The WMU Department of Theatre opened the 2016-2017 season with this message: "Theatre has the power to bring us together, regardless of where we have come from or where we are going. And so, at a time when so many voices are pulling us apart, we invite you to celebrate the glorious art form that builds connection and provides a home for characters of all types." We celebrated all tyes of characters and people in our work this year, both on and off stage. The Department of Theatre provided students and audiences with connections and experiences that will last a lifetime. Here are some of the most noteworthy:
1. Professional Development Travel
This summer, 26 WMU theatre students traveled across the sea to study in England. From Warwick Castle to watching the Royal Shakespeare Company, the students spent three weeks immersed in the English Theatre experience.
In its second season, Activate: Midwest – A New Play Festival took WMU students to the Chicago Dramatists Theatre to perform the winning play, A Pocketful of Sand.
Once the fall arrived, 8 Arts Management students headed south to Austin, Texas for the National Arts Marketing Project Conference.
Then in March, 30 Design TechMajors and Stage Managers attended the National USITT conference in St. Louis, Missouri. Meanwhile, the underclassmen ventured to Chicago to visit art museums, tour the Goodman Theatre and see a show at Steppenwolf Theatre.
As always, the senior Music Theatre Performance majors took their annual showcase to New York and Chicago, hoping to get a jump start on their careers.
All of these experiences allowed students to learn from industry professionals and get a taste of many corners of the US and beyond.
2. Guest Artists
WMU was honored to host 34 guest artists on campus this year. From playwrights and keynote speakers for the new play festival to guest directors and designers, to the endless number of professional workshops throughout the school year--students were never without an exciting opportunity to learn more about their craft from industry pros bringing a unique perspective. Among so many opportunities were corset-making, carpentry and puppetry workshops, a meeting with the Company Manager from the touring show of Book of Mormon, Voice and Movement workshops with Phil Timberlake, and workshops with several New York City casting directors.
In addition to these workshops, distinguished alumnus David Alpert directed our season opener, Baby with the Bathwater, alumna Kate Thomsen directed the lyrical piece, The Women of Lockerbie, and Broadway royalty Patrick Cassidy was our Next Stop, Broadway! guest star. Finally, Jason Potgeiter, a practiced puppeteer from South Africa, joined our WMU team for a second time to train students in the art of puppetry for our world premiere production of Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.
On top of everything else, our productions this year continued to provide meaningful and inspiring experiences for students and audiences alike. In November, we partnered with the WMU School of Music to present the groundbreaking musical, Show Boat. With a 40-piece orchestra, audiences were captivated by this timeless story full of diverse characters and beautiful music. In March, our collaboration with EFA and Jason Potgeiter brought children from across Kalamazoo Public Schools and beyond to experience live theatre (some even for the very first time). In addition, the WMU Department of Theatre partnered with the WMU Center for Autism Excellence to present the community’s first sensory friendly performance in live theatre. The Wiz is closing out the season with a bang, featuring impressive collaborative design in makeup, hair, costumes and scenery – and the performances could not be more motivational and energizing!
This season, the Department of Theatre connected with so many characters on stage and off. From our travels to our guest artists to the art we make every day as students at WMU, we strive to remember that theatre is for everyone and to stay true to the idea that all characters are welcome.