The MFA Acting Class of 2016 to present 'Our Town' and 'Blue Window'

November 10, 2015

The MFA Acting Class of 2016 will present two thesis productions from November 11 to 14 and from November 18 to 21. Ken Rus Schmoll is directing Craig Lucas’s 1987 meditation on connection and loneliness in the big city, Blue Window, and Tyne Rafaeli is directing Thornton Wilder’s seminal American classic, Our Town.

A re-examination of an American classic, this production of Our Town draws on Columbia's diverse, international theatrical community to investigate the fundamental question of the piece: how do we define our communities, and how do we live in them? “The past two years have taught me how to bring myself into the work in a way that is so different, and much deeper,” said Chrissy Rose, who is playing Professor Willard and Irma Stimson in Our Town. “With a play like Our Town, that’s done so often in such a light way, it’s really helpful to have that background. It lets me enter this world and see its beauty and subtlety, and be affected by that, and share my experience of it with the audience.”

A verbal symphony of life, love and loss, Blue Window explores the loneliness a person can feel in one of the world's most populous cities. Libby, for her own secret reasons, has invited six disparate friends to her place for dinner and drinks. As their conversations meander and drift, they begin to open up to one another, but the question of whether or not you can ever really know someone lingers. “This is where I'm thankful for my time here at Columbia.  All I've done here is play roles I didn't fit,” said Quinn Roi, who plays Tom in Blue Window. “What the years here have taught me about it is that Tom is in me. Somewhere. All of his parts, his 'isms', are parts and isms I have as well. I may not use them often, or have not used them ever, but the capacity for them is there.”

“Columbia has taught me that I have to come in over-prepared with a million choices for everything, but also be open to changing everything I thought I knew about my character coming in,” said Brynne McManimie, who is playing Emily in Blue Window and Rebecca Gibbs in Our Town. “My training has helped me to be spontaneous and adaptable, and I'm really getting to use that skill in rehearsal, which has actually been really exciting — to not know where things will end up by the end of the day.”

These two shows are the culminating efforts of two years of study, during which time the actors have studied viewpoints, Shakespeare, dance, theory of performance, acting for camera and more. They study with Andrei SerbanNiky Wolcz and Andrea Haring, among others. All third-year MFA Acting students are eligible to join the Actors Equity Association through Columbia’s partnership with Classic Stage Company. In 2016 the actors will also participate in industry showcases in New York and Los Angeles for agents, managers and casting directors.

The actors make some very important discoveries through their studies and training throughout their years at Columbia. One of the most valuable lessons is not to be afraid to take risks. “It's important to be okay with failure. Failing is where we grow the most as artists, and it isn't a negative thing. And the minute you start letting yourself fail, you start to become more process-oriented versus product-oriented, and I personally think as an artist that is very freeing. To not have the pressure to always get it right but to just keep trying,” said McManimie.

Tickets for Our Town can be purchased here, and tickets for Blue Window can be purchased here.