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Versatile performer to speak at USF

Bill Irwin is an actor who has performed on Broadway. He can be seen in theaters in the independent film Rachel Getting Married, co-starring Anne Hathaway. He has guest-starred on TV dramas such as CSI and Law and Order. He has worked in the entertainment business for decades, and one of his first jobs was as a professional clown.

Irwin will speak today as part of the “Talk of the Arts” series presented by the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA).

The “Talk of the Arts” is in its second year, and every CVPA major is allowed to invite a prestige professional each year, said Ron Richards coordinator who works with communications and marketing for theatre and dance.

C. David Frankel, assistant director of theatre, said he brought up Irwin as a candidate for the series at a faculty meeting after seeing him give a speech over
the summer.

Irwin will give a presentation open to all students Tuesday night and will perform a scene from Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with theatre student Brent Reams. Irwin
won a Tony for his performance as George in the 2005 revival of the play on Broadway.

“I am really excited, its Bill Irwin. It’s the fact how far he has taken it (his career), Reams said. “I’m performing a scene with someone who was the best on Broadway that year. He is a giant mountain compared to me.”

There will also be a question and answer session with CVPA students. Irwin’s  talk will focus on working across disciplines.

“He was just on CSI, which is so opposed to what he started out doing,” Richards said. “He has an amazing range.”

Irwin started off as a professional clown and concentrated on physical comedy. However, he later moved on to theater, and then TV and movies.

“I love to think that I’m an actor first and foremost,” Irwin said to PBS for its 2004 series Great Performances. “That may have to do with any number of axe-grinding issues — desire to prove myself as an actor, also the knowledge that I need to now work more as an actor than as a highly physical comic.”

Irwin will also work with a master class Wednesday.

Frankel said having performers and artists such as Irwin come to the school is like bringing internships to campus. He also said it is hard for students get internships with theater companies because there are few slots and not enough financial support.

“I think it’s important for anyone to have contact with professionals in the field,” Frankel said. “With the arts it is very important to work with people who achieve quality over time. And one of the reasons students are here is to learn.”

“Talk of the Arts with Bill Irwin” is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Theatre I. The event is free for USF students.