Prestigious Oxford Summer Program Lays Groundwork for Villanova Theatre Graduate’s Acting Career

Villanova Theatre alumna Taahira Davis ’23 MA standing in front of Shakespeare's home
Villanova Theatre alumna Taahira Davis ’23 MA at a croquet party on the lawn of Magdalen College of Oxford University

Villanova, Pa. – This past summer, Villanova Theatre alumna Taahira Davis ’23 MA participated in the prestigious British American Drama Academy (BADA) Midsummer Program at the historic Magdalen College at the University of Oxford. The BADA program runs in association with the David Geffen School of Drama at Yale University.

The program is designed for committed actors and focuses on classical theatre craft with an emphasis on Shakespeare. Its faculty consists of leading British theatre practitioners and faculty from top American graduate programs. Many well-known actors are alumni of the BADA program, including the late Chadwick Boseman, Julie Bowen and Paul Rudd. Davis was one of only 90 students selected out of thousands of applicants.

“I have a great love of Shakespeare, and it was amazing to study his works in England,” says Davis. “I acquired useful techniques and skills that will aid in my acting throughout my career.”

During this intensive, monthlong program, classes are held during the week on topics such as Shakespeare, modern, voice, movement and audition technique. Sundays are reserved for special workshops with professionals in the industry.

For Davis, highlights of the program include a Sunday workshop with Scottish actor Brian Cox and the Shakespeare class taught by British actor and instructor Leo Wringer.

“All my instructors were insightful and passionate, but Leo was on another level,” Davis says. “He taught me how to read Shakespeare unlike I’ve ever known, and this in turn made my performances of the text stronger and more realistic. It was also impressive how he knew every line of dialogue from every play, so much so that if any of us said one word wrong, he would notice and fill in the correct word. It was truly incredible to experience.”

Davis, who is from Philadelphia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Ursinus College, aspires to perform on Broadway, in movies and on television. She currently works professionally with various theatre companies in Philadelphia. Her drive and ambition are evident for Professor and Villanova Theatre Artistic Director Michael Hollinger, who taught Davis’s playwriting and solo performance classes and was her thesis advisor for her solo performance capstone project.

“Taahira’s writing brings together a drive to express important truths – about race, identity, bigotry and mental health – but always with a theatrical flair and sense of humor that bites when the audience least expects it,” Hollinger says. “As a performer, she's a charismatic presence who fully inhabits her characters and their world on stage, whether singing, performing a rapid-fire two-character scene in a solo work or taking on roles in new play readings. We all wish her the best in her current studies and future work!"

Davis credits the Villanova Theatre graduate program with preparing her for the BADA experience and her career.

“The Villanova Theatre program is intense. Anyone who says theatre isn’t hard isn’t doing it right,” she says. “There will be times when you won’t think you can make it through, but trust me, you will. You will graduate stronger than you were before. You will learn so much from your classes and working on shows, becoming insanely well rounded and ready to tackle anything.”

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been the heart of the Villanova learning experience, offering foundational courses for undergraduate students in every college of the University. Serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students, the College is committed to fortifying them with intellectual rigor, multidisciplinary knowledge, moral courage and a global perspective. The College has more than 40 academic departments and programs across the humanities, social sciences, and natural and physical sciences.

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