Shakespeare Theatre teams up with GW

GW and the Shakespeare Theatre unveiled Wednesday the Academy for Classical Acting, the only master’s of fine arts program for classical acting in the country.

Michael Kahn, artistic director at the Shakespeare Theatre, said the academy, which he called a “vocational school for Shakespeare,” will open in 2000. Twenty-four students will be accepted to the yearlong immersion program, focusing on Shakespeare. Students will attend classes on acting, voice, text, poetry, clown work, comedy and other subjects. The students will put on two productions of their own and tour local schools for free.

GW’s role is to provide administrative support in admissions, marketing and financial aid, said Sam Sweet, the theater’s managing director, at a news conference.

Faculty from GW and the theater will teach courses, all of which will be held at the Shakespeare Theatre Studios on Capitol Hill, Kahn said. GW faculty will teach courses such as culture and literature, he said.

Leslie Jacobson, chair of the GW Theatre and Dance Department, said the theater approached GW two years ago about a possible partnership. Since then, she said, GW theater professors have given input and the idea has gone through the dean’s council and the curriculum committee.

The academy is mainly a graduate program, but GW undergraduates are expected to benefit as well. Some GW undergraduates are interning at the theater and will continue to work there, Jacobson said. She said actors in the program will have opportunities to come to GW and talk to students. Kahn said GW students will be able to see academy shows and possibly apply to the program.

Junior Emily Wilson, a theater major, said the academy is “a very exciting relationship with a reputable theater.” She said she hopes the relationship will prompt GW and the Washington community to look at GW as an important force in theater.

Kahn said the academy began “out of need as much as out of desire.” He said he noticed actors have more difficulty performing Shakespeare today than they did 25 years ago and he wants to improve training in classical acting. The academy is looking for trained actors who want to gain more expertise, Kahn said. He said he also hopes some professional actors will attend the academy.

Calvin Cafritz, chairman of the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, announced a gift of $750,000 for the academy, jokingly adding, “Then Calvin write thee a check and let these worthy actors begin.” In addition, the foundation gives the theater $125,000 annually.

Kahn said the academy will operate on a $500,000 annual budget. Tuition will be close to $25,000, said Larry Hough, chairman of the theater’s board of trustees. He said he hopes the theater will cover the majority of expenses acquired by the first class.

Actress Laura Linney, a former student of Kahn’s, who appeared most recently as Jim Carrey’s wife in The Truman Show, spoke at the news conference. She said she is considering applying to the program to re-learn acting basics and enhance her skills.

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