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Allison Relihan: Off to the National Theater Institute

Allison Relihan as Echo in Eleemosynary.
Allison Relihan as Echo in Eleemosynary.

Theatre and Dance major Allison Relihan realized there was something special about KSC the first time she visited the campus. She and her parents came up from their home in Wakefield, Mass., to attend the annual An Evening of Dance performance. “I was taken aback by the professionalism, creativity, technique, talent, and-most importantly-by the passion the dancers exhibited on stage,” Allison recalled. “I held onto the passion and intensity that was put forth at An Evening of Dance, and with that I made my final decision to attend Keene.”

Now a junior, Allison is convinced she made the right choice. Before she was even accepted into the program, Allison and her mother met with Nancy Aubrey, the department’s administrative assistant. “We both fell in love with her,” Allison said. “She treated us like family. The energy she gave off as she gave us a tour of the building and talked about the program was contagious. My mother and I felt very welcomed and at home.”

Allison’s own passion and hard work have paid off; she was recently accepted to the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn., a rigorous, semester- long, conservatory-based approach to theater training that exposes students to a broad range of theater styles and techniques, including acting, directing, playwriting, design, and movement and voice. For Allison, the training will include a trip to Russia to work with master teachers from the Moscow Art Theater School, the Vakhtangov School, and the St. Petersburg Theater Arts Academy.

As part of her application to NTI, Allison sat through a 45-minute Skype interview with the institute’s artistic director in which she had to present a monologue, pretend she was a director of a play, pretend she was the designer of a show, and then improv a monologue and create a story through a piece of art work she had hanging on her wall. Sounds pretty intense, but exceptional actors like Allison are always up to the role. “I knew the only things I had control of in this situation was to be as prepared and collected as I could be while maintaining a positive attitude,” she explained. “I did my best, and it paid off.”

The interview was just the beginning of the intensity. NTI calls itself “a kind of crucible.” The 14-week program is seven days a week, from early morning till late at night. As their website claims, “Through the intensity of the regimen, the rigor of the classes, and the creative pressure of the collaborative process, you strengthen your craft and theatrical vision.”

“I have no doubt that this would be a supreme educational experience for Allie,” noted Theatre and Dance Professor Daniel Patterson, “and I am equally certain that we will one day be proud that Allie was our student.”

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