Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's HERE! Our 26th Anniversary Season of Plays Announcement


PCS’ Riordan Guest Directs at Oregon's Only Professional Actor Training Program

PORTLAND, ORE. – Oct. 7, 2010 – Portland Actors Conservatory’s 26th Anniversary season of plays champions playwrights new and old with high-pitched satire, classic Shakespearian farce and contemporary theatrical reinvention. As part of its unique model of integrating professional and student actors in their second year of professional training, The Conservatory will produce "Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them," by Christopher Durang, William Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” and Sarah Ruhl’s “Passion Play,” directed by Portland Center Stage associate artistic director Rose Riordan.

The Illustrious Class of 2011
“The playwrights in our season offer our students an incredible range of voices for our professional actors-in-training to embody,” said Beth Harper, artistic director. “As an indispensible component of our course of study, performance closes the loop between theory and practice. These carefully chosen works and give our students access to American theater that is at once comprehensive, contemporary, and challenging in all the right ways.”
Durang’s 2009 "Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them” was dubbed “a hilarious and disturbing new comedy about all-American violence” by the New York Times (April 7, 2009) when first produced at The Public Theatre. This absurdist domestic piece from the author of beloved 1980s side-splitters "Sister Mary Ignatius,” “Beyond Therapy,” “The Actors Nightmare,” “The Marriage of Bette and Boo,” takes on post-9/11 paranoia and preoccupation with torture in characteristic Durang fashion. Anxiety and irreverence are never as funny as they are in Durang’s hands. ‘Torture’ runs Dec. 1 through 19, directed by Beth Harper.

In Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors,” directed by faculty member Philip Cuomo, Egeon has a day to scour Syracuse for the ransom that will save his life and find the missing half of his family lost at sea 33 years ago. In his way are twin slaves, a Courtesean, a gold chain, and the mistaken identity politics that make this farce definitively Shakespearean. An entire town is beguiled and horrified by the characters’ seemingly magical powers as slapstick physicality prompts us to reexamine what we think we know. “Comedy of Errors” runs February 16 through March 6, 2011.

Director Rose Riordan, associate artistic director of Portland Center Stage, directs the Conservatory’s third selection, “Passion Play,” by Sarah Ruhl. This epic panorama of amateur actors participating in re-enactments of Christ's Passion portrays productions of the ritualized Christian drama taking place in 16th-century England, Germany in 1934, and 1969’s South Dakota Black Hills. “‘Passion Play’ is the most exciting, stimulating, and thrilling piece of theater to hit New York since ‘Angels in America,’” Backstage wrote earlier this year. “Passion Play” follows the Conservatory’s critically acclaimed 2010 production of “Melancholy Play” by the 2006 MacArthur Fellow. “Passion Play” runs April 13 through May 1, 2011.

In traditional, Conservatory fashion the Class of 2011 will select and produce monologue and scene selections for its Graduation Showcase May 18 through 21, 2011. The showcase marks the culmination of two years of fulltime professional acting training.

2010-2011 Portland Actors Conservatory Season of Plays
  • Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them by Christopher Durang
    Director: Beth Harper
  • The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
    Director: Philip Cuomo
  • Passion Play
    Director: Rose Riordan
  • Graduation Showcase
    Director: Class of 2011 and Cristi Miles
All productions take place at Portland Actors Conservatory’s Firehouse Theatre, 1436 SW Montgomery St., Portland, Ore., 97201. Order tickets online, or by calling (503) 274- 1717; tickets range from $13-25 and season subscriptions are available for $50 to $80.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Portland Actors Conservatory is the premiere school for professional actor training in the Pacific Northwest. Artistic director Beth Harper leads the Conservatory's multiple offerings including its fulltime, Two Year Professional Training Program, ongoing Studio Class offerings, and the Summer on Stage youth theatre program. Portland Actors Conservatory provides the highest standard in actor training with distinguished faculty including Beth Harper, Connor Kerns, Philip Cuomo, and Michael Mendelson among others. The Conservatory is located near Portland, Ore.'s city center in the historic Firehouse Theatre, housing an upstairs studio space as well an intimate 70-seat theatre. Portland Actors Conservatory annually produces a three show season featuring its second year students working alongside professional guest artists, in addition to two student showcases. Portland Actors Conservatory is Oregon's only independent professional actor training school accredited with the National Association of Schools of Theatre.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 1: Meisner Technique = No Makeup, No Masks

Meisner Technique teacher Michael Mendelson pulled no punches yesterday in addressing our First Year students on the first day of class:
Michael Mendelson
"There are currently 17 of you. Some of you will not be asked back at the end of this year. And of those who make it to the Second Year, not all will work as actors...To give you a frame of reference, there were ten students in my graduate acting company at the University of Washington. Four are still working."
It was bad enough that none of the girls were wearing makeup and the boys all had to shave off any facial hair - Michael's required "undress code" for Meisner's brutal honesty.
But then came something even scarier: sitting in front of an audience with nothing to do.

 You'd be surprised how nerve-wracking this "simple" exercise is: sit in a chair for three minutes facing the class. Know how long three minutes is? A heck of a long time when you're being looked at. Nervous ticks start to emerge at about 40 seconds, then excruciating pain at minute two. By minute three, it's not unheard of to be experiencing some serious, and very unexpected, emotions.

Image courtesy Joanne Baron / D.W. Brown Studio

Like manna from heaven, Michael then gives the hotseat-scalded student something to do. It is a simple activity, like separating and counting coins or rolling for a Yahzee! (what's that? they say).

Instantly, the face previously contorted in attempted control becomes relaxed, expressive. Kind of like you want to feel on stage...

Who WAS this Meisner guy and what was he thinking?

Start here.