Green Shirt Studio

Teacher Profile: Tosha Fowler

Tosha Fowler

The Windy City gained a true Southern belle when Georgia native, Tosha Fowler, moved to Chicago in 2006. Since her move, Fowler has enthralled countless audiences with her onstage charm in her various theatrical roles.

After graduating from Armstrong University in Savannah, Fowler  for undergrad earned her MFA in Acting at The Theatre School at DePaul. Her long list of achievements includes producing “Orgasmo Adulto Escapes from the Zoo” by Franca Rame and Dario Fo during her undergraduate career, teaching scene study at DePaul, and directing and producing shows in both Savannah and Chicago. She currently serves as the Artistic Director of Cor Theatre and was recently named one of the “Top 50 Players who really perform for Chicago” by Newcity.

At Green Shirt Studio, Fowler teaches scene study classes, where students focus on learning the works of one playwright at a time. We sat down with her to learn more about her impressive background in theater and gain some tips and tricks she swears by to help improve one’s acting.

Q: Why did you want to move to Chicago?

A: It was actually the Chicago storefront scene that made me want to move to the city. I am passionate about doing a show for 50 or fewer people in a small space where you can see the actors sweat. I always knew I wanted to do theater in Chicago, so I auditioned for graduate school at DePaul’s Theatre School for Acting. Luckily, I was accepted! I spent my first three years here learning and building a community in theater.

Q: Has acting always been a passion of yours?

A: Always. I latched onto acting at a young age and that passion continues to grow with me every day.

Q: What was your first professional role? How did you feel – nervous, excited, etc.?

A: I played Laura in The Glass Menagerie for Empire Theatre Co. in Savannah, GA. I was very nervous throughout most of the experience. I remember not wanting to be a ‘sap’ the way I had heard Laura described before, so I worked extremely hard to find her strong moments and I performed them in their entirety. It was thrilling.

Q: You teach scene study classes. What can students anticipate gaining from your class and your teaching style?

A: I have a physical approach to acting. Especially with scene study classes, you become so engrossed in the script and its words that you often forget about your body. In beginning acting, we do a lot of exercises that develop our body, or as I like to call it, our instrument. What I do is bridge this transition from foundational into scene work. I give out a scene breakdown on our first class so that students can read the play and the scene and do all of the mental/intellectual work on their own time. When they come into class, we talk about the play for just a few minutes for inspiration, but then we are on our feet and do physical exercises to warm up our bodies and to develop a strong connection with our scene partners. It is the space between you and your scene partner that is vital — not the words that you say or how you deliver them. It is all about connection, what you are doing to your partner to get what you need. And when you are truly connected to partner – listening and responding fully in the moment — anything can happen. Truth happens. Magic happens.

Q: Why is it important to study scenes from one playwright at a time?

A: I’ve never had the opportunity in school or in outside acting classes to study one playwright at a time. Andrew Gallant, the co-founder of Green Shirt Studio, came up with this idea, and after having taught the Tennessee Williams’ class, I thought it was brilliant. Not only do you get to dive into the many worlds of one playwright, you learn so much about who the playwright is and their viewpoint of the world. Additionally, you not only get to play some of the most iconic roles in theater, you also get to experience the playwright’s artistry as a human being.

Right now I’m preparing for my upcoming Tracy Letts Scene Study Class. I’ve seen all of his plays and performed in one of them. But going back and rereading them all has been eye-opening. He’s an incredible writer. Each play is so different and each character has their own, unique rhythm. Students are going to find each role they work on very different – which is a challenge but a very exciting challenge.

Q: What makes someone a better actor?

A: I’m not sure that there is just one thing because we are all different. What works for me isn’t going to work for someone else. That’s why I love teaching. To help students find what works for them, I have to tune into each one individually. And when working on a specific role, I find that I use a different approach each time. So a student may find that they need to work on one specific thing, like listening, for one role and then come to find that the next role they need to focus on something completely different like understanding your scene partner. This is the beauty of a scene study class – students have an opportunity to work on multiple things that create an improved whole.

Q: Who can take your class?

A: Anyone can take this class. I’ve taught students with all kinds of different challenges or levels, and at the end of the day, we all come to the same place – being the fullest human being that we can be within the given circumstances of the play.

Q: Do you plan to teach other classes or workshops at Green Shirt Studio in 2016?

A: There are some other plans in the works for other playwright scene study classes. But I would like to teach the Letts class again in the evening this late spring. I’m also thinking about either a female playwright focused class or a local Chicago playwright class. If anyone has ideas, I’m open to them!

Q: What advice do you give to your new students who want to pursue acting and theater full-time?

A: From the wise words of Steve Tyler, “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” If you love it or feel it is a part of your DNA to pursue acting, then just keep on keepin’ on! Instead of looking for signs on whether or not you should continue acting or doing theater (like “Oh, I didn’t get the part, I guess I’m not good enough and need to quit”), let it go and keep doing the work. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. That’s a metaphor. My grandma used to say it all the time.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching at Green Shirt? 

A: The students are great. They are eager to try something new. I know it is a challenge to gather the money and time to take a class, but the students that make those sacrifices always come in prepared and ready to work. They inspire me.

Get a personalized acting experience unlike any other with the one-and-only Tosha Fowler. You won’t regret it… we promise. Fowler’s upcoming class, Tracy Letts Scene Study, begins Jan. 27 from 11 a.m.-2 p.m.