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City Native Publishes Book On Shakespearean Acting

Ron Destro conducting a class with Dame Diana Rigg. Below is the cover of Destro’s book featuring Ron Destro leading an acting exercise, with F Murray Abraham looking on. Submitted photos

Jamestown native Ron Destro, who for many years acted in plays at the Little Theatre of Jamestown and the Shoestring Players, has just published his new book on Shakespearean acting.

It is a compilation of thirteen masterclasses and interviews conducted by Destro at his New York and London-based drama school, the Oxford Shakespeare Company, which holds masterclasses with many of the world’s most renowned Shakespearean and Broadway actors.

Destro, who studied acting as a child at the Little Theatre of Jamestown, now the Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown, under the direction of Madelyn Jones Osgood, who had taught Lucille Ball when she was a young girl, later went on to study theatre at the State University at Fredonia and the University of Southern California, and then with Lucille Ball herself in Hollywood, before Shakespeare training at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art Marymount Program, and receiving an MFA in directing at Brooklyn College.

In addition to his role as actor and director, Destro’s work as a playwright won him the Kennedy Center New American Play Award for his drama Hiroshima, which received a New York City production and featured an original score by Yoko Ono.

Destro founded the Oxford Shakespeare Company in New York and London, which hosts masterclasses with world-renowned Shakespearean and Broadway actors, and also conducts 10-day summer overseas performance workshops, where actors take classes, culminating in a full Shakespeare performance in the play’s original setting, such as at Hamlet’s grave in Elsinor, Denmark (Hamlet), the witches’ lair in Birnam Wood, Scotland (Macbeth), the palace in Venice, Italy (The Merchant of Venice), Flint Castle in Wales (Richard II), and on the battlefields of Azincourt, France (Henry V) and Bosworth Field, England (Richard III).

The new book includes masterclasses and interviews from Sir Derek Jacobi, Dame Diana Rigg, Michael York, Jeremy Irons, Glenda Jackson, Frank Langella, F Murray Abraham, Tim Pigott-Smith, Ron Cook, Malcolm McKay, Priyanga Burford, John Barton and Cicely Berry.

Plus an in-depth step-by-step introduction to Shakespearean acting by Destro, and a chapter of his favorite movement and acting exercises.

Oscar-winner F Murray Abraham (Amadeus) writes in the Foreword to the new book, The Shakespeare Masterclasses, by, that it “should be required reading in every theater course, acting class and directing class. And should be in the library of every critic as well, because it describes, as no one else can, ‘how to do it.’ I don’t know of any book as detailed and as all-embracing as this one. I wish it had been available when I started out fifty-five years ago. It would have saved me a lot of heartache. Also, it’s a great read.”

In the book’s Acknowledgements, Destro thanks many of his friends and mentors in Chautauqua County who helped him develop as an actor, including Jamestown and Fredonia teachers John Powers, Milton Brown, Rachel Rennells, Madelyn Jones Osgood, Simm Landres and James Shokoff, directors Gibby Brand, James H Schroom and R Richard Corbin, the Reverend Valentine F Welker, and friends Woody Starr, Lisa Ecklund-Flores and John Baron.

Information on Destro and the Oxford Shakespeare Company can be found at oxfordshakespeare.org.

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