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 Featured Performance

Henry IV Trojan Women


The Performance Process

Henry IV Parts 1&2 by William Shakespeare
Adapted by Dakin Matthews
Directed by Gerald Freedman

The Trojan Women by Euripides
Adapted by Brendan Kennelly
Directed by John Langs

As actors in training, we thrive on the challenge of taking our class work into the demands of performance. When working on a play, we hunger to be pushed beyond our known limitations – by our directors, by our faculty and by the material itself. We want to emerge from a process more skilled in our acting craft and bolder in our artistry.

Here at UNCSA, our plays are carefully chosen and cast by Dean Gerald Freedman. He tailors the season to address the specific acting needs of that year’s students. From our first reading to closing night, each play offers us a chance to expand upon our strengths, as well as practice daily those areas that do not come as easily to us. Our faculty and guest directors use the performance process to work us harder than we think possible – to put us through the fire so that we can emerge from school ready to enter the profession.

What are the elements of the “fire” we go through? The kindling is composed of the acting craft – the rigor of which includes voice and speech, text work, singing, physical training, stage combat. The spark is ignited by the play’s unique content. The interplay of craft and content together create the flame, a raging heat that forges our artistry, broadening the only acting instrument we have – ourselves.  

The integrated demands of craft and content were exemplified in spring 2008 when Studio III and IV, college juniors and seniors, did two plays unearthing the ramifications of war: Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts I and II and The Trojan Women. Both plays offered vast craft challenges. At the same time, both plays made us face the complexity of war. Working on these great plays affected us as actors and as people. The texts dared us be actors who embody the stories that play out in our world every day. We emerged stronger in our acting and bolder in our sense of the world. As our work shaped the plays, so did the plays shape us. And thus our training continues… .

Mollye Maxner and Sam Mandelbaum
(Directing Program ’09)

Quotes from the Process of HENRY IV, Parts 1&2

“With over 1,800 lines of text, 33 actors, and clocking in at 3.5 hours – this play was a feat and a thrill.”  -- Sam Mandelbaum ’09

“The fun for me was finding a way to turn a dozen or so lines into a full life onstage. And what I found was that I had all the tools to do that. The way Shakespeare wrote is chock full of specific information, and now I know how to use it all to bring life to it. I was surprised with myself that I could be so active while so silent. And that I was actually a really big part of the show.” -- Spencer Trinwith ’09

“This was a special experience because it offered the opportunity to work with such a huge group of guys – that stretched across three whole studios – on what is very much a man’s play. Certainly the play represents the experience of women in war: that’s actually a big part. But it tells the truth about the power politics of a system that was very much made for and run by men and ultimately made lousy by men. Which is what makes it relatable today. It was written in what seems such a long time ago, but was fully staged, costumed, designed, and in all ways treated as a play about today, and it worked! It was proof of the flexibility and versatility of Shakespeare’s language when you have the tools to treat it with the respect it deserves.” -- Brynne Morris ’09

“Me being the impatient young actor that I was (and often still am), I wanted the show to be fully staged and handed to me on a silver platter. Gerald, however, saw the show as another teaching opportunity, an extension of what was taught in class. He told me, ‘I could stage this show in two weeks if I wanted to. But you wouldn't LEARN ANYTHING from that!’  The work that went into Henry IV was my first real glimpse of what I am responsible for as a professional actor.  It was a very small understanding that has slowly grown and will continue to (slowly) grow. -- Jake Lacey ’08

“Falstaff was one of the best gifts I've ever gotten. It was darn humbling to be uttering what is arguably some of the greatest text ever written. There I was, a small, inarticulate 21-year-old playing a fat man in his sixties who ate wit for breakfast!” -- Wesley Taylor ’08

“The incredibly difficult 20-minute stage combat sequence was more demanding of the actors than anything I have yet witnessed in regional or Broadway shows. -- Ben Gunderson ’09

“I played a wife giving my husband away to a war that I didn’t necessarily believe in. This act connected me to women throughout the ages and in our present time throughout the globe. This is an incredibly relevant issue that I am glad I had to face through this production.

“My role as Lady Mortimer spoke not in English but in Welsh. Because of my voice training with Mary Irwin, I was able speak the truth of this character by putting my intentions through the vowels and consonants. Without actually being versed in the language of Welsh, I could find my truthful means of communication.” -- Rachel Wallace ’09

“Where else can you to go to school and get the chance to work with people who have as much experience with Shakespeare as Gerald Freedman and Mary Irwin? They get you to live the text truthfully.” -- Andy Hassel ’09

See the photo Gallery of HENRY IV, Parts 1&2

Quotes from the Process of The Trojan Women

 “Trojan Women opened my eyes to a part of the world and a part of myself that we often hide from – fear, pain, and the terror of violence. The process, which included hours of discussion about war and genocide across the globe, made me realize my impact as an artist in telling stories. John Langs, our guest director, called upon us to treat this play as an opportunity to give voice to the stories of people who must remain silent. Through the process, I became aware of the power of oral tradition – how it connects people that may have never met. Every night we performed Trojan Women, I believed in our power to make a difference. Maybe as actors we can offer new endings to the tragedies that people experience worldwide.” -- Hayley Treider ’09

Trojan Women was undoubtedly the most transformational experience for me as an actress. John Langs pushed me in ways I never knew I could go.  He also provided a very strong foundation as to exactly how to work on a play of this size, and how to use the complex and poetic language to its utmost potential.  It was a life-changing experience for me, not only as an actress, but as a woman and as a human.” -- Lauren Culpepper ’08

 “This process was an experience that wasn’t about school, that wasn’t about us. It was bigger. It transcended the purpose of ‘actor training.’ We didn’t lose touch with what the playwright (three millennia ago!) had to say. There was a thrilling forward motion to the whole time.

“I wasn't always focusing on my growth as an actor. John made the process about getting a message across, and somehow I grew as an actor because of it. I was totally reinvigorated. John expected us to approach the work as professionals. This man was saying you had a reason.
“John was so unafraid to call us on all of our shortcuts; he nailed us on our bad habits. What was important to him was ‘the initial deepest storytelling impulse’ being heard. The process had guts. And we had to meet that.” -- Joshua Morgan ’09

See the Photo Gallery of The Trojan Women