Suzi Starheim | Staff Writer
Each summer, Chautauqua Theater Company draws artists from theater programs all around the country as faculty, guest artists and conservatory members. This season, the common bond for several CTC members is the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company consortium.
The group includes conservatory members Peter Mark Kendall, Charlotte Graham, Charlie Thurston and Biko Eisen-Martin, along with guest actor Joel de la Fuente, who performed in CTC’s productions of Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” and Molly Smith Metzler’s “Carve” during the New Play Workshop Festival. “Three Sisters” guest director Brian Mertes also is affiliated with Brown/Trinity Rep as the head of the Master of Fine Arts in Directing program.
The Brown/Trinity Rep connection extends to CTC leadership as well, including Artistic Director Vivienne Benesch, Associate Artistic Director Andrew Borba and Artistic Associate Claire Karpen, all Brown alums.
CTC Technical Director Chris Soley also spent a significant amount of time at the Trinity Repertory Company as the master carpenter from 2006 to 2008. Prior to that, he worked there part time for two years while in college.
Soley said his Trinity Rep experience helped him learn how to manage many shows at once, a necessary skill because of Trinity Rep’s multiple theaters.
“I learned how to get people started on projects, leave and go do other things,” Soley said. “We’d be in tech in one show in our upstairs theater, installing a show in our downstairs theater and building a third show in our shop. I was like the foreman of all of those things. I’d have to run up here, answer a question, come down to that theater, check on something, go to the shop and check on things, and sometimes I’d have to say, ‘OK, give me a second. What show is this?’”
This is Soley’s second summer working with CTC, and he said his Trinity Rep experience has proved invaluable.
“The time management and people management skills I learned there really helped me,” he said. “The caliber of work we do here is comparable to what we do at Trinity.”
CTC Stage Manager Emily Glinick was a stage manager for Trinity Rep. Her first experience with them was the annual Trinity Rep Summer Shakespeare Tour, which presented free outdoor plays.
She was the stage manager for the show in 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007. She was also involved in productions of “A Christmas Carol” and the musical “Paris by Night.” Glinick said working on “A Christmas Carol,” which featured a large cast in ten shows per week, taught her how to be a capable stage manager.
“Just working on a show of that magnitude really prepares you for anything,” she said.
Glinick said the fact that Brown University and Trinity Repertory Company have a consortium helps the training actors to develop further.
“They get to see their professors perform, see them direct, and then work with them in class and then work with them onstage,” Glinick said. “That’s something that’s really spectacular.”
Conservatory member Graham has both a master’s degree from Brown/Trinity Rep as well as a bachelor’s degree in theater arts from Brown University. Graham said she grew into a confident and decisive actress through Brown/Trinity Rep. She said this confidence and ability to grapple with the material has helped her tremendously in CTC productions, especially in her role in “Three Sisters,” which was “extremely physical and demanding.”
Graham also performed in “Build,” which, as part of the NPW Festival, did not allow the actors a great deal of rehearsal time.
“You just have to get up there, quick and dirty, and start being present with your partner and making it happen, even before you know what you’re saying,” she said. “ I think Brown/Trinity helped me have confidence enough in myself and my choices to be able to have fun with the material, rather than constantly being in my head worrying about whether I’m getting it right.”
“That’s something that graduate training, and Brown in particular, gives you, is enough of a sense of self to be able to be someone else,” she added.
Conservatory member Thurston, who is entering his third and final year at Brown/Trinity Rep, said working with permanent company members allows the training actors to become very comfortable while acting.
“I’ve gotten to expand my skills and push myself out of my comfort zone,” Thurston said. “I think that that work will be informed by flexing my muscles in different ways in different roles this summer.”
While the conservatory members who currently attend Brown/Trinity Rep are in the same program, they are not all in the same year of their training. Thurston said it is only through CTC that he has had a chance to work with Graham and Kendall.
“When you have that same background, a certain kind of social barrier has been broken,” Thurston said. “I don’t get that many opportunities to work with people outside of my class, so it’s been really cool to collaborate with them on a more intimate level on a production outside of the Brown/Trinity community.”
Stage Manager Glinick said the collaboration between the two programs is hugely beneficial.
“It’s funny how many of us there are,” Glinick said. “It speaks to the success both of Chautauqua and of the Trinity Rep program.”