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A Week of Dance Heralds Season of Innovations in Theatre Studies

Opportunities that meld theatre with other art forms are expanding the experience for theatre studies majors this spring. This interdisciplinary approach continues to enrich their academic program, to the benefit of both students and audiences.

Dancers in residence
This week, Theatre Studies hosts Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater of Minneapolis. The dance troupe is conducting workshops on campus and in the community, celebrating the interplay of dance, theatre and writing. 

“Running North: The Green Bay Project” is a program of dance numbers inspired by movement, history and literature. The program is funded through grants from the National Endowment of the Arts as well as the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation.

“Running North” is taking outreach opportunities to the area’s ArtGarage, Oneida Nation Arts Program and Oneida Recreation Center, as well as offering workshops for St. Norbert students. Dancers of the company visited classes at St. Norbert College, including art and English as well as theatre studies, to emphasize the parallels in various creative enterprises. The Stuart Pimsler residency culminates with a performance, open to the public, March 7 in the Walter Theatre. 

For theatre studies students, the benefits are extensive, says Stephen Ruspch, director of theatre at St. Norbert. He believes the narrative quality of dance benefits students’ theatrical abilities: “It teaches them how to tell a story in a different way, through their body.”
Repertory performances push bounds
Rupsch promises this semester’s play selection will push the boundaries of performance and, with its outside-of-the-box seating and a more intimate experience, will push its audience beyond the role of complacent observer. “One for the Road,” by Harold Pinter, and “Far Away,” by Caryl Churchill, are politically relevant and gritty one-act plays being presented in repertory this spring. Rupsch says the essence of these performances will force the audience to explore the tenuous nature of good and evil and the uncertain attribution of these qualities to characters in evolving plots. Performances will alternate nightly and be limited to 50 seats per performance. Rupsch says patrons will be enticed to experience both works given the unique subject matter, different casts, low price of tickets and the shortened performance length, neither play exceeding an hour’s running time.

Innovation continues
This semester also sees a formal playwriting workshop conducted by April Beiswenger (Theatre Studies) and capstone performances by two senior theatre studies majors that will be directed, for the first time, by a member of the alumni community.

Beiswenger has been hosting informal playwriting workshops on a weekly basis. Each Friday, she, Clara Wendland ’15 and Erich Wegenke ’16 gather to discuss a different play and complete different writing assignments, sharing constructive criticism. The success of these get-togethers prompted Beiswenger to organize a staged reading of the students’ self-authored plays. Beiswenger’s efforts are not only allowing students to develop their aptitude for playwriting, but also to gain experience in a new area of the discipline. 

And, for the first time, a young alum will return to campus as director. Alicia Skrivanie ’13 will direct the capstone performances of Sarah Schlichter ’14 and Ryan Penkal ’14. Skrivanie, an active alum of the theatre studies program and of Knights on Broadway, will direct “Funeral in the Rain,” a play that features two actors playing multiple roles; it is tentatively planned to be performed outdoors on campus.

Rupsch says: "We do these extra programs because we love what we do and desire continual growth. The challenge of having only two faculty members in teaching an art form is simply that we are limited to our own points of view, and the students need many for their own growth as theatre artists. This is one of the reasons why we are so excited about Stuart Pimsler coming for the residency. This is a wonderful opportunity for our students to see how artists work, create and manage their daily practical lives."

March 4, 2014