Sandra Okamoto: Former Columbus State University students return to campus for an acting workshop

sokamoto@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 23, 2012 

Seven young actors, trained by the Columbus State University department of theater, returned to school Sunday to take an advanced acting workshop led by assistant professor Lawrence McDonald.

It all started when April Hollingsworth and Chase Anderson were jogging and “reminiscing about the good ole days.”

It’s not like they’re old-timers. April graduated in December of 2010 and Chase graduated last May. Both got their bachelor’s degree in theater performance and both have moved to Atlanta.

“We came up with the idea of reuniting for a brush-up session that would allow us to get back into the acting classroom to review our skills, catch up with old friends and to receive a little sage advice from our professor,” Chase said.

April said as students, they got “targeted training, which we have been unable to find in Atlanta that is quite as helpful as Larry’s thus far. It is always nice to return to tools.”

Larry said it’s important for trained actors to get back into the acting studio to be a real actor.

“Often when actors are dealing exclusively with the business end of things and the commercial aspects of it, they need to be reinvigorated with the work. It’s challenging to stay in touch with those things when you’re booking primarily commercials and the like. I understand that need and I was more than happy to help them out.”

For Kori Stokes, who graduated in December of 2009 with a degree in theater performance, it was an opportunity to work on the craft of acting and a chance to work with McDonald.

Nicholas Wolfe, who graduated in 2010, also with a degree in theater performance, said he is never satisfied “with where I am as an actor.”

They all try to see each other as often as they can and try to stay in each others’ lives.

And it was also a chance for Larry to reconnect with his former students.

“Sunday was pretty much a review over material that we were taught in college, but it was refreshing to revisit all of it because Larry has a way of pulling the best out of his students,” Nicholas said. “He knows what buttons to push. Something we all learned though, is that it takes time to become an actor and that you have to live outside of the theater world to bring your true self to your work.”

April said the workshop made her realize what an important role CSU had in making her the actor she is today.

“Larry McDonald, in particular, taught me how to bring my essence to my work,” April said. “He is a great teacher and influences many.”

She said what she learned at CSU laid the foundation for her career. That’s something they all echoed.

Even though they spent years together in classes and plays at CSU, Janine DeMichele found it a little disconcerting to be back together.

“It’s weird because in college, you are somewhat ‘forced’ to be around each other all the time, and then when you’re not, you really take it for granted. Post-graduation, real life gets in the way and there are definitely people I missed seeing all the time. We all decided that we actually want to start doing more CSU alumni get-togethers in Atlanta to strengthen our friendships,” Janine said. She graduated last May with a degree in theater performance.

I asked if Atlanta had enough theater work for them, or if they would eventually have to move to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles.

“Our capital city is becoming a booming market for the movies,” Chase said. So beside theater work, he’s actively pursuing television and movie work. “For the moment, as we’re building our credits as young, professional actors, it’s a smart plan to stick around for the time being. But a move to a bigger city has always been in my future plans.”

Like Chase, April has plans for movie work. “As much I love theater, I am more concentrated in film,” she said. “Atlanta is rapidly growing in this market and is now known as ‘the Southern Hollywood.’ Atlanta is where I will be for awhile building my resume with dreams and aspirations of very soon going to L.A.”

Nicholas has found that it’s very competitive in Atlanta for actors.

“I don’t think any of us were ready for it, which is why Sunday was so important to all of us,” he said. “The thing about Atlanta is that every actor is going to the ‘day player’ and not the lead majority of the times but with that you have a ton of actors in the southeastern region going toe-to-toe with the best of them. But I also know that I need to build my resume here in Atlanta first so I’m taken seriously as an actor.”

The four actors said the workshop was very important for them.

“This workshop meant the world to us because a lot of us haven’t been back to CSU since we graduated,” Nicholas said. “It meant a lot to me because Larry is my mentor and I look up to him as a person and an actor. I had the privilege of acting under Larry’s direction most of college and he taught me so much about acting and myself that I’m forever grateful.”

Sandra Okamoto, sokamoto@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8580.

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