Mary Irwin is a voice, speech and text teacher, and an actor. She served as Professor of Drama in the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Drama from 1995-2017. Mary served as Head of Voice and Speech from 2001-2016, and as Assistant Dean from 2013-2016. She received Teaching Excellence Awards from the UNC School of the Arts in 1998, and again in 2015. She is currently a freelance teacher and coach in New York City.
Mary’s teaching and research interests lie in the areas of voice and text for the actor, with a primary focus on the works of William Shakespeare. She was named a reader at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Library and Archive in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2016. Mary had the great privilege of co-teaching Shakespeare for a decade with UNCSA Drama Dean Emeritus Gerald Freedman (artistic director of the New York Shakespeare Festival during the 1960’s). Together, Gerald and Mary substantially revised and expanded the Shakespeare curriculum at UNCSA. Shakespeare productions there include Pericles, Hamlet, Henry V, Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Romeo and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labors Lost, As You Like It (twice), and at least two Midsummer Night’s Dreams, one of which was performed collaboratively with the Winston-Salem Symphony playing the Mendelssohn score under Maestro Robert Moody. Another orchestral Shakespeare outing was Much Ado About Nothing, with the UNCSA orchestra playing the Korngold score under Maestro and former UNCSA Chancellor John Mauceri. Much Ado was televised on UNC-TV, and won an arts programming Regional Emmy Award. Mary was invited to teach a workshop at Shakespeare’s Globe in London during the summer 2000 season, through the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts funded program, Shakespeare Lives. She served as voice, text and/or dialect coach on over 90 UNCSA productions in total.
Ms. Irwin was voice and text coach for the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival for seven seasons, working on productions of The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, The Taming of the Shrew, The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Other professional coaching includes Cost of Living at Manhattan Theatre Club (two Lucille Lortel nominations), And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears, Master Harold … and the boys and Noises Off at Triad Stage, Our Town at Palm Beach DramaWorks, The Dresser with John Cullum at the Clarence Brown Theatre, and Misalliance at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Other teaching: The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London; The Laura Henry Studio in Santa Monica, CA; Red Bull Theater’s Shakespeare and Jacobean Workshops; Cherokee Summer Co-Laboratory Storytelling Workshop in the Education Dept. of the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee, NC; and guest teacher of Shakespeare text and voice pedagogy at Sarah Lawrence College.
Mary has worked on a number of orchestral Shakespeare performances, having coached two of these hybrid theatrical/orchestral presentations, and appeared in two more. As an actor, her most recent appearance was as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in a co-production presented by UNCSA and the NC Carolina Symphony. Midsummer was directed by former UNCSA School of Drama Dean Carl Forsman; Maestro Grant Lewellyn led the orchestra. Mary played Gertrude in Hamlet, at the Aspen Music Festival, with a score by Shostakovich conducted by Maestro John Mauceri, and directed by School of Drama alumnus and current faculty member Quin Gordon. She has appeared with New York companies such as Circle Rep LAB, Lakota Theatre Company, the American Renaissance Theatre, and in the Samuel French/Double Image Original Short Play Festival. Representative roles: Lady Macbeth, The Duchess of York in Richard III, Natasha in The Three Sisters, Rita in Billy Liar, and Iris in Corinne Jacker’s Bits and Pieces. During the 1980’s, Mary worked regularly with the Circle Rep Playwright’s Lab and the Young Playwright’s Festival to develop new works. Film and television includes: Che Bella Famiglia, “To Save a Child,” “…And Then She Was Gone,” “All My Children”. Recent voice acting credits include narrating the Copland and Mexico concert with the NC Symphony, and the BBC radio show What the Papers Say (special US election edition).
Ms. Irwin is a Designated Linklater Voice Teacher, and holds an MA in Voice Studies from the Central School of Speech and Drama, London, as well as a BA in Liberal Studies (summa cum laude) from New York University. As an actor, she trained at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, primarily with Lee Strasberg. Mary also studied acting and Linklater voice with Clyde Vinson, and Meisner Technique with Laura Henry. Originally from New Jersey, Mary is married to Broadway Dialect and Voice Coach Ben Furey, and lives in Winston-Salem, NC and New York City.