September 13, 2007

Summer acting program benefits theater students

by Vince Rhomberg


Caption follows story

(Editors: Note hometown names.)
CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Department of Theater sent five students for a six-week stint at the famous New York City HB Studios for an intensive acting training program this summer.

HB Studios, located in Greenwich Village, is named for its founders, Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof, who dedicated their lives to training actors for the American stage. The HB Summer Intensive selects a limited number of students, who compete at audition sites around the world for the honor. Students in the program put in nine-hour days, studying acting technique, scene study, speaking voice, "Alexander Technique" and movement with professional actors and directors.

"There were a total of 17 students from countries around the world, including Japan, Spain and Germany," Tom Glessner, a senior from Waterloo, said. "That was exciting. It really gives you a glimpse at world perspective and now I've got friends everywhere."

"The teachers are working professionals," Rachel Goffinet, a senior from Hurst, said. "They approach the training completely from an actor's point of view. That and the intense focus really brought home an understanding of some of the things I'd been learning here at SIUC. I suddenly thought, 'Oh, that's what they mean.' It was amazing." Goffinet attended the program as the winner of a $2,000 competitive scholarship from the SIUC Department of Theater.

"You really got a chance to get close to the teachers and staff," Jordan Vakselis, a senior from Palatine, said. "That made the environment supportive and encouraging, and what a great networking opportunity for a young actor! The people you meet along the way are likely to be the people who are important connections in the future."

The SIUC group stayed at the Vanderbilt YMCA while in New York City. Nicole Fabri, a senior from Maywood, said the group was well treated at their accommodations. "New York was cool – it was just like you see in the movies," she said. "But it was study all day and rehearse all night."

The SIUC group though, did make time for a few shows, including Broadway productions of "Spring Awakening," "Company," and "Frost Nixon."

Susan Patrick Benson, assistant professor in theater specializing in voice and speech, established the connection between SIUC and NYC-HB. Before coming to SIUC, she was a New York actress and headed the voice and speech program for HB Studios.

"It just seemed like a perfect fit," Benson said. "The SIUC theater department is blessed with many, many talented and dedicated students. The HB Summer Intensive is internationally recognized and the training is phenomenal. Plus, the young actors work with pros, and they learn and network all in New York City."

Michael Kelly, a junior from St. Peters, Mo., said participating in the program made him "the most excited about acting I have ever been."

Auditions for the summer 2008 program are in February. For information regarding the program, contact Susan Patrick Benson at 618/453-1892 or at


Summer study for stardom – Students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Department of Theater participated in a six-week Summer Intensive program at HB Studios in New York City. Students competed in auditions for the privilege of working with professional actors and directors at the famous actors’ studio. From left to right are: Tom Glessner, Waterloo; Rachel Goffinet, Hurst; Nicole Fabbri, Maywood; Jordan Vakselis, Palatine; Susan Patrick Benson, assistant professor at SIUC, Department of Theater; Michael Kelly, St. Peters, Mo.

Photo provided