Wildcats acting out in class

Weber State University accounting major Brodey Tremblay got up in front of the entire class and acted out a story about a time he bench-pressed in Atlantis, and then saved a girl who was stuck in a well by throwing a grenade down the hole.

“And then I woke up,” Tremblay concluded, and he was met with applause. He was simply participating in Theater 1033: Acting 1, a class taught by Phillip R. Lowe. Tremblay was presenting his first monologue of the year to the class.

Theater 1033 is one of a few introductory arts classes available to students at WSU, some of whom need arts credits to finish their generals and graduate. The class attracts majors and non-majors who are either seeking to fulfill that arts credit, or debating whether they should dedicate themselves to the pursuit of a theater major.

Lowe, who holds an MFA in theatrical design, describes the class in the syllabus as an “introduction to the basic physical, intellectual, and creative processes employed by actors in their craft . . . the focus being on those elements of the craft that translate into life.” Lowe is one of a few theater faculty members who teach, or have taught, the course.

“In most theater programs, you take a core curriculum, so you really are exposed to all classes,” said Tracy Callahan, head of the acting and directing department. “Phil holds an MFA in costume design, but I do believe he has an interest in acting himself and so has been an actor and has come from seeing things from backstage and the front of the stage, so it gives him a really nice perspective on the process.”

Callahan used to teach the non-graduate Acting 1 class, but now teaches most of the core acting and directing classes, voice and movement for actors, and script analysis, and is also directing the fall production of Romeo and Juliet.

Some of the class requirements for Theater 1033 are for students to view two productions per semester, keep up with in-class participation and exercises, and give four in-class performance presentations. Several of the presentations are required to be given a second time, after they have been tailored to classmates’ critique and discussion.

“It’s a way to get out of your comfort zone,” Tremblay said. While he searches for a definite major outside of accounting, he tries to cultivate outside interests, and acting is one of them.

Tokiah Jade Barker, an aspiring theater major also in Tremblay’s class, said she believes the skills of acting helped her develop socially and are practical in terms of communication.

“I just think, when you’re born in such a culture that is so focused on fitting in and keeping your head down, that if they were to walk in here and see all the diversity around, maybe they would want to show their true colors and just be themselves,” Barker said.

Callahan said she believes acting is a valuable skill that non-theater majors can take with them outside of the classroom. It “builds confidence in public speaking, and the ability to understand themselves and human nature more through character analysis.”

“There’s something about needing to get in front of people and have to be compelling,” Callahan continued. “Not in just a way that you’re scoring points — not just a salesman, but as a person who’s trying to engage another person.”

The fall non-major Acting 1 class differs from the major class in terms of intensity and student commitment, and is only an overview of the different styles of acting, but students can at least get a taste for the acting bug.

“For so many years of our lives, we sit in chairs at school and we don’t have that freedom,” Callahan said. “Even though acting is mind-driven, it’s about your emotions and your physicality. It’s a good way to learn in another way and how to free your mind up. You can learn a lot in an acting class about yourself.”

For those with interest in higher-level acting courses, the majors’ class for Acting 1 will run in the spring semester. Those who have taken Acting 1 already can attempt to get into Acting 2 by audition. For more details on the advanced class or the beginning class, Callahan can be reached at 801-626-7886.