By Doug Carroll
If Shakespeare takes the measure of a serious actor, then perhaps no actor has a better take on the Bard than Drew Swaine.
Swaine, a GCU junior, plays Demetrius in the Ethington Theatre production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” one of Shakespeare’s most popular works. The play begins a two-weekend run on campus Friday night.
“I like Shakespeare, but I don’t think I’ve ever been intimidated by doing it,” Swaine says. “It’s good theatre, but it’s not inaccessible.”
That’s easy for him to say. As a child growing up in north Phoenix, Swaine says he memorized the balcony speech from “Romeo and Juliet” for fun, and he’s currently studying Shakespeare from the literary side in a course taught by Dr. James Helfersat GCU.
“It’s not what’s on the page, it’s what’s on the stage,” Swaine says he has learned from the class.
What’s on the stage is everything to Swaine, who is in his second stint as a student at GCU. He attended the University before its theatre program went on hiatus in 2006 and returned last fall to a revitalized College of Fine Arts and Production.
In the interim, he studied for two years at the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts in Santa Maria, Calif., where he “did theatre all day” for six days a week. At the school, he had four semesters of Shakespeare.
“You don’t go to PCPA if you don’t want to make a career of theatre,” says Swaine, who was part of a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” while he was there. “It was wonderful being exposed to so many ideas across disciplines.”
Swaine says his best friend from the school is currently part of a national touring production of “Cats.” Several classmates went on to work in theatre in New York and Chicago. The school accepts only about 30 students a year.
“It was really intensive and one of the best decisions of my life,” says Swaine, 22, who is on track to graduate from GCU in December and wants to pursue a master’s degree in order to teach theatre eventually.
GCU, he says, provides a similar intimacy for him.
“Small settings are important in acting,” he says. “It’s important to have those one-on-one experiences.”
Instructor Michael Kary, who is directing the Ethington production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” is one of those one-on-one specialists.
“He’s an actor’s director,” Swaine says of Kary, who is considered one of the finest performers GCU has produced. “He has done an interesting job of honoring the (Greek) setting of the play and allowing it to be relatable to an audience. He has incorporated music really well.
“This play is funny and fun to watch. It’s high-energy and fast-moving. Even today, it’s the biggest draw of Shakespeare’s works.”
Performances of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday on both weekends. For tickets, call the Ethington Theatre box office at 602.639.8880.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or [email protected].