Feature Story: At Temple, pros act like – and for – students
by Peter Crimmins, for WHYY
A group of actors is rehearsing Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure at Temple University’s Tomlinson Theater.
One declaims the line, “In this life lie hid moe thousand deaths; yet death we fear, that makes these odds all even,” with perfect diction.
Yes, this production promises to be a cut above typical college theater.
The cast won’t be student actors, but professional actors who’ve become students.
To explain: Temple has a new two-year master’s program that targets experienced actors who want to learn to teach.
Part of the program involves taking on challenging material, like a full production of this Shakespeare comedy.
These “students” already have long lists of credits. They’re here because the new, two-year academic program targets will help them expand their careers into teaching while they hone their craft.
One of them is Geneviève Perrier. She knows well the fickle nature of the acting life. In 2008, she landed roles all year long, and won a local Barrymore Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. Then, in 2009, she got no work at all.
Perrier says if she can learn to teach, it could stabilize her career.
Perrier: “It’s quite a challenge to figure out how to articulate the thing you inherently know how to do. I’ve never had to explain it do anyone before. It’s a wonderful challenge.”
As part of the master’s program, these mid-career students will teach undergraduates as well as mount productions.
Program director Dan Kern says the program offers even experienced actors a chance to grow in ways that day-to-day life in show business does not.
Kern: “The whole mentality is about getting the job, not what do you do when you have the job. So even though these are accomplished mid-career professionals, when you start to work on issues like Measure For Measure – atough play – it provides huge challenges.”
Kern says that many actors discover the real-world business of acting has little room for the nuances of the craft, such as diction and vocal rhythm.
Kern: “In American acting, we tend to place greater emphasis on novelty and conceptual approaches. Newness and hipness is rewarded.”
The summer series begins in July with rotating performances of Shakespeare and Chekhov. Kern hopes to develop the summer series into a major repertory theater.