Over the past year or so, there has been a BIG boost in student work here in the Theatre and Dance department. While there is the Studio Series that is completely student-run once a semester, there have been a number of students whose Studio Series applications may have been denied or simply want to do their work independently that have been produced. Last year’s Seminar seemed to have been the spark that ignited students’ interest and confidence that they could produce a show without help from the department. Stacey Heishman, who played Kate in the show, submitted Seminar as a Studio Series production, and it was unchosen. However, she had a passion for the show and story and was determined to make her vision a reality: “Seminar had just been this little thought in the back of my head, but I was never able to do anything with it until one semester I went through a lot of life changes, and through that decided I needed to produce that show. I talked to a couple student organizations, and they were currently focused on other projects, so Seminar was put on hold again. Weighing all my options, I decided to start the project myself… I was ready to make something for myself that I could be proud of.” Seminar was one of the student favorites for the year, winning several awards at the Vickie’s for the 2017-2018 academic year. It also made students realize that there were new avenues for work that they were passionate about.
Moving into this academic year, Tabula Rasa, a student-run production company that has always focused on student work, produced a dance show entitled Forms. Inspired by the Studio Series’ choice of a dance show in the fall, Hunak, Tabula Rasa encouraged our dance students to come be a part of student work as well. Marketing Director of Tabula Rasa, Josh Crotty, discussed the Tabula Rasa Board’s inspiration behind choosing Forms and their other productions: “I think we felt that we wanted to give more opportunities for a lot of dance majors to present their own work in a more relaxed setting. We wanted to make it known that Tabula Rasa recognizes our department as a whole and wants to give everyone as many opportunities as possible to perform their own work.” Forms became not only an avenue for student work, but also, proof that student work wasn’t only reserved for theatre students.
Later that semester was the independent production of Shoulda Coulda Woulda featuring Amalea Cox and Matt Huebner in the lead roles and Molly Fowler as director. Cox found Shoulda Coulda Woulda in a drama book shop her sophomore year and instantly fell in love with the universal story of love and loss. She says, “I spent my junior year forcing everyone I knew to read it because I thought the story was one for everyone.” When she wasn’t cast in a mainstage production for this semester, she decided this was the perfect time to produce the show. This team worked to create their production and share this story with their classmates on a wider scale. Not only was Shoulda Coulda Woulda a great experience for the audience, but Cox says it was just as great from her standpoint: “I’ve never felt as fulfilled artistically as I did with SCW.”
As the semester progressed, we saw Mallory Maggi’s production of Dog Sees God come to life. Dog Sees God has been a personal favorite of Maggi’s for years. After working at Tent Theatre over the summer, she realized she would have some extra money lying around and wanted to put that money to good use. She employed the work of her friend and Tent Theatre colleague, Steven Horn, to direct the show while she would play a role she always found fascinating, Van’s Sister (inspired by none other than Lucy in the Charlie Brown series). She also made it very important for proceeds to be given to The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that features a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth. Maggi saw Dog Sees God as an opportunity to create art independently, taking on most of the behind-the-scene duties as well, giving her a sense of freedom that you can’t always get in a normal production.
Moving into this semester was the production of Parliament Square proposed by Terra Ashe and Trish Price and produced in collaboration with UCYA. When Terra Ashe traveled to London last year, she was able to see a brand-new production there in the West End. In Bush Theatre, she witnessed a show asking how far you would go for the things you believed in. She brought her memories and inspiration that had been ignited through Parliament Square back with her to Missouri State. She explains, “I bought the play immediately after I saw it, I wanted to be a part of that story so bad, to experience this show. I thought people should see it… I found a show that made me feel so much, that I found a challenge and a great opportunity in and simply couldn’t pass up the possibility of being able to do it, so I did it.” She asked her fellow classmate, Trish Price, to join in her project as director, and the two of them produced Parliament Square through the University Coalition of Young Artists (UCYA). This production not only gave opportunities to the actors in our department but also to tech students as well. Being a very tech-heavy production, this saw the inclusion of students across different programs to use their talents where they might not have been able to before.
And the student work doesn’t stop there. Last weekend, Cassandra DeFrietas and held auditions for a production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Tori Jost and Thomas Fischer are producing Still Life with Iris in collaboration with UCYA that will be holding auditions February 25th and 26th. Tabula Rasa has announced two new shows for this semester: And Then Some written by our very own T&D Bear, Elaina Creighton, and Hand to God proposed by Steven Horn and Cameron Perry.
While everyone loves to be in a mainstage production, students no longer see it as the end all, be all. Students are taking their performance and tech opportunities, as well as creative outlets, into their own hands. Hopefully, this will not be the end of the road for student work. Amalea Cox gave some sage advice to those who are thinking of producing their own work: “My advice would be to be prepared for everything that can go wrong to go wrong. We had a lot of hoops to jump through and fires to put out, and when you produce yourself, you have to do all of that yourself… But I learned so much, and it’s been my favorite thing I’ve done here. I would recommend everyone find and tell a story that they want to tell.”