From Monday, November 7, 2011 to Friday, November 11, 2011, professional actors and scenic designers from Stratford Shakespeare Festival shared their experience and expertise with graduate and undergraduate WSU Theatre students. The five-day residency included workshops for both acting and design students. Festival actors Seana McKenna and Laura Condlln led student actors into an exploration of text analysis, monologues, movement and character development through the lens of William Shakespeare’s work.
Second-year MFA actor Edmund Alyn Jones had this to say about his experience:
“I always look at workshops for acting as attending a great bonfire. You bring your little torch with hopes of capturing a bit of the flame to take it home with you. The bonfire in this case being the talented actresses from Stratford who graced us with their presence and blessed us with their knowledge. Just when one thinks one has a grasp on this Shakespeare guy, a couple of masters show you something new and exciting. I think the thing that stood out the most was how well they listened. Actors are constantly reminded how important listening is to their craft and these ladies proved it. I will have to say the highlight for me, though, was talking about the challenges of portraying Richard III with Seana. I explained to her I was still aching from the contortions I put myself through to pull off the deformed body. She showed me her walk. There was no tension, no distortion in her body. She used the natural movement of her body coupled with the appearance of imbalance to supply her Richard with that iconic limp. No tension, no distortion, just mastery of the body to supply the illusion -I have so much to learn.”
Additionally, festival designers Andrew Mestern and Jeff Scollon exposed student designers to challenge-solving techniques, as well as time management and budgeting strategies utilized in designing, building, and mounting productions in a repertory system.
This season marks the sixth year that Festival actors and teaching artists conducted workshops in Michigan cities. WSU’s Department of Theatre hopes to make the residency an annual opportunity for its students.