Monique A. Robinson knows Shakespeare, but she takes her mantra from The Magic School Bus – “It is OK to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy.” Monique has always loved reading Shakespeare, but it wasn’t until her graduate studies at the University of Washington that the relationship went from dating to going steady. You could now say the two are officially married. Monique landed in Ashland, Oregon on January 2 and went straight into rehearsals as a new company member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
Monique entered the Professional Actor Training Program (PATP) excited about Suzuki and Viewpoints training. “You enter grad school with a hammer and you come out with a full tool kit,” says the actor. “Besides the specific tools, grad school taught me how you bring YOU to your work. You can’t divorce your personage. It taught me how to be genuine to both myself as an actor and to the text.”
During her time at UW, Monique built her stamina – learning how to persevere. “That’s a lesson I learned from Scott Hafso [Lecturer in Speech and Singing],” she says. “You can have skill and talent, but you also have to have discipline and commitment to your craft.” That commitment and the program’s emphasis on making your own work means Monique isn’t just waiting for opportunities, but making them. She recently moved to New York, where she is doing and making work. She’ll shoot the pilot for a sitcom she wrote this fall.
Hard work and play are not mutually exclusive in Monique’s world. One of her fondest memories of her time in the PATP program was performing Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin. It was the first play in which the entire PATP class of 2012 was cast. “We knew each other’s internal rhythms. We were able to play the bass to each other’s jazz. Moment and magic combined on stage every night,” she recollects. The experience reminded her of the essence of what actors do – they play – or, as her classmate Phil Kruse would say, they hold Masters of Make Believe.
The student in Monique has yet to make its exit. “I know that grad school is not the end to the stepping stones. You plant seeds in grad school and they may not sprout immediately, but three or five years down the line there will be a harvest. The work is not for naught.”
You can catch Monique in Ashland this season. She’ll be playing Luciana at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, directed by Kent Gash and running February 20 – November 2, 2014.