It’s one of the unmistakable signs of summer in New York City: a line snaking through Central Park to the Delacorte Theater, made up of people seeking free tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. Produced by the Public Theater since 1954, this must-see festival has welcomed the likes of Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, and Morgan Freeman. And following raves in the New York Times for both of the festival’s 2011 productions, many audience members will happily settle for a ticket to either Measure for Measure or All’s Well That Ends Well, being performed in repertory through July 30.
No matter which play ticket holders end up seeing, they’ll catch a glimpse of Ben Thys, a recent alumnus of The New School for Drama’s Acting program. In Measure for Measure, he plays several parts, including a noble friend of Claudio, and understudies the role of Angelo; in All’s Well That Ends Well, Thys plays a dancer, a doctor, a gentleman-soldier, and a suitor.
Being part of the ensemble, I spend most of the play running back and forth between the stage and the dressing room, which is really fun,, says Thys.
As one of the earliest-cast members of the ensemble, Thys was able to participate in shaping both productions. Compared with other New York shows, Shakespeare in the Park productions benefit from lots of rehearsal time, which allowed Thys to get to know not only the plays and his roles but also his fellow actors.
The creative collaboration involved in the Shakespeare in the Park productions is a highlight for Thys. Working across disciplines and learning from peers are running themes for Thys, who as a prospective student saw opportunities for both at The New School for Drama. What first attracted me to The New School was the idea that playwrights, actors, and directors worked together from year one,, Thys said. It’s a unique approach that I found really exciting.,
A native of Belgium, Thys came to The New School for Drama after studying East Asian philosophy and religion in London and China. Thys says that The New School for Drama provided an ideal introduction to the American theater and film scene, stressing both artistry and professional preparedness. He has been working steadily since graduation, appearing in plays and readings in New York’s Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theaters. Thys has even put his study of Mandarin to use, in a recent reading of David Henry Wong’s Chinglish, also at the Public. Throughout, he continues to return to what he learned in his Drama workshops.
At The New School, I learned how important it was to establish really strong standards and rigor,, he says. You have to keep asking questions and demanding the best of yourself. When I worry that I might be getting lazy, I go back to my notes from school and I think, ‘Oh yes, that’s what I need to do.’,