Friday, March 20, 2009

Theatre trains a new crop of thespians

Veteran actors from New York City offer ongoing workshops

Express Staff Writer

Hamming it up at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum are acting class members (from left) Kate Randall, Keith Moore, Boston Bengoa, Ralph Lapham, Cameron Cooper, Shanon Daley and Patsy Wygle.

In New York City there are so many struggling actors that a common question to ask them is, "Which restaurant do you work at?" Yet many persist in their folly long enough to remain true thespians, despite the many day jobs they have to hold down on the way to realizing their dreams.

After 30 years spent acting and studying theater in the Big Apple, Patsy Wygle and Keith Moore came to live in the Wood River Valley two years ago. While in the big city they found work doing soap operas, TV commercials and parts on the series "Law and Order." But they came to Ketchum to share what they know about the art of theater.

Wygle graduated from the University of Washington and found a spot in famed acting teacher Uta Hagen's class. She later found regular gigs at the Swedish Embassy's theater group, performing in plays by August Strindberg.

Moore left New Jersey for Manhattan as a young man to study with Nikos Psacharopoulos and also at The Circle in the Square Theater Training School. He was the youngest member of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's theater company.

The couple met while travelling the country performing in a film and theater troupe for Pepsi Cola.

"There were lot's of (disparaging) Coke jokes in our routine," Moore said.

Both actors are veterans of the Laughing Stock Theater Company's Shakespeare in the Park Program, and have taken roles in "Death Trap" and "Wait Until Dark" at the nexStage Theatre. In June they will take part in a production of "Six Degrees of Separation" by John Guare at nexStage.

"Our goal has been to form a full-time professional theater company at the nexStage," Moore said.

To that end the couple has been training a local pool of talent at eight-week theater workshops on Monday and Wednesday nights from 6-8 p.m.

On Wednesdays, students take Theater FUNdamentals, learning the basics of acting, and on Monday nights students get advanced lessons in scene study. Graduates of the scene study classes perform fully produced scenes and monologues for live audiences in January and May, during "Making a Scene" nights at the nexStage Theatre.

Forty aspiring actors have gone through the workshops. Several have landed roles in local productions. Structural integration therapist Betsy Sise landed a role in "A Christmas Carol" after attending the workshops last year.

"The classes were a thoroughly enjoyable experience," she said. "We do a lot of games to get us relaxed on stage. I've learned how to be more confident getting up and talking on stage."

Moore said drama experience also gives people empathy and problem-solving skills.

"Everybody should act," he said. "In a theater group a certain amount of bonding happens. It's like a family, and people find a side of themselves they don't often get a chance to use, maybe even a part of themselves they never knew was there."

Unlike many of the struggling artists in Manhattan, Doug Neff worked as a waiter for many years before considering enrolling in an acting class. In the last two years he has landed several roles in local theater productions, including "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Light up the Sky" for nexStage and "The Spitfire Grill" with Company of Fools in Hailey.

"The classes at the nexStage are ongoing and it's like a group of friends working together," he said. "I go at it with the enthusiasm of a new hobby, but I am not ready to give up my day job."

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