Artists Arrive in Lenox for month-long Shakespeare Intensive

From our News Desk: What do award-winning actors such as Karen Allen, Lauren Ambrose, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, Jonathan Epstein, Johnny Lee Davenport, Annette Miller, Tina Packer, Keanu Reeves, Rocco Sisto and John Douglas Thompson (to name a few) have in common? They were all students in Shakespeare & Company’s renowned signature actor training program, the Month Long Intensive, FIRST. This season the Month Long Intensive involves upwards of 40 theatre professionals from around the world ready to delve into Shakespeare’s timeless texts and world. This training – which has been developed by the Company’s artists over its 34 year existence – is the bedrock of Shakespeare & Company’s aesthetic, and includes its internationally celebrated approach to Shakespeare’s texts. The Intensive concludes with a public scene showing on Sunday, January 22.

The Intensive welcomes over 40 participants this year, ranging in age from 21 to 73. This year’s Intensive will bring actors from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and across the United States together with thirteen faculty members to spend over ten hours a day, six days a week digging into the heart and meaning of Shakespeare’s works. Led by Director of Training Dennis Krausnick, students will examine the essence of theatre throughout the month of January. The Intensive faculty is composed of women and men who act, direct, and teach not only at Shakespeare & Company, but also at many other cultural and academic institutions in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada. For more information on this unique workshop and other training programs throughout the year, please contact the Training Office at (413) 637-1199 ext. 114 or visit the Shakespeare & Company website at http://www.shakespeare.org.

The Intensive weaves together a cohesive immersion of text analysis, movement, Elizabethan dance, Alexander Technique, Linklater Voice Work, stage combat, exploration of the actor/audience relationship, sonnet study, scene work, and in-depth discussions about the function of theatre in today’s world. Actors train their voices and bodies with a regimen of demanding classes, and delve deeply into their own imaginations, intellects, and emotional lives to bring the whole of the actor’s being into the moment of theatre.

The methods taught in the Intensive are unique to Shakespeare & Company, and serve as the groundwork and artistic vocabulary behind all of its performances. For three decades, the Company has honed the techniques taught in the Intensive, making them a key part of the theatre’s core training methodology. Participants in the Month-Long Intensive have access to the advanced facilities of the Bernstein Center for the Performing Arts, including three state-of-the-art rehearsal studios and the new Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre. They’ll also enjoy the delicious dishes of S&Co.’s Executive Chef, Ron Werth, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America.

“It’s hard to believe we are celebrating our 35th Anniversary Season,” says Krausnick. “It seems like yesterday when I arrived in Lenox to work with co-founders’ Tony Simotes, Kevin Coleman, Kristin Linklater, BH Barry and of course Tina to create what is now an internationally acclaimed Shakespeare company, a company that deeply resonates near and far with not only the actors that have passed through our classes and workshops but also with the hundreds of thousands of patrons – of all ages, who have had the privilege of coming back year after year to experience our performances and watch the Company ‘grow-up’ so to speak.

Sigourney Weaver

“I remember when Sigourney Weaver and Karen Allen did our training,” adds Krausnick. “And when John Douglas Thompson, who the New York Times recently named ‘one of the best actors of his generation’, came through the Intensive, along with so many other bright talents that are working at their craft not only here in our classrooms, our rehearsal rooms, but on our stages in the US and around the world. This is the only model I know of its kind, where theater professionals can immerse themselves in an intensive Shakespeare training program over a 4 week period that is as in-depth and diversified as ours – it has set the Company apart for over 3 decades and will keep doing so for the next 3 decades to come.

The shape and format of the workshop has benefited from the input and experience of actors and teachers through the years who have made suggestions, offered improvements and shared their feedback about what has been most useful for them. This means that the experience has continued to intensify, to sharpen its focus and to improve the learning experience for the actor. And I imagine that this year’s actors will leave their imprint and improvements through their feedback, leaving it even stronger for future generations.

I look forward to welcoming this newest group of actors to our campus for the next four transformative weeks of the workshop and once again be inspired, moved and awed by their determination, willingness to take a chance and unfold and expand their potential. I’m proud that we have been able to share our work for the past 35 years with actors from across the country and around the world, and I look forward to working once again with our dedicated and talented faculty and trainees in this year’s Intensive.”

The faculty of Master Teachers for the Month-Long Intensive includes Artistic Director Tony Simotes, Founding Artistic Director Tina Packer, Director of Education Kevin G. Coleman, Director of Training Dennis Krausnick, Founding Company member Susan Dibble, Jason Asprey, Andrew Borthwick-Leslie, Rebecca Holderness, Tod Randolph, Tori Rhoades, Michael F. Toomey, Kristen Wold, and Designated Linklater Voice teachers Anne Brady and Melissa Baroni.

The faculty and participants will be supported by a management team including Scott Renzoni, Training Programs Manager and Company Manager, and an actor with the Company most recently seen in War of the Worlds. The Workshop Manager is Kate Johnson, fresh from managing the 2011 Conservatory program and doing double duty as stage manager of this winter’s The Learned Ladies. Two Conservatory alumni—Auburn Matson & Casey McShain—will be the assistant managers, all keeping the workshop running smoothly behind the scenes.

The Center for Actor Training is also looking ahead to its spring workshops. Led by Dennis Krausnick, the Weekend Intensives are designed as both an introduction to Shakespeare & Company’s training aesthetic and as a way for alumni to refresh and reconnect. Locations this year will include San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Boston, and New York City.

Intensive History

On December 28, 1978, approximately 25 actors arrived at The Mount (Edith Wharton’s estate and Shakespeare & Company’s former residence in Lenox) to work with a core of Master Teachers gathered by Tina Packer and Kristin Linklater. The group consisted of many of the co-founders of Shakespeare & Company, including movement choreographer John Broome, fight choreographer B.H. Barry, and several others. For the next four weeks, the actors immersed themselves in voice training, fight work, Elizabethan dance, and Shakespeare’s text. The excitement of Packer’s approach to the structure of Shakespeare’s verse filled the hallways and the drawing rooms of The Mount, the old Westinghouse “Playhouse,” and the Music Room at Foxhollow (where the Boston Symphony had held its first concerts some 40 years earlier), and several other large rooms in the main building at Foxhollow in Lenox.

While the original inspiration for the synthesis of different disciplines came from Tina Packer, Shakespeare & Company’s training continues to evolve every year, fuelled by the continuing observation of what happens when the actor is placed at the center of the artistic event.

Past training program participants include actors from the Moscow Arts Theatre, the Berliner Ensemble, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre of Great Britain, the Stratford Festival of Canada, and other regional theatres and Shakespeare festivals across the U.S. Actors from the world of film and television have also taken part, including Lauren Ambrose, Karen Allen, Gillian Barge, Jennifer Grant, Karen Grassle, Joe Morton, Andie MacDowell, Bronson Pinchot, Oliver Platt, Anna Deavere Smith, Keanu Reeves, Lisa Rina, Kristin Rudrud, Diana Quick, Courtney Vance, and Sigourney Weaver. Alumni of the workshops now number over 1,600 and represent over 20 countries.

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