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Stephens theatre students work with top-notch guest artists in Summer Theatre Institute

May 23, 2017


Theatre students at Stephens College don’t go home to rest after their first year in school, quite the opposite.

They enroll in the Summer Theatre Institute (STI), a six-week, high-intensity, fast-paced experience that brings top-notch guest artists to campus to provide students with state-of-the-art theatrical education that culminates in five fully staged shows.

Commedia Tonight“It’s a one-of-a-kind program,” said Lamby Hedges, artistic director of STI and an associate professor of theatre at Stephens. “We have compressed an entire semester into six intense weeks. The students learn so much and grow so quickly that by the time they are done with STI, they are ready to come back for year two in the fall, more focused and ready to face intermediate work.”

This summer, guest artists are providing students with professional instruction in acting, physical theatre, devising, stage combat, musical theatre performance techniques, commedia dell’arte, voice, theatre-dance and fitness. There are also classes in technical theatre and theatre design, costuming, public relations and theatre management.

“Students spend 35 to 40 hours with each guest, which is a dream scenario if you are an artist,” Hedges said.

The newly acquired skills are quickly put into practice during the five stage productions that feature a rotating roster of students, who serve as actors, singers, dancers, stage managers, designers, technicians, crew members, front-of-house staff and more.

“On every project, the students are working with a practitioner in the field, a professional who practices what he or she preaches,” Hedges said. “The students are getting a training of a lifetime.”

This summer’s special guest artists include:

  • Betsy Elston, a veteran of Chicago’s famous improvisational theatre ImprovOlympics (now IO Chicago) and The Second City
  • Jessica Burr and Matt Opatrny from Blessed Unrest, the internationally acclaimed, New York City-based devised theatre company
  • Tony Fuemmeler, master commedia and mask artist from Portland, Ore.
  • Andrew Dylan Ray, a professional stage combat and fight choreographer from Shreveport, La., with credits from universities and professional regional theaters across the country

The guest artists are also joined by Stephens assistant professor Trent Rash, a musical theatre specialist, and guest choreographer David Ollington.

STI is part of what makes earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts at Stephens possible in three years and two summers. The summer after their second year, theatre students attend Okoboji Summer Theatre, a professional summer stock theatre in Spirit Lake, Iowa that is celebrating 60 years this summer. The Stephens theatre program is ranked No. 6 in the country by The Princeton Review.


2017 Summer Theatre Institute Season

  • "Rock ’em, Sock ’em” - May 26, A stage combat slug festival (PG 13)
  • "The Blessed Unrest Project” - June 2, Electrifying, company-driven devised theatre (PG 13)
  • "Improv, Chicago Style!” - June 9, Hilarious, long-form improvisation (PG 13)
  • "Crazy for Broadway” - June 19, A sparkling Broadway musical revue (Family friendly)

Each performance is a one-night-only, special event and is offered free of charge to the Stephens College campus and Greater Columbia community. All productions begin at 7:30 p.m. and are held in the Warehouse Theatre, 104 Willis Ave., with the exception of “Crazy for Broadway,” which is in the Macklanburg Playhouse, 100 Willis Ave.

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