Next month, Lawrence will have the pleasure to welcome back the veteran acting troupe Actors from the London Stage. Part of the ACTER educational group (A Center for Theatre, Education, and Research), the troupe has been performing Shakespearean theatre at Lawrence for years. The ACTER organization brings performances to campuses worldwide and is based on the idea of spreading education about theatre. Actors teach classes, act themselves, and direct others toward improving their ability to express the emotion behind the characters. Actors from the London Stage fulfills these goals of ACTER.
This year ACTER will be presenting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which is also the theatre focus of this year’s freshman studies program. The concurrent freshman studies program allows for workshops and group talks with the actors about text that is familiar to the students. There will be sections on both Oct. 29 and Oct. 31 where freshman studies groups meet in designated spots to work over aspects of the play. On Nov. 1, a full group program, which usually involves staging sections of the play with 200-300 students, will be a requirement of the freshman studies program.
For those students who have already experienced freshman studies, there are other chances to meet with the actors and discuss the performance. Tickets for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are available through the box office. Also, the ACTER program includes a “One Hander” performance. This is program done by one of the actors and presents some other form of performance. This year, Alexandra Lilley will be reading Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” on Oct. 30 at 7:00 p.m. at the Coffeehouse.
Some students may also have the chance to work with the group in other classes. Those in Janet Anthony’s cello studio, Tim Troy’s voice and diction class, Patrice Micheals’s intro to musical theatre class, or Dave Owens’s stagecraft class will have in-class sessions during regular class times. The five actors from the group will be going to classes for these presentations. Although they are currently performing Shakespeare, all five actors have training and experience outside Shakespearean techniques to offer at the workshops.
The performers, associated with AFLS, are all veterans of classical theatre, with experience in companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre. Part of the focus of these performances is to show the general ability of the actors, who project character without the use of elaborate costumes or sets. The five actors use this versatility to project multiple characters in varying plays and spaces across the nation. During their residencies, they hope to help students apply this to their acting and be able to express character through the body.
Sean Gilder trained at the Webber Douglas Academy and studied at the University of London. His wide range of roles includes multiple productions with the English Shakespeare Company and a frequent role as Styles in A&E’s Horatio Hornblower. He also recently finished production on the upcoming Martin Scorcese film, The Gangs of New York. This is his first tour with Actors from the London Stage.
Lilley will also help conducting this year’s student workshop. Trained in drama at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Lilley received a B.A. with honors in drama at the University of Manchester. She also has experience in Radio Theatre and has played several parts in BBC Radio’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “An Ideal Husband.” This is also Lilley’s first tour with this group.
Suzanne Packer, a graduate of theatre studies and dramatic arts from the University of Warwick, has worked with Actors from the London Stage since her 1997 tour of “Measure for Measure.” She also has extensive experience outside of Shakespearean theatre and recently finished an appearance in “Aenid.”
Paul Panting, also trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, was a member of the BBC Radio Repertory Company and his theatre experience includes both classical acting and his own one-man show, “Jumping Shoes.” He has also been involved with voicing in animations, including the remake of Watership Down, where he plays Hazel. This is Paul’s first tour with Actors from the London Stage.
Matthew Radford studied at Exeter University. His experiences include adapting Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonis” and playing quite a few roles for the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow. His first ACTER tour was the 1999 tour of “Twelfth Night.”
This production may seem familiar to students here at Lawrence. ACTER has frequently performed here. Their first production here was a production of “Twelfth Night” back in 1984. Since then they have made many appearances here, including productions of “Hamlet,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Tempest,” and last year’s “As You Like It.” The funding for bringing the group to campus comes from the Barber Endowment, which sets aside money to guarantee quality performances on campus.
This year’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is open to students, with tickets available at the box office. Tickets will be $10 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and students, and free to LU students and faculty. Performances are at 7:35 p.m. Nov. 1 and 2, and at 2:35 p.m. on Nov. 3.