Prof pushes articulate acting

Alyssa Sparacino

New professor Mark Monday laughs and watches while his graduate students perform an exercise where they had to roll over the top of each other while singing, “getting to know you,” in his Advanced Movement acting class. ELIZABETH MYERS | DAILY KENT STATE

Credit: Jason Hall

Five minutes into class, the students and professor are barefoot, standing in a circle. They begin in silence, throwing a ball to each other. Soon the professor tells them to attempt to catch the ball without making any noise. Next, several balls are added to the mix.

Soon, music begins playing in the background and students are instructed to repeat a phrase, while making a movement of their choice.

This is not a typical 300-person lecture class, but a small, interactive graduate class of Advanced Movement taught by a new professor in the School of Theatre and Dance, Mark Monday. Monday, assistant professor and Master of Fine Arts acting coordinator, said he is one of a handful of people who are certified in the Michael Chekhov technique of acting. This technique, which he incorporates into both of his classes, is based on the concept of realistic acting.

Monday, who received his master’s degree in acting from West Virginia University, said the technique is both “gentle and physical.”

“In Chekhov, you sweat,” he said.

He said trying to articulate the art of acting was a challenge, but teaching graduates was something he was interested in pursuing.

Currently, Monday teaches both Advanced Movement and Styles of Acting to six Fine Arts graduate students. He hopes he can “Americanize” the Chekhov technique for them.

Advanced Movement is intimate and interactive, and Monday hopes to “create an ensemble” with his graduate students.

Graduate acting student Dick Reiss said he enjoys the supportive atmosphere.

Reiss has been a working actor for years and hopes to begin teaching one day. His expectation for the course is “to leave with a working initial knowledge of Chekhov techniques.”

Monday said it has always been a goal to be the head of a theater program. After years of academic, professional and teaching experience, he said Kent State has given that to him.

Before arriving here, Monday’s teaching experience came from several universities, such as Ohio University, the University of Georgia and – most recently – at Santa Clara University in California’s Silicon Valley.

The expectations Monday has for the Master of Fine Arts acting program are to be among the best programs in the United States. Several faculty members, all with diverse backgrounds in theater, will eliminate redundancy in the courses offered.

There is also new available space in the Music and Speech Building, which will give the school opportunities to expand. A new black box theater will be built, giving the school a theater with flexible seating that can be used for performances, as well as class experience.

After this addition, the School of Theatre and Dance will have four different-sized theaters that can be used for venues.

In the spring, Monday will be directing “Wonderful Town”, a musical with brassy pieces by Leonard Bernstein.

“It has excellent women’s roles, with meaty and well-written dialogue,” Monday said.

“Wonderful Town” is a period piece about two women from Ohio traveling to New York in 1935, Monday said. The musical will open in February, and auditions will be held prior to Thanksgiving break.

Monday said he is thrilled with his experience so far at Kent State, and Reiss would agree.

“Without a doubt, I would take a class taught by Monday again,” Reiss said. “He is marvelous.”

Contact performing arts reporter Alyssa Sparacino at [email protected].