Theater students learn classical style

North Carolina A&T State University theater arts program embarked on a classical style of acting last week when the British American Drama Academy (BADA) came to campus for their first international outreach classical theatre project.

British American Drama Academy (BADA) was founded in 1984 in Oxford, England and it is a program to enable students from around the world to study classical theatre with leading actors and directors of the British stage.

Within this weeklong program, 15 students, a combination of freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors from A&T theatre arts program focused on acting and movement techniques with a particular emphasis in classical theatre such as William Shakespeare.

The program was led by dean and director, Ian Wooldridge; instructor, Mick Barnfather; and A&T Theatre Arts Program director and executive director of Paul Robeson Theatre, Frankie Day.

“I am ecstatic and honored that BADA chose A&T to be the first outreach project and for it to be the first HBCU too,” said Day. “Being the first one, it is a start for many things to come and it is important for students to get that international experience,” added Day.

For the program’s mission to teach African American students classical theatre is due a long history of African Americans who performed Shakespeare in the 1800s.

Dr. Vanita Vactor, associate professor of the department of visual and performing arts/theater arts program spoke on the history of African Americans in theater. She expressed there was a group called African Company and they were trained in classical theater and they would perform classical and original pieces.

Not only were they competing with another acting theater, but also they had to deal with being arrested upon performing Shakespeare and end up finishing their performance in the jail cell.

Most notable early black classical actor, Ira Aldridge played Othello in Shakespeare’s classic play “Othello” back in 1830s and played his role amidst a barrage of insults.

Prior to this, Othello was done in black face in United States and England. A long history of African Americans performing classical theater has led to this program to continue the teaching of the classical style because African Americans craft of acting was established in classical theater. “More actors need to be trained in this work, not only just contemporary work, but classical as well,” said Dr. Vactor.

“It is very important for many actors to learn the craft of classical theater arts such as Shakespeare,” said Wooldridge.

He expressed that asking students about Shakespeare at a tender age is a good thing.

The students were exposed to dynamics of playing with Barnfather.

They went through various exercises of playing in relationships with each other, ensembles, playing as groups and active and individual play as units. “They are a super talented bunch and they are not use to what I ask of them but it is a good thing because it will be beneficial to them later,” said Barnfather.

At the end of the week, the students performed what they call, “A Work In Progress,” were students performed sonnets that were giving to them by Wooldridge at the beginning of the program.  

“As for the theater program here at A&T, it is a very significant thing for us since this is the first time theater has embarked on something such as BADA,” said Day.

As for this program, Day, Wooldridge and Barnfather all enjoyed their time and felt that this is the beginning of a long relationship.

“It’s been a joy to be with them because they are hardworking and they try and have the discipline of hard work,” said Wooldridge.

 

  • Jonathan Veal