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Weaver teaches, leads theatre workshop

Bridget Feeney | Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saint Mary’s theater students welcomed a well-known guest lecturer Monday, as actress Sigourney Weaver led a master class at the College accompanied by her husband, director Jim Simpson.

Weaver, who recently added “Abduction” to a list of screen credits that includes “Avatar,” “Ghostbusters” and “Alien,” came to Saint Mary’s through the Margaret Hill Endowed Visiting Artist program, according to a press release on the Saint Mary’s website. The program, named after Broadway producer and Saint Mary’s alumna Margaret Hill, arranges for prominent actors to hold master classes at the College.

Junior theatre major Kara Quillard said despite Weaver’s high-profile name, the master class offered a relaxed atmosphere for students to work on their art.

“A master class is the opportunity to work with a professional in an informal setting. The guest is merely the teacher, and we as students learn from their experiences,” she said. “We also get to enjoy lunch with them during our break and ask questions.”

As part of the class, seven students were selected to perform monologues for Weaver and Simpson. Junior theatre student Joy Viceroy and Quillard were both selected.

Viceroy said Weaver offered invaluable input.

“[Any] feedback I can receive about my acting is absolutely critical at this stage in my learning,” Viceroy said. “I need to find out what I’m doing right, and what could still use work. Performing for Ms. Weaver gave me the opportunity to have a complete outsider evaluate my work, which is as close to a professional situation as I can get to right now.”

Quillard said she was honored to be chosen to perform for Weaver after auditioning before the Theatre Program faculty.

“Performing for Sigourney Weaver means everything ­— it was fantastic,” Quillard said. “For a brief moment, I felt like she treated me as an equal and I really valued her feedback.”

Viceroy said there was a noticeable change in her performance during the class.

“I performed the monologue three times, and each time it was incredibly different. It was cool to discover new things, and to have a fresh perspective on my work,” she said. ” I walked out with great confidence, and I have so many new ideas from watching her work with my classmates too.”

Viceroy said she was intimidated by the prospect of performing for an Academy Award nominee.

“My [monologue] was still relatively new, so I’m still discovering new things about it and the character,” she said. “The buildup and anticipation of hearing feedback [is what] gets me jittery right before performing. However, it’s powerful energy I’m able to use for the monologue itself, and it helps drive the piece that much further.”

Quillard said performing at the program’s class last year prepared her nerves for Weaver’s critique and made it easier to absorb the actress’s input.

“This being my second master class — I performed in front of Glenn Close as a first year — I felt more confident performing,” she said. “I really valued what Ms. Weaver and Mr. Simpson said, and I really adapted it to my performance.”