Jennifer Santanello '99
Since she graduated from MCLA, Jennifer Santanello '99 has enjoyed a busy career that includes theatre roles and the stand-up comedy routine she performs each week at a Chicago club. Last fall, she played a Midwestern hockey mom in a series of television commercials for 2K Sports' Wii hockey game.
To win the part, Santanello auditioned in an improvised scene right out of "Saturday Night Live."
"I came to the audition completely decked out in hockey gear that I had purchased from a second-hand sports store the day before and had my Midwestern accent down," she explains. "I just went in there and faked it because I don't know anything about hockey."
After a second audition with the Los Angeles director watching via Skype, Santanello flew to California, where she spent two days filming the commercials.
"It was the best experience ever," says Santanello. Also in the commercial were professional hockey players Ryan Kesler and Kevin Biesksa of the Vancouver Canucks and Jack Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings.
"The whole premise is that the hockey moms are better [at Wii hockey] than the real hockey players are," says Santanello. "It was a really different, amazing experience. It was kind of a dream come true."
The commercials led to interviews with Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports Net.
"They asked if they thought [the professional hockey players] were going to be good at the Olympics and if our new-found fame has changed us," says Santanello. "It was strictly in character. I never broke my accent or the character the whole time."
Santanello's career began even before she graduated from MCLA after performing arts Professor Doug Jenkins took a group of students to audition for a theatre company in Chapel Hill, NC. She worked on a historical drama with the company for two summers, first as a student and then as a graduate.
Following positions teaching children's theatre in her home state of Rhode Island, Santanello auditioned in Boston with theatre companies from around the country. She was selected to work with the Hampstead Players, the largest children's theatre company in the United States.
From there, she moved to Chicago, where she has lived and worked for the past seven years.
"It's an amazing city to break into," says Santanello. "I'm mostly doing comedy and theatre. I started doing a lot different type of things but realized that my niche, my love, was really comedy."
Every Wednesday night she performs a comedy show on the north side of Chicago.
"It's kind of stand-up meets improv," Santanello explains.
MCLA was a great place to study theatre, she says.
"I have a lot of friends who went to different colleges who weren't even able to audition until their sophomore or junior year and weren't able to get on stage until later," says Santanello. "That's not how it is at MCLA. It's a small place. That's what really attracted me. You did audition and not everyone got cast, but there was a chance for everybody, freshmen through seniors. I had an opportunity to get on stage right away. You learn best by doing and that's what I loved about MCLA. It gave me a chance to get right up there."