I loved all of my professors at SMU, but Peggy Loft is the person I consider to be my mentor to this day.
Peggy was our voice and speech teacher, and her teaching is the perfect example of how all of the skills taught to a young artist must ultimately be integrated. I always say that I learned more about acting from my voice and speech teacher than from anyone else I ever studied with. After a pretty satisfying career as a professional actress, I am now a voice and speech teacher myself. I think that says a lot about what I learned from Peggy, and I use what I learned from her every day as I teach young actors at Ithaca College.
When I was a second year graduate student, I was cast in the title role in Webster’s “The Duchess of Malfi”. Its a huge role, and a demanding one. It was my first classical role! Peggy spent hours working with me one-on-one in her office: dissecting the text, examining the verse, and helping me make Webster’s heroine come alive for a modern day audience. I remember one day when we had been working for several hours already, and I broke down in tears out of frustration and mental exhaustion. Peggy did not let me quit, but she did give me a much needed word of encouragement. “You are doing very well. You are going to be wonderful. Now let’s keep going.” That’s all I needed. I have never forgotten that little pat on the back that kept me going.
I am still in touch with Peggy (although writing this makes me realize I am overdue for a phone call) and I still consider her my mentor. What a gift it has been to have such a wise and wonderful teacher in my life.