by Michael T. Steffen
A local theater company will offer introductory and intermediate acting classes, as well as private coaching, throughout the winter at their studio at 259 Elm St.
“Drama gives you the chance to vent feelings you would not otherwise get the chance, or dare, to express,” said Amanda G. Hennessey, co-director of Essayons Theater.
Most students are drawn to Essayons to learn techniques, character development, improvisation, text analysis, and to get ideas about auditioning in the Boston theater scene, said Hennessey. Some attend classes to build confidence in public speaking and to improve communication skills, she said.
After attending Wheaton College, Hennessey received a Master of Fine Arts from the Actors Studio Drama School in New York City, she said. As an undergraduate, Hennessey said she spent her junior year in India, where she found the time to read and contemplate the direction of her senior year. On returning from India, she decided to study acting under Pam Bongas and fell in love with drama, she said.
Along with her classes at Essayons, Hennessey said she teaches at the Huntington Theater Company and at Boston University. Hennessey’s performance experience spans from commercials to stage and film, she said. She recently appeared in the Boston based theatre company SpeakEasy’s hit show “The Women,” and in “The Child King,” a feature film that premiered in the Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival in October and, early in her acting days, she played the character Shelby in a dramatic production of Robert Harding’s “Steel Magnolias.”
Hennessey said she shares her creative drive with her husband, director Art Hennessey, who complements his acting interests with playwriting and directing.
Art said he found time to read and cultivate his interest in drama while serving in the military at Camp Essayons in Korea. He returned to the States and settled for a while in Seattle, where he familiarized himself with the fringe theater scene and began writing and performing, he said. Art studied as an undergraduate at Boston College, and founded Essayons Theatre Company in 1998.
Essayons produces new plays created by its members, said Art. He won acclaim in 2003 from the Independent Reviewers of New England for “I Go Solo,” a play about a beginning dramatist, he said. The play features protagonist, Willie, who has written a one-character play for disruptive standup comedian, Kurt, whom Willie tries to direct; the play becomes a play within a play, said Art.
“I started writing the performance as a one-man show, but this other character kept popping up in the piece. My imagination kind of went on with that and I tried to play out many of the battles that waged on in the field of the cooperative enterprise known as theater,” he said. “I also tried to play out the skirmishes that occur in our lives, for instance, our memories versus reality.”
His short play, “Trumpeter” won best play in the 2004 Short Takes Festival sponsored by the Friends of Drama in Arlington, said Art.
The Essayons Theatre Company performs primarily in Massachusetts and New York City, however, in 1999 and 2000, they took productions to Seattle, he said.
“Our 2000 entry for the Seattle Fringe Festival,” Amanda said, “was a quirky show by collaborative effort entitled “Live Hostage Crisis!” In this production, we explored how people are ‘held hostage’ by different elements in their lives, by unhealthy relationships, bad jobs, tech-nology, and so on,” she said.
“We performed at Harvard for a weekend, then in Seattle, then back to Cambridge, a night in New York City, and then onto Martha’s Vineyard.We received positive reviews during our Cambridge run and were thrilled to receive so many ticket orders. But then the church where we had created the performance was shut down, yellow tape and all, due to not having lit exit signs. It looked like a crime scene, and sadly, that part of our run closed early.”
Amanda said teaching classes at Essayons allows her to keep in touch with the basics of acting. “Acting nourishes people’s capacity to empathize,” she said. “Playing a variety of roles allows students to see the world through other’s eyes.”