Tuesday, September 3, 2013

PAC Alumni Profile: Nathan Crosby

Great things are happening for 2010 graduate Nathan Crosby. He will be making his Portland Center Stage debut with Fiddler on the Roof this fall and he is a proud new member of Theatre Vertigo, joining the company's two other conservatory alums, Mario Calcagno (class of 2004) and Tom Mounsey (class of 2008).

Nathan Crosby

Taking a moment in between rehearsals, Nate recently shared some thoughts with us about his time at PAC and his love of theatre.

Nate, when did you first get started in theatre?

I got started in theatre my freshman year of high school. A pretty senior girl dragged me down to the drama department on the first day of school and forced me to sign up to audition for A Midsummer Night's Dream. When it came time to audition, I chickened out and didn't show up. I have regretted it ever since. It was a magical show, one that I have never forgotten. Suffice it to say, I have never missed another opportunity to audition!

Can you describe why you chose to attend PAC?

I chose PAC because the traditional 4 year college just was not doing it for me. I tend to devote all my energy to subjects and activities I am most interested in, and those that don't interest me can get rather neglected. So I decided the best way to fix this problem would be to go to a school where I could focus entirely on things that interested me.

What have you done since graduating from PAC?

I have done quite a bit since graduating from PAC. I was lucky enough to be hired by Artists Repertory Theatre right after graduation and have performed in at least one show a year with them ever since. I have worked several times with Northwest Classical Theatre, Profile Theatre, and CoHo Productions, along with several other companies around town.

I also just got cast for the first time at Portland Center Stage, and in a musical no less! Should be interesting. I am also a pretty handy guy with a wrench. If I am not on the stage, you can usually find me backstage at one theater or another hanging lights, doing what interests me.

How has the training you received here affected your life and career?

I got several of my best friends out of PAC. It really creates a special bond among its graduates. It also gave me a fantastic base of teachers and mentors I can go to and ask for advice or counsel when I need it.

What advice do you have for new acting students?

For new acting students I think the best advice I can give is be patient, listen, and fail as often and as hard as you can. You never know what works until you know what doesn't and why.

Any advice for recent PAC graduates?

For those that have just graduated and are headed out into the acting world, I would say: never miss an opportunity, you never know what will turn into a job. Diversify. What else are you good at? How can you market other skills you have? Can you juggle? Play pool really well? Do card tricks or stunt driving? Figure out how to make money doing it. And lastly, be patient. If you are constantly looking, people will notice, something will come along you did not even expect. It is very difficult to get no after no, but the one yes makes all the difference.

Nathan will be appearing this fall in Portland Center Stage's Fiddler on the Roof, which runs September 14 — October 27, and you can find him onstage with Theatre Vertigo for their 2013-14 Season!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

PAC Profiles Alumni Tom Mounsey

Since graduating from our two year professional actor training program in 2008, Tom Mounsey has been one of the most industrious actors in Portland. He took a moment to chat about how PAC changed his life and shared some words of wisdom for past, present and future PAC students.

When did you first get started in theatre?

I first got started in theatre when I took my first class at PAC. That was Acting Level I with Beth Harper herself in September 2006. Before then, the only onstage experience I had was in school plays that were required participation for
 all students. In quite a roundabout way, my decision to take that first class was related to my desire at the time to be the frontman of rock band! That's a story I will happily share in person if anyone is interested, but it is enough to say that since taking that first PAC class, I have never looked back.

Can you describe why you chose to attend PAC?

My decision to attend PAC as a "track student" (as we were known back then), was simply based on the experiences I had in that Level I acting class. I was pretty much hooked and had to get more, and enrolling as a track student was the way to get my fix.

What have you done since graduating from PAC?

Since graduating from PAC in 2008, I've been working in theatre in Portland pretty much constantly. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with a wide variety of companies and people over the last 5+ years, and last spring, I was honored to accept a position with Theatre Vertigo, where I remain a company member. Being a member of what I think of as an exciting ensemble has been wonderful so far, and I'm very excited for our upcoming season.

How has the training you received here affected your life and career?

Not to sound too hyperbolic, but the training I received at PAC changed the focus of my life! I still have my "day job," but when I took my first acting class at PAC, I didn't really have something in my life that I was passionate about. Now I feel comfortable describing myself as an actor, because that is where I focus my energies. Yes, I still work hard at being a software developer, but it is really now something I do so that I can pursue what has become my passion. To put it in the simplest terms, going to PAC led to me having an acting career, which I certainly did not have before.

What advice do you have for new acting students?

Wow, advice. Well, for new students, I would say the best thing you can do is to try not to shut anyone or anything out. I'm a pretty stubborn and opinionated person, and I also think I know what's best for me. I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing, but when you're setting out to learn, you can really only get everything out of it if you are willing to let it in. Even those things that seem like they don't apply to you. Maybe they don't, but maybe they do, in ways you would never have imagined if you hadn't let them happen.

Any advice for recent PAC graduates?

As for recent grads, well, when I graduated, I attended every audition I heard about, and accepted any role I was offered. There's certainly some debate over whether or not that is a good thing to do, but I know it was good for me. I quickly gained "real world" experience in the audition room and onstage, and made useful connections and friendships that I continue to enjoy. Having said that, at some point it is important to acknowledge that it is OK to know what you want and go for that, which will sometimes mean turning down roles. All of that aside, the most important advice I can give is this: be a decent person. I don't think it's a hard thing to do, but really just treat everyone you work with with respect and decency. Value other people's time, and trust me, they will value yours. Be polite, considerate, and kind, and don't be afraid to do a favor or two here and there. Those little acts come back to you when you need them. In a community like the theatre community in Portland, where everyone knows everyone, being a decent human being is one of the best career moves you can make.

Catch Tom on stage in Willamette Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (also featuring 2012 grad Bjorn Anderson) playing weekends, August 2-24 throughout the Willamette Valley wine country and in Portland.

Monday, July 8, 2013

PAC Profiles Alumni Jess Prichard

A 2006 graduate of our two year professional actor training program, Jess Prichard has gone on to great professional and academic success. We caught up with him recently to talk about what he is up to and what advice he has for past, present and future PAC students.
Jess Prichard

Jess is currently performing with the acclaimed Riverside Theatre in Iowa City, IA, playing Osric in Hamlet, directed by Kristen Horton, and Moses in The School for Scandal, directed by Theodore Swetz. Later this summer at Riverside, he will be playing Thomas Novacheck in Venus in Fur, directed by Sean Lewis.

This fall, Jess will be a guest teacher at Cornell College, leading workshops for the Riverside Theatre/Cornell College premier of Birth Witches by playwright Jennifer Fawcett, which will be directed by Milwaukee Repertory's Leda Hoffman.

We asked Jess to share some thoughts with us about his journey as an artist and his time at PAC: 

Where is your hometown and where do you now reside? 

I was born and raised  in Los Angeles, California. I'm currently a resident of Iowa City, Iowa and am working with Riverside Theatre, so I'll call this "home" for a little while. Over the last year, I've lived in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin while acting with companies such as The Great River Shakespeare Festival and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. When audition forms ask for a permanent address, I jokingly write "transient." 

Can you describe why you chose to attend Portland Actors Conservatory? 

I was fortunate to have Beth Harper as my first acting teacher while I was a senior at Lewis & Clark College. Just before finishing my BA, Beth invited me to continue training at PAC. I'll never forget that conversation, it started me on this wonderful journey. I chose to attend because it was, and is, the most complete actor training program in Portland. 

What have you done since graduating from PAC? 

I was an actor in Portland for three years after PAC, working with Profile Theatre,  Mt Hood Rep, Artists Repertory and others. I was inspired by my work with Philip Cuomo at PAC and pursued clowning on a professional level. I became a company member at Imago Theatre and then  left Portland to complete an MFA in classical acting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I've been working in regional theatre since. 

How has the training you received here affected your life and career? 

PAC training guided me to where I am. Maureen Porter said "If you want to be great, place yourself near those who are great." It's been a great maxim to follow. When I was looking for a graduate program, Beth's advice led me to Illinois. Each time I work on a comedy I thank the heavens for studying with Philip, hearing his voice in my head guide me to a laugh. I've started to teach acting recently and Philip has been mentoring me in a new way.  PAC is family and it's reassuring to know I can return for support when I need it.

It sounds cliche, but the training is a gift that keeps giving. I have "Ah Ha" moments in rehearsal or performance when I realize "Ohhhhh, THAT'S what they meant back at PAC!" Beth once told me "It takes twenty years to be a good actor." I'm just now starting to see what she meant. 

What advice do you have for new acting students? 

Embrace your failure, be a "yes,"  and remember: you are your preparation. Failure is a requisite for artistry so get started ASAP. Being a "yes" will open doors and bring you places you never imagined. I promise. And prepare, prepare, prepare because "you play like you practice." Opportunity is fickle and fleeting, but it will embrace you if your are prepared. 

Any advice for recent PAC graduates? 

This career is a marathon, not a sprint. Ask yourself, "Where do I want to be in twenty years? In ten? In five? In  two?" Then ask, "OK, what do I have to do to get there?" You'll begin imagining the steps you'll need  to achieve these goals and then shape your life to make these steps. Above all, trust that you have a strong foundation from Portland Actors Conservatory training.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Whether you’re brand new to acting or an accomplished young thespian between the ages of eight and 18, Portland Actors Conservatory has a summer camp that will challenge and inspire you. Choose from our upper level, 1½ week Advanced Actor Intensive, or our traditional Summer on Stage 2 ½ week sessions culminating in performance for daylong participants. Whatever your choice, you’ll get hands-on training from accomplished professionals culminating in a final presentation before an audience. Each experience provides an in-depth exploration of the fun and fundamentals of acting, and no audition is required.

Summer on Stage 2012

NEW!! Advanced Actor Intensive
(Limited to 14 students, SOS alumni/approval of Artistic Director)
For the young actor who has completed at least one summer of SOS or similar training and is ready to take their skills to the next level, our advanced summer acting camp will provide more in-depth focus on technique and performance. Instructor: Andrea White.

Summer on Stage
(for ages 8 to 18) 
Choose one or double up on this 2 1/2-week camp. Get a taste of the Conservatory experience with morning technique classes and afternoon rehearsals. Try out Shakespeare or co-create an original play with an ensemble.

Apply now! Scholarships and discounts available. For more information go to:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

An interview with Connor Kerns, author of "Imaginative Doing"

A long-time Portland Actors Conservatory faculty member, Artistic Director of Quintessence: Language & Imagination Theatre, and the author of Imaginative Doing: Collected essays on Acting, Connor Kerns was kind enough to answer some of our questions about his new book, and how it reflects his philosophy and his work.

Connor Kerns
PAC: Connor, what inspired you to write this book? 

CK: The book is a result of many years of practical work, as a teacher of actors and directors, and as a theatre director and voice director for our theatre company, Quintessence: Language & Imagination Theatre. My editor, who is an actor [PAC Alum Anna Xenokrati], calls it a ‘handbook.’ In other words, it can be held in your hand while you’re working on your feet; it wasn’t intended as something you sit and read, and then file on your shelf. Inspiration is a great word—“what inspired me?”—because of course breathing in (inspiring) and speaking out (expiring) are what actors do. And my core passion is the power of words. So how do actors (and directors, playwrights, teachers, voice directors, etc.) work so that the character’s objective is alive at the moment of speaking?

PAC: As a collection of essays, are there are parts that have been “in process” for years?

CK: Yes, the essays in the book are observations and techniques--or exercises, if you will--that have proven successful over the years. I started teaching at PAC in 1994, and Quintessence was formed in 2001. So over those years I took notes and tried these methods to help me efficiently use class and rehearsal time. Also, I write down things almost reflexively because I’m a writer. Plus, I have a terrible memory…

PAC: What sets “Imaginative Doing” apart from other similar acting books?

CK: Acting, like everything else it seems, keeps becoming more specialized. Many evolving acting approaches stress elements other than the words. Maybe what’s different about this handbook is that everything in it integrates voice and text with a good, basic American approach to acting. It also attempts to engage the right brain, and creativity. Selfishly, as a director/teacher I want to see and hear theatre full of what I like. And who would want a dull, laborious, wasteful approach to doing their acting work? Doesn’t “Imaginative Doing” sound better? Insert slogan here…!

PAC: How do the topics discussed in the books translate to your teaching and classroom work?

CK: Very closely. But without the profanity. Although happily the editor left in many of my little idiosyncrasies….but a book isn’t the same as a teacher. It was invaluable for me to work in person with my own mentor, Cicely Berry, and I learned and progressed in intangible ways in her company. I guess what I mean is that somehow the work deepens when you are in the room with the teacher. But I use her books all the time; they are a constant source of ideas, new directions, and jogs of the memory (which, as you recall, is terrible). So I think those who study with me will probably find a different level. However, there’s no doubt that there will be things in any good acting book that are useful. If you gain one new tool or exercise or insight, it’s worth it.

PAC: How is the book a reflection of your directing style?

CK: I think in directing it’s important to create a clear, somewhat flexible structure (space and time). Within that framework, there can then be great imaginative freedom. At Quintessence, we put the word at the center of the work—we are opening up the language in every rehearsal. Maybe we should call actors ‘players’ again, as in the old days. The handbook will encourage actors to play, which is what I strive for when I direct.

PAC: As you say, you are deeply connected with words. How does the text inspire you on stage? Do you have any insights or tips about how someone who is struggling with the text might become connected?

CK: I often ask actors, “What is your relationship to language?” My point is that most people’s relationship to language has deteriorated drastically since, say, Shakespeare’s time. Actors have a lot of work to do—working their muscles, learning the fundamentals of the forms of writing, rooting themselves and their breath, and then taking risks in the speaking. When an actor fully realizes a character, it comes forth not just through their specific movements and gestures, it comes through their whole body, including the voice. I would say actors struggle with text because text isn’t a central or integrated part of their rehearsal work. Oh, maybe that should be the slogan for the book!

PAC: You talk about collaboration. What are some of the biggest challenges with collaboration?

CK: Collaborating means everyone buys in to the expectations and the approach. It means people respect each other. I sometimes wonder how anyone gets along with anyone else for more than a few hours. Collaborating is like traveling with others: that’s when you find out if you can be around them or not!

Imaginative Doing: Collected Essays on Acting is available online at Powell’s Books, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.