BW students benefiting from close partnerships with Cleveland theatres

Slowly, the lights came up and the audience peered at the stage as senior BFA Acting major Francesca Yarull walked out to perform in “Julius Caesar” at the Great Lakes Theatre on Friday, Oct. 11 and Saturday, Oct. 12.

Over the course of the years, several BFA acting majors and Musical Theatre majors have been cast in understudy positions at the Great Lakes Theatre Company, one of the only professional acting companies here in Cleveland.

This association was brought about through professors who have fostered the idea that experience is the best teacher.

“It’s a really beautiful fit between the two,” said Professor Laura Berg, adjunct professor and artistic associate at Great Lakes Theatre Company.

She has been placed in charge of casting and making sure all union actors from the theatre have coverage in the form of an understudy.

Berg’s role at both Baldwin Wallace and Great Lakes allows her to “match up our students, who I teach and know, with roles or opportunities that would both benefit them as a student and also us as a company,” Berg said.

In the world of theatre, this experience with outside companies allows for a more marketable employee and a desired asset to most future employers.

“I think they’re a huge benefit to the students when they get the opportunity working in a professional venue. They truly learn a lot,” said Professor Brennan Murphy, BFA acting program coordinator and associate professor of acting.

This experience allows the students to interact closely with working professionals and make connections outside of Baldwin Wallace.

“It’s just a great opportunity for them as students just to sit and watch professionals work,” said Berg.

The program faculty attempts to run rehearsals in accordance with union guidelines to give students the professional feel, but when a student earns their way into a true professional company, those guidelines become rules they must follow.

“To act is to do. I am incredibly proud and confident in the level of education we give to both our BFA and our MT’s in term of classes,” Berg said. “Our faculty is truly phenomenal, but at some point, there is no training like getting out in the world and actually just doing the thing.”

Only senior status students are chosen due to their experience and their history of being in multiple productions.

“They’re first and foremost students. So, we have to have the priority that they are in class and doing well before they can have these opportunities,” Murphy said.

Berg chooses students that are reliable, responsible, and have done well academically throughout their time at Baldwin Wallace.

“We are fighting to show the world our quality and our brand. And our brand is a high-quality brand,” Berg said.

The BFA and MT programs are looking to increase their affiliations to allow more students the opportunity to have this experience.

“We’d like to grow them and expand them to other theatres in the area,” said Murphy.

With these opportunities continuing to expand, the growing programs will be able to better equip students and prepare them for the professional world.

“I think together as a team we give our students so many opportunities to learn and grow and it’s really exciting to be a part of that,” said Berg.