EgoPo Classic Theater, a local Philadelphia theater company, is melding education and professional theater into one in their production of Clare Boothe Luce's The Women. Unlike other professional productions, more than half of EgoPo's nineteen person cast are undergraduate students from Rowan University.
“Theater education is usually in the studio," says Lane Savadove, director of The Women and Head of Acting and Directing at Rowan University's Department of Theatre and Dance. "Its usually about doing scene work, and then at very best it’s about being up on stage at the college theater, which doesn’t provide the same experience that professional theater offers.”
As part of the collaboration, the show was completely rehearsed and built at Rowan University's campus in Glassboro, New Jersey, with Philadelphia actors commuting to the campus multiple times a week. The production opened at Rowan's Tohill Theater on February 25 for four performances before striking Sunday, February 28. The cast and crew quickly deconstructed the set and transported it to The Latvian Society in Northern Liberties for their Philadelphia run.
The Women is the latest installment of EgoPo's partnership with the expanding South Jersey university.
"The partnership started four years ago." says Savadove. "We did a version of Gint, Romulus Linney's adaptation of Ibsen's Peer Gynt, where we developed the entire piece at Rowan and then cast professional actors in it, but it was all developed by the Rowan students. Then we did Stairs to the Roof which was focused completely on Rowan students and alumni."
"This is really the final stage of the collaboration, in which the piece is absolutely fifty-fifty, a hybrid of a professional and a student show."
Through the partnership, students were provided the chance to work alongside professionals in an apprentice-mentor type relationship.
"It's been great." says Geneviève Perrier, who portrays Edith in the production, a spunky woman who always seems to find herself expecting another child. "We are all actors at the end of the day. I might have some years on them, but I know I've been where they are and there is equality in our attempts to be good artists."
"Students have a real enthusiasm, energy and generosity that I think is valuable to see and be around," says Melanie Julian, who stars as Mary. "It's been great how all of us together have been able to figure this out, collaborate and really learn from each other. It's not just the students learning from the professionals but all of us learning how to negotiate, just like any terrific ensemble should do."
The Women opens tonight at The Latvian Society on North 7th Street at 8pm and runs through March 20.
Head to egopo.org or call 267-273-1414 for tickets.
BY: Lauren Berman/PHL17 News