Mercy Speech and Drama Professor Embodies the Power of “A Good Liberal Arts Education”

Cast performing in Mercy Theatre Club showcase

Students perform in the Mercy Theatre Club Showcase at ITHT.

Students enrolled in classes taught by Mercy College Professor Marc Palmieri are learning the fundamentals of communication with a generous dash of theater. Well, more than a dash: Palmieri, a working playwright, screenwriter, actor, and director with a long list of professional credits, could be called a quadruple threat.

While professional experience and connections are not uncommon among Mercy faculty, Palmieri has lost no time leveraging his background for the benefit of his students, both current and future. Even before joining Mercy in 2017, he had begun visiting theater companies in the area for internships and other opportunities where students might gain valuable experience. “When I visited the Irvington Town Hall Theater, a beautiful, well-established and classic theater located just eight minutes from the Dobbs Ferry Campus, I met with the theater manager, Greg Allen,” he said. Before long the two had had arranged internships and volunteer opportunities where students could work as ushers and see the shows for free.

He also lined up theater events as outside-the-classroom experiences. “Irvington hosted our Theater Club on their stage, giving us tech support and publicity,” Palmieri said. The production was well attended and was covered in the local press. “Best of all, our students got to perform on this very advanced, venerable stage,” he said. “It’s a strong collaboration that continues to grow and thrive.” He is currently reaching out to other theaters and film production companies in search of more internships for Mercy students.

Students in Romeo and Juliet

(Above: Mercy students in the Romeo & Juliet film at ITHT.)

Palmieri did not start out with dreams of being an actor and playwright. Instead, he believed he was destined for a career in professional baseball after being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and receiving a full athletic scholarship to Wake Forest University. “I thought being an athlete was what defined me, what made me worth something,” he explained. But in speech and communications classes, he was encouraged to explore acting. After attending his first serious play — Tennessee Williams’ "Night of the Iguana" — “I was completely blown away,” he said. Less than five years after graduating from Wake Forest, Palmieri was landing acting roles in repertory theater. He had also written and seen his first play produced, and had even scripted a Miramax film.

Like most actors early in their careers, Palmieri supported himself in “survival jobs” while he continued writing plays and auditioning for acting roles. After earning an MA from City College, he was hired to teach English there, gradually expanding his teaching repertoire to include dramatic writing, Shakespeare and modern drama. “The classroom became an extension of my creative life,” he said.

He discovered Mercy College through a job posting for an assistant professor of speech — one of his strengths. “As soon as I set foot on Mercy’s beautiful campus on the Hudson, I thought, ‘I’d love working here.’” Palmieri started at Mercy last fall, teaching classes in oral communication as well as basic elements of theater, film and directing. “Speech, storytelling, theater — these are can’t-miss subjects, essential to success,” he said. “As an undergraduate, my speech classes taught me how to take risks and to present myself with more confidence. That’s the beauty of a good liberal arts education: students gain a breadth of knowledge that will make them more powerful, more interesting, more employable. That’s what happened to me. And now that I’m teaching those same principles to my own students, it feels like a beautiful circular experience. I’m returning to the roots that helped me change my life.”