Over the next few weeks, Villanova Theatre will be posting blogs from some of our wildly talented, incredibly intelligent, super-charming students. Their insights will shed some light on the production process, the academic load, and the all-around experience here in the Villanova University Theatre Department. Our first contributor is second-year student Chris Serpentine, who has been see this season as Jerry in The Zoo Story (seen standing at left with Will Windsor Erwin, who played Peter) and Oliver in As You Like It. Here goes!
So none of you know me, which is totally cool -- we'll become fast friends I'm sure. This blog, I assume, is a way into the awesome world of Villanova Grad Theatre. And, I guess the way this lays out, that makes me a sort of tour guide. Sweet. So strap down, and let's take this journey together.
I'm Chris Serpentine, and I'm a second-year here at 'Nova.
(What?! You're a second year?! But that's a two-year program! Does that mean we're only going to have, like, one more semester to read your amazing insights?)
Calm down, there, bucko. You're in luck. I will be here one more year because I was only part-time last year, and that's really the best part about this whole program - they're very flexible. There are a ton of students here who work full-time and attend classes part-time to better suit their schedules. So, really, this program isn't the life-sucking abyss that some programs can become. In fact, if you're anything like me, you'll find that this place is a second home, and rapidly involve yourself in all complete facets (like, say, a blog).
I started doing theatre late - in college at La Salle University. It kind of happened by accident. I made friends with this delightfully large-built, raspy-voiced guy (like Harvey Fierstein...It was Harvey Fierstein...I made friends with Harvey Fierstein). He was master carpenter on some weird show I had never heard of at the time (turns out it was The Laramie Project), and he essentially dragged me into theatre. I was involved for four years with The Masque of La Salle University. When I graduated, I started bartending full-time. Then one day I was sitting on my couch eating Frosted Mini Wheats (which, little known fact, is a part of a balanced breakfast) and watching Maury. It was a fat baby episode.
Mid-way through Maury I realized my life was missing something. Once I came to the realization it wasn't a fat baby of my own, I figured the best way to fill that void would be applying to Grad school. I had heard a lot of really great things about 'Nova, and it was close (I resided in Havertown at the time, before moving to Devon, and now Brookhaven). So on a complete whim, I sent an application to 'Nova. And they accepted me! I dove in with as much force as I could, and I haven't looked back since.
This place really does become a second home. I realized that at the end of last year, when once again I was dragged into a new theater - this time by professor Valerie Joyce. She was directing Cabaret, and told me I was in it. I still thank her silently in my head for doing that, because I didn't know what I was missing by not being able to fully participate in the program. Shortly after that, I quit my bartending job, and pledged myself to 'Nova full time. And I have had incredible luck here.
I had the amazing opportunity to play Jerry in Edward Albee's The Zoo Story, directed by Joanna Rotte; Oliver in Shakespeare's As You Like It, directed by Harriet Power; and I am currently playing Jason in Euripides' Medea, directed by Shawn Kairschner. I also work here in the Prop Shop, which is another great opportunity - you can work where you go to school; it makes life so much easier.
The program also offers, in addition to its mandatory courses, a ton of electives. So far, I'd have to say my favorite class here was Characterization. It really delved into what it is to become a different character, and the many different techniques available to an actor to do so. The number of characters I got to encounter in that class alone was worth a lifetime of acting. But it's tough to choose a favorite class, because, honestly, the people who surround you inside the classroom are the best part.
So now we're in present day. I am working incredibly hard, but I'm loving every second of it. Doors are continually opening on every side of me, and it's really difficult to choose which one to go through. Just this semester I was cast in Medea, which is a huge opportunity. I am given the humble task to portray Jason, who some could describe as "a fellow who wants to leave his wife and marry another woman for political gain." It's difficult to have to portray a character who everyone else on stage is against. No one really agrees with what Jason has done, or how he has handled it. So the only person I have to believe is myself. It's interesting to have these objectives - to convince, to win, to persuade, to conjure - knowing that my efforts are probably going to fail. Jason is a man fighting for his family. It's cliched, but the moment I begin to see him in a negative way as an actor is the moment my performance will wane.
So, that's me. I'm a twenty-four year old Grad student, with hopes to act until there's not breath in me anymore. I'll probably teach somewhere in there. I definitely want children to pass on my insanity. I want to, one day, get an M.F.A. But for the time being, I'm trying to compose some normalcy in an otherwise hectic and spontaneous lifestyle.