Students in the Summer Theatre Institute (STI) are preparing for their grand finale, “Crazy for Broadway: A Musical Revue,” a three-musicals-in-one production that is the pinnacle of their fast-paced, high-intensity six-week experience.
The show promises to be a crowd-pleaser.
“What makes this show special is that it is less story-driven and more about treating the audience to spectacular singing and dancing,” said Trent Rash, assistant professor of music at Stephens College and director and music director for the show. “For the students, it gives them the opportunity to hone their skills as dancers and singers in a company ensemble.”
The show includes mini versions of “Crazy for You,” a romantic comedy musical by George Gershwin; “Little Women,” a 21st century musical based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel; and “Hairspray,” an American musical with music by Marc Shaiman.
The soon-to-be-second-year students have had two weeks to learn the music, dances and additional staging for each song. But at this point in the summer program, the students are accustomed to the rigorous pace and have plunged head-first into the final production.
“I knew it would be a lot of hard work, and I was right,” said Lili Marean, 19, an acting major with a musical theatre emphasis from Louisville, Ky. “But it’s been a good kind of hard work.”
STI brings top-notch guest artists to campus to provide students with state-of-the-art theatrical education that culminates in five fully staged shows. Choreographer David Ollington is the guest artist for the Broadway finale.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind program,” said Lamby Hedge, 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 have provided students with professional instruction in acting, physical theatre, devising, stage combat, musical theatre performance techniques, commedia dell’arte, voice, theatre-dance and fitness. Classes also were held 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,” Hedge said.
Hope Peña, 18, an acting major from Orlando, Fla., was concerned learning stage combat might overwhelm her, but the experience turned out to be her favorite intensive of the summer.
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “The artist we had was amazing, and the techniques he taught blew my mind.”
Peña said she has broadened her skill set this summer and learned to be more open to the possibilities of new experiences.
“I’m physically and mentally stronger,” she said.
For Hannah Sutton, 19, an acting major from Gardner, Kan., STI pushed the limits of her acting abilities and helped her build confidence as a singer and dancer.
“I’m traditionally an actor, not a singer or dancer, but at STI, everyone sings and dances,” she said. “STI helped me to develop those areas and to realize that I will need those skills to be competitive in the business.”
Sutton also enjoyed learning more about the business side of the theatre industry and arts advocacy.
Rash said it’s gratifying to see students benefit from the summer program.
“They have all, in their own unique ways, grown tremendously in their skills and confidence as performers of musical theatre,” he said.
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.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Macklanburg Playhouse, 100 Willis Ave.
Free and open to the public.
Arrive early. Seats fill quickly.
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