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Full body theater: Alaska Summer Theatre Intensive under way at Perseverance

Posted: June 8, 2011 - 6:43pm
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Leon Ingulsrud of New York City leads a class in the Suzuki Method of Actor Training at Perseverance Theatre Tuesday.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Leon Ingulsrud of New York City leads a class in the Suzuki Method of Actor Training at Perseverance Theatre Tuesday.

The Alaska Summer Theatre Intensive, a nine-day training program for actors and other theater artists, is under way at Perseverance Theatre this week, giving local and visiting Alaska actors a chance to spread their wings in dramatic new directions.

Led by four instructors, three of whom are visiting from out of state, the program includes training in acting, directing, voice, playwriting and design, as well as sessions focused on the Suzuki Method and Fitzmaurice Voicework.

Shona Strauser, Perseverance Theatre’s director of education, has been taking advantage of most of the offerings herself, and said for her one of the positive aspects of the training is the chance to focus on her creative work without a particular end-point in mind.

“We’re always focusing on product, but this is a time when were not — we’re super focused on process,” she said.

For many in Juneau, she said, aspects of the training are entirely new, particularly in the Suzuki and Fitzmaurice sessions, led by visiting instructors Leon Ingulsrud and Leslie Ishii respectively.

Incorporating elements of martial arts and dance, the Suzuki method links physical strength and awareness to an actor’s concentration and expressiveness on stage.

“It involves body strength and conditioning but to an ultimate end,” Strauser said. “It’s about being present in the space ... and being audience ready.”

Fitzmaurice voice training focuses not only on vocal techniques but on breathing, and how breath supports voice.

Strauser said the woman who created the technique, Catherine Fitzmaurice, worked with Perseverance in the 1980s. Ishii, who leads the class here, teaches voice work at East West Players Asian American Theater in Los Angeles, and has appeared on many stages across the country as well as in film and on TV, most recently appearing in a recurring role on “Lost” as Lara Chang.

Ingulsrud, of New York City, was a member of the Suzuki Company of Toga for seven years, and has taught theater around the world. He recently worked with Perseverance while directing “The Blue Bear.” During the ASTI training, he is also leading workshops called Viewpoints (“how you move, where you move, why you move,” Strauser said) and in directing.

ASTI playwrighting workshops are being led by Dan LeFranc of Brown University, head playwriting instructor of the Brown/Trinity Rep Consortium.

And Perseverance Artistic Director Art Rotch has been leading the design classes, involving participants in discussions on, among other things, how to define space with objects.

Though different types of cross-training sessions have been presented at Perseverance in the past, this is the first year the theater has offered ASTI.

More than 20 people signed up for the training, including participants from Anchorage and Fairbanks, and young beginners as well as long-time Perseverance actors.

“We have people who are veterans of the stage who I think are really enjoying the outside influence of these artists,” Strauser said.

For more information visit perseverancetheatre.org.

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