With credits as varied as “Northern Exposure,” Sesame Street” and the recent sci-fi thriller “Interstellar,” actor, clown and writer Bill Irwin has a lot of experiences to share. And he will do just that, with Penn State theatre students and in a public presentation, as part of his visit to the University Park campus for a weeklong residency in the School of Theatre, Nov. 29–Dec. 6.
Bill Irwin to share his experiences as actor, clown and writer
Irwin will lead a Q&A on the “Freelance Life of an Artist” on Wednesday, Dec. 3, 4–6 p.m., in 16 Borland Building, which is free and open to the public. The Q&A is hosted by the College of Arts and Architecture Arts Entrepreneurship Program. He will also perform the works of dramatist Samuel Beckett, followed by conversation about the performance, on Friday, Dec. 5, 4–5:30 p.m., for the School of Theatre and invited guests. For most of his visit, Irwin will be meeting with M.F.A. actors in the Master of Fine Arts program, in addition to giving a presentation to the Theatre 100 class taught by Bill Doan, professor of theatre and women’s studies.
Irwin is visiting University Park for the third time at the invitation of Doan, who met Irwin when he did a residency at Miami University of Ohio, where Doan was teaching at the time. So began a long-term working relationship, with Doan developing Irwin’s archive of materials collected throughout this career and beginning work on a book project with the award-winning performer, who has been recognized for his contribution to the renaissance of the American circus during the 1970s.
“Irwin is both an admired artist and a very successful entrepreneur, creating original work that has succeeded on Broadway and in various countries around the world,” said Doan. “His range is astonishing, from his 2005 Tony Award-winning performance in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,’ to his recent work on Samuel Beckett, TARS in the movie ‘Interstellar,’ and the award-winning ‘Old Hats,’ a vaudeville review most recently performed at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. Both he and his work are respected across the entertainment industry.”
During the residency, the M.F.A. acting students will spend nearly 30 hours with Irwin in a studio setting — the equivalent of half a semester. In that time, students will hone their audition skills, gain insight into Irwin’s approaches to characters from Beckett to Shakespeare, and get feedback on their own work.
Doan said his goal for Irwin’s visit is simple: to provide as many students as possible the opportunity to meet and work with a highly respected professional who can impact their training at every level. Doan will also continue to work on developing Irwin’s archive, including recording interviews that will eventually be part of it.
“Mr. Irwin loves working with young actors and finds these residencies valuable to his own work,” Doan said.