six-figure gift that the school has received from one of its own alumni. Its significance is tremendous for us on many levels. What do you want your gift to tell other alumni about their own giving to the School?

On a macro level, supporting any worthy artistic, educational institution is of paramount importance in a civilized society. On a personal level, I would say to Mason Gross alumni (and many are my friends), to do what you can but give something. The first time you write a check it hurts a lot and then the next time it hurts a little less and then ultimately it feels really good.

Posted April 2013

Read Goetz's 2016 Mason Gross Commencement speech!