Inside the Fundamemtal Principles of Acting

Brittany Doyle

After an exhausting Monday, the last thing a student wants to do is trek to yet another class right before grabbing dinner and delving into Monday night homework.

The Fundamental Principles of Acting class is not, however, the typical 75-minute lecture.

Hidden in the basement of Vasey Theatre, through a hallway that seems to be perpetually littered with half-assembled set pieces, lies what is entitled an “acting room.”

The room is not large. Couches and benches, not desks, line the black-painted walls. Stage lights litter the ceiling and a light board hides in the corner. Every Monday and Wednesday, from 4:30 until 5:45, a group of 13 students gather here under the instruction of the lively and motivational Donna McFadden.

As a former actress, I eagerly awaited the pull of a curtain and the dramatic torrent of language exchanged between enthused students.

The class, much to my surprise, delivered a very satisfying show, without a script or a single rehearsal. The professor introduced a game called “Lies and Truths,” in which each student displays two objects and details two stories that relate to the respective objects. One of the stories is an absolute truth while the other is an absolute lie.

Knowing this, I, along with the other students and the professor, memorized and analyzed every detail of each story, looking for a fault that might give away the lie.

Senior Natalie Cerasia brought with her three bouncy balls and a plaque featuring Mary holding a baby Jesus.

The bouncy balls, she said, were given to her by three little girls she once babysat. She explained that she had bought the bouncy balls with them at a Taco Bell and when the girls moved away they gave Cerasia the bouncy balls to remember them by. A Nun who had always fixed her hair after her mother pulled it too tight gave the Madonna to her when she left the school.

The stories each seemed plausible, but one of them was absolutely false. Cerasia was interrogated about the details of the girls and the elementary schools she attended.

Finally, we each reached our own conclusions, the majority choosing to believe the bouncy balls were actually given to her by girls she once babysat due to the specific details she gave. The verdict? The Madonna had come from a kind Nun. We were all a bit taken aback that she had managed to make us all believe the completely false story.

Donna McFadden explained that acting is convincing an audience that something is entirely true.

Junior Tom Morabito faced a jury of students who each insisted the falsity of the same story, (with the exception of two students who chose to disagree on the premise, “I don’t want him to fool everyone in the class!”). In truth, we were all fooled. Morabito is not an actor, (although he does plan on becoming a lawyer), and yet we all bought his act – hook, line and sinker. He could not have been more pleased that his story won us all over.

“I spent more time making up this story than I did on actual homework this weekend,” he says.

In fact, the consensus is that the class is an enjoyable addition to a schedule.

“You don’t dread coming to this class,” Cerasia says.

I couldn’t agree more. Sitting in on a class that I was to receive no credit for could not have been much more fun and engaging than Fundamental Principles of Acting.

The class isn’t all games though; the students are required to attend the productions put on by Villanova Theatre and submit two critiques.

They learn techniques of public speaking in a comfortable manner and delve into the complexity of improvisational acting. In addition, they spend the majority of the semester preparing a production of their own that they will perform as their final exam.

Acting is much more than formal performances and on stage and on screen. The students raved about McFadden’s ability to motivate them to break down boundaries among each other and within themselves. Being put in awkward situations in dramatic acts allows students to break out of their comfort zone and discover new things about themselves.

This creative outlet is also a way to break up the monotony of a rigorous schedule. The best part is that it counts as a fine arts requirement for all students in the arts school, but even if you’re a business student or an engineer, Fundamental Principles of Acting is an exciting course and would benefit any student ever planning on holding a conversation in the future.