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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Student Profile: SAMSON SYHARATH

This spring, PAC will feature blog profiles of our second-year conservatory students. These students will be graduating in May 2013 and launching their professional acting careers. Here, they share with us their origins, goals, and insights into acting and life as a student at Portland Actors Conservatory.

Samson Syharath
Photo: Owen Carey


PAC: What is your educational background, and where is your hometown?

Samson: I went to Mansfield High School, and then graduated from the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, Fort Smith, Arkansas.

PAC: When did you know you wanted to be an actor and how did you get started acting?

Samson: In college, I took a theatre class and my professor encouraged me to audition for the original play he had created. The rehearsal process brought me closer to the people in my ensemble, closer than I had ever gotten to anyone in my life. After the performance, at the very first curtain call, I felt an energy from both the ensemble and the audience. After the show, strangers would come up to me and tell me how the production had really touched them and changed the way they see things. Acting showed me that I have the power to communicate and really reach out to people.

PAC: How would you describe what you are learning here at PAC?

Samson: I have learned how my body and voice are instruments and how to use my instrument. I’ve learned techniques to get my voice, mind, and body connected and in tune with each other, and most importantly, how to put all the techniques I’ve learned to practice.
Samson (center front) in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.
Photo: Gary Norman

PAC: What interests or excites you most about acting?

Samson: I would love to be able to reach out to people and change someone’s life. I love making people smile and laugh. I even love making people cry. Being able to feel and connect to human emotions is a joy for me and I would like to share that.

PAC: What scares or challenges you most about acting, and how do you deal with that?

Samson: Trying to connect to a character that I don’t “like” or that I disagree with is a challenge. But I have to realize that the character is that way for a reason. I have to find a perspective that works for me and find out why this character is the way he is.

PAC: What has been your most memorable experience at PAC so far?

Samson: In an acting class, I was so in the moment, so in character, that my actions and voice were so out of character for “Nice Samson” that it scared me. It surprised my scene partner and the entire class. The idea that I could have such power and that I never used it until then was a revelation for me.

Samson (second from left) in A Bright Room Called Day.
Photo: Gary Norman
PAC: What are your plans after graduating from PAC? What do you want to be doing 10 years from now?

Samson: I plan on sticking around Portland for a while and act around town. I hope to get my master's, and teach. As I mentioned, I love reaching out to people and teachers are some of the most underappreciated, yet influential people.

PAC: If you could go back in time to your first day at PAC, what advice would you give your past self?

Samson: Stop worrying. If you do all your work, all that’s left to do is play.

Samson (right) will be onstage in subUrbia in April 2013.
Photo: Owen Carey

Friday, March 8, 2013

Student Profile: JARED BAKER

This spring, PAC will be featuring blog profiles of our second-year conservatory students. These students will be graduating in May 2013 and launching their professional acting careers. Here, they share with us their origins, goals, and insights into acting and life as a student at Portland Actors Conservatory.

Jared Baker
Photo: Owen Carey

PAC: What is your educational background, and where is your hometown?

Jared: I went to Riverdale High School and then the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for my B.A. in Theater, and my hometown is Muscoda, WI.

PAC: When did you know you wanted to be an actor and how did you get started acting?

Jared: I didn't start to think of myself being an actor for a living until I was in my third Theater course at UWP and realized that this is what I could and want to do for the rest of my life. I first started acting in a "College for Kids" theater class and ended up getting cast as the mother in the play.

PAC: How would you describe what you are learning here at PAC?

Jared Baker (seated) in A Bright Room Called Day.
Photo: Gary Norman

Jared: At PAC we are learning many different techniques and styles that can be used for acting, but most of all we are learning about ourselves in these classes and what we can do to become better actors.

PAC: What interests or excites you most about acting?

Jared: What I love about acting is when I find out or figure out one of the secrets of the character and then I get to apply it to the lines or action that I have on stage. It's one of those moments where I am able to start creating what the character is thinking or why they are behaving the way they are.

PAC: What scares or challenges you most about acting, and how do you deal with that?

Jared: What challenges me the most in acting is any text in verse because it is what I have had the least experience and work with.  However, after a whole semester of work with it and a lot of guidelines of how to approach the text I feel much more confident in performing verse, but I will always work twice as hard on it just to be comfortable with it.

PAC: What has been your most memorable experience at PAC so far?

Jared: My most memorable experience at PAC would have to be when we did the Auditions at the end of the first year.  It was the enjoyment of being able to show off all the hard work that we had been doing that semester and using all the tools we learned over the year.

Jared (second from left) will appear in subUrbia this April.
Photo: Owen Carey.
PAC: What are your plans after graduating from PAC? What do you want to be doing 10 years from now?

Jared: After I graduate from PAC I will be moving back to the Midwest and will be trying to establish myself in Chicago. In 10 years I hope to be busy acting in the theaters in Chicago and possibly doing some teaching.

PAC: If you could go back in time to your first day at PAC, what advice would you give your past self?

Jared: If I could tell myself something on Day 1 at PAC it would be: There is no right answer and just let it rip.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Student Profile: LEXI DESCHENE

This spring, PAC will be featuring blog profiles of our second-year conservatory students. These students will be graduating in May 2013 and launching their professional acting careers. Here, they share with us their origins, goals, and insights into acting and life as a student at Portland Actors Conservatory.

Lexi Deschene
Photo: Owen Carey

PAC: What is your educational background and where is your hometown?

Lexi: I graduated from Pinkerton Academy in my hometown of Derry, New Hampshire, in 2009. I knew I wanted a college experience that would completely immerse me in theatre, but I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for until I saw a notice for PAC interviews being held in Boston.

PAC: When did you know you wanted to be an actor and how did you get started acting?

Lexi: I don't come from a particularly creative family, and I'm certainly the only performer, but I think they realized I wanted to be an actor before I even knew what that meant. I do have an aunt that is very boisterous and theatrical, and whenever she'd babysit me, I'd bounce around singing to her Leslie Gore albums and the soundtracks of my animated movies. Eventually, I decided that I was Belle. And Pocahontas. And Esmeralda. I was basically on board with any brunette Disney could throw at me. I was too young to recognize that as the early stages of "acting," but my parents decided it would be a good idea to steer me in the direction of theatre, and my first show was "Cinderella" at the age of eight; not a brunette, but still in the Disney neighborhood. Eventually my aunt began managing a theatre that housed national tours, and she would get me front-row tickets to every single show that came through, even the ones I was probably a little young for. I'm sure my parents were thrilled with my obsession with Rizzo in "Grease" halfway through elementary school. Even so, nobody ever tried to keep me away from theatre, and by the time I was old enough to realize that a career in this field would take serious effort, I was too in love with it to give it a second thought.

PAC: How would you describe what you are learning here at PAC?

Catherine Ross and Lexi Deschene in A Bright Room Called Day
Photo: Gary Norman
Lexi: There are hundreds of different keys you can use to unlock the door to a character. Each teacher at PAC is dedicated to providing you with as many keys as possible, each focusing on the ones they believe to be most helpful, and you're given room to find exactly which ones fit your particular lock.

PAC: What interests or excites you most about acting?

Lexi: Actors have the special ability to sample as many lives as we can during our time on earth. I live out situations I would never find myself in offstage, and I'm introduced to hidden, undeveloped aspects of my own self when I surrender to the thoughts and emotions of characters I play. Even the roles I believe to be the furthest away from who I am are able to touch a spark of truth inside of me that I may never have acknowledged otherwise, and I have a richer life experience because of it.

PAC: What scares or challenges you most about acting, and how do you deal with that?

Lexi: There are shields we develop as we move through the world that defend us from emotional vulnerability; it's both a blessing and a curse to learn that the most vital part of a truthful performance is accessibility to the "negative" emotions we try to save ourselves from. Making the choice to lower my shields is always scary and challenging, but the outcome is never disappointing. The only way to affect an audience is to allow yourself to be affected.

PAC: What has been your most memorable experience at PAC so far?

Lexi: Watching last year's graduating class perform their final show was really special to me; it shifted my frame of mind from "look at everything they learned" to "look at everything I'm learning," and inspired me to refocus and aspire to the level of performance I saw them reach, both as individuals and as an ensemble. 

PAC: What are your plans after graduating from PAC? What do you want to be doing 10 years from now?

Lexi: After completing the program at PAC, I'd like to go home and earn a BFA from Emerson College in Boston, where I hope to build a career as an actor.

PAC: If you could go back in time to your first day at PAC, what advice would you give your past self?

LEXI: Give yourself time to find your key. Some things will speak to you and some things won't, but just like your characters, there's a spark of truth in all of it.

Lexi Deschene (Center) in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Photo: Gary Norman

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Creating Authentic Behavior

Artistic Director Beth Harper discusses her approach to teaching Acting One in the first year of the conservatory's two-year professional training program.

How does one go about creating authentic behavior? Stanislavski believed that truth in acting is not the same as simply recreating everyday life. Truthful acting on stage must be compelling to an audience and, as such, is rarely the mundane behavior common in everyday life. The power, the urgency and the heightened "stakes" of a fictional character's circumstances must be realized, leading the actor to a compelling characterization. 
Beth Harper and Grace Mikolavich

Stanislavski was clear to point out that an actor's job is not to believe that he is, in fact, actually Hamlet. The actor, rather, must immerse himself in the imaginary circumstances he has created through his research, work on objectives, and employment of emotional and sense memory to create the "truth" of Hamlet for himself in the performance.

I believe that an actor must know him or herself. The truth is, an actor will never ever become another person. That is an impossibility. Often I hear actors say that they got lost in their character. What does that mean? For if you are lost...where are you? If I am acting with you, I need you in the room with me, I need you to need me. It is my hope that we get found in our characters and have the presence of mind to stay open to all the possibilities that are right in front of us. It will ultimately be the living, breathing actor taking on and making her own the behavior of another person. Where does one begin? I think we start with what we know best...ourselves.

Through the exploration of the NEED scene (a moment of high stakes in the own artist's life) actors soon discover that they organically experience the concepts of need, obstacle and tactic, and can more readily be available to apply it to “character.” However, character is just an idea unless you can apply it to moment-to-moment life. What does the character do or how do they behave in an imaginary set of circumstances?

By engaging their impulses, intelligence and imagination, the actor explores the specific physical and emotional life of a character. The artist must master the ability to be present in the moment and play their active actions to, for and with their fellow player, while simultaneously respecting the given circumstances of the world that they are playing in.

Thus, the basic building blocks of the acting process are:

Beth Harper directs Holy Ghosts at PAC, 2012
  • the vocabulary and execution of objective, obstacle and tactic;
  • flexibility, imagination and sensory awareness;
  • being present in their own skin;
  • surrendering to a set of imaginary circumstances;
  • the ability to receive and adjust to another person's behavior;
  • and the skill set to execute a comprehensive beat analysis and most importantly be able to to translate their beat work into active and honest action and moment to moment life.
These are the skills an actor needs to create authentic behavior.

Monday, January 28, 2013

URTA NYC Auditions - If I Can Make it There...

Executive Director Philip Cuomo is in New York City for the University/Resident Theatre Association (URTA) auditions. Here are his thoughts from the first day:

Sitting in the lobby of the Times Square Hilton Hotel, I am surrounded by excited student actors, many of whom participated in the screening audition yesterday. They performed two contrasting monologues for two auditors. Later in the evening they were notified if they were accepted to participate in the final auditions.

The majority of them heard "No."

For most of those students this was their first major rejection. Many of them are used to the positive feedback they received in their undergraduate programs. They spent weeks choosing monologues and working with teachers to develop those pieces. They spent much of their student budgets traveling to New York City: paying for transportation, hotels and food. And now they are told they won’t make it to the final audition.

But it’s not over yet. They are lucky because three years ago URTA began an open call, in which the students not accepted for the final audition may participate.

Though instead of performing two contrasting monologues in a comfortable five minutes, they have 60 seconds to perform whatever material they desire. Forget the work done with their teachers back at school, forget the 2-minute comic monologue that kills, or the 2-minute dramatic monologue that they know would bring people to tears if they had one more chance to perform it. They march in one after the other in a brisk 110-120 seconds of steady introductions, identification of material and edited performance.

The open call is a difficult environment for aspiring and seasoned actors alike. The student actors wait in a large conference room, the nervous energy thick like smoke, and then they march into another large conference room, with terrible acoustics and auditors facing them from rows of folding chairs.

But these students are lucky – they have another chance. In the years before the open call, students not participating in the finals were sent home, not seen by any schools. I know the effects of this type of rejection, because I failed to be accepted into the final auditions three years in a row.

Yet I was successful making a life in the theatre. Like the successful young actors participating in this year’s open call, I hustled. I determinedly found the training and experience I needed and I persevered.

I am grateful to represent Portland Actors Conservatory at the URTA auditions in New York this winter. I have the chance to see many talented young actors express themselves. I will talk to several of them and educate them a bit about our conservatory program, and most importantly remind them they were seen by a successful theatre artist who recognized something specific in them.

I will be looking for the actor who states their name with confidence and charm, who commits fully to the circumstances of their text, who speaks their dialogue with conviction and simple clarity, who makes active choice, allowing energy to flow freely through their instrument and resonate among the rows of folding chairs. I am certain that today out of the hundred plus young actors that I will see, several of them will go on to have even more successful a life in the theatre than I am enjoying. I am glad to be a part of their journey.