(August 28, 2013)
Musical theatre gains momentum with fresh faces, partnerships
Don Hooper points to playbills of the past in the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse
Although musical theatre has a rich history at Centenary beginning in the 1960s, budget concerns and expanded offerings at other community theatres led Professor Don Hooper, Chair of the Theatre and Dance Department, to reduce the number of musicals produced in past years.
"Centenary musicals spawned summer musical theatres in this community," said Hooper. "The proliferation crowded the market and I wanted our students to get out and experience how other directors process and go about the business. We didn't stop producing musicals because we weren't interested. We stopped so we could serve our students in the best way."
Currently the Theatre Department produces a musical every other year within their four-show season. Now, with the Hurley School of Music's appointment of Dr. Ron Bermingham, a seasoned musical theatre performer and music director, an annual musical will be added to the line-up, making a five-show season.
"Our new initiative is about getting more and more students to move between the music and theatre areas," said Dr. Gale Odom, Dean of the Hurley School of Music. "In the future, we hope to have many more theatre students taking music lessons and many more music students taking theatre classes, in a cross-pollination that will strengthen both areas."
Musical theatre is an important element for educating performers. "The more comprehensive your training, the better your chances for finding employment look," said Bermingham.
Bermingham also says that musical theatre is the answer for students studying either music or theatre who have not yet had the opportunity to train in the other program. Opening lines of communication and collaboration between the Hurley School of Music and the Theatre Department will allow students opportunities to build knowledge and skills.
Associate Professor of Theatre Emily Heugatter agrees with Bermingham. "Musical theatre is incredibly important for the training," said Heugatter. "We try to give our students a varied season with different genres and eras of plays with different styles of acting, and it is incredibly important to include musical theatre. We are so excited to have Dr. Bermingham coming in to make sure there is a musical on the book every year that adds to the production season...We are so grateful for any extra performing opportunities for our students and have been talking for years with the music school about ways we can collaborate. This is such a perfect opportunity for us, a real bridge building program between the two majors."
Another new face at Centenary, Artist-in-Residence Twyla Robinson '93, will also help support the multidisciplinary genre of musical theatre this fall. "Twyla is working with students this fall in our redesigned 'Opera Workshop' course," said Odom. "Now called 'Singers' Workshop,' it concentrates on teaching stagecraft that singers need in a wide variety of performance genres and will help prepare students for future productions in either music theatre or opera."
Both departments agree that this is the beginning of something noteworthy. "Having Ron Bermingham and Twyla Robinson here at Centenary strengthens our commitment to educating great singing actors," said Odom. "Joining music and theatre together builds on the great foundation we already have in both areas."
Students interested in participating in the January musical directed by Bermingham are invited to audition Tuesday, September 3, at 5 p.m. in the Marjorie Lyons Playhouse. The production announcement will be made shortly after auditions.