About the company
The Ward Theatre Company
The Ward Theatre Company was established in New York City in 2005 as the performance arm of the Ward Acting Studio. It is populated exclusively with actors who have trained in the Meisner Approach with Company Director Wendy Ward and has included actors from The Netherlands, Israel, Germany, Macedonia, Austria and Australia.
Its work has been described as “movies on stage,” in reference to the intimacy of its performance space and the authenticity of the ensemble’s acting. Ms. Ward has established theater venues for her work in New York, Philadelphia, Melbourne, Australia, and most recently in Durham, North Carolina. Each of her theater spaces is designed to provide front-row seating only which increases the emotional connection that her audiences have to the work being performed. This seating configuration is also valuable to her ensemble, as most of her actors plan on pursuing on-camera careers. Performing to an audience seated just feet away prepares her actors for film sets where similarly the camera and crew can feel quite intimidating in the actor’s space. The Company’s venues help the cast develop “public solitude,” the ability that an actor has to be completely alone in front of other people.
Two-thirds of the work that the Company produces is original work created by Ms. Ward and her ensemble. Projects originate around a central theme, a location, event or culture. Once the theme is decided, the ensemble begins researching and poring over primary source materials for ideas, images and information that will help develop the story line.
The set is created during the first days of rehearsal, providing actors the luxury to work and exist in the space as they would their own homes. Ms. Ward rarely blocks her shows, favoring an improvisational technique where actors can follow their own impulses and block themselves organically. In the case of Revival, her ensemble immediately assembled a revival tent within the performance space and were able to work in the tent for weeks before the show opened. Similarly, the Company strives to source costumes early in the rehearsal period so that clothing becomes “worn in” and feels natural and comfortable to the actors.
Creating theater artists
Part of the Company’s mission is to develop creative artists. Because all design and production values are the responsibility of the ensemble, the actors develop a true sense of ownership over the production and become well-rounded theater professionals.
This creative spirit is applied to the non-traditional “look” of the Company’s lobby, programs and curtain calls. With a goal of keeping the audience’s attention on the culture of the current production, the Company avoids lobby displays, curtain calls and program layouts that suggest a hierarchy in the cast with supporting and lead roles. Instead, the Company chooses to emphasize the ensemble nature of its work without singling out certain actors over others.
The Ward Theatre Company’s first production, I Wish You A Boat, was developed by Ms. Ward and an ensemble of six, over an 8-month period. It premiered in New York City in 2005 where it received two nominations for Outstanding Acting from New York Innovative Theatre Awards. The show in considered the Company’s pièce de résistance and has traveled to Philadelphia, Melbourne, Australia and Durham, North Carolina where it has received consistent acclaim.
Another production Almost Home originated in New York shortly after Hurricane Ike demolished the shoreline of Galveston, TX. The show was built in just two weeks as a benefit for American Red Cross flood relief. Like I Wish You A Boat, the show was re-envisioned for performances in Philadelphia and in Durham, NC, commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and benefitting flood victims worldwide.
Most recently, Ms. Ward brought her company to Durham, North Carolina where it has received exceptional praise from local critics for its productions of Jacuzzi, I Wish You A Boat, Revival and The Mound Builders. During the past three years, her company has been included on INDY Week Magazine’s list for the region’s Top Ten Outstanding Performances and Triangle Arts and Entertainment's list for Top Ten Ensembles. Its work has been described as “redefining the concept of original theater,” “never pat nor predictable,” and "living proof that live theater can provide passage to the human experience in ways that the big screen cannot."
Artistic Director Wendy Ward
Wendy Ward received her BA in drama in 1981 from Duke University. She continued her training at the National Theatre Institute and continued her studies in New York with Anna Deavere Smith, Larry Arrick and Vivian Matalon. In 1987, she began her Meisner training under James Price at The Acting Studio, one of New York City’s leading acting schools devoted to the work of Sanford Meisner. Upon completion of her training, Mr. Price honored Ms. Ward by asking her ‘to sit with him’ to become a Meisner teacher. Through this apprenticeship, Ms. Ward began teaching the Meisner Approach for The Acting Studio and became its Associate Director in 1989.
In 1996, she founded the Ward Acting Studio and quickly established herself as one of New York City’s master instructors of the Meisner Approach. She has taught upwards of 4,000 actors, many of whom have traveled from as far away as England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Turkey, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, Iceland, Macedonia, Austria, Italy, Russia, Israel, Germany and Australia to work with her.
In 2005, she was hired by University of the Arts in Philadelphia to work alongside Neighborhood Playhouse teachers James Brill and Ernest A. Losso, teaching the Meisner Approach to sophomore acting and musical theater majors.
In 2010, Australia granted Ms. Ward its highly coveted Distinguished Talent Visa, allowing her to become a permanent resident and move her Studio to Melbourne. While there, Wendy taught Meisner workshops at St. Martin’s Youth Arts Centre, LaTrobe Student Theatre, and The Film and Television Studio International in addition to opening her own theater space in the Footscray Cotton Mills. In 2015, Wendy moved her studio to its current location in Durham, North Carolina.
Ms. Ward is featured in the books Acting Teachers of America by Ronald Rand, Acting Career Start-Up by Anthony Smith and An Actor’s Guide to Making it in New York, available in major bookstores. You can learn more about her Meisner acting studio at wardstudio.com