Local professors take time off to perform with Shakespeare company

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published June 1, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Chris Fritzges of Conway, from left, Holly Ruth Gale of Russellville and Kevin T. Browne of Conway, local professors and actors, are shown backstage in the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall at the University of Central Arkansas as they prepare for the eighth annual Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s summer festival.

CONWAY — Three local professors have left their classrooms for a summer of fun. They are among the many actors who make up the company of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, which will kick off its eighth season Thursday.

Kevin Browne and Chris Fritzges, both of Conway, teach at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Holly Ruth Gale of Russellville teaches at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Browne is an associate professor of theater and an academic director in the mass communication and theater department at UCA. He has more than 30 years of experience in both the professional and academic worlds as a performing artist and a theater director and teacher.

He is married to Ruthann Curry-Browne, who also teaches at UCA. Both of their children, Annie and Mickey, have appeared in past AST performances.

“I play the player king, an English ambassador and a Norwegian soldier in Hamlet,” Browne said. “And in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, I play Sir Eglamour and Outlaw 2.”

This marks his third nonconsecutive season with the Shakespeare festival.

When asked why he performs with this Shakespeare company, he said, “I would have thought it self-evident. It is to me. I am an actor.”

Fritzges is an assistant professor of theater at UCA. He teaches acting, voice for the actor and directing.

This marks his fifth nonconsecutive season with the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre.

“I did vocal coaching one year,” he said.

This year, Fritzges plays the Duke in The Two Gentlemen of Verona and several roles in Hamlet, including Osric, a courtier; the player Lucianus; a priest; and a member of the Norwegian Army.

He said being a part of this festival each year “is a great way to meet some new people and get inspired by other artists.”

“I’ve already gotten some new subject matter for teaching,” Fritzges said. “I also like what it’s done for the community of Conway. I moved here in 2003, and I’ve seen the town grow as far as new businesses and have seen how the community has accepted the arts.”

Gale teaches music — mainly voice and women’s chorus — at Arkansas Tech. This marks her third season with ACT.

“I trained as a performer,” she said. “I found my way into teaching. Performing is what I thought I would do, but things have a way of changing. One actually feeds off the other.”

Gale has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Arkansas Tech and a master’s degree in music from UCA.

In Pippin, Gale plays Fastrada, who is Pippin’s stepmother.

“She is such a hoot to play,” Gale said of her character in Pippin. “She really knows what she wants to accomplish. She does what she does unapologetically.”

Gale also portrays the player queen in Hamlet, as well as an ambassador and a Norwegian.

“This festival is huge for Arkansas, and for Conway,” Gale said.

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