Couple lead Shakespeare workshop in Seymour


Whether she is acting on stage or doing behind-the-scenes work, Megan Rose-Houchins feels right at home.

Her interest in performing arts began with a play in her second-grade reading class.

Later, while attending Seymour High School, she was a part of the musicals.

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After graduating in 1997, she worked toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting/directing from Northern Kentucky University.

She then spent some time with a couple of theater groups until deciding to pursue a teaching career.

For 11 years, Rose-Houchins taught high school theater in the metro Atlanta, Georgia, area. She’s now in her second year as the Fine Arts and Communications Academy coordinator at Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

While she found a career far away from her hometown, she tries to return to Seymour when she can.

She and her husband, Andrew Houchins, recently visited the city for a couple of days to lead a Shakespeare workshop for some Seymour High School students.

Since 2005, Andrew’s life has revolved around Atlanta Shakespeare Co., including acting and directing onstage, serving as a text coach and teacher for the apprentice program, running a Shakespeare program for teens and conducting workshops. He’s now the associate director of training.

From time to time, Megan is involved with the theater group, too.

Together, they enjoyed the opportunity to lead a workshop nearly 500 miles away from their home.

“I hope that they think, ‘You know what? That Shakespeare I keep hearing about actually is pretty fun and has a lot more in it than maybe I thought, and I would like to explore that further,’” Megan said of working with the Seymour students. “I want them all to have an appreciation for theater in general and to open their minds to different types of theater.”

When kids hear the word “actor,” they oftentimes think of movies and don’t think of theater, Megan said.

“No matter where I am, I let them know that, ‘Hey, this world is out there, and it’s worth exploring,’” she said.

Andrew said Shakespeare’s plays aren’t meant to be read out of a book by yourself or out loud in a classroom.

“When Shakespeare wrote these plays, he wasn’t collecting them in a script form like we know it,” he said. “That didn’t even happen until after he died when his friends tried to collect all of the plays that he wrote and put them in a big book that’s called the Folio. They are not meant to be literature. They were meant to be performed.”

That’s what he tries to instill in actors and students.

“A greater understanding of what is happening comes when we get them out of their seats and on their feet,” Andrew said. “That’s what it’s meant to be. It’s meant to be acted, not just read.”

During the workshop at Seymour High School, Megan and Andrew worked with Erik Stangland’s theater arts classes and two of Tim Perry’s Advanced Placement English classes.

The approaches were different.

For the theater arts students, Andrew tested their knowledge of Shakespeare before moving into various physical and vocal actor warmups. Then he and Megan had the students work in pairs to speak Shakespeare text by throwing Shakespearean insults at each other and do some abbreviated contextless scenes from a play.

With the AP English students, it was perfect timing because they are just getting started reading “Hamlet.” Split into two groups, they came up with their own interpretations of scenes from Shakespeare’s tragedy.

Andrew and Megan’s visit to Seymour was made possible by her father, Chris Rose, receiving a grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County. Teachers in the county can apply for grants to go toward classroom-related needs or projects.

After receiving the grant, Chris, the English department chairman at Seymour High School, had to see when his daughter and son-in-law could work the trip into their schedule.

Chris said students at Megan’s school are near Aurora Theatre, the second-largest theater in Georgia, but Seymour’s students don’t have that.

Plus, the workshop gave the students a chance to work with two people who have acting experience.

“It’s great to be able to take what you’ve done beyond your hometown and get to bring it back and share a little part of that with the place that I came from,” Megan said.

Perry said he liked watching his students interact with Megan and Andrew.

“This is my fifth year here, my fifth year of teaching ‘Hamlet,’ and how much more are they going to get out of ‘Hamlet’ than my other classes my previous years? So much more,” Perry said. “They are bringing (Shakespeare) to life, and they are on their feet the whole time. It’s just awesome.”

A couple of Perry’s students were in the recent musical at the high school, so they could be inspired by Megan and Andrew having successful careers in the arts. Besides acting and directing, job possibilities include sound design, sound engineer, lighting design, electrician, technician, carpenter and hair and makeup.

“There are some opportunities out there to make money,” Perry said.

Senior Kelsey Baker said the workshop was a unique opportunity to have fun and learn at the same time. Her AP English class has made it through the second act of “Hamlet.”

“It’s such a nice break,” she said. “It’s really great to see the literature come to life in front of us rather than just reading it and trying to picture it in your own head. It’s nice to just see everybody put it out there and actually hear the words said because sometimes, that’s the puzzle piece you need to kind of make it come to life.”

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Megan Rose-Houchins is a 1997 graduate of Seymour High School. She then received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting/directing from Northern Kentucky University.

She spent two years touring the Southeast with Rags to Riches Theatre for Young Audiences and six years acting, singing, dancing and stage managing with Unto These Hills Outdoor Drama in Cherokee, North Carolina.

For 11 years, she has taught high school theater in the metro Atlanta, Georgia, area, including the past two years as the Fine Arts and Communications Academy coordinator at Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

She is a founding member and board president of The Weird Sisters Theatre Project, a theater company in Atlanta that produces theater by women for everyone.

Her favorite roles include Emilia in “Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief,” Casey in “Anton in Show Business,” Titania in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Claire in “Proof” and Stevie in “The Goat.” She made her Atlanta Shakespeare Co. debut as Adriana in “The Comedy of Errors” in 2015 and will play the role of Colleen in “Ripcord” at Aurora Theatre, the second-largest theater in Georgia, in May.

Andrew Houchins, a Mechanicsville, Virginia, native, graduated from Greensboro College in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in theater.

After graduation, he spent two years working with Rags to Riches Theatre for Young Audiences in Durham, North Carolina, where he acted as tour manager and performer.

He moved to Atlanta and became a member of the 2005-06 Apprentice Company with the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. He helped direct the inaugural Shakespeare Intensive for Teens program in the summer of 2006 and became an artistic associate that same season.

His acting roles with the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. include Macbeth in “Macbeth,” Iago in “Othello,” Benedick in “Much Ado about Nothing,” Mercutio in “Romeo and Juliet” and Orsino in “Twelfth Night.” Directing credits with the company include “Barrymore,” “The Comedy of Errors,” “Our Town,” “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Double Falsehood” and “Edward III.”

As an Atlanta Shakespeare Co. education artist, he acts as a text coach and teacher for the apprentice program, runs the Shakespeare Intensive for Teens program and conducts or participates in numerous playshops throughout Georgia.


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