Inside CAS

College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Theatre Joins Forces with Camp Lejeune

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Article and Photo by Kasey Stewart ’17

Robin Post, assistant professor in the UNCW Department of Theatre, worked with the Defense Counsel at Camp Lejeune Camp this past summer to teach acting skills to both students and Defense Counsel Members. The unlikely collaboration of these two groups became an innovative way of using theatre to benefit the community.

Post visited Camp Lejeune twice for preliminary work then the Defense Counsel members came to UNCW’s campus for four full-day workshops. She recruited UNCW undergraduate theatre students to be assigned roles as complainants, clients, and witnesses. While in character, the members of the Defense Counsel practiced their direct and cross examination skills on them as if in a real court.

Post worked together with Sue Clemens, HQE East DSO USMC and Major James Argentina, SDC, DSO East USMC of Camp Lejeune to develop this unique program that benefited both the students and the Defense Counsel. This project helped students apply their acting in non-traditional settings, pushing the boundaries of their education and truly testing their abilities. “With these workshops, actors got experience with improv skills and immersing themselves into characters that they have to do extensive research on so they realize the depth of what it takes to perform a part without a script. They basically have to become these people,” said Post. 

The project also offered realistic and in depth practice for the Defense Counsel to hone their examination skills while studying their own mannerisms in the courtroom. Is their presentation believable? Do they come across as friendly or frightening? Are they speaking too quickly? These are the issues that Post would work on with the Defense Counsel. “Their presentation is similar to ours,” said Post. “I gave them the same direction as I give to my students in believability and natural delivery as I do when coaching a monologue or a scene.”

The combination of UNCW acting students and Camp Lejeune Defense Counsel offered both groups the ability to relate on an unexpected level. “Attorneys have to sell their story the same way actors have to but, with them, it’s life and death. It’s whether someone is going to prison or not. Post says, “With actors, it is always an effort to raise the stakes and make a character important to them.” The program allowed the student actors to see just how high the stakes can be and how important authenticity is. The Defense Counsel was able to see the benefits and effectiveness of training as an actor in their work.

UNCW student Allison Grady, who participated in the program, expressed how much she enjoyed working with the Defense Counsel, “I didn’t expect to feel as influential as I did when helping the attorneys. They were so eager to tell us that we were being helpful and that was wonderful.” 

The program lasted from May through September, but Post hopes to apply for funding and to continue her work with Camp Lejeune in the form of an official course that students can register for starting next year. “I loved the program,” said Grady. “It was so rewarding being able to positively affect military personnel.”