I Trained at Indiana University
I have to first remind you that Herman types these columns for me. By
mistake, Herman reversed my words to University of Indiana, which
should have read Indiana University. I went to IU at Bloomington. I
remember there being a campus in Terre Haute and another campus called
IUPUI, which stands for Indiana University – Purdue University,
Indianapolis. This is ironic because I remember there being a
sarcastic football fight cheer "Go IU, screw Purdue!" Now I'm totally
mystified at that.
Back to IU. My main acting teacher there was Howard Jensen. He was a
formidable force to reckon with. He had his own agenda for teaching
which included the Stanislavski Method I talked about last week.
IU Bloomington is known for its acting school, (probably due to Mr.
Jensen), its ballet school and its opera department. Oddly enough, it
was the opera school that wanted me and my voice and that's thanks to
George Vassos at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
I wanted, however, to sing the blues and thankfully the great Eileen
Farrell was teaching that there. On her studio door there was a floor
to ceiling sign that said "Opera sucks!" and I knew she was the
teacher for me.
But back to Howard Jensen, I looked up his bio on Google and it was
extensive, to say the least, including a Tony Award for regional
theater production at Utah Shakespeare Festival where he also directed
and cast shows.
What I got out of the acting program were that acting is believing,
method acting, the Stanislavski system and sense memory. Howard Jensen
was a proponent of all these things.
I remember when I auditioned for Anton Chekov's "Cherry Orchard" at IU
back in the fall of 1977, I was afraid to audition in front of Jensen
after all the classes I had taken with him. He would usually only
allow graduate students to appear in his productions, but he was
giving some of the promising undergraduates a shot at the production
What I learned from the experience was that I needed to study serious
acting roles more intently and couldn't just do them off the cuff as I
had with musical theater. I hindsight, I'm not surprised Howard didn't
cast me but rather went with an older, more experienced student of
acting for the part of Vanya I had been seeking.
In fact, he started the Master of Fine Arts program in acting at IU.
He is now retired as of 2004 and in everything I read on the Internet,
he will be greatly missed.
Besides the theater arts at IU, I also studied voice and movement,
which was mostly dance at IU. I will talk about that in later columns,
but I would have had no chance in acting off Broadway and on
television had it not been for the tutelage of Howard Jensen and the
program at Indiana University.
Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in NYC and Los Angeles, now pursues free lance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns may be accessed at her web site www.kathrynskorner.com