Actor Stacy Keach Kicks Off Theater Residency Program

By Catherine Probst, Video by Paul King

In an effort to reinvent itself as a training ground for young actors, the Theater at Mason initiative has launched the Professional Artist Residency in Theater (PART) to connect students directly with professional artists.

Kicking off this semester, PART offers emerging artists and notable professionals from theater, film, and new media the opportunity to learn from one another through consistent interaction in guest-artist residencies and master classes.

As the opening act of the residency program, American stage and screen star Stacy Keach has joined the Department of Theater as a Heritage Professor of Stage and Screen. During the fall 2012 and spring 2013 semesters, he will share his knowledge of the professional acting world in the course THR 490 Professional Perspectives on Performance: Stage and Screen.

Members of the local community and other aspiring artists may register as nondegree-seeking students to observe Keach working with students.

“The philosophy behind our amazing partnership with Mr. Keach is to establish a continued presence of professionals of his level working with the Department of Theater,” says department chair Ken Elston. “We hope this evolves into a new way of teaching in which students are exposed to real-life working professionals, some of whom are the best in the business, on a regular basis.”

Actor Stacy Keach is the first theater professional to participate in the Department of Theater’s new artistic residency program. Photo by Creative Services.

Keach might be best remembered for his classic portrayal of a private detective in the popular 1980s television series Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. He began his career in the 1960s in an off-Broadway play, and he has since played more than 80 roles on stage, in film, and on television. A prominent Shakespearean actor, Keach has played the title roles in King Lear and three separate productions of Hamlet.

In recent years, he has had roles on television shows, such as Two and a Half Men and 30 Rock, and can currently be seen in the film The Bourne Legacy. He is also providing his voice for the upcoming animated film Planes and is filming his next movie, Nebraska. He has won numerous honors, including a Golden Globe Award and three Helen Hayes Awards.

Keach is no stranger to Mason. In December 2010, at the behest of Ed Gero, his friend and fellow actor as well as Mason associate professor and head of performance for theater, Keach taught a master class and spent time on campus. After much discussion, Keach decided to establish a greater connection to the university.

“After having been fortunate enough to have a career that has spanned several decades, I welcome the opportunity to share my experiences with and empower the next generation of great actors,” says Keach. “I also firmly believe that one learns a great deal about oneself by teaching, and I look forward to being able to reflect on my own life and talents.”

Actor Stacy Keach speaks at a College of Visual and Performing Arts master class, moderated by Theater professor and actor Ed Gero, at the Black Box Theater. Photo by Alexis Glenn.

Keach will be on campus for studio work at least four times during the semester. The rest of the time he will conduct lectures through an online teleconferencing system and have students send in assignments electronically.

“With the use of distance education and new technology in the classroom, students will get a greater sense of the dynamism of this business—it never stops,” says Elston. “Mr. Keach is still an active professional, and by using this technology he and his students can remain connected through a unique, regular classroom experience whether he is working on Broadway, filming narrative or documentary projects, or creating television.”

Keach’s course will focus on such topics as stage and screen acting techniques, the life of a professional actor, and acting and directing methodologies. Students will be exposed to a variety of books, articles, theatrical plays, film scripts, character “sides,” film and television shows, and lectures with special guests.

Actor Stacy Keach works with Mason theater students during an acting exercise. Photo by Creative Services.

In two separate exercises, students will present a monologue or scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear and the contemporary Other Desert Cities. They will also be given selections from various film, television, and commercial scripts and asked to prepare a scene for the class. Keach will also work with students on reading aloud from a script without rehearsal and other audition techniques.

“I want my students to leave this course with a sense of inspiration and confidence that they can make it in the acting profession,” says Keach. “It is a brutal business and one that is filled with rejection. That is why it is vital that these students become so secure with themselves that they can withstand any amount of disappointment and keep coming back.”

In addition to his teaching role this semester, Keach will join Mason alumnae Christine Eads, BFA Theater ’94, and Molly Dedham, BFA Theater ’94, in a live national broadcast on their SiriusXM Radio talk show, Broadminded. The interview will take place at Mason’s TheaterSpace on Tuesday, October 16, at 8 a.m.

In the future, Elston hopes to engage many more luminaries of the stage and screen, as well as legendary artists such as playwright Robert Brustein, to engage in the PART program and Mason’s Theater Department.

“Theater at Mason is poised to embark on an exciting adventure that will position itself as one of the most sought-after programs in the country,” says Elston. “With Mr. Keach’s support, we can continue to expand and evolve to meet the needs of our students, the marketplace, and the community at large.”

This article originally appeared on the university’s News site.

To read more stories about Mason, check out the university’s News site.

Meet Mason Students

Nathan Secrest

Nathan Secrest

Physics PhD student Nathan Secrest identified one of the lowest mass supermassive black holes ever observed in the middle of a galaxy. With the help of other researchers and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Secrest discovered the host galaxy of the black hole, called NGC 4178, located about 55 million light years from Earth. The research […]

Meet more Mason Students!