Theater students benefit from professional acting coach

Written by Muleskinner Staff

The Meridith Harmon Saur Endowment Scholarship allowed the Theatre Department to invite alumnus Jason Bohon to assist students in "Street Scene" as a "moment-to-moment" acting coach. This allowed the student actors to work with a professional with networking opportunities. (Photo by ANDREW MATHER, Photo Editor)
The Meridith Harmon Saur Endowment Scholarship allowed the Theatre Department to invite alumnus Jason Bohon to assist students in “Street Scene” as a “moment-to-moment” acting coach. This allowed the student actors to work with a professional with networking opportunities. (Photo by ANDREW MATHER, Photo Editor)

Story by NICOLE COOKE, Copy Editor—
In addition to the direction of a University of Central Missouri theater professor, actors in the upcoming production of “Street Scene” have benefited from the expertise of an acting coach straight from the professional world of theater.
Jason Bohon graduated from UCM in 2000 with a Bachelor’s in Theatre Performance and English Literature and has worked all over the country, including the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, American Globe Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Children’s Theatre of Minneapolis and the Connecticut Repertory Theatre.
He later received his Master’s in Physical Theatre from the London International School of Performing Arts.
Bohon has some teaching experience, as he was a guest-teaching artist for an actor training program at the University of Minnesota, but this time he is teaching at his alma mater, thanks to a special scholarship.
The Meridith Harmon Sauer Endowment Scholarship was established a few years ago and allows UCM to bring in guest artists to work with theater students.
“We look for someone that has a teaching capacity, and someone that has a lot of networking opportunities for our students,” said Richard Herman, chair of the department of theatre and dance and director of “Street Scene.” “The benefit is for students to get to work with professionals. They get a whole different perspective when they work with them. It’s also a benefit to the artist because they are always looking for opportunities to add to their resume.”
Bohon has taken over classes for John Wilson, who is on sabbatical this semester. He teaches Acting I, Stage Voice, and Movement.
He has also worked with students in the second set of Studio Theatre one-acts, as well as students preparing for competitions or their senior showcase.
In addition to working on “Street Scene,” Bohon was the fighting choreographer for “Deathtrap.”
“Jason has training in a lot of physical work, so he has specialized in the stage movement class using mask work,” Herman said. “Students are getting experiences they might not get in a typical semester. We don’t have a huge faculty, but we can bring in guest artists to help fill in those gaps.”
Bohon has been working as the acting coach for “Street Scene,” which started rehearsals after spring break. Herman said he has been mostly working on staging and large crowd scenes, while Bohon has done more “moment to moment acting work,” such as working on character dialects and motivations.
With a large cast of 47 actors, having Bohon has been a great help to Herman. Between the two of them, more work can be done in rehearsals.
Herman worked with large crowd scenes on stage while Bohon worked with small scenes in the lobby.
“I’m used to working on large cast musicals and Shakespeare plays, so this wasn’t unusual for me,” Bohon said. “It’s all about crowd control and keeping people focused. What’s challenging is getting actors to play different rhythms. By nature, we are conformists, so when actors get on stage together they usually play the same rhythm. But the characters in this play all have a different background, a different age, and a different rhythm.”
“In ‘Street Scene’ he has worked with every single actor in this process,” said David LeVota, who plays Sam Kaplan. “Since this takes place in New York, a lot of dialects are used in the play and he was a major help when it came to deciding who gets what dialect and crafting it to perfection. Working with Jason has been extraordinary and I learned a lot of new ways to craft and develop a character from him.”
Not only does Bohon have acting experience that he can share with students, but he can also advise them on entering the professional world of theater.
“Jason is a professional working actor in New York City and he’s a great resource,” Herman said. “He can tell students what’s happening in the professional world, like where do you find jobs, apartments, job connections, etc.”
“Having him here, and getting to work with him, has been an amazing experience,” said Joseph Reece, who plays Harry Easter. “I feel as though he’s treated us like professionals, expecting us to bring in a lot of outside prep work.
This was a small taste of what it will be like after we are done with school, where we won’t have a set schedule in which to follow and have to manage ourselves and take the initiative to make things happen.”
Not only has Bohon spent the past semester at his alma mater, but he is also receiving the Ed See Outstanding Theatre Alumnus Award on Saturday.
“I’m really honored to be receiving this award,” Bohon said. “I remember, as an undergrad, all of the amazing theater artists who were receiving this award. I thought, ‘Wow, how exciting would it be to get that award.’ I didn’t expect to get it at all, let alone get it at this stage in my career.“
Having an alumnus of the program also benefits the students because he has been able to show them what is possible after graduation.
“He’s also a walking success story, showing us that UCM theater alumni have found consistent work in New York, and that this program really does prepare us very well for the professional world,” Reece said.
“Street Scene” will be performed April 24-27 at 7:30 p.m. and April 28 at 2 p.m. in Highlander Theatre. For more information, contact Herman at [email protected]