Topics: College of Fine Arts, Speakers

August 29, 2017

Jesse Tyler Ferguson

Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson will visit Ball State in December for an informal talkback with a university audience and to work closely with students in the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Five-time Emmy-nominated actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson will visit Ball State University this fall as a visiting guest artist.

Ferguson, who portrays the openly gay lawyer Mitchell Pritchett on ABC’s award-winning sitcom “Modern Family,” will visit campus Dec. 1-3. He’s expected to give an informal talkback with a university audience while also spending his two days in Muncie working closely with students from the university’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

In addition to his Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Ferguson has won four Screen Actors Guild awards as well as two Drama Desk awards for his theater work.

“We continue to feel so honored to have active professionals like Jesse Tyler Ferguson show an interest in the theater program we’ve built and continue to develop at Ball State,” said Bill Jenkins, department chair. “We’re particularly excited for him to meet with the students in our acting program. I know that he will be impressed with their talent, dedication, and commitment to making the world a better place through their artistry.”

A significant donation provided to the university by an anonymous donor is funding Ferguson’s visit. According to Jenkins, the donor requested the money be used to create an opportunity for Ball State acting students to work with a high-profile artist, similar to how Broadway star Sutton Foster has worked with students in the musical theatre program as a guest instructor. The two-time Tony Award winner and current star of TVLand’s comedy series “Younger” has visited Ball State more than a dozen times, most recently to co-direct the theater department’s “Shrek the Musical,” a production for which she originated the role of Fiona on Broadway.

Ferguson has had his own share of theater success, Jenkins noted, including starring in the Broadway production of the Tony-winning “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” “Much like Sutton, Jesse has found success both on Broadway but also with a successful television series, and I think he’ll have some great wisdom to share about what it’s like to be a part of both those worlds.”

Theater students elated by the news of Ferguson’s pending campus visit included Abby Carter, a junior acting major from Bellevue, Washington, and Kelsey Skomer, a senior acting major from Batavia, Illinois.

“I stood up and cheered when we heard he was coming,” Carter said. “He’s someone whose career I’ve admired and have been following for years now.”

Skomer appreciates that the university sought out a visiting artist who is not only a talented actor but an advocate for the LGBTQ community. “I think in the world today it’s so important to hear from people who stand up for the rights of others. We must learn from their leadership and make a difference in our own communities as well.”

Ferguson and his husband, lawyer Justin Mikita, have founded Tie the Knot, a non-profit advocacy organization that sells limited-edition bow ties, with proceeds benefiting various LGBTQ organizations.