Theatre students work with award-winning playwright on "X"

By Jan Lucas on June 16, 2016

This artistic residency is part of an ongoing collaboration between Towson University and The Acting Company, America’s leading national touring repertory theater.

Playwright Marcus Gardley and Ian Belknap, artistic director of The Acting Company, visited the Department of Theatre Arts for four days of workshops and rehearsals that culminated in a reading of Gardley’s new play about the assassination of Malcolm X.

Belknap directed student actors, as Gardley revised his script in response to their work. Discussions ranged from the civil rights movement of the 1960s to Shakespeare’s playwriting techniques. Gardley describes his play as “a re-telling, a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar story using the life of Malcolm X.”

“I appreciate the opportunity to have participated in a project consisting of content I highly connect with and find intriguing” said sophomore Yakima Rich of the experience. “I feel the workshop was especially useful in learning gems in both the writing and acting fields.”

This artistic residency is part of an ongoing collaboration between Towson University and The Acting Company, America’s leading national touring repertory theater. In 2014, the university was selected as one of four institutions nation-wide to lead regional consortia of universities, colleges, high schools and arts organizations in a three-year program of professional development opportunities with playwrights, actors, designers, directors and educators from the company.

The Maryland Consortium also includes Morgan State University, Bowie State University, and The Community College of Baltimore County, as well as Carver Center for the Arts. Similar collaborations are underway in Arizona, Missouri and New York.

In the coming year, programming will expand to include interdisciplinary conversations connected to the two plays featured in the company’s upcoming tour: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Gardley’s new play, titled X. Belknap ‘06 (theatre arts) believes the complementary themes in the stories of these assassinated leaders will engage audiences in conversations about the political and social struggles of their times and our own. The productions will be performed at Towson in March 2017.

“This professional partnership has already enriched the education of theatre students and enhanced the national reputation of our university in the arts and arts education,” said Robyn Quick, Theatre Arts chair. “With the performances of Julius Caesar and X, we look forward to expanding learning opportunities across our campus and into the community.”

Founded in 1972 by John Houseman and Margot Harley, the New-York-based Acting Company advances theater, literacy and the careers of talented young actors, often fostering the arts in underserved and disadvantaged communities. The Acting Company has toured in 48 states and 10 foreign countries, earning a Tony award for Excellence in Theater, Obies, Audelcos and Los Angeles Critics Circle Awards. 

Workshops with The Acting Company were made possible through the generous support of the Towson University Marriott Conference Hotel and the College of Fine Arts and Communication Diversity Committee.