Steve Wilson featured in MU Theatre's The Comedy of Errors

Miami alum Steve Wilson

Miami Universiety Alum Steve Wilson in MU Theatre's The Comedy of Errors.


An Interview with Steve Wilson, '94.

The MU Theatre 2020 production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, scheduled to open in the Gates-Abegglen Theatre in mid-May, had to be re-imagined without face-to-face interaction. But, as they say in show business, the show must go on. The director, Gion DeFrancesco, moved the rehearsals to video conferencing and will release it in episodes starting Friday, June 5, 8 p.m. Shifting to this online format enabled DeFrancesco to cast a Miami alum to play Aegeon.

Steve Wilson graduated from Miami University in 1994 as an English major with a focus on journalism and a minor in Theatre. Realizing that theatre was his true passion, he enrolled and accepted fall into Penn State University’s Professional Actor Training Program, a three-year graduate-level curriculum from which he earned an MFA in Acting in 1997. After working professionally as a New York-based actor from 1997 to 2010, Steve looked at his career “bucket list” and realized he had checked off more than he had ever dreamed possible.

Rather than double down on a theatre career, Steve decided it was time to explore other opportunities. His connections in the Department of Theatre invited him back to Miami-first as a guest instructor and visiting assistant professor, after which he transitioned to a newly-created role in the Office of Annual Giving. Success at Miami led to a call from Penn State, where now serves as the Director of Development and Alumni Relations for the College of Education.  

Why did you want to take part in this virtual production of The Comedy of Errors?

I love Miami University. I loved being a student there, I loved studying theatre there, I loved the community of actors and instructors I found there – many of whom are dear friends to this day - and I love being an alum of Miami. I’m not as engaged now as I would like, so any opportunity to reconnect is always welcome. The chance to blow the dust off my old Shakespeare tool chest, and to be part of a Miami Theatre production again, was too exciting to pass up. Once I learned what the expectations were with a virtual format, I was ready to go full steam ahead. 

What was it like to act in your first virtual play?

Rehearsing over a virtual platform was an adjustment, to be sure.  In an actual theatre, an actor must strike a balance between the truth of the onstage moment and the vocal and physical choices necessary to ensure that the last row can see and hear you as well as the first. With video conferencing, suddenly it was just my head in a box. This meant scaling back my volume, toning down my expressions and gestures, and – since there was no actual set or scene partner – asking Gion where I should look! Seeing my face acting back at me from my laptop was tricky, but Gion did a great job communicating his vision. It was easy to put our trust in him. 

Why was it important to continue this production of The Comedy of Errors despite the Coronavirus?

One of the things that artists do well is adapt. With enough money behind you, you can produce your show at The Palace with all the bells and whistles. But it’s not necessary. Artists can tell a story with whatever resources we have. If all we have is a campfire, we can tell the story of the hunt. If all we have is video conferencing, we can tell the stories of Shakespeare. We can still provide an opportunity for students to learn the nuts and bolts of acting, of stage management, of telling stories. It was important to show the world that education is still happening, and that MU Theatre faculty and students are still doing brilliant things. 

What is your favorite memory from this production of The Comedy of Errors?

There was a lovely moment after we filmed the final take of our final scene. Gion and Meggan Peters, our costume designer, took a moment to acknowledge what we had just accomplished and to recognize that this was the seniors’ final production at Miami. It was emotional for Gion, and for the students – and it was emotional for me. It has been 25 years since I have been in a production at Miami, and it was lovely to hear the students speak about how theatre and Miami had shaped their lives. It was quite moving to see that Miami still matters and has the same impact on today’s students that it did on me. It was a privilege to be a fly on the wall during that conversation. 

What was it like to work with current Miami students?

It was great! It was really fun. Every actor has his or her starting point, particularly with Shakespeare. It was exciting to see the students wrap their heads around this text, language, and style and to see where each student was in their particular journey. Some had an excellent facility, and some were working through some of the more challenging aspects of it. The first Shakespeare play I did was in Gates-Abegglen, and I was reminded of what I must have been like, back in the fall of 1991.

How did Miami prepare you to be the #thrivingartist that you are today?

Of all the lessons my Theatre professors and mentors at Miami taught me, the most important was to take creative risks. Make bold choices in rehearsal, and bring the ones that work onto the stage with you. Live truthfully within the given circumstances of the character you’re playing – even if it means tapping into aspects of yourself that we don’t always share in real life. Miami also instilled in me a strong work ethic. If you’re going to succeed in this profession, you're going to have to work at it. No one’s going to hand you anything.  And you should embrace the idea of being a student for life. You're always evolving as an artist, taking new creative risks, and learning how to be resilient.

Those skills continue to serve me well, even though I have a totally different career. 

The Comedy of Errors video performance will debut on Friday, June 5 at 8 p.m. on the Department of Theatre  Facebook page, and the College of Creative Arts youtube channel.  The debut will be followed by a Q&A with the production director Gion DeFrancesco.