After several years in New York City, former student Brandon Branscum has come back to Montana Western to share his expertise with the drama department.
Although he will only be here for a short time, Branscum is excited to be back in Montana. “ I’m here to teach and direct. Then it’s back to the grind in New York. I haven’t been able to see any games yet which is disappointing, but I did get a chance to update my western gear.”
Branscum is a Montana native. He grew up in Helena and went to Capital High School. Along with acting, he also played football and studied political science at Montana Western.
New York City is a long way from Dillon, Mont., both literally and figuratively. I asked Branscum how people react when he tells them where he is from.
“A lot of people from New York think Montana is in Canada. When they ask, I tell them there’s nothing to do here, we still go to the bathroom in outhouses, all that stuff. I just wanna keep Montana the way it is, keep more people from moving in and messing things up.”
I asked Branscum if he had always planned on moving to a big city after school. He replied, “Definitely not. I was the drama club president, and I took the club to see a play at UM. While we were there, I saw that they were holding auditions for the New York Conservatory.”
The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts is a prestigious and intensive school for actors. Branscum stayed behind an extra day to audition.
“I had to memorize a monologue in a couple of hours. I thought I did terrible, but then I got the call. I had a scholarship for a three-program. I was a junior at the time, and I left right away.”
Now that he has completed his program at the conservatory, Branscum works in several aspects for the entertainment industry.
“I work with many different casting companies in New York. Being on the other side of a casting call really helps me with my own auditions.”
On whether he preferred acting on camera or for the stage, he said, “The theatre is my passion; that’s my love. In ‘Our Town’, there’s a part where I got to speak directly to the audience. I got to look people in the eye. It’s more personal. There’s no screen, nothing separating you from the audience.”
Regarding his decision to direct “And Then There Were None”, he said, “It took me a while to pick a play. Agatha Christie is one of the best playwrights of all time. I thought this play would be very relatable to Dillon. It’s a classic. It’s simple. It’s not glitzy or glamorous. It’s about the dialogue. It’s very low-key, but at the same time so intense.”
Branscum was exceedingly positive when speaking of his experience with the local actors. “Honestly, the students here are better than most actors I see in New York. It’s very easy to direct them, and they’re all so unique. A lot of actors in New York lose that.”
Finally, I asked him what he missed most about Montana.
“I’m so excited to be back at my Alma Mater. Montana is where I found my passion. Montanans are so honest and open. No one can really understand how it works unless they’ve been here. Everyone’s friendly; there’s a sense of community. We have each other’s backs.”
“And Then There Were None” will be performed Thursday through Saturday, March 23rd through the 25th. The next week, the production will conclude with three shows starting on March 30th and ending April first.