September 18, 2009

Want to know about Regent students' summer work?

You've read about Anna Koehler's apprenticeship at Berkshire Theatre Festival--Here's a sampling of what some of our other grad students did this past summer!

3rd year MFA in Acting students Rob Arbaugh, Katie Cheely, Katie Fridsma (founders of UnCovered Theatre Company) and Alaska Reece Vance (Artistic Director of The Drifting Theatre Co) were joined by Chad Rasor (3rd year MFA) and Rachel Arbaugh (senior BA) for a 7 state summer tour. In schools, churches, parks, and theatres from Chicago to Chattanooga, they performed 2 shows—Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and a contemporary, musical version of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, adapted by Katie Fridsma—and taught many workshops all along the way. At the end of their tour, they conducted a full-length Summer Acting Training Camp with The Drifting Theatre in TN, culminating in a production of Disney’s Mulan Jr.

Stephanie Chandler (3rd year MFA) joined film professionals this summer as an intern at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival through the Creative Minds in Cannes Program. During this internship, she participated in the Filmmaker's Workshop and was able to perform in two short films, one of which was the winning entry in the CMIC Student Film showcase. While there, she networked with many industry professionals, attended several pitching sessions and workshops, and even got to walk the red carpet all dressed up! She also was able to catch some great Shakespearian theatre in London on her days off.

Kaja Dunn (3rd year MFA) spent her summer assistant-directing and dialect-coaching at the award-winning La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. She worked with artists from 4 different theatre companies as well as a new playwright from New York. She also began to work on potential future theatre projects with The Chisomo Idea—a non-profit Christian organization committed to addressing issues of poverty in Africa and providing them with a framework for action.

Sean Cowan (2nd year MFA) produced 5 shows with his improv company, Portland Improv Group (P.I.G.), in Portland, OR, including USS Improvise, an improvisational lost episode of the original Star Trek, and Facebook: The Musical, an hour long completely improvised musical comedy. He also helped produce a sketch comedy show which included the work of Derek Leonidoff (Second City), Anna Koehler (3rd year MFA), Ryan Clemens (3rd yesr MFA), and Tabitha Ray (2nd Year MFA).

Andy Geffken, Hannah Hughes ,Tabitha Ray, and Nathan Schmidt, (2nd year MFAs) together with ’09 MFA graduate Jayson Akridge put together a five-person adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. The show was directed by our own Shakespeare professor, Scott Hayes.

Regent’s 2009 Summer Theatre C.A.M.P.s provided valuable directing and teaching experiences for several of our graduate students. Ryan Clemens (3rd year MFA) directed Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Jr. and Hannah Hughes (2nd year MFA) served as the music teach/director for both Willy Wonka Jr. and Oklahoma!, joined by Nathan Schmidt (2nd year MFA) on piano. Andy Geffken (2nd year MFA) taught acting and stage combat, Brad Archer (3rd year MFA) and Courtney Conger (2nd year MA) stage-managed, and Chad Gilliland (2nd year MFA) helped with set construction and headed up props.

Sharon Eyster (2nd year MFA) was the Assistant to the Artistic Director at The Montgomery Theatre, a professional repertory theatre in Prince Edward Island, Canada. She also was the Administrative Assistant for the PEI Conservatory, a competitive two-week training program in Acting and Directing for Student and Professional Performing Artists from all over Canada.

Jeff Fazakerley (1st year MFA), together with Vanguard University Alumni, produced and performed in Heart and Music, a benefit show for Alethia Christian Theatre, an up-and-coming children's theatre company in Orange County, California. The goal of the benefit was to raise money to give the children the chance to continue performing and allow the theatre to rent quality facilities.

Mike Salsbury (1st year MFA) could be seen this last summer in the musical The Miracle at The Miracle Theater in Pigeon Forge, TN, playing Nicodemus. He has been in the show for the last two and a half years, and Regent’s own MFA alumnus Justin Glinn (‘08) was selected to play role of Nicodemus when Mike left to come to Regent.

September 15, 2009

MFA Student Shares her Summer Experience at Berkshire Theatre Festival

Anna Koehler, third-year MFA in Acting student, spent this past summer in the Apprentice Program at the acclaimed Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA. Read on as she shares her thoughts about her experience!

'My Summer in the Berkshires

I didn’t think it was possible. There were so many factors that had to come into place for me to apprentice with the Berkshire Theatre Festival this past summer. “Well, I am just going to pray for you, darling,” Eleanor, our Comm school admissions counselor said to me right after I heard I was accepted. Getting the money together was going to be difficult. However, God provided the money not only through generous individual donors but also through a scholarship that BTF awarded me. As things fell into place, I found myself driving ten hours up the east coast thinking, “I really have no idea what to expect.” What I got was, well, a reality check, a spiritual check, and a theatre check.

I spent most of my days training in the Suzuki Method, which trains the actor’s body to undergo intense physical demands so that in the end a freer voice can be heard. In the photo below, I am performing a standing statue. We would stay like that for several minutes and then recite Shakespeare. “Breathe down,” our instructor would say. Through the discipline of this beautiful Asian art, I discovered a new way of accessing emotion and overcoming pitfalls as an actor.

Besides three hours of Suzuki training six days a week, I was cast in Bernstein's Candide as part of Berkshire Theatre Festival’s 81st season. My cast and I performed 47 shows and got some great reviews. I ended up performing the role I understudied for on the very last day of the show. “We need you to go on as the Baroness!” our stage manger screamed to me as she was running out into the parking lot to meet me. I also helped out with a stage reading of House of Bernarda Alba, took improv classes, and rubbed shoulders with Broadway’s finest actors .

But all this training was nothing if I hadn’t remembered some of the things I learned at Regent. Knowing that “to whom much is given much is to be expected.” And since I knew God brought me to BTF, I knew much would be expected. That is why parking cars, selling concessions, and doing all night changeovers after performing two shows, I really couldn’t complain. I was working in a place I loved. My family at Regent has furthered my belief that in the end it is ultimately Christ that I work for. Yes, this summer had its challenges but I learned that if you don’t have passion for Christ and having that passion living through your craft….well it will be a long day! “They call this place the Tuscany of America,” Colin Lane, a Broadway actor, said to me in his master class at BTF. And that is exactly where I was this summer. Performing and seeing some amazing theatre… in the Tuscany of America.

It’s amazing what theatre can teach you and what you can realize as a Christian artist being a part of theatre. I don’t think I will ever forget the old man with the cane in the front row weeping at hearing our final song, “Make Our Garden Grow.” His eyes were filled with sincere joy while the rest of him seemed to be living in pain. And on one of my final nights in the Berkshires, I saw for the first time an absolute stunning play performed at Shakespeare and Co, A Dreamer Examines His Pillow by John Patrick Shanley. The final words of the play reverberated in my heart mainly because until this past summer, I have had no clue on what’s next in my life as a hopeful actress. As the play is ending, the father takes his daughter, Donna’s hand and lifts it up, he then looks to the audience and says, “Begin, begin, begin.” Amen.'
More MFA student's summer experiences to follow!

September 10, 2009

From the Director of The Boys Next Door

Regent Theatre's production of The Boys Next Door, by Tom Griffin, opens next Friday, September 18th. Don't miss your chance to see this endearing comedy about 4 mentally-challenged men living together in a group home and their burnt out caretaker. Third-year MFA students Matthew Winning, Ryan Clemens, and Chad Rasor perform their thesis roles in this production, directed by Artist-in-Residence Mark Paladini. Check out his Director's Notes and a couple of the design and production photos!

"During this rehearsal process, several people have come up to me in the hallway and told me that The Boys Next Door is their favorite play. I had never seen the show, so I couldn’t fully comprehend their devotion until I began seeing the play come to life in rehearsal. What a joy it has been! I feel as though I’m part of this family of four mentally challenged grown men and their vocationally challenged caretaker. As I experience the play with this wonderful cast, I alternately see myself as one of “the boys” and then as their caretaker—to the point where I’m sure that every moment of this play is about me. It is, in fact, about us.

Moving on to a different aspect of the production, you might notice a nautical theme taking you from one scene to the next. It evolved from images I saw as I read the play for the first time. I kept imagining fish scurrying around a fishbowl, viewing the world through their unique lens while protecting their tiny plots of sand. As I reread the script many times, the image of the aquatic world kept returning with Jack, the caretaker, taking on the role of a holy diver, slowly running out of air. The more I read the script, the more the image grew and took on a life of its own. I can’t tell you how gratifying it has been to have my design team jump onboard and support this vision while honoring the reality of the world in which we live.

Finally, I’d like to briefly address the concept of a comedy about mentally challenged characters. Congratulations for not allowing the play’s description to keep you away from the theatre. I also appreciate the fact that our mild parental advisory did not scare you away. Tom Griffin has written this play with such love and compassion for the mentally challenged. By the end, I hope you will understand why this is now one of my favorite comedies. Laugh and enjoy. This is our life."
Also introducing..... First and Second Fridays! This season, we'd like to get to know our patrons better. Following the First Friday performance of every show, patrons are invited to meet the actors in the lobby. Following the Second Friday performance of every show, patrons are invited to a Talk-Back with the company. We hope to see you there!

September 8, 2009

Regent Alum in The Chicago Tribune

As seen in our last post, our graduates are doing some great work out there and building a name for themselves. 2008 MFA in Acting graduate Michael Woods was favorably mentioned (again!) in the Chicago Tribune. Click here to read the review!

September 3, 2009

Regent Grad's Original Show Seen Off-Broadway This Summer!

Remember our post last semester about our lab shows? Well, one of those lab shows produced here at Regent, The Confessional, written, directed, and starring our own Jayson Akridge (MFA Acting grad '09) was accepted to the New York Fringe Festival last May. Together with fellow Regent MFA '09 graduates Kelly Levander, Kevin Stidham, and Ashley Larsen, Jayson performed The Confessional in NYC last week to rave reviews. Check out this article and the links to the review and the show's website!

Theatre Alumni Join Together, Perform Off-Broadway
By Sarah H. Dolan, Regent PR
August 25, 2009

Four Regent University MFA in Acting alumni are currently performing in a critically-acclaimed production, The Confessional, as part of the NYC Fringe Festival—the largest performance arts festival in North America. Performances of The Confessional during the Fringe Festival are scheduled for Thursday, August 27 (9:00 p.m.), Friday, August 28 (2:15 p.m.), Saturday, August 29 (7:00 p.m.) and Sunday August 30 (2:00 p.m.).

Classmates often go their separate ways when graduation day ends. After the tassels are turned, caps are thrown and well-wishing words are spoken, the average student leaves the community to focus on career. But for these four Regent alumni, graduating meant integrating an aspect of Regent community with career. The alumni—Jayson Akridge, Kevin Stidham, Kelly Levandar and Ashley Larson—joined forces to perform together as part of The Cohort Theatre Company, sponsored by Regent. The company quickly caught the attention of representatives of The New York Fringe Festival, who selected their original play, The Confessional written by Akridge, to be performed off-Broadway. "Their play was chosen from among thousands submitted worldwide," said Michael Patrick, dean of Regent's School of Communication & the Arts. "This weekend they opened off-Broadway for the two-week run. This is a wonderful professional confirmation of talent and faith, and it reflects positively on Regent University's theatre program." The Confessional is a hard-edged detective murder-mystery, which takes place entirely in a police station. The plot addresses the redemptive question: how far good should or would go to stop pure evil, without becoming evil itself. The production debuted on August 23, and received a favorable review from "In the hands of the wrong cast, this kind of thrill ride could have been either confusing or overblown...but an expert cast [is guided] through the twists, and we cheerfully follow along" wrote Kimberly Wadsworth of in her review of The Confessional. "At one point, one of the plot twists made me scribble [in my notes] a disappointed 'no, you didn't make that be the answer, did you?' But five minutes later, I wrote ', sorry, it's not, never mind.' Eventually my notes get even more inarticulate—awestruck one-word entries like 'whoa!' and 'huh?' and 'wait'...and '!?!'" In addition to being the playwright of The Confessional, Akridge is also the co-director and plays Bill Bryce, the detective. Current Regent theatre student Alexis Hill serves as the stage manager. Each member of The Cohort Theatre Company holds a leading role in the production. For more information, locations and to purchase tickets, visit For the full review, click here.