This fall, for example, the program welcomed ASC alumni and New York-based stage and screen actors Gregory Jon Phelps and Sara Hymes. As part of their residency, they directed the first fully staged production of Elizabeth Polewhele’s restoration comedy The Frolicks. The pair specializes in unearthing little known works of classical theatre by women playwrights and bringing them to the stage.
Andrew Knight MLitt ‘22, who played the lead role of Rightwit, relished the opportunity to share in their mission.
“Working with Sara and Greg has made me think about the ‘canon’ of classical theatre in a new way,” he said. Namely that “as theatre artists, we have a responsibility to acknowledge more than just the white men of the early modern period.”
Visiting artists also inject their professional know-how into the S&P program. As a result, students are able to more fully understand the working theatre environment and prepare to launch their careers.
Natasia Lucia MFA ‘21 worked closely with visiting artist Kate Norris MFA ‘20 last spring as she prepared to take on the title role in King Lear. Now a working actor and intimacy choreographer at ASC, Lucia called their collaboration the highlight of her MBU experience.
“Kate exemplified what it meant to be a working artist whose affinity for education enhanced her artistry,” she said. “She taught us by example how to show up prepared, bringing our entire selves [to practices and performances].”
Lucia’s classmate and fellow ASC actor Summer England MFA ‘21 also highlighted Norris’ contagious energy and never-ending enthusiasm for her craft.
“Graduate school was arduous: the hours were long, and some challenges felt overwhelming at times,” England said. “But loving the work made it all worth it. Kate reminded me of that every day I got to work with her, and I still remember it every day now.”
McDermott finds deep meaning in the interactions between visiting artists and students – and not merely because the program enhances each student’s experience here at MBU. The graduates of the program use what they have learned in Staunton to bring live theatre to many people who otherwise would never have that opportunity.
“The visiting artists change lives — the lives of our students, and the lives of people who experience our students’ great work out in the world,” she said. “Material things pale in comparison to the great satisfaction I get from helping to make that happen.”