URI theater professor plays dramatic role in students’ lives

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Pawtucket resident loves acting, teaching

KINGSTON, R.I. – May 2, 2012 – To be or not to be? When it comes to being involved in his students’ lives, the answer to the question is clear for University of Rhode Island’s Theatre Lecturer and Production Manager Alan Hawkridge.

For Hawkridge, acting, directing, and teaching are central to the life of the London, England native.

The classroom buzz begins as soon as Hawkridge enters and starts urging students to do their best in his smooth, British accent. Smiling, gesturing and imploring, Hawkridge soon has his young actors working hard to match his joy for the craft of acting. Even a class warm-up game has students chuckling as they get into character, their passionate, creative portrayals earning enthusiastic hugs from their mentor. Their confidence builds as Hawkridge offers praise and encouragement.

“As I get older I appreciate and love my students more and more,” Hawkridge said. “Everyone in my class is welcome, whether they are actors or not. It’s about feeling your true self and I try to bring that out in my students. I try to know each student because out of friendship a true work ethic can happen. I do something I love and I know I can make a difference for my students.”

Hawkridge’s students also have a strong influence on him.

“I love their enthusiasm, useful energy, and creativity,” said Hawkridge. “Everybody has a story in their lives and you see that in their work. Acting is an expansive art form in the sense that we’re dealing with the human condition, and we can better understand ourselves through it.”

His love of acting began during his time at college in England.

“I wanted to be a fine arts student. I was painting sets when one day a student dropped out of an on stage role, so I stepped in. Being on stage at that moment was exciting for me and I quickly took an interest in acting,” said Hawkridge.

For Hawkridge, this was a pivotal decision, as he was accepted into the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, which accepts only 20 applicants who audition out of 700 a year. He headed to New York and starred in the play Claw by Howard Baker at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1976 and has been a mainstay in America ever since acting in numerous plays.

Starring in his teaching and directing roles at URI since 1999, Hawkridge also has taught and directed at Rhode Island College, Salve Regina University, George Washington University, the Salt City Stage, N.Y., the Southern Massachusetts Arts Collaborative, Arlington Children’s Theatre, in Arlington, Va., Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C., and was the artistic director at the NewGate Theatre in Providence, R.I. from 1991 to 1997.

During his tenure at URI, he has directed six plays including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; Buried Child; Amadeus; A Flea in Her Ear; The Taming Of The Shrew; and most recently Marat Sade.

“As a director, I focus more on the collaborative process whereas playing the role of an actor, the focus is more on oneself,” said Hawkridge. “I enjoy both.”

As much as Hawkridge loves his students, they also have a deep affection for their instructor.

Philip Ryng, a theater major, looks upon Hawkridge as one of his biggest influences. “Alan as a professor has a very interesting way of teaching, not in a lecturing way, but in a way that is nurturing. He sees a true actor in every one of us” said Ryng. “I’ve learned so much from him through improv, breathing techniques, and how to ground myself on stage. I give all my thanks to Alan because without him, I would not be here right now.”

Samantha Liguori, a psychology major double minoring in thantalogy and philosophy, has made a strong connection to the field of theater through Hawkridge. “I needed a fine arts requirement, so I took Alan’s class and have had such a great experience with him,” said Liguori. “In most classes you rarely have a professor that you connect with on a personal level and I believe Alan has connected with all of us. The lessons we learn from him, being in theater or not, are lessons that we hold dear for the rest of our lives. He has enlightened me very much throughout my senior year.”

During his 37-year career in teaching, Hawkridge’s connection with his students clearly is an important one.

“I’m doing something I love and my students inspire me every day,” said Hawkridge. “URI has been the best university I’ve taught at, I truly love this place. It’s my home.”

Apart from his love for acting, Hawkridge enjoys drawing and painting, listening to the BBC news, watching his beloved Tottenham Hotspur soccer team, and spending time with his wife and daughter at their home in Pawtucket, R.I.

This news release was written by Franco Lo Presti, a public relations major and intern in the URI Department of Communications & Marketing.

Pictured above

SMILE: URI Theatre lecturer, Alan Hawkridge, directs his young students.

ANIMATED PROFESSOR: URI Theatre lecturer, Alan Hawkridge, makes a dramatic facial gesture leading his class in a warm-up.

IMPROVISATION: URI Theatre lecturer, Alan Hawkridge, gets involved with his students in an improvisation game.

URI Department of Communications & Marketing photos by Michael Salerno Photography.