Film star Kathleen Turner teaches masterclass at TheatreVCU

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Screen and stage star and director Kathleen Turner visited Virginia Commonwealth University Monday to teach a rare masterclass for Department of Theatre students.

Eight students were chosen to perform monologues for the actress, who said she advocates practical acting, which means “shut up and do it.”

“It was a lot of nerves and anxiety coming up the last couple of weeks,” said Mikayla Bartholomew, who performed a monologue from “pen/man/ship” by Christina Anderson. “And then I was like, ‘You know what? Just go up there and do it. She’s here to see and work with you, she's not going to be like, ‘You suck. You’re terrible.’ She's going to give you things to work with,’ and that’s what I was looking for.”

Turner graciously took the time to come to Richmond from Washington, D.C., where she is starring in “The Year of Magical Thinking” at Arena Stage, according to David Leong, a professor at VCU who worked with Turner on a production of “Mother Courage” a few years ago.

“I’m talking a lot these days,” Turner said. “Eight shows a week at an hour 45 is a lot. I usually don’t ever touch a mic, but I’m going to today because I’m supposed to be on vocal rest.”

After one monologue, Turner asked the class if they had been taught to focus on the “netherlands” and in-between space and never at anyone’s eyes, to which the class immediately nodded.

“I hate that,” she said. “We’re all here. Use us. Don’t pretend we’re not here.”

Looking directly at Turner gave Tyler Fauntleroy instant feedback from her facial expressions.

“That kind of fueled me for the rest of the piece,” he said. Fauntleroy performed a monologue from “The Brothers Size” by Tarell Alvin McCraney — something he hasn’t worked on since his sophomore year.

“Really I had forgotten about it because it had been so long since I had done it, but it’s my favorite,” he said. “It’s something that I feel free-est doing. I have the most fun doing it.

“When you do a monologue for so long, you get stuck in a pattern, and so we’re breaking those patterns. [Turner] gave me the note to start lower and to be exhausted. I struggled with that because sometimes when I felt myself really trying to slip into the exhaustion, it was not what I was used to, what I was comfortable with. Until finally I just let it go and just really let myself go there.”

After preparing a monologue for almost two weeks, Matthew Riley switched his piece at the last minute to Ken’s monologue from “Red” by John Logan, which he thought showcased his acting abilities the best.

“It’s direct and it’s dramatic but it’s also funny,” he said. Performing in front of Turner “was nerve-wracking but awesome. It was once in a lifetime.”

Turner additionally asked the students to move more. “When your body is locked, so is your creativity, so is your imagination,” she said.

Bartholomew loved Turner’s pointers, which enabled her to perform her monologue in a way she had never considered before.

“She was like, ‘You are fine the way you are, let’s just add some stuff to your toolbox and see how that goes,’” Bartholomew said.

As she left, Turner imparted one last piece of advice: “Be great.”