Arts and Entertainment | Theater

New theater group The Mechanicals to help students workshop skills

  • Suzanne Buck for Spectator
    Craftsmen | The Mechanicals offers both novice and seasoned actors the opportunity to work on their theater skills in a relaxed environment.

While the cast of “Pyramus and Thisbe” may have been amateurs, Columbia’s newest theater group, The Mechanicals, strives to be anything but. 

Named for the group of play-within-a-play performers in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the group created by Madeleine Ghillany-Lehar and Gabrielle Lemonier, both CC ’16, will provide.

“The Mechanicals is about practicing acting—it’s like a laboratory, a supplement for people involved in performance and a relaxed theater environment for those who aren’t,” Ghillany-Lehar said.

The Mechanicals’ regular events will include a Friday movie night and acting workshops on alternating Sundays. Open to all actors regardless of prior experience, students can come work on cold readings, with monologues and scenes provided by The Mechanicals. Non-workshop Sundays will include films featuring classic and modern performances. For its first screening, which took place on Jan. 24, The Mechanicals showed “On the Waterfront.”

Ghillany-Lehar and Lemonier came up with the idea for The Mechanicals after noticing a lack of process-based theater groups on campus. 

“One day Gabby [Lemonier] came to me with an idea she had for an acting workshop club somewhere that people could go to work on monologues and scenes in a collaborative environment that was more individually-focused and free of the time constraints of acting in a show,” Ghillany-Lehar said.

“I remember being at work and thinking how cool it would be if I could just act with people without needing to be in a production or in a class that you have to audition for,” Lemonier said. “And that’s when the idea for a peer-facilitated acting workshop popped into my head. I work as a hostess, so I remember scribbling on the entire backside of a reservation sheet my ideas for this group.”

Ghillany-Lehar and Lemonier said that they are inspired by work spanning theater and film, including performances by actors such as Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman and the plays of Anton Chekhov. They will be showing any films or taped performances that they find relevant to acting. 

As The Mechanicals slowly establishes itself on campus, the group is utilizing classroom space in Hamilton for their weekly meetings, with hopes of finding a more permanent location in the future, which the group’s leadership hopes will help make the Mechanicals a campus fixture.  

“Since we’re a new group, I think it’ll be a bit of a challenge to get people to come to workshops at first, since we don’t yet have much of a presence, and we’re not really part of people’s routines,” Ghillany-Lehar said. “But the feedback that Gabby and I have gotten from the community so far has been really encouraging.”

The Mechanicals’ first workshop will take place on Feb. 2, and the group’s next screening is on Friday, Feb. 7. More information can be found on the group’s Facebook page or on its website, thecumechanicals.wordpress.com.

arts@columbiaspectator.com | @ColumbiaSpec

Correction: The quote "I remember being at work and thinking how cool it would be if I could just act with people without needing to be in a production or in a class that you have to audition for,” was attributed Ghillany-Lehar.  It was said by Lemonier. Spectator regrets this error.  

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