Teens audition for Shakespeare seminar 'Homicide' star looks to bring works to life

January 22, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

As a classically trained actor who's spent most of his career performing Shakespeare, one would expect there is nothing Andre Braugher loves more than curling up with one of the playwright's works.

Wrong.

"When I was first exposed to Shakespeare, I found it really, really boring," Mr. Braugher said yesterday. "These plays, for me, are only interesting when they live."

Bringing Shakespeare to life for area teen-agers is what Mr. Braugher and the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival hope to do with the Festival's first student actors' workshop. Mr. Braugher, one of the stars of the critically acclaimed television drama "Homicide: Life on the Street," spent yesterday in downtown Baltimore auditioning 28 youths for the two-day workshop set for next month.

The teen-agers competed for the workshop's 14 spots and the chance to learn from Mr. Braugher, who some critics have dubbed the "best actor" on television.

In a gray room in an unused office building, the youths exhibited nervousness and enthusiasm.

"Basically, I just love acting," said Angela Brown, 17, after completing a scene from "Romeo and Juliet." "I must admit that )) I'm not a big fan of Shakespeare but I think every actor needs to do it."

Ms. Brown, a senior at the Baltimore School For The Arts, said it was especially thrilling to be able to perform before Mr. Braugher.

"I think he's a wonderful actor, and I really admire his work," she said. "It's always good to have someone you admire teach you."

The festival's founder and artistic director, Kelley Dunn, said the auditions offered aspiring actors a taste of the craft of performing.

"The whole thrust is getting them to see that the theater isn't something that you walk up and you have a cute smile and you get in," Ms. Dunn said. "Andre is a trained, professional actor."

Mr. Braugher worked with each of the youths, gradually pulling from them what they needed to make their performances more '' realistic. He praised the youths -- many of whom had little acting experience -- for their desire to learn and play Shakespearean roles, a task he didn't tackle until college.

"I guess they have the opportunity to see something in Shakespeare that I didn't when I was their age," said Mr. Braugher, who has studied at the Juilliard School. "The moment that I realized that these were not just people saying flowery words but people with emotions and thoughts like me, that's when Shakespeare came alive for me. That's when I wanted to take Shakespeare off the page."

Anthony Carter, 18, came to "give it a chance because what did I have to lose."

The St. Frances Academy senior, acted out a scene as Iago -- a role in which Mr. Braugher achieved some fame at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington.

As a would-be actor and an African-American man, he said he felt encouraged to audition because of Mr. Braugher's success.

"I never really thought that Shakespeare applied to me. But it's impressive to see [Mr. Braugher] do it and if he can do it, maybe I can do it, too."

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