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CCRI student wins prestigious acting scholarship
Feb. 8, 2011
An actress heading off to New York City in search of a big break is a classic story but, according to the judges of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, one of the finest collegiate actresses in the Northeast is right here at the Community College of Rhode Island.
On Jan. 30, Erin Archer became the first CCRI student to win the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Audition Scholarship at the Region One Festival held at Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts. Archer and her scene partner, fellow CCRI drama student Adam Florio, edged out competitors from about 250 colleges from New England and eastern New York. The pair will go on to the national competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., this April.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Archer said. “There were a lot of wonderful people [at the festival]. I saw some amazing actors who did work that blew me away, and to be at the top of that was quite an honor.”
She added, “It’s going to be amazing to perform at the Kennedy Center. I can’t even put into words how I’m feeling about that.”
Archer, a New Bedford, Mass., native who lives in Providence, was invited to attend after a representative from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival saw her performance last semester in CCRI’s stage production of “Loot.” She chose Florio, her co-star from that production, to accompany her.
This was Florio’s fifth time participating in the festival, having attended alternately as a nominee and a partner for other students. He has been in several CCRI productions and this June will perform in “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” with the Counter Productions Theatre Company in Boston.
Archer, who has not participated in the festival before, said that Florio’s experience was a great help to her.
“Adam is a rock,” she said. “He’s a wonderful partner. I can’t thank him enough for how much support he gave me all through this. He was just there for me every second to work hard and really hit it home.”
Florio said he was thrilled to be a part of a win at the festival and that he enjoyed working with Archer. “She had a lot of energy and it was great working with her,” he said. “She was very serious about it … she had a lot of faith in my work and I had a lot of faith in hers and it was so great to see her get such an award.”
Archer performed three scenes at the festival: two with Florio from the plays “Fat Pig” and “The Rivals,” and a monologue from the musical “Is There Life After High School?”
Archer said she particularly enjoyed her scene from “Fat Pig,” a contemporary play about romance in a culture obsessed with body image. “The character of Helen is a lot like me,” she said. “It was something that I really connected to.”
Archer said she also enjoys playing characters who are not like her at all. “I’ve liked playing villains sometimes,” she said. “I try to be nice whenever I can so to get out of that and try to be a mean person is fun.”
Despite her skills onstage, Archer’s first job with a theater department was behind the scenes, in the costume department for New Bedford High School’s production of “42nd Street.”
“I just fell in love with theater during that show and I’ve been in love with it my whole life since then,” Archer said.
After she graduates from CCRI, Archer plans to seek a bachelor’s degree in drama and pursue acting as a full-time career. She has been involved with several productions by Rhode Island’s Daydream Theatre Company and will appear in CCRI’s production of “Cephalopod” in March.
CCRI Assistant Drama Professor Theodore Clement, who was an acting coach with the Irene Ryan competition, said Archer’s accomplishment cannot be overstated. “We’re incredibly proud,” he said. “She’s a credit to our program and that really showed.”
He added, “Some of the feedback I got from the other professors was that it was really exciting to see a student from a community college do so well. [Archer] went up against students from the best drama schools in the Northeast region, and that includes New York City, and she beat them all.”