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Acting and Mental Health with Detra Payne

How do you direct actors regarding stories that involve mental health concerns? 

Thursday, April 6, 2023 | 7:00pm

In this lecture/demonstration, actress and Northwestern University assistant professor of instruction Detra Payne will lead student PPSL directors as they practice directing their actors.  The questions on the table: How do you direct actors regarding stories that involve mental health concerns? How does the director create a healthy and appropriate environment on set?  What particular demands do stories about mental health require? For example, how do we approach stories that involve bringing to life trauma?  How can actors work with the director to make sure the trauma they are conveying does not stay with them?   What kind of rituals can we create?  Ultimately, what will create the best, most compelling experience for actor, director, and audience?     

Professor Detra Payne (MFA, The New School for Drama) is an assistant professor of instruction in the Department of Theatre. She was an assistant professor of instruction at the University of Texas, Arlington in the Theatre Department before joining Northwestern. She taught cross-disciplinary courses in Women’s and Gender Studies at UTA, including Gender and the Performing Arts and Women in Theatre. Professor Payne has acted professionally in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Memphis, and in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Ms. Payne earned her MFA from the Actor’s Studio Drama School, a division of The New School, where she studied extensively and mastered The Method technique of acting formulated by Lee Strasberg. Her B.A. is from the University of Washington, and while there she was a member of the first class to be taught the Suzuki Method, created by world renowned theatre artist Tadashi Suzuki. Ms. Payne is trained in the Meisner Technique, created by Sanford Meisner, through the Joann Baron/DW Brown Studio in Los Angeles. Ms. Payne is a founding member of the Los Angeles based theatre company Sacred Fools. Ms. Payne has produced and directed a number of theatrical productions and has worked on films and in television not only as an actor but as a production and talent coordinator. Her written work has been published in Theatre Journal and Studies in Theatre and Performance. (More about Detra at