OREM — Jason Alexander, famous for his 10-year stint on the award-winning TV series "Seinfeld," is sharing his talent in Utah this week as he conducts acting workshops with students at Utah Valley University.
He spent all of Monday watching theater students perform monologues, and will be in Utah through Wednesday talking students through monologues, two-person scenes and musical theater songs.
As Alexander watched the monologues, he would sometimes ask the actors to perform a second time and then work them through their performance.
"Who am I talking to? Who am I dealing with? What do I want them to do?" Alexander asked, encouraging each performer to define the character. "You've got to see the person as real as when I'm standing in front of you."
At times, Alexander would stand in as the person the actor was addressing. He emphasized action words such as "to torment," "to accuse" and "to console," trying to get the performers to use the words in their actions and their statements. He would also act out some parts of the scene himself, showing students how they could improve.
"See the guts it takes to do it," he told the audience after coaching one of the students. "It takes real guts, it is so exposed, it is so committed. That's what great actors have to risk: being humiliated, being exposed in a big way."
William Kalmar, a theater performance student at UVU, performed a monologue for Alexander and his peers and was then critiqued by Alexander.
"Waiting to go was terrifying for me," Kalmar said. "But when I got on stage and he (Alexander) saw my monologue and worked with me, it felt like I was acting with one of my teachers. He just had the right personality that seemed like he wanted me to succeed."
Megan Bisbee, a technical theater and design major at UVU, said she was very nervous to perform for her peers and Alexander but is glad she did it. She said Alexander offered an unbiased perspective.
"I feel like I failed miserably, but now I have more specific tools to better my acting," Bisbee said. "I know how I can improve because what he gave me."
Christopher Clark, an acting professor at UVU, said Alexander's expertise was great for the aspiring actors.
"He is incredibly charismatic, which is not a surprise," Clark said. "The thing that's been so delightful is that he's an extremely hard worker. It's exciting to see how seriously he takes his art."
Alexander ended the evening taking questions and was asked by an audience member to do his famous William Shatner imitation.
Alexander confessed that he became an actor because of "Bill" Shatner.
"At 8 years old, I wanted to command the Enterprise," he said, and then proceeded to demonstrate his best Shatner impression.
But he advised the students to take it slow and experience the diverse opportunities and perspectives college professors have to offer.
"The truth is, if you start hard work too early, none of this becomes fun," Alexander said, reminising about his own acting career. "It should first be joyful. The problem with this process is, sometimes it's not joyful, it's painful."
On Tuesday, Alexander appeared at "An Evening With Jason Alexander," followed by a question-and-answer session with members of the media.
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