MFA Thesis Research Highlights

Sidney Edwards, MFA expected 2018

Thesis role: Wells 2 in Miss Ida B. Wells

"My thesis show is Miss Ida B. Wells by Endesha Ida Mae Holland. In this production, I play Wells 2, the younger version of Ida B. Wells, as well as several other characters. The role required extensive historical research and research geared towards character development. In my written thesis, I focus on how self-executed dramaturgy enriches the actor's experience through an in-depth look at my own process."

Mia Rocchio

Mia Rocchio, MFA 2018

Thesis role: Eurydice in Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice

"My thesis, Willpower Through Physical Connectivity, claims that truthful action and reaction on stage is best achieved when the mind is working because of the body, and the body is working because of the mind. I argue that in order to embrace the emotional, primal and sensational effects of stimuli received within the experience of living a character's story, it is necessary to breathe, especially exhale, completely. My thesis details how, in the process of playing Eurydice, I discovered how fully exhaling releases red-fiber muscle tissue and forces the actor to, physically and literally, feel deeply and deal with the events taking place. I conclude that through mind and body connection, the actor is able to feel all of the character's emotions and make the determined decision to keep going in order to achieve the character's goals, thus producing fierce power of will from both the actor and the character."

Ross Joel Shenker

Ross Joel Shenker, MFA 2018

Thesis role: John Wisenhammer/Reverend Johnson in Timberlake Wertenbaker's Our Country's Good

"In an attempt to be open and receptive to my primary scene partners in Our Country’s Good, I tried a variety of techniques including: Konstantin Stanislavski’s ‘Bits and Tasks’; Michael Chekhov’s ‘Psychological Gesture’; Carl Jung’s theories on Archetype; F.M. Alexander’s notions of ‘Inhibition’ and ‘Nondoing’ as discussed by Betsy Polatin; and Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages.’ My goal of achieving vulnerability on stage was inhibited by the very methodologies I had hoped to employ in service to this ambition. By planning the results rather than the actions, I assumed a judgmental, directorial role and tried to control my performance. Dissatisfied with my own work and with some of the faculty’s feedback, I set out on what I call a journey of creative recovery. In my thesis, Gestures of Creative Recovery for the Egocentric Actor, I compare my process to such works as Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, and the Twelve Steps laid out in the ‘Big Book’ of Alcoholics Anonymous in order to relate my desired approach as a creative theatre artist to the journey of recovery from addiction."

Shaleen Cholera, MFA 2017

Thesis role: Edmund in King Lear

"My thesis charted my discovery that confidence is essential to an actor’s craft. The thesis focused on my performance as Edmund in King Lear, as well as my production the previous summer playing Hussein in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced. I drew from a variety of sources, such as meditation and formal acting exercises, to achieve confidence. Most importantly, I distilled my missteps as an actor for a better understanding of what hinders confidence when building a role for performance."

Tyler Madden, MFA 2017

Thesis role: Troy in Fences

"My thesis, title 'Labor and Happiness,' is about sustaining happiness within the laboring process of creating a character in a play. I used the process of crafting my performance as Troy Maxson Fences as the subject of my thesis. No matter what we choose for a career/job, we all deal with the hardships of the labor. My thesis addresses how in order to get fulfillment from our labor, we have to appreciate the process of getting to our goal."