Spring Swing Benefits CSU Dance Program

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University welcomed dance enthusiasts to Woodruff Park for an evening under the stars, complete with live music, food, beverages and lots of loose feet.

The second annual Spring Swing benefitting CSU’s dance minor program was held Saturday, April 29. All proceeds earned go directly to the university’s rapidly growing dance program, which now enrolls more than 150 students. The program is housed under CSU’s Department of Theatre in the College of the Arts.

Music was provided by The Shimmer Band, Atlanta’s premiere powerhouse show band. Dancers of all skill levels over the age of 16 were in attendance, and couples entered a dance contest for prizes.

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Theatre Rehearsal Hall Dedicated to Brennan

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University’s Department of Theatre renamed its rehearsal hall in memory of Hazel Hall Brennan, former chair of the Department of Theatre, during a ceremony held Friday, March 10 in the One Arsenal Building on CSU’s RiverPark campus.

“Hazel was a great mentor and a great friend to faculty and students alike,” said Larry Dooley, chair of CSU’s theatre department. “The department has seen tremendous growth in recent years, and much of that success is rooted in Hazel’s leadership early on. It is truly fitting that we name a much used and student-centered rehearsal space after her. She was always right there in the middle of student work.”

Hall joined CSU’s faculty in 1974, and served as chair of the theatre department from 1981 until her retirement in 2003. Her expertise as a director and teacher nurtured hundreds of students who have gone on to become teachers and working professionals in film, television and Broadway theatre. She was at her best and happiest in a rehearsal room.

Through this generous gift to the university from her husband John, the legacy of this inspiring leader will continue to impact future students, teachers and artists.

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Columbus State University’s Production of “Tartuffe” Features Comedy, Cameos


COLUMBUS, Ga. — Celebrities from Columbus State University will grace the stage of this week’s Department of Theatre production of “Tartuffe,” a centuries-old comedic classic.

In addition to CSU’s most talented student actors, designers and production specialists, “Tartuffe” will feature cameo performances by CSU Provost Tom Hackett on Thursday, CSU First Lady Bridget Markwood on Friday and CSU President Chris Markwood on Saturday. Each show begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Riverside Theatre Complex on CSU’s RiverPark campus.

Molière’s “Tartuffe” was first performed more than 300 years ago, but CSU’s semi-modern production is set in the 1920s. The timeless comedy follows the exploits of Tartuffe, con artist extraordinaire, in a cautionary tale complete with quick wit, star-crossed lovers and a badgering grandmother.

Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors and active duty military and $12 for children 12 and under. CSU faculty and staff with ID will receive two free tickets. CSU students with ID will receive one free ticket. Tickets are available from the RiverSide Theatre Box Office. Visit https://theatre.columbusstate.edu/index.php or call 706-507-8444 for more information.


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Tony Award-Winning Choreographer Backs CSU’s New Dance Program

ReinkingCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Tony Award-winning Broadway actress, dancer and choreographer Ann Reinking will serve as Honorary Chair of the Board of Advisors for Columbus State University’s new dance program and the “Broadway Gala” fundraiser scheduled for later this year. CSU’s Department of Theatre will begin offering the dance minor in the fall with plans to eventually offer a major in dance.

Reinking won the 1997 Tony Award for best choreography for the revival of “Chicago” in which she reprised her role as Roxie Hart. She first starred in that role on Broadway in 1977.

“We appreciate the work of Patty Taylor and our advisory board in securing Ms. Reinking’s support of our theatre department’s dance program. This is another example of the College of the Arts’ national profile and potential for international recognition,” said College of Arts Dean Richard Baxter.

Reinking has been nominated for other Tony Awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Joan of Arc in “Goodtime Charley,” Best Featured Actress in a Musical for “Dancin’” and Best Director for “Fosse.” Other Broadway credits include her debut as Lulu in “Cabaret,” as well as critically acclaimed performances in “Over Here,” “A Chorus Line” and “Sweet Charity.”

In addition to her successful Broadway career, Reinking is known for her role as Daddy Warbucks’ secretary and would-be girlfriend Grace Farrell in the movie “Annie.” She starred opposite Dudley Moore in the film “Micki + Maude” and served as choreographer for the ABC television movie version of the Broadway musical “Bye Bye Birdie.

Spring Swing, a dance party benefiting CSU’s dance program, is scheduled for Friday, April 29 from 7 p.m. to midnight at Woodruff Park in downtown Columbus. Admission is $10 at the gate. Plans are still being developed for the Broadway Gala, which is scheduled for December 2.



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Springer and CSU Merge Missions in Theatrical “Marriage”


COLUMBUS, Ga. — After a long courtship, the Springer Opera House and Columbus State University have taken their relationship to the next level by creating a more perfect union called the Georgia Repertory Theatre.

In a Memorandum of Understanding signed in December, the CSU Department of Theatre and the 145-year-old State Theatre of Georgia have merged their missions to create a professional theatre company with a focus on artistic excellence and finding jobs for graduates.

“The Georgia Repertory Theatre offers a dynamic new operating model that we expect to have a national impact on the American theatre industry,” said Paul Pierce, producing artistic director of the Springer Opera House. “We are creating a partnership that provides unsurpassed artistic excellence for audiences, astonishing professional advantages for students and an innovative service program for every child in our public schools.”

The goal of the Georgia Repertory Theatre (GRT) is to be “America’s professional teaching theatre,” featuring the nation’s finest stage talent, teachers and blue chip students  and making Columbus a national hotspot for artistic innovation and training, said Pierce.

The concept is modeled along the lines of teaching hospitals, which allow student physicians to work alongside the world’s top doctors before they graduate. The Georgia Repertory will do the same for theatre with CSU students, making them immediately employable in the theatre and film industries.

“Over the years, Columbus has carefully assembled a theatre infrastructure that is virtually unmatched anywhere in the country,” said CSU President Chris Markwood. “With the advent of this partnership, I hope we will use these programs and these great facilities to further launch Columbus into the national spotlight.”

“Within two blocks, CSU and the Springer collectively own four state-of-the-art theatres, 250,000 square feet of amazing production and education facilities and employ 34 of the nation’s finest theatre practitioners,” explained CSU Department of Theatre Chair Larry Dooley. “Separately, we are better than average operations. Together, we are among the best in the world. It’s time to rally all of these resources together to make history.”

“It’s all about artistic excellence, audience building and workforce development,” said Richard Baxter, dean of the College of the Arts at CSU. “We want to leverage the investments that have already been made at CSU and the Springer to expand enrollment and make CSU the first choice for America’s best theatre students. Columbus has an opportunity to become a prominent voice in shaping America’s rising creative economy. And that’s our overall goal.”

The bonanza for students is that the GRT will provide new opportunities to collect professional resume credits while still in school and receive job placement counseling that will allow them to graduate with jobs waiting for them in theatre and film.

CSU Theatre and the Springer Opera House have been gradually combining parts of its operations for several years.

“CSU students are serving internships with us, working as stage technicians and stage managers and performing in our shows,” said Pierce. In addition, CSU theatre professors are working as guest artists and designers and teaching classes in our theatre academy. We are also sharing equipment. Simultaneously, Springer staff have been serving as adjunct faculty and guest lecturers in the department. The Georgia Repertory Theatre enterprise dramatically expands a collaboration that has been building organically for several years.”

“CSU is committed to expanding enrollment,” said Baxter. “When Paul Pierce came to us and asked, ‘What can the Springer do to help CSU increase its capacity?’ I knew it was a game-changing moment. Once we put all of our assets on the same table, we quickly realized we were inventing America’s next great theatre company.”

The Georgia Repertory Theatre’s goals include:

— Make Columbus ground zero for top-ranked theatre and film training in America
— Invest in artistic excellence to make GRT a professional theatre with a national profile
— Recruit first-tier professional guest artists for performing and teaching on all stages
— Expand enrollment to make CSU the largest and best theatre department in the South
— Present world premieres of new plays by Georgia playwrights
— Fund a broad range of scholarships, internships and assistantships
— Establish formal paths to employment for students in theatre and film
— Provide subsidized tickets for all students in every school in every district
— Provide free performances for all Title I schools in the Muscogee County School District
— Establish a national audience development conference hosted by GRT
— Create student showcases for agents, producers and directors in Atlanta and New York

“This is not a bricks-and-mortar project,” explained Tom Flournoy, chairman of the Georgia Repertory Theatre’s joint advisory committee. “Columbus’ generous donors have already invested in the finest facilities in America over the past 20 years. Of course, the partnership will require new funding to realize the full scope of this vision, and the community will learn more about that in the future. For the moment, we are going to concentrate on putting these amazing assets to work to transform CSU, the Springer and the theatre industry in the U.S.”

The Georgia Repertory Theatre will feature twin programs working in tandem:

  1. Georgia Repertory Theatre – Springer
    The Spring GRT is a professional theatre with mainstage, studio and children’s theatre, national touring shows and theatre/film training for students K-12. CSU faculty and students will be integrated into all aspects of these professional programs.
  2. Georgia Repertory Theatre – Riverside
    The Riverside GRT is an educational theatre with mainstage, studio and children’s theatre, summer stock, regional touring shows and conservatory education in theatre performance, design, technical skills, arts management and drama education. Springer artists and staff will be integrated into all aspects of these programs.


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CSU Theatre Effort Wins Convention-Visitors Bureau Grant

CSU students work on singing and dance moves during early rehearsals for “Dora the Explorer Live: Dora's Pirate Adventure!” in late May.

CSU students work on singing and dance moves during early rehearsals for “Dora the Explorer Live: Dora’s Pirate Adventure!” in late May.

COLUMBUS, Ga. — The Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau has awarded a $17,166 grant to support Columbus State University’s summer 2014 theatrical efforts, produced as the Columbus Repertory Theatre.

CSU’s Department of Theatre won the grant after submitting to an intensive application, jury review by a panel of community leaders and competition with all other arts organizations within the city to demonstrate artistic merit.

“I want to congratulate Dr. Larry Dooley, chair of the theatre department, and the faculty on this outstanding achievement,” said College of the Arts Dean Richard Baxter. “This award is a tangible endorsement of the significant economic impact our college has on this region. It is also a testament to the quality of our theatrical productions, as well as the incredible commitment our faculty have in expanding and enhancing the learning opportunities for our majors.”

Dooley and other CSU theatre faculty first began staging summer productions as the Columbus Repertory Theatre in 2011. The effort allowed the department to move its summer academic offerings beyond core classes such as theatre appreciation and set-building for fall productions.

Producing more commercially popular plays for longer runs was the summer repertory theatre model that Dooley and other faculty hoped would pay off. Running a play longer allows for more word-of-mouth advertising and gives students more of a professional experience as they can fine-tune performances and staging over time, Dooley said in 2011.

This summer’s productions, running until late June, are “Suds! The Rockin’ 60’s Musical Soap Opera,” “Dora the Explorer Live: Dora’s Pirate Adventure!” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

For tickets and details, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/theatre or call 706-507-8444.

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Play Promises Good Clean Fun, Music

sudswebCSU Theatre’s next production, “Suds! The Rockin’ 60’s Musical Soap Opera,” tells the story of a young woman and her guardian angels who come to teach her about finding true love — in a laundromat. And its musical backdrop promises more than 50 songs of the 1960s, including  “Where the Boys Are,” “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” “Respect,” “I Feel Good” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret?” Performances in CSU’s Riverside Theatre Complex are at 7:30 p.m. May 22-24, May 29-31, June 5-7, June 19 and June 26 at 7:30 p.m., plus June 15 at 2 p.m.     more >>


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Columbus State’s Theatre Department Earns National Accreditation

Dooley_Larry01COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s Department of Theatre got word Tuesday that its undergraduate programs have been approved for reaccreditation for the next decade by the National Association of Schools of Theatre.

“This is the standard that everybody wants to reach, that you get accredited,” said Larry Dooley, chair of the department. “It’s a sign of having a very strong theatre program that we have this national accreditation.”

CSU offers four undergraduate theatre degrees that will remain in “good standing” through the 2023-2024 school year as a result of the reaccreditation:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in performance
  • BFA in theatre design and technology
  • Bachelor of Arts in theatre
  • Bachelor of Science in Education in theatre education

Columbus State remains the only Georgia university with an accredited theatre education degree, which leads to certification to teach drama in primary and secondary grades. CSU also offers a Master of Education in theatre education.

Tom Hackett, Columbus State provost and vice president for academic affairs, called the theatre department’s favorable NAST accreditation report a “terrific accomplishment.”

“I am very proud of our program and fortunate to have such dedicated and committed colleagues,” he said.

Columbus State had been working toward reaccreditation for a year, completing its self-study early last fall. The self-study, which documents how Columbus State meets or exceeds standards detailed in NAST’s 232-page handbook, had taken Dooley, his faculty and staff six months to compile. Later last fall, an NAST visitation team came to campus, offering its findings in a report at the end of 2013.

Columbus State’s bid for reaccreditation was then approved during the annual NAST convention in March, with Dooley getting official word by a letter he received Tuesday.

The commission ended its letter to Dooley with the following commendation:

“The Commission commends the institution for its excellent facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, and outstanding Theatre Outreach Program. The Commission further commends the institution for drafting an open, honest and clear Self-Study document.”

For more on CSU’s Department of Theatre, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/theatre.

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Columbus State to Open Newly Renovated Seaboard Depot as Art Studios


The Seaboard Depot Art Studios is the latest addition to Columbus State’s RiverPark campus in Uptown Columbus.

COLUMBUS — Columbus State University will hold a ribbon-cutting Thursday and officially open its newest addition to downtown Columbus: the Seaboard Depot Art Studios.

At the corner of Front Avenue and Tenth Street, this newly renovated historic building will house 18 individual art studios for CSU Department of Art undergraduate students, six faculty studios, a visiting artist studio and a gallery for new media projects, common area, instructional studio, seminar room and display areas.

A ribbon cutting for the studios will be held Thursday, April 3 at 6 p.m. A reception and building tours will follow until 7:30 p.m. The public is invited.

With brightly painted colored walls, lots of window for natural light, historic wood and brick construction, the Seaboard Depot Art Studios are a magnificent addition to the university’s RiverPark campus, said College of Arts Dean Richard Baxter, noting that the studios are another example of the university repurposing facilities downtown to be both functional and beautiful.

“These new studios will allow our art students to have their own dedicated spaces to spur their creativity and help with their assignments,” Baxter said. “I think the Seaboard Depot Art Studios are a much-needed complement to the learning spaces and Illges Gallery in CSU’s Corn Center for the Visual Arts.”

The Seaboard Depot building has been owned by CSU Foundation Properties Inc., for several years. When several tenants moved out, the Department of Art proposed repurposing the building to help serve the needs of a growing art student population. Private funding was secured — the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation was a major contributor — and work was able to begin last year to renovate the building.

“The Seaboard Depot has always been a beautiful building,” said Columbus State President Tim Mescon. “The renovations inside are just stunning, and continue our tradition downtown of partnering with our supporters to create facilities that really are among the finest you will find in this country.”

Joe Sanders, chair of the university’s Department of Art, said “These unique spaces, now called the Seaboard Depot Art Studios, create immediate synergy between our most advanced students, faculty, resident artists, and the public, while providing enhanced opportunities for program growth, productivity, and community interaction. Nationally competitive art programs have great faculty, great facilities, great programs and studios that students can call their own and this facility will become a major recruiting tool to attract the best and brightest students.”


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CSU Theatre Students Advance to Kennedy Center Finals

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Three Columbus State University theatre majors won top honors at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region 4 recently, qualifying to compete at the national level.

CSU student actors Hill and Habtemariam.

Jessica N. Hill of Fairburn and T.K. Habtemariam of Columbus, both junior theatre performance majors, won top acting honors and $500 scholarships in the region festival competition and will represent Columbus State at the national finals April 19-23 on the Kennedy Center stage in Washington, D.C. Hill and Habtemariam were nominated for their acting in Compañeras, a play that saw its world premiere at CSU last September as the winning work of the Department of Theatre’s annual playwriting competition. Compañeras depicts a story of survival and compassion involving seven female political prisoners during Uruguay’s “dirty war” of the 1970s.

Dylan G. Bollinger, a senior theatre education major from Murrayville, won the regional festival’s Stage Management Award and National Festival Fellowship. He also will represent CSU at the national festival. Additionally, Bollinger placed second in the Barbizon Awards for Theatrical Design Excellence in Lighting Design for his work as lighting designer for the CSU Theatre production of Compañeras.

“I think that we received so many, reflects an unprecedented success for us,” said Larry Dooley, chair of CSU’s Department of Theatre. “We would have considered it quite an accomplishment to have a couple go through (to National Finals), but it is remarkable that we had so many that did. And it’s not just the talent of the students. I think the faculty was very careful in setting up coaching and preparation for them. We are very proud of our students.”

Meg M. Dickens, a senior CSU theatre major from Augusta, was selected as Best Acting Partner in the competition, winning a $250 scholarship.

The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival is a national theatre program involving 18,000 students from more than 600 colleges and universities nationwide whose objective is improving the quality of college theatre in the United States.

The acting awards that went to Hill and Habtemariam include a $500 scholarship from the Irene Ryan Foundation, which awards 19 such scholarships to the top actors in regional competitions. They then compete for two $2,500 scholarships that go to the top actors at the national festival in Washington, D.C. The foundation was established in 1973 by the estate of Ryan, who was one of the few actors to achieve success in film, television, Broadway and vaudeville. She’s best remembered as “Granny” on The Beverly Hillbillies and won an Emmy for her portrayal.

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Photo caption: Jessica N. Hill and T.K. Habtemariam, both junior theatre performance majors at Columbus State University, perform a scene from last fall’s production of Compañeras.
News media: high-resolution version


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Columbus State Theatre Department Stages British Comedy

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Slamming doors, flying props, pratfalls and a two-story revolving set highlight the Columbus State Department of Theatre’s second Theatre on the Park Mainstage production of 2011-2012, Noises Off, which runs Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 27-30.

The Tony Award-winning play by Michael Frayn is about backstage antics that occur when a cast and crew rehearse for a British sex farce titled Nothing On. The cast and crew work their hardest to control the situation, but it becomes more and more out of hand, eventually becoming a comedic nightmare.

Director Larry Dooley, chair of the Department of Theatre, says the show — at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday — speaks to what audiences love about theatre and makes them laugh at their dramas, both onstage and off.

The cast includes Hannah Carey as Dotty Otley, Abby Blankenship as Brooke Ashton, Elizabeth Gaines as Poppy Norton-Taylor, Stephanie Earle as Belinda Blair, Justin Stevens as Lloyd Dallas, Chad Cowgill as Garry LeJuene, Chris Freeman as Frederick Fellowes, Cameron Hoelzer as Tim Allgood and Nikolas Carleo as Selsdon Mowbray.

There will be a pre-show buffet-style dinner in the theatre lobby before the Saturday performance. The theatre department has offered this in the past for a few Mainstage productions. Admission is $25 a person for the 6-7 p.m. dinner and includes salad, entrée, drinks, coffee, wine and dessert. If you purchase a ticket for the dinner, you receive a $2 discount for your ticket to the show. Dinner reservations are required and must be made by Monday, Oct. 24. Contact Kristin Strickland at 706-507-8415 or strickland_kristin@ColumbusState.edu to make reservations.

Admission for Noises Off is $17 for adults and $15 for seniors 60 and older and active military. (Noises Off is rated PG-13 for adult content and language.) To purchase tickets, call 706-507-8444 or visit http://ColumbusState.edu/theatre.

CSU faculty and staff can receive two free tickets for one performance of each production. CSU students can receive one free ticket for one performance of each production by presenting their CSU I.D. at the Theatre on the Park Box Office at least 10 minutes before a performance. The box office is open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and one hour before the start of a show.

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CSU Theatre Presents Tale of ‘Disappeared’ Women

posterCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Seven female political prisoners of Uruguay’s “dirty war” are central characters in the Columbus State University Department of Theatre’s season-opening mainstage series production.

Kathleen Coudle-King’s Compañeras, winner of the Larry Corse Prize for Playwriting in the 2010 CSU International Playwriting Competition, runs Sept. 22-25 at CSU Theatre on the Park’s mainstage. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The story addresses “disappeared people” — in this case, women — snatched by Uruguay’s military regime from their homes and families as suspected political dissidents during the “dirty war” in the 1970s and ‘80s. That was a response to the Argentina political movement associated with former President Juan Perón and his wife, Eva Perón, which spread throughout many South America dictatorships.

“What drew me in the most (to the story) is the idea of a group of women prisoners unjustly imprisoned for their political views, as well as the many ways they choose to support one another and survive in a harsh environment,” said director and Associate Professor of Theatre Becky Becker.

Compañeras features a play-within-a-play.

“One of their outlets is to put on a play for their cell block on Three Kings Day, and they choose La Casa de Bernarda Alba (about a family of sisters and a controlling mother) by Federico Garcia Lorca,” said Becker. “He is a favorite playwright of mine, and his own life and death in Spain under Franco’s regime mirrors that of the women in the play, and I think the relationships between the characters are compelling, as are their stories of why they were imprisoned.”

The cast of CSU students includes Jessica Hill (Ana – Bernarda), Shea Barnett (Susana – Angustias), Elise Miller (Maria – Magdalena), Brittney Allen (Teresa – Poncia), Kristin Storla (Lidia – Adela), Heather Pavik (Lourdes – Maria Josefa), Emily Kohrs (Marta – Martirio), Quanesha Wilson (Guard) and TK Habtemariam (Captain – Aureliano Buendia).

“[The students] have become a real ensemble and work well off one another,” Becker said. “They are also very interested in understanding more about the background of Uruguay during the dirty war in the 1970s and how this situation impacted people.” 

The play is based on interviews with women who experienced the dirty war. “So, there is an element of truth that, I think, the actors are very drawn to,” Becker said. “I am really enjoying working with them and seeing their interpretations of the characters blossom.”

The play also is somewhat non-linear and uses dance as a connective device. “This is quite theatrical, so the combination of realism and theatricalism can be quite entertaining and engaging,” she said.

To prepare for the production, students visited the Muscogee County jail as part of a pre-production “boot camp” to explore the intensity of the setting.

“It’s an incredible challenge for a 19- or 20-year old actor to imagine prison life, let alone the situation of political prisoners,” said Becker. “Sgt. Bob Trombley, along with two other officers, gave us an amazing tour of the facilities.  The students seemed to gain a lot of perspective.”

International Prizewinner

The play’s author, Kathy Coudle-King, is known for her historical-political dramas about the struggles of everyday people. A fixture of the North Dakota drama scene, she beat out about 200 contenders for top prize in the 2010 CSU International Playwriting Competition, administered by CSU Associate Professor of Theatre Steven Graver. The prize includes $1,000, donated by Larry Corse, professor emeritus of theatre and English at Clayton State University, and a world-premiere production of the play by CSU Theatre.

Compañeras stood out because it was an interesting and unusual story, told from an unusual perspective and in an original theatrical ‘voice,’“ said Graver. “It was beautifully written, with an almost poetic structure that lifted it above the difficult and often tragic circumstances of the characters in the story. Additionally, it gave us an opportunity to peer into an aspect of a different culture that was literally hidden from view during the time it occurred.” 

Admission is $17 for adults; $15 for seniors, children and active duty military; free for CSU faculty and staff (two tickets for one performance) and CSU students (limit one). Season tickets for the mainstage series are $72 or $64 for seniors, active military and children. Tickets are available from the CSU Theatre Box Office at 10th Street and Bay Avenue or online at http://ColumbusState.edu/theatre/tickets.php

For more information, call the box office at 706-507-8444.

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June Musicals Help CSU Introduce Columbus Repertory Theatre

COLUMBUS, Ga.Two popular musicals – Blue’s Clues Live for kids and Nunsense for adults – will premiere in June at Columbus State University’s Theatre on the Park as the inaugural efforts of the Columbus Repertory Theatre.

In summers past, Columbus State’s Department of Theatre offered little beyond core classes like Theatre Appreciation and set-building for fall productions. This year’s intense schedule, preparing two plays for nearly simultaneous stage runs, is ambitious – and a bit risky.

“There was no way to do it but to just do it,” said Larry Dooley, chair of CSU’s Department of Theatre. “We’ll put it out there and see if people are interested. That’s a big leap. But we’re hopeful. We look around and there’s not much like this being offered in the summer. We think there’s an audience that would like to come in from the heat.”


Fifteen daytime performances of Blue’s Clues Live: Blue’s Birthday Party will be staged from June 1-19. Blue’s Clues Live gets young audiences involved in an effort, with Blue’s friends, to search for clues about what the popular Nickelodeon character wants for her birthday.

Nunsense, the 1985 musical comedy that became one of the longest-running off-Broadway shows in history, will be staged nine times, mostly nights over three weekends, from June 9-26. The play focuses on a talent show, featuring hilarious songs and dance routines, put on by the Little Sisters of Hoboken to raise money to bury 52 of their fellow sisters who were accidently poisoned by the convent cook.

Offering more commercially popular plays for longer runs is part of the summer repertory theatre model that Dooley and other faculty hope will pay off.

“We never get the benefit of word of mouth” with CSU plays staged during the school year, most for four performances, from Thursday-Sunday, Dooley said. “If someone comes and loves a play, it’s over by the time they tell someone. We’re hoping that changes with this schedule.”

Dooley said students get more of a professional experience with the longer runs that allow them more of a chance to reflect on and fine-tune performances and staging. “We often regret students don’t get the opportunity (during the school year) to `go dark.’”

The 35 students in the two plays work from about 9 a.m.-6 p.m. for three weeks, allowing them to complete a three-hour Special Topics course during the shorter Maymester. They then can get two more credit hours during the summer semester. That’s important in a department, now with about 160 majors, that’s enjoyed 44 percent enrollment growth in recent years.

“We have so many students, we have to look for as many production opportunities as possible for their training,” said Dooley.

Theatre faculty members select a more diverse range of plays to produce during the regular school year to give students a wide range of experiences.

“We’re always hoping for audience, but we realize our selection of plays balances education against box office value,” Dooley said. “I think it’s wonderful we’re able to do shows that are not always box office driven.”

But the Columbus Repertory Theatre is designed to be different.

“During the summer, we’re trying to build a more commercial theatre model,” he said. “We hope we can do it summer after summer and expand it if it’s successful. That’s one reason we gave it its own title. I’m proud of our faculty for taking the leap.”

For more on the two plays, visit http://ColumbusState.edu/theatre or call 706-507-8444.

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CSU Theatre Unveils 2011-2012 Season

COLUMBUS, Ga. — The Columbus State University Department of Theatre 2011-2012 season offers a world-premiere  about dynamic women, a farce, tragicomedy and zombie science fiction thriller.

Entering its fourth year at Theatre on the Park on the CSU’s RiverPark campus in downtown Columbus, the theatre department’s season opens Sept. 22-25 with the world premiere of Compañeras, by Kathleen Coudle-King, winner of the 2011-2012 Larry Corse International Playwriting Competition, which is administrated by CSU.

Compañeras, directed by Becky Becker, is the story of seven tenacious women political prisoners during Uruguay’s “dirty war” of the 1970s — rehearsing The House of Bernarda Alba, to pass time and lend one another support.

Other mainstage plays this season are:

  • Noises Off, Michael Frayn’s Tony Award-winning comedy,  Oct. 27-30. This comic masterpiece, directed by Larry Dooley, is not one play, but two — the hilariously horrible British farce, Nothing On, and the comedic nightmare that ensues backstage.
  • Three Sisters, a tragicomedy written by Anton Chekhov in 1900, Nov. 17-20. Directed by Haley Rice, the touching, funny play follows three bored young women living in a country town in Russia. The sisters deal with a hostile takeover from a sister-in-law, infidelity, a devastating fire, drunkenness, and the drudgery of work and death.
  • Jennifer Haley’s Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom, Feb. 2-5. Directed by Kate Musgrove, this adult-themed play plunges the audience into a cautionary tale about video game addiction. The game setting: A subdivision with identical houses. The goal? Smash through an army of zombies to escape the neighborhood for good. But as the line blurs between virtual and reality, parents and players realize that fear has a life of its own.
  • Caroline, or Change, based on the book and lyrics by Tony Kushner with music by Jeanine Tesori, March 29-April 1. Directed by Becky Becker, this musical is the story of the changing world of 1963 with JFK’s assassination, the Vietnam War, a growing Civil Rights movement, and the life of Caroline Thibodeaux, a divorced African-American maid in St. Charles, Louisiana. Caroline struggles to support her four children, hold onto her integrity, and come to terms with her rapidly changing world.  This Tony-nominated score celebrates the great American musical styles of gospel, R&B, soul and the blues.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Sept. 8-11, will be the Fall Theatre for Youth Series’ opening production. This story features a small boy who learns that giving a mouse a cookie has implications that lead to madcap adventures. This story features lovable characters, one very hungry mouse and a hilarious lesson about cause-and-effect.

The CSU Theatre for Youth Series is directed by Brenda Ito, who also takes the cast on tour with each play at various schools throughout the Columbus and Eastern Alabama regions. Each tour reaches about 25,000 students each semester. The CSU students tour twice a week, which gives them a wonderful opportunity to apply the skills they are learning through their studies at CSU.

How I Became a Pirate
will be the spring production Jan. 19-22. It features the story of young Jeremy Jacobs, who is recruited by Captain Braid Beard for treasure-burying purposes. The musical is a story of adventure and finding one’s own heart — a path that can’t be found on a treasure map.

A Christmas children’s production, The Toys Take Over Christmas, will not go on tour but will be featured as part of “Lunch with Santa,” with CSU busing in elementary students to get their picture with Santa, see the production and eat a lunch provided by Burger King.Written by Patricia Clapp, the play follows the adventures of Sunny, a cheerful, inquisitive rag doll brought to life by the Toymaker, whose toyshop is filled with living toys.

“We decided to add this to our regular season and open it to the public because we would like to start creating a tradition for families in the community,” says Cameron Bean, advancement and marketing coordinator for CSU Theatre. “By doing this, we hope that every December they’ll think about catching a show at the Theatre on the Park.”

All shows are directed by CSU theatre professors, but the productions give theatre students opportunities to build sets, learn about lighting, and make costumes, scenery and props. Senior students who have shown exceptional ability in a specific area might be given the opportunity to direct or associate direct, or design a mainstage production as well.

The Mainstage Series productions will continue to run Thursday through Saturday evenings, with closing Sunday matinees. Saturday morning shows are added to the fall and spring Theatre for Youth productions. Season ticket packages cost  $72 for the Mainstage Series, $24 for the Theatre for Youth Series and $96 for both. A 20percent discount on each package applies for CSU alumni, seniors, active military and children. CSU students and faculty receive free admission for one show each production.Season tickets are available from the CSU Theatre Box Office at 10th Street and Bay Avenue or online at http://www.ColumbusState.edu/theatre.  For more information, call 706-507-8444.

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CSU Theatre Stages Classic Shakespeare Comedy

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Mistaken identity, four marriages and a hilarious cast of characters are the backdrop for As You Like It, a Columbus State University theatre production Thursday-Sunday, April 7-10, at CSU Theatre on the Park’s mainstage. 

The Shakespeare comedy follows the conventions of romantic love, which are a common storyline in many of the bard’s plays. The characters’ search for romantic love mixes with a view into the cruelties and corruption of court life and the political struggle that drives the play.

The story follows its heroine, Rosalind (Hanna Carrie), as she flees persecution in her uncle’s court, accompanied by her cousin Celia (Janine DeMichele) and Touchstone (Chase Anderson), the court jester, to find safety and eventually love in the Forest of Arden.

“Shakespeare’s understanding and dimensionality of characters is quite amazing,” said visiting director Jeff Watkins, from Atlanta’s New American Shakespeare Tavern. “The characters are so in-depth and enjoyable and, because of this, I gave the actors permission to use themselves and their personalities to create the story and the characters.”

Watkins is artistic director for the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, the only American company to have performed all 39 of Shakespeare’s plays.

“As director, I am an editor and a gardener, so I wanted to be able to doctor it a little and then let them do their own thing,” said Watkins. “The process has been about getting the students to live in the play. We had to get on the same page as people first.”

Watkins said he practices a “doctrine of original practice,” which approaches a play the way it was originally staged, leaving a modern audience to experience the play in a manner consistent with its creator’s original intent.

“The moment in which acting happens is when it is truthful and unique to the text. It’s a living, breathing moment of truth,” said Watkins. “The hard work of theatre doesn’t happen in a rehearsal hall, it happens with the audience and students have picked things up so well.

Show times for As You Like It are 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission for adults is $17; $15 for seniors, children, active military and CSU alumni; and free for CSU faculty and staff (limit two) and students (limit one). Contact the box office at 706-507-8444.

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CSU Theatre to Stage Comedic Tale of Love and Grief

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Talking stones, the “Lord of the Underworld” and the rediscovery of a father-daughter relationship are part of the comedic story of love and loss in Eurydice, a Columbus State University Theatre production Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 3-6 in the CSU Theatre on the Park Studio. Eurydice

Written by Sarah Ruhl, Eurydice is a retelling of the classic Greek myth of Orpheus from the perspective of the heroine, Eurydice. The plot and setting are, for the most part, the same, except Ruhl’s play follows and emphasizes Eurydice’s time in the underworld, especially her reuniting with her father.

The story focuses on Eurydice (played by Abby Blankenship) and her choice to either return to earth with Orpheus (played by Nikolaus Carleo) or stay in Hades with her father (played by Solomon Gatlin, a character created by Ruhl). Eurydice’s struggle between losing her father again and fearing to reunite with her husband drive this emotionally charged tale to its familiar end.

“The play, I feel, is about dealing with loss and grief. It sounds very serious and dark, but it is very whimsical,” said director Becky Becker. “Eurydice is very much a comedy.” 

Becker, an associate professor of theatre, said the play also is more than just a tragedy. “It’s a hopeful play of healing, especially for people who have lost loved ones,” she said. “The play has a unique way of extending the theme of healing to the audience, as we see through Eurydice’s renewed relationship with her father.”

As Ruhl retells the Greek myth from a new perspective, a comedic trip into love, loss and grief is what the play serves up.

“Audiences should be surprised and delighted by some of the things in the show,” Becker said.

On Saturday evening, the Department of Theatre will serve a pre-show dinner at 6 p.m. The menu includes Caesar salad, delta chicken breast with alfredo sauce, tricolor cheese tortellini alfredo, Tuscan orzo, seasoned green beans, warm rolls with butter, fresh berry zabaglione and iced tea, water, coffee and wine. The buffet is $25 per person, with a reservation before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 2 by calling Cameron Bean at 706-507-8415. The price of the dinner is separate from admission to the show.

Curtain times for Eurydice are 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, plus 2 p.m. Sunday. Admission for adults is $17; $15 for seniors, children, active military and CSU alumni; and free for CSU faculty and staff (limit two) and students (limit one). Contact the box office at 706-507-8444.

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Study Abroad Students from Columbus State Seize Opportunities

COLUMBUS, Ga. – From the stage to the ice, a pair of Columbus State University students took advantage of unanticipated opportunities during separate fall semester study abroad programs in England.

Melora Slotnick landed the lead role in an Edge Hill University theatrical production, while Charlotte Walker enjoyed her time on Oxford University’s women’s ice hockey team. They are among 100-150 top Columbus State students who each year take advantage of programs in about 20 countries through CSU’s Center for International Education. Charlotte Walker

When Columbus native Charlotte Walker, a political science major, signed up for Columbus State’s Oxford University program, she had no idea she would fulfill her dream of playing competitive ice hockey.

After arriving at Oxford, Walker attended Freshers’ Fair, a weeklong Oxford Student Union event involving about 450 clubs, teams, societies, charities and commercial stallholders. Walker thought the clubs were great, but she didn’t think she would be able to take time from her studies to participate in any of them — until she discovered a stall for Oxford University Ice Hockey Club and its women’s team, the Oxford Women’s Blues. She excitedly raced back to her dorm and “Skyped” her mom to “send my skates, pronto.”

“I decided that I would make time, no matter what,” she said.

Participating in a university-level sport for the first time, Walker trained with the team throughout her two and a half months at Oxford. As part of the British Universities Ice Hockey Association‘s Division 3, the Oxford Women’s Blues’ competition includes men’s teams.Charlotte Walker on ice

Despite returning to Columbus prior to the regular season, Walker’s preseason with the squad included scrimmages against the Oxford Vikings, the university’s men’s “B” team.

“As far as I know, I am the only student from CSU to play a university-level sport (at Oxford),” she said. “This has been the most amazing college experience I have ever known, and it is an extreme honor to have trained, played and grown with some magnificent teammates.”

Walker began skating at age 5 at Eastdale Mall in Montgomery, Ala. At 13, she got interested in hockey through her older brother. “My brother was into roller hockey, and I wanted to be just like him,” she said.

Last year, Walker participated on a CSU club sport hockey team coached briefly by former Columbus Cottonmouth Marcel Richard. “That was my first ice hockey experience,” she said. “But, we never had any games because we never had enough players.”

Walker returned to Columbus in December with her Women’s Blues hockey jersey, that she said she will probably wear until she’s 50. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in public administration and teach Constitutional law. But if another opportunity to play competitive ice hockey surfaces, she “would jump at it…  It’s what I am passionate about.” 

While Walker was training on the ice, about 140 miles away on the outskirts of Liverpool, Melora Slotnick was portraying Mary Henry in Edge Hill University’s production of Carnival of Souls.Melora Slotnick

Adapted from a 1960s horror film, the production centered on Slotnik’s character surviving a near-fatal accident and being haunted by a phantom that seemingly inhabits a run-down pavilion.

“The show was a success,” said Slotnick, a junior theatre education major from Jonesboro.

The opportunity also was unexpected.

“I received a flyer from one of the tutors about auditions, and I went just planning on having fun in a workshop-style audition,” said Slotnik.

She received a callback, then the lead role offer.

“I was ecstatic,” she said. “The rehearsal process was workshop-based and very beneficial for me as an artist.”

Slotnick said she and castmates explored the separation between the screen and stage by delving into aspects of physical theatre and various acting techniques, also experimenting with green screens and filmmaking. “It was a short process and a lot of work but an incredible experience.”

In addition to the production, Slotnick studied psychology, English literature, stage design, acting, directing and life drawing at Edge Hill.

She said she looks forward to incorporating her Edge Hill theatre experience into her CSU studies. For example, she plans to base her CSU Honors thesis on her stage design course project, “The Ideal Theatre of The Future,” at Edge Hill.

“I am very proud of the work that I have done here, and I am also proud that my prior studies prepared me for this semester abroad,” she said. “I definitely recommend Edge Hill to other students, especially those interested in studying theatre abroad.”

For more information on CSU’s growing study abroad program, visit http://cie.colstate.edu/studyabroadmain.asp. Current students should look for Center for International Education study abroad information tables around campus throughout the semester.

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Columbus State Stages Charlotte’s Web Jan. 20-23

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Charlotte will be spinning her web once again as students of the Columbus State University Department of Theatre take to the stage to present Charlotte’s Web Jan. 20-23. 
Charlotte's Web poster
The beloved children’s classic by E.B. White is the story of Wilbur the pig, who is befriended by Charlotte the spider. Charlotte saves Wilbur from being slaughtered by writing words in her web praising the pig, which goes on to win a prize at the county fair.

This is the first time CSU has presented the play, which was adapted for theatre by playwright Joseph Robinette from White’s children novel. Directed by professor Brenda May Ito, the play features six CSU students — Tate LeClair (Wilbur), Amanda Roberts (Charlotte), Sonnet Moore, Cory Paul Jarrell, Jacob Jones and Matthew Rodgers — playing multiple roles.

The production follows the original story closely since “the children get upset if it’s not like the book,” said Ito. The only change is that Charlotte is a puppet, with voice provided by Roberts, and young Wilbur is a puppet in the first scene, which is then played by LeClair after Wilbur turns older. “Other than that, we are pretty much sticking to the story,” she said.

After the play closes at CSU, the cast will go on tour, presenting the play at various schools throughout Georgia. “They tour every Tuesday and Thursday, and take all their other classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday., Ito said. We start at Wynnton Elementary on Tuesday, Jan. 25, and then Thursday we are at two schools in Atlanta. We have about 50 schools booked so far and will probably end up doing between 55 and 60 performances.”

The general public can catch Charlotte’s whimsical weaving of her web at Theatre on the Park’s MainStage on CSU’s downtown Columbus RiverPark Campus. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Tickets are $10 or $5 for seniors, children, active military and CSU alumni. CSU students can receive one free ticket while CSU faculty and staff can receive two complimentary tickets. Hours for the CSU Theatre Box Office at 10th Street and Bay Avenue are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, plus one hour prior to each show. For more information, go to http://theatre.colstate.edu/ or call 706-507-8444.

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Columbus State Theatre to Stage `The Crucible’

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Students of Columbus State University’s Department of Theatre take the stage Nov. 18-21 in a production of Arthur Miller’s Tony Award-winning drama The Crucible.

Based on the 1692 Salem witch trials, the play depicts a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria and intolerance.

Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday at CSU Theatre on the Park, Mainstage.

Considered an historical allegory for McCarthyism, the play was first performed on Broadway in 1953, but its message about the power of lies and innuendo remain relevant, said Columbus State theatre professor Lawrence McDonald, who is co-directing the first CSU presentation of The Crucible

“The season selection committee was very interested in producing another American classic, preferably a large cast piece with many acting opportunities for our students,” McDonald said. “We selected The Crucible primarily due to the strength of the writing, timeless themes and casting opportunities.”

Between the different roles and understudies, more than 30 students are participating in the play. CSU senior Cory Jarrell said he took the job as student co-director “because Larry McDonald is good at coaching actors, and I wanted the opportunity of learning how to deal with a large cast and having so many people on stage with so much going on.”

The four-act play lasts about two and half hours with one intermission.

In addition to the performances for the general public, there will be additional morning shows exclusively for area high school juniors and seniors.

Tickets for the evening shows and Sunday matinee are $17, or $15 for seniors, children, active military and CSU alumni. CSU students can receive one free ticket while CSU faculty and staff can receive two complimentary tickets. Discounts apply for groups of 10-19 (10 percent) and 20 or more (20 percent).

Hours for the CSU Theatre Box Office at 10th Street and Bay Avenue are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays, plus one hour prior to each show. For more information, go to http://theatre.colstate.edu/ or call 706-507-8444.

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Theatre Professor Kennel Recognized by Kennedy Center Program

Professor Krystal Kennel has been named a 2010 Region IV Teaching Artist by the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival.

This regional award is given in appreciation of her dedication to the festival and her reputation and achievement as a teacher and artist. She is one of five university faculty being recognized in the southeastern U.S. as a Region IV honoree. She has been nominated for the KCACTF National Teaching Artist Grants program.

Since its inception in 1969, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival has grown into a network of more than 600 academic institutions involving 18,000 students throughout the country, allowing theater departments and student artists to showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. Through state, regional, and national festivals, the KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, criticism, directing and design.

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