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.”