September 19, 2007

RPTA Showcase

Print More

Sunday September 2, theatre lovers got a special treat. The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts hosted the annual Resident Professional Teaching Associate (RPTA) Showcase. The showcase introduces the year’s professional actors, who come to Cornell from all over the country to teach at the Schwartz, and gives them free reign to show their stuff. This year, the six actors teaching and performing at the Schwartz are returning actors Dennis Fox and Carolyn Goelzer and first-time Ithacans Jeffrey Guyton, Paul Hebron, J.G. Hertzler (returning after performing as a guest artist in last season’s Inherit the Wind) and Sonja Lanzener. The showcase varies from year to year, and is completely put together by the RPTAs.
The RPTAs presented the audience with something a little more personal — a little more intimate than what had been performed in the past. The theme of the showcase was the actors’ own stories of life in the theatre. As the audience walked into the theatre to find their seats, the six actors were already onstage, warming up and living in the world of theatre. Jeffrey Guyton played his trumpet, while Dennis Fox worked behind his stage management table and a quiet cacophony came from all of the vocal exercises being employed by these talented players.
When the lights went down, the trumpet playing began, accompanying a CD recording playing out of a boom box sitting next to Guyton. After listening to his jazzy accompaniment, he began to share his own theatre beginnings as a street musician. His frenzied monologue reflected the syncopated notes he had just played on his trumpet, as he told about the strange encounters he had playing on the street. As he sat back down to play again, he was jarringly interrupted by actress Lanzener screaming at him to stop playing! And the series of stories went on in this fashion, each one leading somehow into the next totally unrelated yet somehow intertwined tale of a life in showbiz.
Many of the stories were funny, and often relayed embarrassing moments or unbelievable experiences in the actor’s pasts. Fox told the story of how he became an actor, beginning as an accomplished stage manager in opera. Paul Hebron’s humble beginnings started in children’s theatre, as a Sultan with a slave whose pants fell off in the middle of the show. Sonja Lanzener also shared a story of children’s theatre, in which the lead “puppet prince” threw up onstage, squirting vomit out of the eyes of his mask, and was replaced by an understudy down on his luck who had to wear the same mask (the vomit was wiped off) to go back onstage. J.G. Hertzler was a horseback-riding cowboy in a television show until he broke his jaw and was replaced (no bitterness here) by a younger and subsequently more successful actor. Carolyn Goelzer, who was also at the Schwartz last year, performed a monologue from a play that she wrote called Peas.
The actors also performed traditional monologues in between their stories, but the success of the showcase was the open introduction they made to the Cornell community. This year promises to be great, and has already started off with the provocative play Good. With six incredibly talented actors who aren’t afraid to laugh at themselves and have a little fun, I think we can look forward to a very special season.