Towson University’s Department of Theatre Arts is one of only four higher education institutions nationwide selected to participate in a new touring residency program offered by The Acting Company. The national consortium-based performance and education initiative is designed to initiate and strengthen relationships among the academic theater community and the profession.
As a consortium leader, Towson will partner with Essex Community College, Morgan State University and Carver Center for Arts and Technology – among other groups – to offer students professional development opportunities with professional playwrights, actors, designers, directors and educators.
The Acting Company, founded in 1972 by John Houseman and Margot Harley, is America’s foremost nationally touring ensemble and arts education program. Towson alumnus Ian Belknap, ‘06, artistic director of the company, explains.
“We want to serve as a bridge between students’ academic careers and their professional lives in the theater.” Belknap recalls. “Towson’s theatre department was my home as a young man, and it has always felt like family here.”
The intrinsically collaborative nature of the department is one of the factors that led to the partnership with The Acting Company.
The initial year of a three-year cycle of residency activities will focus on Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” along with a new play based on the life and assassination of Malcolm X by Marcus Gardley, an award-winning poet and playwright. Belknap chose the repertory to encourage faculty to examine the causes and repercussions of assassination from historical, political and philosophical perspectives.
“This partnership connects to the university’s strategic priorities in many ways,” says Robyn Quick, professor and chair of the Department of Theatre Arts. “Our selection as one of the four major anchors for an innovative model of artistic expression, entrepreneurship and arts education reflects our national and international reputation in this area.”
Quick anticipates internship and experiential work opportunities, a vibrant community outreach program and ongoing campus involvement emerging from the partnership.
“The theatre is a study of the world, and the best artists are well-informed,” Quick says. “There is great potential here for cross-disciplinary conversations and authentic collaborations between the university and the professional theatre community.”