Christine Farrell

BA, Marquette University. MFA, Columbia University. One-Year Study Abroad, Oxford, England. Actress, playwright, director. Appeared for nine seasons as Pam Shrier, the ballistics detective on Law and Order. Acting credits on TV include Saturday Night Live and One Life to Live; films, Ice Storm, Fatal Attraction; stage: Comedy of Errors, Uncle Vanya, Catholic School Girls, Division Street, The Dining Room. Two published plays: Mama Drama and The Once Attractive Woman. Directed in colleges, as well as Off Broadway, and was the artistic director and co-founder of the New York Team for TheatreSports. Performed in comedy improvisation throughout the world. SLC, 1991–

Previous Courses

The Senior Project

Advanced , Component—Spring

I wanted to become an artist because it meant endless possibilities. Art was a way of reinventing myself. —Sam Taylor-Wood

I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do. —Georgia O’Keeffe

Be yourself, everyone else is already taken. —Oscar Wilde

This course is designed to prepare seniors for a career in the performing arts after graduation. Each student will develop a resume and audition material in his/her specific discipline or disciplines. We will focus on bringing in guest speakers and researching paid internships, job opportunities, and organizations in the arts. Applications and auditions for MFA programs and fellowships in all disciplines can be prepared for future submissions. You may want to spend a year reflecting and enjoying your freedom; you may want to jump instantly into the professional world as an actor, director, playwright, producer, or designer; or you may want to work for a theatre that you love and continue your education. This course will, hopefully, inspire your unique journey in the arts and give you specific tools to begin that career. The performance by all interested seniors in Sara Downtown in New York City will be organized and developed through this class. On Tuesdays, from 2:00-3:30 pm, we will have regular sessions and guest speakers. On Wednesday, from 1:30-3:30 pm, we will schedule individual sessions and smaller groups to focus on individual goals.


First Year Studies: The Art of Comic Performance: Style and Form

Open , FYS—Year

It is said that laughter happens “whenever there is a sudden rupture between thinking and feeling,” that it is a momentary “anesthesia of the heart.” Laughter can be a survival tactic and is often the best medicine. What made other generations and cultures laugh? What universal elements can we find in the history of comedy? In the first semester, this class will examine historical comedic forms, including: the characters of Commedia dell’Arte of the 16th century; Xiangsheng (crosstalk), a traditional Chinese performance art with roots in the Qing dynasty; and African American folktales, storytelling applied to black films of the early 20th century. Discovering the plot devices, timing, and traditions of these representative texts can inform the theatre artist in the demands of the actor, director, and writer of comedy. This is a studio class. Students will work “on their feet” in improvisational exercises, as they explore: status games to experience the pace and chaos of farce; the character constructions from Commedia dell’Arte; the style, language, and manners of Restoration; and the structures defined by vaudeville comedians (the comic and straight, slow burn, comic stop). What makes us laugh? In the second semester, we will work on the current long-form improv structures developed by Del Close, Keith Johnstone, and many of the present comedy troupes (Second City/UCB/Improv Olympics/Theatresports). We will build an ensemble of comic improvisers to cultivate each artist’s comedic style. The students will create their own material, using classic structures and their own comic persona. Individual conference meetings will alternate biweekly with small-group conference meetings.


Comedy Workshop

Intermediate , Component—Year

This class meets twice a week.

An exploration of the classic structures of comedy and the unique comic mind, this course begins with a strong focus on improvisation and ensemble work. The athletics of the creative comedic mind is the primary objective of the first-semester exercises. Status play, narrative storytelling, and the Harold exercise are used to develop the artist’s freedom and confidence. The ensemble learns to trust the spontaneous response and their own comic madness. Second semester educates the theatre artist in the theories of comedy and is designed to introduce students to commedia dell’arte, vaudeville, parody, satire, and standup comedy. At the end of the second semester, each student will write five minutes of standup material that will be performed one night at a comedy club in New York City and then on the College campus on Comedy Night.


The Art of Improvising: Athletics of the Creative Mind

Open , Component—Fall

This class will meet once a week.

We will explore techniques for spontaneous behavior, immediate creation, and developing your creativity and truth on stage. The goal of the class exercises will be to build community and collaboration, to deepen your communication skills, and to strengthen your natural sense of humor. We will study the works of Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, Upright Citizens Brigade, and Second City.


The Actor’s Laboratory

Intermediate/Advanced , Component—Fall

This class will meet twice a week.

This class is a laboratory for the actor; it is designed for actors with some experience and who are ready to search for the steps to a fully involved performance. We will explore the theories and techniques of Stanislavski and Grotowski. We will read Stanislavski in Rehearsal, by Vasili Torporkov, and At Work with Grotowski on Physical Action, by Thomas Richards. Throughout the semester, each student will work on one 10-minute scene from a major playwright.


An Actor’s Process

Intermediate/Advanced , Component—Year

This class will meet twice a week.

This class is a laboratory for the actor. It is designed for performers who are ready to search for the steps to a fully involved performance. What are the tools you currently use to become a character in a play or a film? What will expand your work, ground you in the moment of the situation, and strengthen your authentic voice? What are your habits, and what are your strengths? Over the course of the year, each student will work on four scenes chosen from four different styles and categories: comic, dramatic, heightened language, and character stretch (ex: accent role or opposing type). The class will focus on creating a classic actor’s score, working with physical improvisations within the scene text and situation and emotion memory. We will use a camera in class to explore your work in some rehearsals and presentations.