Life as an Acting Fellow with Shakespeare Theatre Company for the 2017-18 Season
By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor
Chelsea Mayo spoke with me recently about her roles in the upcoming Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) production of “Hamlet” as well as the time she has spent as an Acting Fellow and a Teaching Artist.
Did you know that Shakespeare Theatre, (through Michael Kahn’s vision) has an Education Department of nine full-time staff members, with many more teaching artists involved in the Text Alive! Program, which not only trains high school students in scene work from the current mainstage production, but has each participating high school stage a different scene from that show?
Then during the run of the show, “Hamlet,” they bring the students to the theatre, Harmon Center for the Performing Arts, and the director pieces together all the “Hamlet” scenes the students have learned, costumed and staged, and presents the production as a matinee performance for the students’ friends and family to see—and this is all for free? Me, neither!
And each high school can put its own interpretation on its scenes–could be classical in dress and tone, could be punk rock, could be set during a war—the only stipulation is that the students learn and speak the language as Shakespeare wrote it! Wish I could have taken advantage of this program when I was in high school!
Chelsea, for instance, graduated from Vanderbilt University with a BA in Theatre and French. Before Chelsea applied for a fellowship she had worked in regional Shakespeare productions as well as having been hired by STC in 2014 to understudy Cecily Cardew, Gwendolyn, and the Irish Maid in “The Importance of being Earnest.” She subsequently understudied roles in “King Charles III” and “Tartuffe” for STC. This is an impressive background for a young person interested in pursuing a career in classical theatre.
Chelsea actually went on five times in “Twelfth Night” for Olivia, a leading role she was understudying. Exciting stuff! She is currently preparing for the ensemble role of Player and understudy for the Player Queen in “Hamlet.” Some alumni from this program have gone onto further study at Juilliard and Yale, to win Helen Hayes Awards (Matthew McGee, 2012-2013 Fellow who won for “Taking Steps” at Constellation Theatre Company in 2013) and to star in TV/film (Kenric Green 2007-2008 Fellow now on “The Walking Dead”).
I also spoke with Dat Ngo, Assistant Director of Education for STC. He told me that for Acting Fellows, the applications are all evaluated according to the needs of that year’s productions. About 70-80 actors will be selected to audition. Of those, generally four Acting Fellows are offered jobs as Fellows with STC for the coming season. The Fellows perform ensemble roles in Shakespeare productions and take on understudy assignments. They receive a stipend, housing and can earn EMC points towards their Equity membership (if they choose to enroll in the program, which almost all of them do). Also of note – this fellowship is open to non-Equity members only. Actors and those with other theatre trade interests can download an application for the 2018-19 Season’s Professional Fellowship program from this website: http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/about/careers-and-casting/professional-fellowships/
This comprehensive program is not limited to just Acting Fellows, it’s open to all the trades of the theatre such as administration, production, artistic administration, company management, costume, development, directing, education, theatre management, graphic design, marketing and communications, and stage management. Once selected, each fellow works alongside professional staff members in his/her respective field, forging a professional network, receiving mentorship, and acquiring new skills to prepare them for a career in the arts.
For ticket and performance information on “Hamlet” (January 16 to March 4) and the balance of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s 2018 season, call the Box Office at 202-547-1122, or go online at http://www.ShakespeareTheatre.org/tickets-and-events/customer-service/