Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart at #NewUniversityCenter

Photo by Kasia Broussalian/The New School.

Photo by Kasia Broussalian/The New School.

Excited whispers echoed around the room prior to the start of the event. Then, Director of The New School for Drama Pippin Parker took the stage before a packed John L. Tishman Auditorium. “Oh my gosh I love him!” exclaimed a young theater hopeful in the front row. Despite his impressive contributions to the dramatic arts, Parker was not the main attraction on this occasion. That would be Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, two of the most acclaimed actors of screen and stage.

Yesterday, both participated in a Conversations dialogue hosted by the Screen Actors Guild Foundation, The New School, and BroadwayWorld.com. Before an audience of primarily aspiring New School for Drama actors and members from SAG, the two discussed the beginnings of their careers (McKellen was hooked at age 8 when his sister took him to his first theater production; Stewart took a bit more time, finally quitting his newspaper job to pursue acting) and more.

Other questions included the easiest character to portray on stage (much to Stewart’s surprise, McKellen answered Iago, from Shakespeare’s Othello), and the hardest (Romeo). They reminisced on shared experiences (the challenges yet sweet success of performing at Brooklyn Academy of Music) and general good advice (“When you play Hamlet…you better be ready!”).  When the crowd exited, there was a renewed sense of optimism for a profession that sees much struggle, but nearly unparalleled glory.

McKellen and Stewart left more than just memories at the University Center—both scribed their autographs and a message inside the auditorium’s green room. Check it out.  Stay tuned for a video recap of the conversation.