our CREATIVE PROCESS
The Ward Theatre Company was established in New York City as the performance arm of the Ward Acting Studio. It is populated almost exclusively with actors who have trained in the Meisner Approach with Wendy Ward and has included actors from The Netherlands, Israel, Germany, Macedonia, Austria and Australia.
The Company’s work has been described as “movies on stage,” in reference to the intimacy of its performance space and the authenticity in the ensemble’s acting. Ms. Ward has established theater venues for her work in New York, Philadelphia, Melbourne, Australia, and all of them have been designed to provide front-row seating only.
Because most of her actors will ultimately pursue on-camera careers, this type of setting teaches her cast members to work with great “public solitude,” in front of an audience just feet away – an important skill to have on film sets where the camera and crew can be very close.
It also provides audiences with a very different theatrical experience -- one that may initially take patrons by surprise but is almost always applauded for its unconventionality. (Sometimes, of course, it’s simply not someone’s cup of tea, which the Company quite willingly acknowledges.)
About half of the work that the Company produces is original work created by Ms. Ward and her ensemble. Projects may be originated based on a particular theme, place or group of people. Once the theme has been decided, Ms. Ward brings together her actors, and together they begin researching and poring over primary source materials, photos, poetry, drama, music – anything that might provide an aspect of the theme worth developing.
In the case of Revival, the locale was established first, and then the ensemble immediately designed and assembled the tent within the performance space. This was followed by a period of trial and error where the actors improvised and shared rehearsalassignments using various pieces of the found material. Perhaps most importantly, each actor began determining for him or herself what secret heartaches each might be bringing to this place of worship.
In this manner, our theater pieces begin to build themselves with actors participating in all aspects of the design and production processes including costumes, set, music and choreography. Part of the mission, then, is to develop creative artists not just train actors. It’s important for actors to learn how to audition for and then perform a specific role, but with our original pieces, we provide the actors far more ownership over the production. In doing this, our ensemble members become more well-rounded theater professionals.
The Meaning of “Collage”
Sometimes an original piece that the Company creates will be structured in a traditional two-act format, and sometimes we like to bring things together in a manner that we call “a collage.”
In Revival, we’ve built a show from bits and pieces using different styles of music, text and song. There are a couple of reasons why we did this. First, although the ensemble considered snake handling and speaking in tongues, it ultimately nixed the idea in favor of sudden bursts of music and dance which might provide a similar type of spontaneous fervor.
We then thought it would be interesting to break out from traditional gospel music and hymns. In a political climate where conversations seem to pit rural America against the inner cities, the Company hoped to make a subtle statement regarding shared perspectives. The lyrics from the Urban Sophisticates, for example, clearly express the individual struggles of our rural characters -- and their relationship to their God and their faith – but do so in a way that all people can relate to.
“When I feel so low,
I can’t take no more,
Come and lift me up,
come lift me higher.”
When I lose my way,
I can’t face the day,
Come and lift me up,
Come lift me higher.”
– The Urban Sophisticates
Frequently the Company is asked why its lobby, curtain calls and programs are so non-traditional. The first answer would be that we carry the creative spirit of the project throughout our space and honor the collective nature of our ensemble. Rather than fill our lobby with photos from past shows or with headshots of the cast members, we focus our audiences’ attention on the culture of the production.
And too, we prefer to emphasize the ensemble’s work as opposed to singling out individual actors. Because our original shows are usually so very ensemble-oriented, our curtain calls are rarely staged with a hierarchical structure, as we do not see our shows as having lead roles.
We welcome your questions and encourage you to attend our Q&A sessions on Sundays or reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.