All the World's a Stage ...
By Leslie Grace / A! Magazine for the Arts | August 29, 2012All that rehearsal results in performances that not only keep the audiences coming back, they win competitions and many students go on to very successful professional careers.
VI's production, Lysistrata Wears Prada, which Gable wrote, was entered in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. It was recommended to enter the regional level competition in February, 2013 and received seven nominations for regional awards.
"This is the part where I gush with pride," Northeast's Sloan says. "Last year was the first time we entered the Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival. We received five nominations and sent eight students to compete at the Region IV festival. We were the only community college to attend regionals, and two of our students received first place awards."
King has entered the Kennedy Center Festival several times and has received nominations for directing and lighting and has been recommended for the regional festival.
"One of the best parts of our program is how competitive our students are, even when they go up against larger, more well-known programs," E&H's Bremmer says. "For example, in the past four years, our theatre students have passed through the Southeastern Theatre Conference's qualifying auditions at a higher rate than those from any other private college in Virginia. In 2008, Eric Eteuati with partner Laurel Crockarell won the Region IV Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition at the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival. He was one of only 16 college actors in the country invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C."
All of the colleges have students who have gone on to professional careers. They have worked as actors based in New York and Los Angeles, at Barter Theatre, in television, community theatre, Shakespeare festivals and other venues.
E&H's Bremmer attributes their success to their program. "It's the perfect mix of a solid liberal arts education, combined with real professional training in the theatre. Our students graduate with at least two areas of expertise (acting and lighting for example). When they graduate, they are able to go right into careers in professional theatre because theatres love how well-rounded our students are. Additionally, the partnership we have with Barter Theatre really makes it unique for a small program. They go into the professional theatre world with actual professional experience through their internships at the Barter and through their four years of regular contact with Barter professionals. They have a very realistic view of what a career in the theatre is like. Every single one of our graduates from this last year who wanted to work in professional theatre is working in professional theatre."
Two of Sloan's students at Northeast received job offers before they graduated. Dollar's students have found work in a variety of theatres, television, commercials and one-person shows.
Jeremiah Caleb, former King College student, is based in Los Angeles, Calif., and has appeared in commercials for Kellogg, Subway, Comedy Center, Food Network and Burger King. He also had a guest role on NBC's Outsourced. He also started the Caleb Hope Foundation which mobilizes artists and professionals to empower the poor in the slums in India. (for more about Caleb, visit www.artsmagazine.info; search "Jeremiah Caleb.")
Another of Dollar's students, Elizabeth Blue, based in New York City, writes and performs solo shows at fringe festivals in the United States and Canada. "I'm just so proud of all of them," Dollar says.
Aday at VHCC points out to his students who may not be interested in a professional career that theatre training is excellent preparation for jobs in speech therapy and social work, as well as many other fields. Many of his students teach or work in community theatre. His best-known ex-student is Richard Leigh, a Grammy-winning songwriter.
Barter professionals mentor E&H students, allow them to observe every aspect of theatrical production, and offer internships to Emory theatre students. The students attend every Barter performance as a group, and Rick Rose and Barter directors attend their performances and offer critiques. Barter professionals also teach master classes at E&H.
"The relationship between Emory and Barter is like a family," Roll says. "It's a unique program. I don't know of another one that is the same, because Barter Theatre is unique. Our students have access to things that students never get to do, such as sit next to a professional director during planning and rehearsals. Many of our students go on to work for Barter during the summer, and several have joined the repertory company."
E&H students are involved in productions starting in their freshman year. "I know colleagues who finished their entire college career without ever getting to perform or be involved in a production," Roll says. "We want our students to be involved from the beginning."
VHCC also has a relationship with Barter. Every year one or two students receive a Yates Foundation scholarship, which allows them to work part-time at Barter in some aspect of production, depending on their interests, talents and Barter's needs.
VI offers a "business of theatre" course where professional actors come to instruct students in how to audition and market themselves; and they take their students abroad to study.
"We recently went to London to classes at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Globe Theatre and the London Academy of Musical and Dramatic Art," Gable says. "We also participate in the Southeastern Theatre Conference and the Virginia Theatre Association to provide students with professional networking opportunities."
King College also stresses marketing. "You are your product," Dollar says. "You have to manage and market yourself. We teach them that they can't expect a job to fall in their laps, and if they can't find work, to create their own work rather than wait for a job."
An unique offering at King is Twin City Radio Theatre.
"It was started a few years ago by Christopher Slaughter out of his love for classic radio drama and his desire to introduce a new generation to this exciting performance style," Dollar says. "Twin City Radio Theatre performs staged productions of classic radio dramas from the 1930s, "40s and "50s, with particular emphasis on classic genre writers such as Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle. With its colorful hosts, thrilling plots and live sound effects, radio drama is an entertaining, distinctive theatre experience."
Dollar also adds technologies when students or her fellow professor have an interest. They incorporated projection and computer design into their performance of Pippin, because a student had a special interest in it.
"The theatre is an organism; it's a living breathing thing. It grows with a person's desire to learn," Dollar says.
Watching their students learn is the aspect of their jobs that Dollar, Sloan, Aday, Bremmer, Roll and Gable all agree is their favorite.
"The joy I get from watching young artists grow and find their own voice is wonderful," Gable says. "When you see that light bulb ignite, when they've made a connection to the materials they are working on, or when they move past inhibitions and truly begin to soar in their role on stage, it is inspiring. Their discoveries are my rewards."
Emory & Henry College
BA in general theatre four pre-professional tracks
• Musical Theatre
• Scenic Design
Bachelor of Arts in Theatre
Associate degree in Theatre
Virginia Intermont College
Bachelor of Fine Arts
• Musical Theatre
• Theatre Design & Technology
Bachelor of Arts
• Musical Theatre
• Theatre Design and Technology
Virginia Highlands Community College
Associate of Arts & Science Theatre
The first performances of the season for the colleges are:
Emory & Henry: 44 Plays for 44 Presidents
King College: The Crucible
Northeast State: The Night of the Living Dead
Virginia Intermont: Blithe Spirit
Virginia Highlands Community College: Winesburg, Ohio
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The Oldest Living Graduate was staged by Virginia Highlands Community College.