Elm Shakespeare Company partners up with SCSU Theater Department

Taylor Richards – News Writer

Southern is entering a new partnership with the Elm Shakespeare Company, a professional theatre company based in New Haven. This partnership will bring many new opportunities for theater students and the university as a whole.

According to President Mary A. Papazian’s blog, the Elm Shakespeare Company has been offering free professional outdoor Shakespeare performances in New Haven for 20 years, and is “the premiere Shakespeare company in Connecticut and one of the very best in New England.”

Steven Breese, dean of arts and sciences, is excited for what the company has to offer.

“Elm will bring its artistry and professional expertise to Southern’s students. Many universities across the nation partner with professional theaters in order to enhance and grow the department’s curriculum and bring broader artistic and administrative expertise to theater programs,” he said in an email.

An Announcement Ceremony will take place at the Lyman Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, March 2 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

The Elm already had a “casual” relationship with Southern, according to theater department chair Kaia Monroe Rarick.

“They would rent out spaces to build their set design, and some artists would guest direct performances here every few years.”

Southern’s partnership with the company is being taken to the next level with the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). An MOU is a legal document basically stating that the company can use Southern’s resources and Southern can use theirs, according to Rarick, one of the leaders in officializing this partnership.

Elm Shakespeare Company officially is ‘in residence’ at Southern Connecticut State University, and the university will provide rehearsal, production, and office space for the company,” said Papazian in her blog post.

Elm actors will now be teaching classes at Southern, not only for theater students, but for theater classes that fall under LEP tier requirements that anyone can take. Along with that, there will be three internships set aside for Southern student actors.

“If [our students] get onstage as acting interns, then that means they will start earning credits to join the actor’s union, which is an enormous step in having a career,” said Rarick.

The Actor’s Equity Association, or union, is an american labor union that represents live theatrical performance. Elm Shakespeare actors are part of the union, and according to Rarick, the new partnership will be raising Southern student’s “visibility” in the acting world, since students will be performing with Equity actors. The expertise of the company’s professional actors will advance and expand on Southern’s classical performances.

Nate Tracy, a theatre major, worked with the former artistic director of Elm, James Andreassi, when he guest-directed the SCSU production of “Our Country’s Good.” He was so impressed with Tracy and other members that he offered them a chance to audition for Elm’s production last summer of “Twelfth Night” for non-equity roles.

“I plan on auditioning again this summer because of how great the experience was. They’re an amazing group and so awesome for giving guys like us the opportunity,” said Tracy.
“Plus they have given me my first set of equity points towards my equity card.”

Administrators like Breese and Rarick are happy this partnership will shake up the department with fresh faces and new talent.

“While SCSU has, for many years, had a strong relationship with Elm, having the company and its artistic staff ensconced on our campus and interacting with students and faculty every day will be a ‘shot’ of creative adrenaline — something that all artists need and welcome,” said Breese.


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