Where It's At

By Richard P. Morin / July / August 2000
May 3rd, 2007
Good theater, says Ben Steinfeld '01, "should be physical - in your face." He punctuates his point by gesticulating like Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant after a two-fisted jam. "I like the sweat, taking deep breaths, and projecting my voice," adds Steinfeld, a theater-arts concentrator from, appropriately enough, Studio City, California. "If more people approached [acting] like a sport, it could be all the better."

Steinfeld's ideas about theater have served him well. After beating out more than 120 college-age actors from around New England in a regional competition in January, in April he bested sixteen more competitors to capture the prestigious Irene Ryan Scholarship Award at the American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C. Steinfeld, the first Brown student to win the competition, was awarded a $2,500 scholarship and an Oscar-like statuette.

At both the regional and finals portions of the competition, Steinfeld delivered a soliloquy from King Lear and performed a scene from Neil Simon's God's Favorite with Darius Pierce '02. The secret to Steinfeld's success? In performing the pieces, he says, he kept it simple and direct. "Doing a soliloquy is incredibly galvanizing," he says. "You are speaking directly to the audience - going right at them. Once the audience realized I was speaking to them and not to an exit sign, they really responded."

Another ingredient, Steinfeld adds, may have been spontaneity. After losing in the first round of regionals last year, he rehearsed very little for this year's competition. He and Pierce waited until the last minute to prepare their scene. "I never expected to win," Steinfeld notes. "I just took the competition as an opportunity to act for another five minutes."

Winning the Ryan Award has already brought Steinfeld possible acting gigs. He has discussed with Oskar Eustis the prospect of working with Providence's Trinity Repertory Theatre next year, and he has been invited to join The Shakespeare Theatre's intern company in Washington, D.C. For Steinfeld, who hopes to expand on his soliloquy from King Lear when Brown mounts a production of the play next fall, nothing would be more pleasing than more time with the Bard.

"Now Shakespeare," he says, his eyes gleaming with the look of a man who has just hit the game-winning shot, "that's where it is at."

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July / August 2000