NACOGDOCHES, TEXAS - A fast-paced children's musical based on educational cartoons and a classic ghost story offer vastly different experiences for those attending the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Theatre's summer productions. "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" and "The Uninvited" also provide the participating student actors and technicians valuable pre-professional training.
"The season bears a lot of resemblance to real-world summer theatre in that the students are working on more than one show," said Rick Jones, SFA professor of theatre and the director of "The Uninvited."
Lancaster senior Lamar Jefferson said he has to perform a "total brain switch" as he goes from rehearsing the well-known songs from the "Schoolhouse Rock" cartoon series to serving as the assistant stage manager for Tim Kelly's suspenseful tale about a supernatural inhabitant of a stately home.
Presenting two shows in repertory, or revolving, fashion is also valuable for the students, according to Jones. "For the fall and spring productions, we typically rehearse, rehearse rehearse; have tech and dress rehearsals; and then run for five consecutive evenings."
"In summer rep, however, we rehearse, rehearse; take six days off; rehearse; do tech and dress; perform two shows; take a week off; and perform again," Jones continued. "Repertory theatre allows the students to see what it's like to have to maintain focus on a role, even during several days off or while serving in a different capacity within the repertory company."
This summer season also gives SFA theatre students exposure to additional professional staff such as Randon Pool, costume designer for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, and guest scenic designer Richard Ellis.
Although Pool's summers with her mother in Hemphill give her a break from the academy's full schedule of 40 to 50 shows per year, she said she so enjoyed volunteering in SFA's costume shop three days a week last summer that she agreed to return as a paid staff member this year.
"The atmosphere in this teaching shop is different from my 'get-it-done shop,'" Pool said. "I enjoy interacting with the students and helping them learn."
"I love having her here," said Costume Shop Supervisor Barbara Blackwell. "She's another experienced person in the room who can give guidance, and the students can benefit from her technical skills and professional experience."
Ellis, who has designed for major professional and academic theatres across the United States and abroad, as well as for industrial shows and theme parks, has also served as guest scenic designer for SFA's
2008 and 2010 summer seasons and the 2009 production of "Woyzeck,"
The opportunity to work with guest designers provides valuable experiences for college students, according to Ellis. "We all have our own way of work, and theatre students need to learn to work with all types. In this business, you are always applying for a job and always learning to work with new people."
"Schoolhouse Rock Live!" and "The Uninvited" were each presented twice in June. "The Uninvited" will be presented again at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 5; Friday, July 8; and Tuesday, July 12. A 2 p.m. matinee will be presented on Saturday, July 9.
"Schoolhouse Rock Live!" will be presented at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 6, and Thursday, July 7; at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 7, and Wednesday, July 13; and at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 14, and Friday, July 15.
Tickets for "The Uninvited" are $12 for adults and $6 for seniors and students. Tickets for "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" are $6 per individual and $5 each for groups of 20 or more. For tickets or more information, go to www.finearts.sfasu.edu or call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS.