Partnership with UVA

By Artistic Director, Bruce Miller
Eva DeVirgilis, Andrew C. Boothby, Brad Fraizer, Joe Pabst, Ryan Bechard, Nick Hampson, Mollie Ort and Amaree Cluff. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Eva DeVirgilis, Andrew C. Boothby, Brad Fraizer, Joe Pabst, Ryan Bechard, Nick Hampson, Mollie Ort and Amaree Cluff. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

When you see Tartuffe—and I sincerely hope you won’t allow yourself to miss it—you’ll notice that six of the ten actors on stage are new to Virginia Rep’s Signature Season.  Esteemed veterans (and audience favorites) Joe Pabst and Debra Wagoner anchor the cast, ably supported by returning stalwarts Andy Boothby and Mollie Ort.  Two actors who have worked with us only in a Cadence production, Ryan Bechard (Sons of the Prophet) and Alexander Sapp (Good People) bring their exceptional talents now to our mainstage, and the remaining four actors (Eva DeVirgilis, Amaree Cluff, Brad Fraizer and Nick Hampson) are working with us for the first time.

Amaree and Brad are the first two actors to join our ranks from the new partnership we have been developing quietly over the last 18 months with the MFA Acting Program in the Department of Drama at UVA.  Amaree and Brad appear as the young lovers, Mariane and Valère.  I could not be more pleased and excited by their work.  When you see the show, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Not only do they turn in rollicking performances that will have you rolling in the aisles, they also contributed a trained, relaxed energy, confidence and creative fire to the rehearsal process that helped all of us, myself as much as anyone, remain open to a fresh and vibrant realization of this 350-year old classic.

When you see Other Desert Cities, the brilliant new play that will be the next offering in our Signature Season, you’ll be dazzled by two more of our new UVA partners, Sandi Carroll and Mike Long.  Brad and Sandi already had their AEA cards prior to entering the MFA Acting Program at UVA; Amaree and Mike are earning their cards through their work at Virginia Rep.

Our good friends at UVA describe their exceptional MFA Acting Program as follows:

Debra Wagoner as Dorine, Amaree Cluff as Mariane and Brad Fraizer as Valère. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Debra Wagoner as Dorine, Amaree Cluff as Mariane and Brad Fraizer as Valère. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

“Every two years the Department of Drama is pleased to invite eight talented actors to join our program and begin a two-year journey of concentrated, continuous study.  Our approach to training offers an actor a range and depth of classroom and on-stage experience aimed at establishing and maintaining a fluid, integrated acting process.  We value technique and seek to work with actors who are interested in building a strong vocal/physical foundation and have a self-motivated interest in making connections between courses.  We believe an actor should be smart—our goal is to foster informed, articulate, and versatile artists through cultivating an advanced understanding of theater history, literature, and performance theory as tools for practical character research.  We also believe an actor should be playful.  Whether creating a new work, exploring a line of verse, or a realizing a director’s concept, we encourage actors to be imaginative and inventive.

Our actors practice theater as a collaborative art, looking for parallels to and connections with the work of playwrights, directors, dramaturges, and designers.  Past collaborations have included workshops with actors and lighting designers (exploring light and storytelling), class sessions with costume designers (exploring movement and period styles), seminars with playwrights (contributing to script development) and partnerships with directors in the creation of devised works.

We ask our actors to consider who they are as artists–what guides an original and personal point of view in the world, and how one communicates this vision through the characters and compositions they create.  We encourage an actor to produce original work vitally connected to community concerns.  In addition, graduate students in the Department of Drama serve as teachers, mentors and role models to our undergraduate students.  The program offers an on-going integration between academic work and professional experience.  Students will participate in new play development and/or productions at Virginia Repertory Theatre in Richmond, VA, and Heritage Theatre Festival, Charlottesville, VA.

Debra Wagoner as Dorine and Amaree Cluff as Mariane. Photo by Aaron Sutten.
Debra Wagoner as Dorine and Amaree Cluff as Mariane. Photo by Aaron Sutten.

Diversity of experience is encouraged through a balanced focus in both traditional and innovative practices.  Our mission is to prepare advanced students to work in today’s theatre through providing excellent training and meaningful interaction with resident faculty and guest artists and fostering creative collaboration in course work and productions.  Because our work is grounded in the idea that the arts are a vital component of society, we encourage artists and audiences to look to theatre as a means to engage, question, and seek truth.  For inspiration in this endeavor, we remember one of Thomas Jefferson’s founding principles for the university: ‘This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind.  For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.’”

Virginia Rep is proud to be embarking on this new partnership with UVA.  All parties believe wholeheartedly that this strategic collaboration will be a win/win/win/win/win for UVA, Virginia Rep, the MFA Acting students, our Richmond audience, and American professional theatre.

If you or someone you know may be interested in this terrific graduate program, please contact Colleen Kelly at UVA Dept. of Drama (colleenkelly@virginia.edu) immediately for more information.