Try out acting with ETC performances

Have you ever wanted to try acting but don’t want to major/minor in theater or don’t have the time to act in a semester-long play?

If so, then the ETC performance events might interest you. These are part of the Advanced Directing class, a three-credit course offered every spring.

Each class consists of many ETC performances, taking place most Fridays from 4-5 p.m. in Performing Arts 113. Instead of one or two semester-long plays, ETCs are much shorter — 10 to 20-minute long performances.

The instructor Vladimir Rovinsky talked about the importance of performing/directing on a smaller scale, and how it opens up for experimentation.

“If you’re cast in a big show, if you have to perform in front of a big audience, it unavoidably puts some limitations on your risk-taking techniques. It may be intimidating, but also you feel more pressure to get it right.” 

Rovinsky said the vibe at ETCs can range from fun to experimental.

“It’s a very friendly atmosphere and usually plays that are being offered to be directed could be more experimental, they could be more innovative, less known plays,” he said. “So it does give you a chance to take risks and try something new without fear of failure. Which is very important for artists to have this safe place because you know we’re all programmed to succeed. But for artists especially, the permission to fail is very important because you learn from that sometimes much more than from success.” 

The directors have acting auditions 4 p.m. Tuesdays. Anyone, even people not in the class or program, is welcome to try out. You don’t have to prepare anything either, as the directors will give you lines to act out.

Awareness is spread through Facebook posts, emails to music, dance, and theater majors and through general word of mouth.

People of all ages show up to act in the ETC performances. From freshmen to MFA students and even parents of students.

Directors are encouraged to work with underclassmen and people who are new to the acting world. These are the people they typically cast. Class director Bex Williams said there’s value in using acting virgins.

“There’s so much value in reaching out to people who might not have acted before, like people in the music department and the dance department. I think that we as directors getting to work with a plethora of people really inspires us and gives us new ideas,” Williams said.

The directors work closely with other classes in the Theater department who have short scenes and plays that they like to put on. For example, they recently collaborated with the Playwriting class to put on some original work that they’ve been working on all semester.

Unfortunately, because the performances can only be 10 to 20 minutes long, a lot of these plays are drastically cut down. Williams talks about how this is a challenge for the class.

“That’s a challenge but it’s something that we’re all improving on as we go on, figuring out where the substance is and how we can get the most out of that in a very limited window of time,” Williams said.

According to Rovinsky, ETCs are a very old tradition, so it has many different interpretations on what it stands for. Some say it’s “Educational Theater Companies,” some say it’s “Experimental Theater Companies,” some say it simply means “Et Cetera,” etc.

Write to Jack Harding at jack.harding@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: ETC Performances at Minnesota State give students the opportunity to try out acting inside a class of student directors. (Courtesy Jayna Sherman)

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