Workshop lets UF's aspiring actors get tips from a professional

With an audience of graduate and senior undergraduate acting students, Rob Nagle, right, works with Raymond Caldwell during a Scene Study Workshop on Wednesday morning at the Constans Theare on the University of Florida campus. Nagle critiqued the performances of eight of UF's advanced acting students at the theater.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
A blonde in a tight spaghetti-strap tank top, form-fitting black skirt and stilettos flounces across the stage, practically slamming a drink into the hands of a more-conservatively dressed young woman.
The recipient, Robyn Berg, gulps the drink, which drips down her face and shirt. Many of the 50 students in attendance erupt in laughter, but Berg continues right on with the scene from "Spike Heels," making the spill seem intentional.
"I thought you'd be more formal and polite - maybe like Dracula or something," says Ryan Burbank, who plays the blonde in the heels.
Cut. Rob Nagle, whose acting credits include "Fun with Dick and Jane," "Dawson's Creek" and "American Wedding," stops the scene to give some advice.
Nagle critiqued the performance Wednesday of eight University of Florida advanced acting students in a Scene Study Workshop at the Constans Theatre.
Nagle plays Attorney General Stewart in L.A. Theatre Works' "The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial," a play based on the 1925 trial of John T. Scopes. It was performed at the University Auditorium on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
"It's fun to get a chance to talk to them (students) about acting," Nagle said. "There's such passion in these kids - it reminded me of the hope, possibility and excitement involved in the work. It made me feel young again."
Nagle encouraged the students to find ways to reinvent their scenes, so they don't get pigeonholed into one role.
He suggested trading characters with a partner and approaching the scene with a different attitude.
Undergraduate acting student James Redfern said he thought Nagle was very sincere and insightful.
"He listened and let you do your thing," said Redfern, who acted out a scene from "Suburbia."
"I think there's the stigma in Hollywood and New York of actors just being beautiful people," he said.
"But here, with him, we were able to capture the art of acting and the passion of wanting to communicate. We had a lot of breakthroughs," he said.
In a scene from "Pillowman," a play about a fiction writer and his brother who are being executed for murder, Nagle advised Denis McCourt, a graduate student who played the brother, to leave his mouth hanging open when he talked to make him appear slow.
McCourt took his suggestion, and the audience clapped and cheered at the improvement.
"It was good to get a fresh viewpoint. The truth is simple: less is more," McCourt said.
Kevin Marshall, a professor and director of UF's School of Theatre and Dance, ran the workshop, which was open to serious acting students.
"It went exceptionally well," Marshall said. "It's always important to get professionals to give feedback to our students.
"They offer so much advice and inspiration; I can see the light bulbs going off in the students' minds."

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