Drawing the human body and performing theater roles have much in common, as Case Western Reserve University's Katherine Bakeless Nason Professor of Theater Ron Wilson has learned over the years.
Both involve a keen eye to observe and interpret the nonverbal information revealed through physical gestures and alignment, according to Wilson. During Wilson's fall semester sabbatical, he will enrich his love for theater and drawing with experiences that will take him to a famous atelier in Paris and to a Boston theater.>
When Wilson studied at Wichita State University 40 years ago, his plan was to get a degree in art. However, his education also took a turn toward theater where he has since been immersed in the world of nonverbal physical performance, acting and directing, to now teaching through the Case/Cleveland Play House Master of Fine Arts Professional Acting Program.
About a year ago, his passion for drawing the human figure reemerged as he began to attend open studio classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art and a drawing intensive course this summer at the Gage Academy of Art in Seattle.
His first sabbatical trip takes him to the Boston Playwrights' Theatre in October to direct the November professional premiere of John Shea's COMP, a three-character drama about the conflict between a mother and her two sons, who have survived an accident that left one wheelchair-bound and the other guilty for surviving unscathed.
Wilson will work with Shea to develop his one-act, 90-minute play as it goes into rehearsal. The play will be performed in the Equity theatre that was founded in 1981 by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott to promote the writing and production of new plays. The theater is also home to the Graduate Playwriting Program of which Shea is an alumnus and one of two graduates who has been accepted to stage his play during the upcoming season.
After the play opens November 1-3, Wilson will head back to Cleveland for a short visit and then off to Paris to study drawing as a member of the class in the highly competitive Studio Escalier First Paris Drawing Program. Wilson discovered the drawing program while looking through an art magazine. He submitted a portfolio and application.
Wilson is one of 10 artists chosen for the international program. Five are from the United States and the other five from Europe. They will spend six hours a day, Monday through Friday, drawing the life model.
He said he is looking at "retraining the eye" and finding "a fresh way of looking at the body." This is an important observation for a theater professor who is helping his students learn stage movement that is grounded in a physical base.
"It is a chance to become reinvigorated," said Wilson, who has also found how much he missed drawing after setting aside that work to develop his career in mime, fight choreography, playwriting, directing and acting.
Studio Escalier's year-round program takes place two hours from Paris, but the December classes on the human figure are located in the heart of Paris' art district of Montmartre in the studio of Theodore Géricault, the 19th century romantic painter. During the program, five evenings will be spent in the Louvre Museum where the class will draw the human figure from sculptures and casts.
Wilson said that after picking up his pencil to draw again after 40 years, he found that he is "thankfully" better now. He credits it to maturity and having worked many years in physical theater with the body as an expressive instrument.
Case Western Reserve University is committed to the free exchange of ideas, reasoned debate and intellectual dialogue. Speakers and scholars with a diversity of opinions and perspectives are invited to the campus to provide the community with important points of view, some of which may be deemed controversial. The views and opinions of those invited to speak on the campus do not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration or any other segment of the university community.