Lavin returns to College with wisdom

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February 9, 2010

1:18 AM

Anyone who has ever been on a tour of the College of William and Mary knows that one thing we really like to talk about is our alumni, and for good reason. But if there’s something we like even more, it’s when our alumni come back to visit.

Broadway and television actor Linda Lavin ’59, returned last night to host a series of acting workshops through today.

“On the first day I’ll be working with the acting students [and] on the second day with the singing actors,” Lavin said. “It’s always exciting — challenging for everyone and a lot of fun, I hope.”

Lavin’s career has been broad and successful, ranging from the lead role in the ’70s sitcom “Alice” to countless Broadway shows such as “Broadway Bound.” She even holds two Golden Globes, a Tony Award and several nominations. Her success has come not only from her raw talent, but also from her dedication to the roles she plays.

“Although Linda is a good technical singer, the main thing that she wins awards for is the stories that she makes songs tell,” professor Christopher Owens, who is coordinating the workshops, said. “I think anyone who is a musical performer would learn a lot from it.”

Lavin’s series of classes, including one tonight at 7:30 p.m. is open to the public. The class tonight is titled “Acting the Song” and will take place in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall free of charge. During the class, Lavin will work with a few students on stage and walk through different Broadway songs with them. It will be a more interactive class, Lavin will work with a few students on stage and walk through different Broadway songs with them. It will be a more interactive version of a presentation, where the audience will get to hear her advice as she coaches the students.

“I come to a master class with an open mind and look at people, most of whom I’ve never seen before, as they present their work, [whether it be] a monologue or a scene or a song,” Lavin said. “With each performer I work to uncover the meaning of the material and the intentions of the character.”

With extensive career experience in the world of theatre, Lavin’s workshops are full of insights for aspiring actors and actresses hoping to find success after college.

“[The classes focus on] talking about how the real theatre world is different than the academic world and what [students] can expect,” Owens said. “So knowing what skills they need to particularly concentrate on so that they can translate their training to getting a job.”

During her time at the College, Lavin — who did not originally intend to pursue acting — was consistently involved in the theatre department. As a freshman, she even landed the role of Juliet in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Owens said her familiarity with collegiate theatre makes her the perfect candidate for one of the first major workshops the theatre, speech and dance department has organized.

“We have a few what we call ‘distinguished alumni’ of this place here and we are starting to reach out to them and ask if they’d like to come back and share,” Owens said. “I think she’s the first of what I hope will be a few of these.”

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