Theatre Alumnus Lands Apprenticeship with Shakespeare Company
Jamil Joseph defines “summer fun” differently than most people. A May 2016 graduate of East Stroudsburg University’s Theatre Department, Joseph spent 12 weeks in Massachusetts in intensive study as part of the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s Apprentice program.
Based at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., the program’s 26 apprentices took classes in movement, voice and Shakespearean text analysis. They also received individual coaching. The apprentices performed in one of two Shakespearean plays, Cymbeline and Measure for Measure and supported the company’s main production of Love’s Labour’s Lost, presented on Boston Common.
“In the third week of the program there was a giant audition where all of the apprentices auditioned for both plays,” said Joseph, a Brooklyn native. “Each director then held separate callbacks for specific plays and characters.”
Joseph was cast as Claudio and Froth in Measure for Measure, two very contrasting roles in one of Shakespeare’s darker comedies that focuses on morality, justice and mercy.
“Claudio is a young man who may lose his life before his child is born,” Joseph said. “I played a young man in love in several plays at ESU, but, as Claudio, I had to think of what is at stake for the character. The issues in the play are topics that are important today.”
To play Froth, “not only did I have to change my costume,” Joseph added, “but I had to go from being really serious to being a giggly airhead with a silly smile on my face. I needed to shake off the stresses of being Claudio.”
“We had to do a lot of the work on our own, applying what we learned in our classes to our character,” Joseph noted.
“I took the skills that I learned at ESU and expanded them to bring these characters to life,” he added. “The text work that Professor Stephanie Daventry French did in preparing the cast for ESU’s April 2015 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was especially important in my work this summer.”
“Jamil came to ESU as a high school athlete with very little theater experience,” French said. “He brought a thirst for learning and proceeded to make the most of every opportunity here. To every collaboration he brought warmth, discipline and playfulness.” French recalled Joseph was universally respected by peers and faculty alike. “We are very impressed with what he has achieved as he launches from ESU, first at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, where he was a finalist in the Irene Ryan Scholarship Competition and recently as an apprentice in a leading role at the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company.”
As an understudy for Love’s Labour’s Lost, Joseph spent some time rehearsing at the main performance site on the Boston Common.
“Rehearsing on the main set was exciting, he said. “Even though I didn’t get to go on in actual performance, I had the chance to work with a different director, and with performers in the main company who were members of Actors’ Equity, the union for actors. Everyone gave lots of tips on how to get through life as an actor.”
Performances for Measure for Measure took place at both indoor and outdoor venues. “It’s been a fun vocal challenge to go from an indoor space, where we don’t use mics, to an outdoor space, where there are floor mics,” Joseph said. “This spring when I performed in Allentown Public Theatre’s production of The Island, we used head mics when we played outdoors, so I’ve learned yet another skill as an actor.”
Joseph described the audiences for Measure for Measure as being “really invested and involved in the play. I loved being part of the production and working with a group of talented people who have the same passion and drive as me. Everyone was always striving to be as good as they can be.”
“I’m thinking of staying in the Boston area and auditioning for the Actor’s Shakespeare Project. The theatre scene here is flourishing, and I’d like to explore it before I eventually move on to California for graduate school.”