“Ty Burrell is life,” said Carols-Zenen Trujillo, a theater student at Southern Oregon University. “He’s a Saint. A martyr.”
Trujillo’s intense admiration for Burrell is not unique to him. Theater students all over campus praise the Southern Oregon University alumn for his successful acting career. His inspiration to the students has not only raised a fan club but also the construction of a Ty Burrell shrine in Cascade Hall.
When Burrell himself heard about the altar, his reaction was humility. “The possibilities are endless,” he insisted. “I think everybody in that department should feel 100 percent like the possibilities are limitless for them because they are.”
To many students, especially those pursuing theater, Burrell represents achievement. “If he came here and became successful, why can’t everyone else,” Boulton asked. “It’s cool, and we make jokes about it, but he’s still just a guy.”
Nicholas Canepa described the infatuation with the actor as a culture. During the Fall production of “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” the cast and crew would say “praise Ty” if the show went well.
Background on Burrell
Tyler Gerald “Ty” Burrell, was born in Grants Pass Oregon. He first attended University of Oregon before he came to Southern Oregon University for two years and graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in Theatre Arts. The Emmy Award winning actor has been in productions from stage to big screen and is probably best known for his role in Modern Family. This fame, of course, is what made it so easy for the actor to become a legend among theater students.
According to Burrell, his statement “I credit SOU with my development as an actor,” which is printed on a promotional banner on campus is false. The banner once hung outside the theater building was stolen after construction on the facility began this past year.
He does, however, attribute at least some of his skills to his time in Ashland. “I don’t ever remember saying that. But SOU definitely had a hand in it. I would credit the University of Oregon, SOU, and Penn State for different reasons,” he said.
“The thing that was incredible about Southern Oregon University,” Burrell continued, “you were given a tremendous amount of autonomy. I could sort of develop my own point of view at SOU and that was really invaluable.”
He explained that he became interested in acting while working as a bartender at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He would go and watch the second acts of plays after intermissions and he gained a great admiration for what people do. “That’s why I first went to study acting—that in addition to the fact that my dad who had passed away recently before that had always said that I should give it a try.”
His longtime friend, SOU EMDA professor Miles Inada, found the shrine infinitely entertaining. “I think he loved going to school here,” said Inada. “In a way it’s hilarious, but it’s also kind of great because he’s a serious actor, he’s a dedicated actor.”
Jonah Thorpe-Kramp, the lead in the Spring Show “Peter and the Starcatcher,” said, “Ty Burrell is an example of why I can be an actor.”
“I admire his talent and down to earth approach to success,” said Meghan Nealon, one of the creators of the altar. “There’s no better way to build departmental camaraderie and spice up Cascade than with an alcove lovingly adorned for our favorite star.”
Burrell and his family come back to visit every year, and he has said he might try to stop by on his next trip.