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.”