U and Guthrie team up to prepare young actors

Juliette Crane

For the first time this fall the University will offer an intensive actor training program to allow students to work directly with the Guthrie Theater’s artistic staff.
The four-year B.F.A. program gives incoming freshmen the opportunity to develop as artists under accomplished professionals, training students for classical theater rather than film or television.
With fewer academic requirements than the current B.A. theater program, students concentrate on the performance of language and text-based plays, spending one day a week at the Guthrie and attending all of the theater’s performances.
The majority of their experience during the first year, however, will be at the University.
Auditions were held around the country to recruit students who are passionate about theater and eager to gain experience from a major university, said Kenneth Washington, the Guthrie’s Director of Company Development.
Students who work well together, have a good sense of humor and a broad range of interests were chosen for the program.
Scott Freeman, head of the new B.F.A. program, said he chose students who didn’t just want to attend an acting school, but who wanted to take advantage of the broad curriculum at a major university.
Students will balance an intensive curriculum in voice, movement and acting training with a solid liberal arts curriculum throughout the four years.
Nineteen students were chosen for fall’s freshman class, and annual enrollment will be limited to 16 to 18 students. Coordinators anticipate some students may drop out this first year. “Some may realize they need more stability and turn to something that will bring in a more steady paycheck instead,” Washington said.
The University is taking an initiative to alleviate some of these financial worries. Steven Rosenstone, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, is helping out-of-state students foot the bill by cutting their tuition in half.
Many students, however, will still need to get jobs in addition to completing the intense curriculum.
Ryan Lindberg of Apple Valley was one of five students chosen from Minnesota. He plans on getting a job as a waiter at a nearby restaurant to help pay the bills.
“If I am going to be an actor,” he said. “I better learn to wait tables sometime.”
Lindberg also said he is excited to be taking such a broad range of classes this fall.
Students will endure a grueling schedule, attending class nine hours a day, five days a week. Each student is enrolled in the same curriculum for the first semester, consisting of classes in yoga, African-American dance, political science and cultural studies along with required voice and dialect work.
Faculty members from the University theater and dance departments will work directly with students, while teaching artists from Minneapolis, New York and California will teach various classes in improvisation and speech throughout the year as well.
The program also provides students with the opportunity to meet with staff and visiting guests from the Guthrie.
“Whenever anyone affiliated with the Guthrie is in town, playwrights, actors, directors or designers, these students will have the opportunity to talk with them and attend their special workshops,” Freeman said.
At the end of the four-year program, Lindberg said, “students will get a call for auditions that season at the Guthrie. This is an incredible opportunity,” he added. “Getting an audition at the Guthrie on your own is nearly impossible.”
The new Guthrie Theater is slated to be completed in the year 2004, just as these students will be graduating from the program.
The theater’s prospective site on West River Parkway, near St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge, will provide more space for student training facilities and be closer to the University, Washington said.

Juliette Crane welcomes comments at [email protected]