Tai Arnold, dean of the School for Graduate Studies, left, and Sam Conn, vice president for information technologies, present Michael Tester with his master's academic hood. Photo/Empire State College
Selected as a speaker for the college’s 2015 commencement ceremony held on Long Island, his master’s thesis combines theater with public history.
Tester also is a recipient of the college’s School for Graduate Studies Diversity Fellowship, which provides funds to pay for tuition, fees and a small stipend for full-time graduate students.
A professional actor, writer and performer, he is the son of “Jazzbo” the magic clown, a now-retired Long Island fixture for more than 50 years.
During his senior year at Hicksville High School, Tester also was voted “Class Clown” and “Most Dramatic” by his fellow students.
“It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, but in my case, it took The Village People,” said Tester. “After graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, I proceeded to work my way through those masculine archetypes as an actor in six countries and 47 states. From a sailor in ‘South Pacific’ to a cowboy in an ill-fated TV show about monster trucks. From the most improbable Native American in ‘Pocahontas,’ to the biker in ‘The Rocky Horror Show.’ As for the cop, well, once upon a time, I ran away from the circus of show business to the ranks of those wearing a blue collar. I graduated from the police academy to become one of New York City’s finest. But when it became apparent that the uniform was another costume, I left the force to become a published author and composer, as well as an arts educator and actor.”
As an arts educator, he teaches master classes in multiple performing arts disciplines at the Long Island High School for the Arts.
A member of the Dramatist Guild of America, scholarship graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and member of Actors Equity Association, Tester has performed in almost every U.S. state and several foreign countries, in Broadway musicals, such as “Annie,” “Crazy For You” and “Peter Pan.”
He is the author and composer of “The Pirate Musical!” (Baker’s Plays), “The Mummy Musical,” (Dramatic Publishing), “Hollywood Exposed!” (Actors Playhouse, Miami), “Amoebas on Parade!!” (King’s Head Theatre, London), “Hope & Glory: A Musical History,” (Walt Whitman’s Historic Birthplace) and “Most Likely To: The Senior Superlative Musical.”
His most recent acting work includes “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which was performed in Stafford-on-Avon, England.
“You may have noticed that I skipped one of The Village People, the construction worker,” Tester said in his commencement remarks. “This is where SUNY Empire State College enters the narrative. For what have we as graduate students been engaged in these many semesters, but the act of tearing down old structures to rethink new ones? In the process of reconsidering the world around us, we have been confronted with the gift of re-examining the world within us. My work at SUNY Empire challenged me to reconsider the very definition of masculinity, and exactly who decided that pink is for girls, blue is for boys, and why. No doubt you too have experienced such epiphanies during the excavation period of your higher education. In this regard, it could be argued that we have been deconstruction workers. Now, as we pass through the paradigm shift from undergraduate to masters, we enter our reconstruction period. May we all continue to build upon the creative choices we have made.”