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Theater Professor to Present Workshop to Law Students April 13

April 11, 2011

by Brittany Hardy

Thomas Ward, actor and Baylor University assistant professor of acting and stage combat, will present a workshop titled "Courtroom Communication: Lessons for Litigators Drawn from Life on a Stage" at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, in Room 120 at Baylor Law School.

For the first time in Baylor Law School history, the theatre department and the law school will come together to glean the best from each area of study.

Baylor Law Adjunct Professor Carl Edwards approached Ward with the idea to utilize some of the techniques from theatre in order to further improve courtroom communication.

"My impression is that Carl is a theatre buff, as well as an accomplished lawyer and teacher. So, he came up with an idea of putting together this workshop to explore how acting can prepare you for the courtroom and giving arguments," Ward said.

Ward said he has worked with several actors who were headed to law school and took a detour into acting and students who graduated from the theatre department and went on to attend law school. So, perhaps, the divide is smaller than some may think.

Ward will be able to see law students through his own theatrical lenses.

"[Students] will be watched in a different way, with a different eye, an eye toward delivery. I'll be looking at their presence in the courtroom," he said.

Ward said the goal is not to turn lawyers into performers, but to look at the text and the presentations through another method of study and see how the two can spur each other on toward better communication.

The students who participate in the workshop will learn about subtext.

"We will look at the arguments they are presenting and look at the goal on the listeners. We will really break down whether what I am seeing and hearing is producing the changes in the listeners and address ways to make it more effective," Ward said. "We'll deal with vocal choices, choices of inflection, choices of what I call 'tactics,' and any texts can be delivered in a variety of ways, whether it's what words you stress, your attitude or tone.

Ward said he will present a "very nuts-and-bolts" overview of contemporary acting approaches, including method acting.

Similar to an actor who comes into a character and must look at his present obstacles and ways to overcome them, law students will examine obstacles within courtroom communication and work with Ward to overcome them.

Ward has opened the workshop to some of his theatre students. He believes it will be a learning experience for students in both areas of study.

"When it comes to presentation, my hunch is that a lot of time [in the law school] is spent on the words and writing," Ward said, "I am very curious about what is explored and covered in presentation. So, I can't wait to find out. I'm really excited about it."

Ward and Edwards hope to see more blending between Baylor's Law School and Theatre Department.

"I'd love to see it become, at least, a once-a-year workshop. I would love to further develop relationships with professors in the law school and have some kind of partnership or collaboration," Ward said, "Because I see a lot of things that the law school would have to offer theatre students and vice versa.

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