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SMC students nominated for acting scholarship

| Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Several Saint Mary’s students have been nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition that will take place in Indianapolis in December. The competition, which will take place at the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF), is statewide and features students from colleges around Indiana.

Sophomores Rebecca Strom and Genesis Vasquez and senior Makena Henell were nominated for their performances in the fall play, ‘Once a Belle.’ Junior Stephanie Johnson and sophomores Katy Stalter and Elizabeth Ferry were nominated for their roles in this past semester’s spring performance, ‘Lucky, Liar, Loser.’

Strom said she believes she was nominated because of the vulnerability and honesty required of her role as an openly lesbian professor.

The scenes in which I played the professor were especially emotional and honest,” she said. “I had to learn to be emotionally vulnerable onstage, so it became increasingly difficult to run through those scenes each night because my character was facing so much opposition and stress. I think the ACTF respondents and theatre professors really responded to the emotional weight of the scene. I was honored to be nominated for the award, but I really believe that the credit should go to all of the students, faculty members and alumni who shared their stories with us.”

Johnson said she will be attending the American College Theatre Festival not only for the competition, but also for the opportunities the festival provides.

“I will be attending ACTF not only because I was nominated for the Irene Ryan scholarship competition, but also because the festival provides me the opportunity to meet more people from other colleges, learn new skills and enjoy other’s art,” she said.

Johnson said her process for getting into character is different each time.

“I change my process depending on the role I am preparing for,” she said. “For my role in ‘Lucky, Liar, Loser,’ I spent more time focusing on musical pieces than I would in a production where I would not be playing an instrument on stage. My acting process is one of constant discovery and exploration, learning more about the character and how I relate to them.”

Strom said she prepares for her roles by filling in the character’s background and using it as the basis for her portrayal.

“For every role I’m cast in, I always try to fill in the “unknowns” of the character’s background based on context from the script,” she said. “It’s important for an actor to imagine the entirety of their character’s life, not just the events within the play. For ‘Once a Belle,’ this process was a bit different because we were working with real interviews from members of the Saint Mary’s community. For my role as the professor, I made sure to read the original interview, which included some experiences and thoughts that didn’t make it into the final script. My goal was always to honor the experiences of the professor who was courageous enough to share her story with us.”

Johnson said she thinks that good acting is inseparable from being dedicated to the work.

“Good acting to me is putting yourself into the work,” she said. “You don’t need to be the best actor on stage. If you care and are dedicated to what you are doing, you deserve the credit for that.”

Strom said focus is what separates a good actor from a great actor.

“To me, good acting means focus,” she said. “An actress must always be focused on every aspect of the character she is portraying, including her motivation, movement, desires, speech, relationships and background. A good actor will make the audience forget that there was ever a script.”

Strom said acting has given her the opportunity to express herself without fear.

“Being a part of theatre productions has always been a way for me to express myself without fear of judgment,” she said. “I am severely introverted, so people always ask me how I manage to stand onstage and perform in front of large audiences. I tell them that when I am onstage, I can’t be afraid because I’m a completely different person. Becoming the character I’m portraying and immersing myself in the world of the play allows me to release any anxiety or fears that I have in real life.”

Johnson said even though performing onstage is frustrating, it is worthwhile upon completion of the show.  

The ability to perform is equivalent to working out. It is difficult, but ultimately makes you feel stronger and happier once you have completed a show,” she said.

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