The Flint Journal: “University of Michigan Flint playwright talks Actors Studio, new play”

“(Writing plays) really just utilizes my strengths. I had a good ear for dialogue, and for me, it’s just a matter of being able to tell a story through characterizations. Even though I can do short stories or novels, I seem to be more at home when the characters are more engaged in the situation,” Sean Welch explains. “For me, it’s pretty exciting to see a couple of actors go up there and say the words I’ve written, in the moment. I don’t think there’s anything really like that.”

From The Flint Journal, by William E. Ketchum III

FLINT, MI—These days, Flint native Sean Michael Welch is living in New York, writing plays and earning his masters of fine arts (MFA) at Pace University’s prestigious Actors Studio-sanctioned drama school. His new play, “All An Act,” debuts during week five of the university’s Repertory Season, where Welch’s fellow graduating students will present other plays and scenes.

But before he was studying and working with the country’s elite, the Grand Blanc High School Graduate first explored his skills at University of Michigan Flint. He had grown an affinity for penning short stories in previous years, but after taking an acting class, he saw that writing plays was an experience that made even more sense.

“(Writing plays) really just utilizes my strengths. I had a good ear for dialogue, and for me, it’s just a matter of being able to tell a story through characterizations. Even though I can do short stories or novels, I seem to be more at home when the characters are more engaged in the situation,” Welch explains. “For me, it’s pretty exciting to see a couple of actors go up there and say the words I’ve written, in the moment. I don’t think there’s anything really like that.”

He cites U-M Flint professors Carolyn Gillespie and Professor Lauren Friesen as his primary support at U-M Flint, giving productive feedback and introducing him to other playwrights he would admire. Before graduating in 2000, he snatched up the 1999 Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KC/ACTF) John Cauble Short Play Award for “Earl the Vampire,” and the 2000 KC/ACTF Region III Ten-Minute Play Competition for “Charleston’s Finger.” The former, which he considers his first complete play, was about a vampire who begins a political movement to bring minority status to vampires in America. In “Charleston’s Finger,” a family has a dinner table discussion about how their son’s finger fell into his soup.

Welch moved to New York City afterward, and worked a regular job for eight years while writing nightly. He finally decided to attend grad school, and he was accepted into Pace University’s drama school sanctioned by The Actors Studio, a decades-old performers organization that, according to its web site, boasts award-winning actors Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, and Ellen Burstyn as co-presidents. After head playwright Edward Allan Baker explained the benefits of the school, Welch loved the aspect of students engaging in acting classes.

“I always considered (acting classes) a bonus, as I still enjoy acting and still wanted to act,” Welch said. He lists the curriculum, being surrounded by other talent, and feedback from Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham as high points of the experience. “It hit on all points, and it allowed me to do what I was supposed to be doing and what I wanted to do.”

As his graduation nears, this month he participates in the school’s Repertory Season to premier his play “All An Act,” which is about two clowns who have to talk out a drunken night of debauchery to preserve their professional relationship and long-term friendship. After its debut, Welch plans and the play’s crew plan to set their sights on collecting donations to participate in the Edinnburgh French Festival in August.

“I think we’re in a very good place. I have an excellent director and two fine, very skilled actors who…have actually studied clowning, whether while in school or in their own time during the summer months,” Welch says. “I’m anxious to see what an audience makes of it. I think all the work they’ve put into it is worth viewing.”

Sun Prairie Star: “Sun Prairie native directs at Pace University”

Actors Studio Drama School MFA Directing Candidate Ken Urso grew up in Sun Prairie and Middleton, Wisconsin. Recalls Urso: “Lynda Sharpe was my high school drama teacher. She really took me under her wing, even allowed me to do an ‘Independent Study’ in Directing with her my senior year, in which I adapted a 15th Century Morality Play, “Everyman,” into a modern day play about bullying in High School. Every morning she would mentor me, and at night I would rehearse. She was the one who took me on my first trip NYC.”

Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, native and Master of Fine Arts candidate Ken Urso will be directing four plays during the Repertory season at New York’s Pace University from March 28 – April 28, reported the Sun Prairie Star.

Urso is the son of Kathy Urso of Middleton and Joe Urso of Mazomanie. He grew up in Sun Prairie before moving to Middleton when he was a freshman in high school. Urso graduated from Middleton High School in 2001 and from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting in 2005.

Urso has directed productions throughout the United States, including The Shape of Things, Chicago, The Producers, Everyman and Cabaret.

New York directing credits include Bent, Never the Sinner and the original productions of Kidnapping Laura Linney, Gay Camp and Riverside. He is also an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

During the Repertory season, Urso directed scenes from John Kolvenbach’s Fabuloso from March 28 -31. He will also be directing Amicable Parting from April 4- 7 (by George S. Kaufman and Leueen MacGrath); a scene from Red Light Winter (by Adam Rapp) from April 18 – 21; and a scene from Fallen Angels (by Noel Coward) from April 25 – 28.

BroadwayWorld.com: “Actors Studio Drama School at Pace Univ Announces Repertory Season”

The 2011 Actors Studio Drama School Repertory Season performances will take place at the Theater at Dance New Amsterdam, 53 Chambers St., just north of City Hall, Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. from April 13 through May 14. The full schedule and information about plays, actors, directors and playwrights can be found online at www.Pace.edu/ASDSRep

Admission is free, but reservations must be made in advance by phone or e-mail as seating is limited. The 24-hour reservation line is: (212) 613-6209 and email is ASDSRep@pace.edu

This year’s 27 Master of Fine Arts (MFA) candidates of  The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University include:

  • Young Simba from Broadway’s The Lion King and the originator of the role of Jack Scott in Disney’s stage version of High School Musical (Ruben L. Del Valle, Jr, pictured)
  • Reigning Miss Black USA (2010)
  • Loud Nanny in The Nanny Diaries (The Weinstein Company)
  • Musician featured on the double platinum album The Light & The Shadow, which launched hip hop into Israel’s mainstream
  • Grammy award winner, recognized for her outstanding choral and drama programs in a South Carolina high school
  • Fulbright Scholar
  • Lauded playwright – For the Winter (finalist, 35th Annual Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Contest), and Four Sons (winner, Under 20’s Playwriting Contest, Tarragon Theatre).
  • Director of Martha and Me: A Musical, which enjoyed a sell-out run at the New York International Fringe Festival
  • Winner of the State of Ohio Solo Musical Theatre Thespian Competition at age 16
  • Tri-linguist in English, French and Spanish
  • Fortune 500 banker turned actor