Latest flood news: Coralville Lake down to 700.34 feet | Dubuque Street partially reopened (More info)
Experience meets enthusiasm
Main Page Content
The conversation preceding an Iowa Summer Rep rehearsal for What the Butler Saw may seem to be off topic.
“Abby Normal? You gave me an abnormal brain,” shouted William Combs across the newly decorated David Thayer Theatre as laughter erupts, quoting University of Iowa alumnus Gene Wilder from the 1974 film Young Frankenstein. As the room settles down, the conversation turns to Michael Caine and his incessant habits of drinking.
To the untrained eye, this banter may appear unproductive for the professionally trained Summer Rep theater company, which will take the stage in the coming week, but for the UI students involved in the program, it provides a deeper level of learning unique to the program. (In this specific instance, the conversation was meant to help recent graduate Andres Enriquez master his British accent.)
“Working with professionals significantly broadens their horizons,” says Eric Forsythe, professor of theatre arts and Summer Rep artistic director. “That perspective of rubbing shoulders and talking casually with people in the profession is invaluable for young actors.”
The Iowa Summer Rep program is set to produce three works this summer, incorporating professional Actors’ Equity members with students. “I am able to work in a professional setting in the academic theater I have been comfortable with for the last four years,” says recent graduate Mike Turczwniski. As assistant stage manager of the first Summer Rep production, he is earning Equity status, a distinction that is mandatory in professional theater.
“The people we hire as students are really the top-notch people,” says Forsythe, who incorporated Equity performers into the program in 2000. “It sets a standard of quality that we seek to emulate during the academic year.”
Recent UI graduate Deanna Brookens gets feedback from director Eric Forsythe after a rehearsal of What the Butler Saw.
The connections made between peers can benefit students post-graduation. “When many of these students go to New York, there are directors whom they have worked with,” Forsythe says.
Iowa alumnus Bill Watt performs closely with recent graduates Deanna Brookens and Andres Enriquez in his role as the doctor stuck between a young female employee and his not-so-faithful wife in the summer’s first production, What the Butler Saw. In his twelfth season in the repertory, Watt continues to engage with developing actors. For the professional actors involved, there is a learning component that is not forgotten. “(Acting) gets old after a while—you kind of just coast, and the shock of working with students who are at their most excited can be stimulating,” says Forsythe.
“There’s a joy that is apparent when you’re working with younger and learning actors,” he says.
Professionals and students in the company cherish the learning experience. “When you’re working with students, you pick up on the things they just learned,” says stage actor David Combs. “It takes you back and you become informed again.”
The UI takes great pride in creating an atmosphere in Summer Rep where students blend seamlessly with professionals.
“I’m just lucky to have these wonderful roles and work with people who are on top of their game,” says Combs. “It always pushes you as an actor when you’re working with talented, hard working people, and this place really is professionally ran.”