I was greatly saddened when I heard about the layoffs of University of Southern Maine professors and the recent major cutbacks to the Theatre Department. I want to add my name to the list of supporters of this amazing program.

After graduating from Portland High School, I was encouraged by my loving parents (Mike Johnson Sr., PATHS principal and former PHS principal, and Kelly Johnson, Reiche School educational technician) to continue my passion for acting by majoring in theater at the University of Southern Maine.

I graduated cum laude from USM in 2012 with my bachelor of arts in theater and was constantly guided, mentored and inspired by my professors.

I moved to Los Angeles a year and a half ago to pursue my dreams as an actor, and this was a direct result of the USM Theatre Department’s support for me as a college graduate. USM Theatre instilled in all of us a striving for excellence, professionalism and passion that still drives me today as a Mainer in Los Angeles.

As a result, I’m in Los Angeles chasing my dreams! I have a day job performing an educational children’s theater show that teaches kids about ways to protect the environment, and audition for TV and films.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the USM theater program.

An example of this excellence is Meghan Brodie. Meghan’s energy, artistic presence, brilliance, kindness and humor lit up any classroom she taught in. Taking classes and performing shows under the tutelage of a woman who earned her doctorate in theater from Cornell University was truly a gift.

USM is making a monumental mistake with these cutbacks and layoffs. Who knows how many more artists the program and these educators will inspire?

Mike Johnson Jr.

North Hollywood, Calif.