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The Mason Gross School of the Arts
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Graduate Programs in Music
Graduate Programs in Theater Arts
Members of the Faculty
Artistic Director and Chairperson
Acting Program
Design and Costume Technology
Directing Program
Playwriting Program
Stage Management Program
Theater History and Criticism
Theater Management
Information and Regulations for All Graduate Theater Arts Students
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  Mason Gross School of the Arts 2004-2006 Graduate Programs in Theater Arts Members of the Faculty Acting Program  

Acting Program

William Esper (master teacher and head of acting program) has been the head of his own studio in New York for over 35 years, as well as the director of the Professional Actor Training Program at Mason Gross School of the Arts since it`s inception in 1977. He is a graduate of Western Reserve University, as well as the Neighborhood Playhouse School of Theater. There, he trained as a teacher and actor with Sanford Meisner, with whom he worked in close association as a teacher and director for 15 years. Mr. Esper was on the staff of the Neighborhood Playhouse for 12 years and associate director of the Playhouse`s acting department from 1973 to 1976. He has been a guest artist teacher at Canada's Banff Festival of the Arts; the Workshop for Performing Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia; the National Theater Center in Tannersville, New York; the National Theater School of Canada; the St. Nicholas Theater Company in Chicago; and Schauspiel Müchen in Munich, Germany. From 1975 to 1976 he was director of the Circle Repertory Theater Company workshop in New York. He has directed and acted regionally as well as off-Broadway and is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theater in New York. Mr. Esper is profiled in the book The New Generation of Acting Teachers, published by Viking Press in 1987. He has lectured on acting at People's Light and Theater Company and the Screen Actors Guild Conservatory in New York City. He is a former board member and past vice president of the University Resident Theater Association and former board member of the National Association of Schools of Theater. The professional actors Mr. Esper has worked with include Jeff Goldblum, Paul Sorvino, Christine Lahti, Helen Slater, Jennifer Beals, William Hurt, John Malkovich, Mary Steenburgen, David Morse, Patricia Wetig, David Rasche, Peter Gallagher, Tonya Pinkins, Danton Stone, Michelle Shay, Kim Basinger, Kim Delaney, Greg Germann, Daphne Rubin Vega, Aaron Eckhardt, Tim Olyphant, Dean Winters, Glenne Headly, Patricia Heaton, Calista Flockhart, Gretchen Mol, Sam Rockwell, Wendie Malick, Tracee Eliss Ross, Molly Price, and Kristin Davis.

Charles Garth (period dance) choreographs and teaches Renaissance and baroque court dance; 19th-century social dance; and has been the president of the Historical Dance Foundation, Inc., an organization that he cofounded. His career began as a ballet dancer. In the early dance field, he has performed, choreographed, and taught throughout the United States and in Europe, South America, Australia, Russia, Japan, and South Africa. He has worked in films and television, and directs early opera productions. He has been a member of the faculty of Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Basel, Switzerland) and cofounded the International Early Dance Institute. He studied early dance with Julia Sutton, Ingrid Brainard, Shirley Wynne, and Wendy Hilton.

Joseph Hart (ensemble, playwright) is an award-winning playwright and veteran of the Aspen Playwrights Festival, the Philadelphia Festival of New Plays, and the University of Massachusetts New Playwrights Festival. His work has been published in the Best Short Plays series, and produced off-Broadway and at numerous regional theaters. His eight years as a student of the late mythologist Joseph Campbell led to the founding of the Shoestring Players, a national touring ensemble of myth and folklore and winner of the "Fringe First" award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Deborah Hedwall (acting) began her theater training at the University of Washington in Seattle. In New York, she graduated from the Neighborhood Playhouse under the direction of Sanford Meisner and William Esper. She trained with Uta Hagen for four years as an actor and teacher at HB Studios where she later taught. She has taught private classes for professional actors for 18 years in New York City and Los Angeles. Ms. Hedwall has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, Fordham University, and Ensemble Studio Theater. As an actress, she received an Obie Award for Outstanding Performance and a Drama Desk Nomination as Best Actress in Sight Unseen at the Manhattan Theater Club. She has created roles in many new plays, including Savage in Limbo by John Patrick Shanley, Extremities, and Why We Have a Body. On television, she played the mother for two seasons on the critically acclaimed series I'll Fly Away, as well as guest starring on numerous television shows, The West Wing and Law and Order, to name a few. Her most recent films include Shadrach and Better Living with Olympia Dukakis. She has been involved in the development of many new plays as a result of working at the Sundance Playwrights Conference, the O`Neill Theatre Conference, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the Long Wharf Theater.

Jan Leys (movement and style) is a native of Antwerp, Belgium. He came to New York in 1980 and danced for five years with the Muller/Works, a dance company. There he worked with choreographers such as Jennifer Muller, Louis Falco, Margot Sappington, and Judith Jamison. He then turned to the theater and became a movement specialist under the tutelage of Loyd Williamson at the Actors Movement Studio. Mr. Leys directed The Raspberry Patch,. . . . , which was presented as a special event at Yale University. Currently Mr. Leys teaches the Williamson Technique (which includes period style). He also coaches and choreographs for Rutgers Theater Company productions, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Rivals, and Arms and the Man. Most recently, Mr. Leys choreographed The Game, an original musical based on Dangerous Liaisons at the Barrington Stage Company.

Nancy A. Mayans (voice and speech) has taught voice production, speech, and acting for over 20 years. After receiving a B.A. in drama from Stanford (Phi Beta Kappa) and an M.F.A. in acting from the Yale School of Drama, she went on to teach at Yale, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, New York University, and several New York acting studios. She has served as acting/speech coach for two PBS children's television series, 3-2-1 Contact and Ghostwriter, and has coached several feature films. She currently teaches voice and speech at the William Esper Studio and works as a director and private coach in New York City. As an actress and singer, Ms. Mayans has performed around the world with Julie Taymor`s Obie award-winning Juan Darien. She has acted with the Public Theatre, the Manhattan Theatre Club, and the Yale Repertory Theatre, as well as with the American Repertory Theatre in Boston, where she is a founding member.

Scott Miller (speech), a graduate of Villanova University, stumbled into acting while studying law in Washington, D.C. In New York, over a span of 15 years, he received his formal acting training "a la carte" at the Neighborhood Playhouse (Sanford Meisner) and with Uta Hagen and Carol Rosenfeld at the HB Studio. He has acted in New York theater and film along the way. Vocally, Scott trained under the private direction of Shane Ann Younts (NYU Tisch School of the Arts, graduate acting) and Robert Neff Williams (Juilliard). Additionally, with techniques developed and supervised by Jim Bonney, he has spent three years immersed in work designed to release the actor`s emotional instrument. Over the past five years, Miller has worked with Jon Thunderchild, a Native American medicine man of Cherokee descent on the power of attention and positive actions. He has been teaching and coaching voice, speech, text, Shakespeare, and acting for the past seven years in New York. His experience includes instruction in voice in the graduate acting department of New York University`s Tisch School of the Arts and speech in the graduate acting department at Mason Gross School of the Arts. As a cofounder of Mercury Rising Theatre Company in New York, Scott began writing in the mid 1990s. He is a co-owner of Kipp Miller Productions, Inc., which writes, develops, and produces for film and television. Miller has a J.D. from George Washington University School of Law in Washington, D.C., and has played professional baseball in Mexico. His present state is a direct consequence to the profound generosity of those mentioned here.

Patricia Norcia-Edwards (voice production, classical texts, and dialects) has devoted her career to acting, directing, and teaching. She has starred on Broadway in The Price of Genius and Mastergate; off-Broadway at the New York Shakespeare Festival; and at the Chelsea, Judith Anderson, and Cherry Lane theaters. She has appeared on One Life to Live, The Guiding Light, and Saturday Night Live. Her solo show, Ruth Draper's The World of Ruth Draper, has been performed at Carnegie Hall and all over the United States, England, and Japan. Directing credits include The Bartered Bride for Lake George Opera and Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, The Barber of Seville for the Bronx Opera, and Goyescas and Susannah for the State Repertory Opera of New Jersey (these last two were voted best staged operas in New Jersey by the Star Ledger). Ms. Norcia-Edwards is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. She is also on the Columbia University faculty and maintains a coaching practice in New York.

Lenard Petit (physical theater) is a professional actor/director who resides in New York City. He has been working in the theater for 20 years, collaborating with other artists to create original works for the stage, cinema, and television. His work has been based primarily in movement or physical pictures. In New York, he has been seen in works by Meredith Monk, Richard Foreman, Julie Taymor, Ping Chong, Otrabanda Company, and Creation Company. Prior to his arrival in New York, Mr. Petit was the artistic director of his own theater company for four years in New Orleans. He has taught theater workshops and master classes on the acting techniques of Michael Chekhov in schools, colleges, and theaters in the United States and throughout Europe. His training has been varied and ongoing, but his most important influences have been the great French master Etienne Decroux, with whom he studied in Paris 18 years ago, and Chekhov, whose technique continues to be a great source of inspiration. Mr. Petit is the artistic director of the Michael Chekhov Acting Studio in New York City. He received his B.A. in 1974 from Franconia College and, more recently, studied with William Esper in New York.

J. Allen Suddeth (stage combat) has worked professionally for the past 25 years outside the New York area. The Society of American Fight Directors ranks him as one of 10 recognized Fight Masters in the United States. For Broadway, he has staged fights for Saturday Night Fever, Jekyll & Hyde, Angels in America, Loot, Saint Joan, A Small Family Business, and Hide and Seek. Off-Broadway he has worked on over 50 productions for the Manhattan Theater Club, Playwrights` Horizons, the New Group, the Public Theater, BAM, Second Stage, Riverside Shakespeare, Jean Cocteau Repertory, the Pearl Theater, and the New York Theater Workshop. Regionally, and in LORT Theater, he has worked for Center Stage in Baltimore, the Arena Stage, and the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C., as well as the Denver Center, the Goodman Theater, the Hartford Stage, the Seattle Repertory Theatre, the Actor`s Theater of Louisville, and the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, among many others. As a master teacher, Allen has trained actors for The Juilliard School, the Lee Strasberg Institute, and the Stella Adler Conservatory, as well as being a frequent guest artist at major universities. For television, he has staged stunts, fights, and action sequences for over 750 programs for ABC, CBS, NBC, and HBO. He is the author of Fight Directing for the Theater, published by Heinemann Press. Allen has taught at the National Stage Combat Workshop for many years, and is workshop coordinator for the National Fight Directors Training Program.

Beth Wicke (auditioning) is certified by the Royal Academy of Dance. She trained at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and holds a B.A. in theater from the Catholic University of America. Her credits include manager of casting, East Coast for ABC Television; supervising the casting of Loving, All My Children, One Life to Live, and General Hospital; and contributing to prime-time pilot projects. She also was the director of daytime programming for ABC, where she was responsible for creative supervision of East Coast serials. Wicke initiated the AFTRA/ABC Committee to address minority and disability hiring practices. She now casts independent projects, most recently SOAPLINE for Gottlieb Enterprises and works as a private acting/audition coach. She has taught extensively at universities and theaters throughout the United States.

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