September 15, 2009

MFA Student Shares her Summer Experience at Berkshire Theatre Festival

Anna Koehler, third-year MFA in Acting student, spent this past summer in the Apprentice Program at the acclaimed Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA. Read on as she shares her thoughts about her experience!

'My Summer in the Berkshires

I didn’t think it was possible. There were so many factors that had to come into place for me to apprentice with the Berkshire Theatre Festival this past summer. “Well, I am just going to pray for you, darling,” Eleanor, our Comm school admissions counselor said to me right after I heard I was accepted. Getting the money together was going to be difficult. However, God provided the money not only through generous individual donors but also through a scholarship that BTF awarded me. As things fell into place, I found myself driving ten hours up the east coast thinking, “I really have no idea what to expect.” What I got was, well, a reality check, a spiritual check, and a theatre check.

I spent most of my days training in the Suzuki Method, which trains the actor’s body to undergo intense physical demands so that in the end a freer voice can be heard. In the photo below, I am performing a standing statue. We would stay like that for several minutes and then recite Shakespeare. “Breathe down,” our instructor would say. Through the discipline of this beautiful Asian art, I discovered a new way of accessing emotion and overcoming pitfalls as an actor.

Besides three hours of Suzuki training six days a week, I was cast in Bernstein's Candide as part of Berkshire Theatre Festival’s 81st season. My cast and I performed 47 shows and got some great reviews. I ended up performing the role I understudied for on the very last day of the show. “We need you to go on as the Baroness!” our stage manger screamed to me as she was running out into the parking lot to meet me. I also helped out with a stage reading of House of Bernarda Alba, took improv classes, and rubbed shoulders with Broadway’s finest actors .

But all this training was nothing if I hadn’t remembered some of the things I learned at Regent. Knowing that “to whom much is given much is to be expected.” And since I knew God brought me to BTF, I knew much would be expected. That is why parking cars, selling concessions, and doing all night changeovers after performing two shows, I really couldn’t complain. I was working in a place I loved. My family at Regent has furthered my belief that in the end it is ultimately Christ that I work for. Yes, this summer had its challenges but I learned that if you don’t have passion for Christ and having that passion living through your craft….well it will be a long day! “They call this place the Tuscany of America,” Colin Lane, a Broadway actor, said to me in his master class at BTF. And that is exactly where I was this summer. Performing and seeing some amazing theatre… in the Tuscany of America.

It’s amazing what theatre can teach you and what you can realize as a Christian artist being a part of theatre. I don’t think I will ever forget the old man with the cane in the front row weeping at hearing our final song, “Make Our Garden Grow.” His eyes were filled with sincere joy while the rest of him seemed to be living in pain. And on one of my final nights in the Berkshires, I saw for the first time an absolute stunning play performed at Shakespeare and Co, A Dreamer Examines His Pillow by John Patrick Shanley. The final words of the play reverberated in my heart mainly because until this past summer, I have had no clue on what’s next in my life as a hopeful actress. As the play is ending, the father takes his daughter, Donna’s hand and lifts it up, he then looks to the audience and says, “Begin, begin, begin.” Amen.'
More MFA student's summer experiences to follow!

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