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Alumni Actors on Tour

By Tami Dimock

When Rebekah DiFrancesca Parshall, B.A. Theater '97, graduated from George Mason last May, she wasn't exactly sure what was
Rebekah DiFrancesca Parshall
next for her. The day after graduation, however, she received a phone call that would clarify things a bit. It was the Olney Theater's National Players Touring Company calling to inform Parshall that she had been chosen for the role of Kate in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

"It was quite a graduation present," says Parshall, who was even more thrilled when she found out she would be working with fellow alum Chad Davis, B.A. Theater '97, who was selected for the part of Petruchio. "Chad has been a close friend since my junior year at Mason, so it's an added bonus that I'm touring with him."

Davis, who received his notification from the theater the day before graduation, was equally ecstatic about the news. "It was a great surprise," he says. "I don't know what would have happened if they hadn't called. Opportunity knocked at the right time." Davis feels very fortunate to be acting opposite his friend Parshall, as ordinarily, there would be "so many walls that you'd have to get over in order to play a role in such an intimate, on-stage relationship."

The National Players Touring Company is "the premier classical touring company in the United States," according to Parshall. One of Olney Theater's outreach programs, the company brings live theater to those who might not ordinarily have the opportunity to experience it. Parshall and Davis will perform for high school and college audiences that, because of economic isolation or geographic location, are often overlooked. The eight-month tour began in September 1997 with a two-week preview at the University of Maryland and will include performances in 48 states and 10 foreign countries.

Both actors credit their experiences at Mason for helping them take on such challenging roles--both on and off stage. In addition to playing the principal characters in The Taming of the Shrew, they work as technicians and do some stage managing for the tour's production of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men.

"We're responsible for a lot of things," says Davis. "Mason has given me the backbone I need for this experience. I pull something from just about every class I took at the university, from acting to costume and set design." Parshall agrees. "It's important to have a broad base of knowledge when it comes to theater. The faculty at George Mason trains you in such a well-rounded way, and really takes an interest in the students," she notes.

For Parshall, playing Kate is a dream come true--literally. The actress, who once played Dorine in a Mason production of Moliere's Tartuffe, reveals that her three dream roles include Peter Pan, Masha (in Chekhov's The Three Sisters), and the one she is currently playing.

Davis, who has performed Shakespeare both at Mason and back in high school, says he is thrilled about playing the challenging role of the fortune-hunter, Petruchio, who insists upon "taming" the unruly behavior of Kate, his shrewish wife. "I have to extend far beyond myself. It can be difficult sometimes because he's a demanding character, and definitely nothing like me."

Davis and Parshall believe that traveling with the tour is an excellent opportunity to learn and grow, both as actors and as people. They work hard, performing in a wide variety of locations, from traditional auditoriums to street corners and other makeshift venues, all the while honing their craft and providing entertainment for a multitude of people. Not bad for a first gig!

For more information about the National Players Touring Company, call the Olney Theater at (301) 924-3400.

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