This semester, Chris Bohan, visiting assistant professor of theater, is teaching a SAGES course on theater criticism. The first subject? Slowgirl—a two-person play co-starring Bohan at the Dobama Theater in Cleveland Heights.
The performance, which runs through Feb. 15, tries to answer a complicated question: Can a single act forever define your character?
The production features Bohan as Sterling, a 49-year-old man whose niece Becky (Miranda LeeAnn Scholl) is sent to his retreat in the Costa Rican jungle to avoid the aftermath of a tragic accident. In the following days, they are forced to face the choices they’ve made and what they both are truly running from.
The play has proved trying for Bohan, not only for the subject matter, but also the pressure put on a cast of only two.
“I’d never been in a two-person play before, so it was a challenging concept,” Bohan said. “When I’m in a big cast play, I don’t think I feel the audience as much. But in a two-person play, the audience quickly becomes a character. That in itself is a very invigorating experience.”
As part of the course, Bohan invited a theater critic from The Plain Dealer to teach his students how to write a proper review—something they are expected to do for his play. After reading the reviews, Bohan hopes to learn as much from his students as they learned from him.
“I think I try to practice what I preach, or teach,” Bohan said. “I make discoveries on stage and in the classroom about what works and doesn’t work in theater—adding and subtracting course material as the students and I discover more about theater and acting.”
As an undergraduate student, Bohan was an economics and theater double major at Lehigh University. Due to his diverse academic background, Bohan believes he relates well to his students because many are also double majors, studying both theater and a STEM field. He tailors his teaching techniques to connect with their distinct way of thinking.
“I teach everything from a research perspective, so the students really have this eagerness not only to learn acting technique but to research how it works,” Bohan said. “In the end, neither of us knows what acting is, so it’s important that the students are not afraid to question and challenge.”
Now entering the final two weekends of the show, Bohan is excited for its conclusion so he can focus on spending time with his wife and kids, and also work on honing his teaching techniques in the classroom.
“This end of this play is like walking away after winning the World Series,” Bohan said. “I can joyfully take some time off.”
Read more about Bohan in this week’s five questions—and buy tickets to Slowgirl by visiting dobama.org/slowgirl. (Case Western Reserve students can see any show at the Dobama Theater for just $5 with a CWRU ID.)
1. What is your favorite city? Why?
Moscow. When I visited, the city was completely different from what I had grown up thinking it was. It’s a gorgeous city with incredible art and great people.
2. In all of your education, who of your teachers had the greatest impact on you?
Tony Schmitt. He was not actually a teacher, but he directed two of the shows I did in graduate school. He treated me as a collaborator and taught me about teaching my own classes here at Case Western Reserve. I have as much to learn from my students as they have to learn from me.
3. When it comes to music, what artist is one of your “guilty pleasures?” Why?
My guilty pleasure is the Frozen soundtrack. I have two young children, and every other night before dinner, my daughter, son and I dance around and sing songs. It’s great music and a great story.
4. What one word would you use to describe yourself, and what one word would your friends use to describe you?
I would describe myself as inquisitive. My friends would describe me as generous.
5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
The students at Case Western Reserve have an honest desire to learn. They want to challenge the status quo and learn all they can. It makes my life so much more enjoyable.