Austin Pendleton, YSU

Star of Screen and Stage Finds Talent in Youngstown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Austin Pendleton watched each student actor deliver a snippet of a play.

Then, with the wisdom and accuracy that comes with a lifetime of theater experience, he honed in on what each one did right, what needs improvement, and how to do it.

The New York-based actor, director and educator who hails from Warren spent the afternoon at Youngstown State University Thursday, where he led a master class for about 40 theater students and others.

A series of students stood before Pendleton, as if auditioning, then listened attentively as he doled out tips and nuggets of wisdom.

Pendleton returned to Spotlight Theater in YSU’s Bliss Hall later in the evening for an informal question and answer session that raised funds for Trumbull New Theatre in Niles.

Pendleton instantly honed in on each student’s performance and they, in turn, soaked in his critiques.

A moment after Larayja Hall started a scene from “Hidden Figures,” Pendleton quickly paused her. “Don’t move so much,” he said to the student actor. “Only move if you have a destination.”

The unnecessary motion, he instructed, blurs the impact.

The wisdom poured out in that fashion for a dozen or so students who got to show their stuff at the masterclass. Pendleton took his time with each, answered questions and even offered a few memories from his long career as a film, stage and television actor.

Pendleton is also a longtime acting educator in New York and a playwright.

When one student asked him what to do about writer’s block, he responded, “don’t write… or maybe write about having writer’s block.”

In an interview after the class, Pendleton said he was impressed with the students.

“They were talented,” he said. “Some are still making basic mistakes but even then there was evident talent. And some, when they weren’t making basic mistakes, were excellent.”

Pendleton said the students were very responsive and seemed to know what he was talking about.

“I never felt like they didn’t get it,” he said.

Meganne Evans of Boardman, a junior theater major, was one of the students in the masterclass.

She found it to be invaluable, even if one aspect of it took her by surprise.

“Wasn’t expecting him to ask if we had monologues prepared because I regretted I didn’t but he was so giving. A lot of authenticity. The advice was very applicable to where I’m at in my career. Common roadblocks I’ve faced. He also specified the obstacles and objectives to make an even clearer performance end the overarching idea to bring specificity to you own performance as you prepare to show it to the audience or in an audition.”

“They are talented,” Pendleton said.

“Some still making rather basic mistakes but even there there was evident talent. And some, when they weren’t making basic mistakes, were terrific. Not a dud anywhere. Some were shy but that’s not a problem in itself because its all there,” he said.

“They were very responsive and seemed to know what I was talking about. Never felt like they didn’t get it.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.