Vershawn Young, back to the stage after 10 years

Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Professor Vershawn Young

Vershawn Young is many things: a professor in the department of Communication Arts and English Language and Literature; the director of the new Black Studies program, a program in which he led in the development; a solo performance artist, translating all of his academic work into stage productions; and a writer of books and articles.

He is now participating in the leading role of Sir Robert Chiltern, in the production of An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde at Firehall Theatre.
The play takes place in 19th century London. Young describes the play itself to be “a British comedy. Which does not mean it’s funny.” The play consists of witty lines that others may be familiar with from past playwrights that break the monotony and the dense language within the play. It also consists of sarcasm and is filled with quite a bit of drama. The play examines the relationships between couples. It is about love and marriage and dealing with issues that may arise in relationships. With that being said, Young emphasizes that the play promotes handling these problems with love.

The character of Sir Robert Chiltern is a politician and a husband. Having little to no knowledge on the character’s past and background, Young uses a professional approach; watching film versions, listening to audio recordings and implementing textural analysis to delineate and internalize the character. Rather than making himself Robert Chiltern, Young is using an approach in which he is essentially making the character into himself while still preserving characteristics of Sir Robert Chiltern. Young continues to express his process of internalizing his character:

“I am making analogies of his history to stories of my life, and fuelling him and what
he says to my own personal life. This experience was
both useful and enriching to my research as a professor.

He is able to draw on the same knowledge while teaching in the performance classroom, since he has been part of a theatrical production himself. In addition, it helps him connect with students more effectively because they can see how his experiences have shaped who he is today as an actor.

Young would like others to see his work, to be exposed to more of an overview of the work that he does and his teachings /practices in the area of performance. He wants attendees to understand how his approaches differ from traditional mainstream cultural values, and see them illustrated through a specific example - performing as a Black male on stage in front of predominantly white audiences. He believes this will help others gain insight into how he handles difficult situations, understands different cultures, and implements creative ideas into practice.

Show runs from February 17 to March 5, 2023

Tickets are available on the Firehall website

General Public = $20 / Students & Seniors = $18

By: Lillian Morales-Marenco