December 7, 2011

Until I Return - Fall Lab Show opens Friday!

Until I Return, an original dramatic one-act play, is based on the true story of Helga and Clara Estby.  These two remarkable women walked across America in 1896 in an attempt to win $10,000.  The story was adapted from the book Bold Spirit, by permission of the author, Linda Lawrence Hunt.

"Desperate. Determined. Unwaveringly confident. In 1896, a Norwegian immigrant named Helga Estby dares to cross 3500 miles of the American continent to win a $10,000 wager. On Foot.

A mother of eight living children, she attempts to save her family's homestead in Eastern Washington after the 1893 depression had ravaged the American economy. Fearing homelessness and family poverty, Helga responds to a wager from a mysterious sponsor, casts off the cultural corsets of Victorian femininity, and gambles her family's future by striking out with her eldest daughter to try to be the first women to travel unescorted across the country: independent, audacious, alert, and armed with a Smith-and-Wesson revolver."  (From Bold Spirit website.  For more information, check out

Written by MFA Amy Dunlap, and directed by MFA Whitney Rappana, Until I Return is an inspiring and challenging story suitable for the entire family. 

Performances will take place in Regent's Theater 128 Lab space on Friday December 9th and Saturday December 10th at 7:30pm and Sunday December 11th at 2:30pm.  Admission is FREE but space is limited. 

MFA Kristi Meyers plays Helga, MFA Michael McLendon plays her husband Ole, B.A. Sarah Grice plays daughter Clara, and MA John Scritchfield plays all the other male characters in the story.
Don't miss this opportunity to see the debut performance of an original work by Regent students!

December 5, 2011

Alum Update: Kaja Dunn

Kaja Dunn (MFA ’10) is featured in this article for her work at California State University San Marcos. She is directing two plays in the Telling Stories: Giving Voice to Former Foster Youth program. 

Congratulations Kaja!

November 18, 2011

Regent Theatre to Explore Shaker Culture

By Rachel Judy

The religious order of Shakers—often known for their quality furniture craftsmanship and an intense work ethic—is the subject of the latest offering from Regent University Theatre. Arlene Hutton's As it is in Heaven is set to open on Friday, Nov. 18, at the Communication & Performing Arts Center.

 The play tells the story of a group of Shaker women confronted with a spiritual revival in their midst. Sparked by an outsider who joins their group, the revival forces the women to question the traditions they cling to.

 The play's director, theatre instructor Derek Martin, is hoping to convey the simplicity of the Shaker life through the dialogue, the sets and, yes, even the Shaker songs and dances incorporated into the production.

 "The audiences can expect to see a simple production that deals with complex themes, which are some of my favorite productions," Martin explained. "The play moves fast; scenes move seamlessly from one to the next." Also, he adds, "the audience will see the Shakers doing what they are famous for—shaking."
The Shaker name came from the ways members would shake during services. Martin and his actors are attempting to recreate the unusual movement.

 Ultimately, Martin explains, the play is about much more than the historical retelling of a religious order's practices. "A young shaker begins to see visions and the older shakers don't believe her because they think if God was going to reveal Himself, He would first visit the elders," Martin said. "This theme speaks to Jesus' commentary about the Pharisees of His time. We see, at times, that this still plagues the church and I believe this play speaks right to the heart of it. The play is saying to us, 'Don't miss God!'"
MFA in acting students Diana Coates and Madeline Ranson will perform their thesis roles in this production.
As it is in Heaven runs Nov. 18-20 and Dec. 1-4.

 Purchase tickets through the Regent University Box Office.

November 11, 2011

A Word from Derek Martin - Director of As It Is In Heaven

Derek Martin - Director
What an exciting adventure this year is for the Regent Theatre. It is a marvelous feat to see all of our Mainstage plays examine the role of spiritual faith in our daily lives. The play I have been blessed to direct, As It Is in Heaven, has been labeled with the slogan “Faith Transformed,” and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate perspective on this compelling drama.

 As It Is in Heaven is about an interesting and often enigmatic religious sect that still exists in America, the Shakers. As I began my research into this group, I questioned whether the group was best categorized as a cult. I found that there were many communities of the Shaker faith that perhaps did become such. However, mainstream Christianity shares much with these hardworking believers who have committed their “Hands to work, and hearts to God.” That saying is the Shaker credo, coined by their matriarch Mother Ann Lee.

 The story at the heart of this play presents a challenging perspective on our own faith. It is about the transforming work God is always doing within us and how we must be careful to not miss where He is moving in our lives. How many times in history have we had our eyes closed to the incredible works of God because of our traditions, our limited perspectives, our fears, our need to belong, our frustrations, our pride, or our need to control? I know there have been times in my own life when I have missed God for just such reasons, and what a shame that is.

 This play ultimately questions our ability to see clearly the hand of God. We watch the Shaker women deal with the possibility that God might be showing up in a most unconventional way. We will be challenged as they are challenged to put our beliefs on the line and ultimately be transformed in faith and in life.

 I welcome you to take the challenge. Be transformed. Examine both the questions and the answers. After you leave this auditorium, keep your eyes open. God often moves in ways we least expect.

As It Is In Heaven runs from Nov. 18 - Nov. 20 and Dec. 1 - Dec. 4 in the Studio Theater.
Call the Box Office for tickets at 757.352.4245

November 4, 2011

Alumni Update: Kevin Stidham

Kevin Stidham, MFA '09
Kevin Stidham graduated from Regent's MFA program in 2009, and currently lives in LA with his wife, Amy. For any actors considering moving to LA, Kevin stresses the importance of using and He says he uses both of these sites everyday to check the breakdowns that are listed to the public and to submit himself for things he's right for. Using these sites led to the booking of Kevin's first  play, The Hasty Heart. Shortly after that, he booked a second play, War at Theatre Banshee. From that play, he was invited to join their theatre company. Since then he has performed The Crucible and The Walworth Farce with Theatre Banshee.

Kevin has also done some "extras" work, including becoming a photo double on the FOX show Bones. This is his second full season doubling for actor T.J. Thyne. Basically, all the "inserted shots" of his hands, shoes, shoulders and elbows....that's Kevin.

Kevin recently finished a run of his first Equity production, Honus & Me, just outside of LA.  Here's a link to a review of the production,where critic Kim Kautzer states, "As the play opens, we take an immediate liking to the fresh-faced, wide-eyed underdog Joey Stoshack, played by Kevin Stidham."

Kevin says, "Good theatre is alive in LA, you just have to seek it out.  It's been almost two and a half years since my wife and I moved here and I can report that all steps...small, though they may be....have been in a positive direction."

Kevin Stidham as Joey Stoshack
 in Honus and Me

October 31, 2011

Second Stage Production Offers Political Drama

by Rachel Judy

Chris Bookless and Debbie Wright
Photo courtesy of School of Communication & the Arts
Regent University Theatre opens its first show of the 2011 Second Stage season with the Pulitzer Prize-winning political drama, Two Rooms. The show runs Oct. 28 - Nov. 6 with both evening and matinee performances.

Based on true events, Lee Blessing's Two Rooms tells the riveting fictional story of a woman named Lainie whose husband Michael is taken hostage in Lebanon during the Beirut hostage crisis. As he waits blindfolded in a prison cell, she struggles with an icy representative from the government and a pushy journalist. When she finally takes her efforts public, complications arise triggering the tragic series of events that brings the play to its startling conclusion.

Though written in 1988, the issue of terrorism is  clearly still relevant. "Islamic extremism took on a whole new meaning for us in the United States after September 11, 2011. It's one thing for us to hear about terrorism overseas," commented guest director Hannah Graham '11 (Communication & the Arts). "It's something completely different for us to experience it first-hand."

The play examines moral questions concerning the ethics of war and the value of human life. "I think people will find it extremely thought-provoking and surprisingly relevant," said Graham. "It's a tough story but one that needs to be told," adding that the intimate performing space of Theatre 128 lends itself well to the difficult subject matter and the small, four-person cast.

The play earns it title from the two rooms of its location: the room where Michael is being held hostage, and the room where Lainie fights to free him. "The rooms serve a two-fold purpose," Graham explained. "In reality, Lainie and Michael are both isolated in their respective rooms. In the end, however, you realize they aren't so far from each other after all."

Hannah Graham returns to the Regent stage after graduating this past May with a directing concentration from the MFA in Acting program. "I've always been proud of the caliber of our productions at Regent, so being asked to direct here is both humbling and challenging," she said.

Two Rooms features the acting talents of both Regent's undergrad and graduate students. Senior English major and theatre minor, Debbie Wright, takes on the role of the show's protagonist. Her counterpart and husband in the show, played by Chris Bookless, is a second-year MFA in Acting student. Undergraduate theatre majors Dan McGary and Tianna Downey complete the cast.

Two Rooms will be performed in Theatre 128 Oct. 28-29 and Nov. 3-5 at 7:30p.m., and Oct. 29-30 and Nov. 5-6 at 2:30 p.m.

Purchase tickets from the Regent University Box Office.

October 28, 2011

Alum Update - Kendal Tuttle

Kendal Tuttle, MFA 2006
 Former Regent student Kendal Tuttle recently completed shooting a film with Zac Efron, called The Lucky One.  Read more about what Kendal has been doing since graduation!

After graduating Regent in 1997 with an MA in Communication/Performing Arts and teaching at  Emmanuel College in Georgia for 6 years, I decided it was time to step out, get more training and pursue a professional career in the Industry. In what aspect I wasn't sure, but I felt the Lord once again leading me back to my ol' stompin ground. In 2002, I met with Gillette Elvgren who told me about the new MFA program in the works at Regent. I returned to Regent as a member of the first MFA cohort, graduating in 2006 with an MFA in Theatre Directing. During those 3 years, however, I acted in a few films and absolutely fell in love with the film process. Though I was still planning a move to N.Y. upon graduation, Mark Paladini (a new artist-in-residence at Regent and casting director in Hollywood) encouraged me to consider pursuing film. I listened to him, and headed west in August of 2006.

My season in L.A. was exactly what it needed to be, though I still consider it to be my very own "best of times, worst of times." I survived by working background acting gigs on Grey's Anatomy, Boston Legal, Medium and a few others. I also had a great experience playing Norman Bates at Universal Studios (Hollywood) shortly after I arrived in 2006. My "rent" however came from doing P.A. gigs for various commercials, as well as working part-time at U.S. Airways and a charter school called Options For Youth. Six months after arriving in L.A., I got called to come back to Virginia for 7 months to play Captain John Smith in a new outdoor production called 1607: First Landing, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement. I collaborated on this production with former Cohort A graduate Chris Nelson, who directed the production while asking me to also be the Fight Choreographer. We finished First Landing in September of that year, and I immediately headed out to San Diego to co-direct a feature-length film called Escrow, the Musical, a fun and quirky project I had been co-writing with two other Regent alumns, Joshua Tucker and Joseph Frost. But then the writer's strike happened and as a new member of SAG, I showed my solidarity and hit the street corner. But then SAG began talking about their own strike, so things weren't looking so good.

Once 2008 rolled around, I was praying about direction and provision. Eric Harrell gave me a call to see if I'd consider coming back to Regent on a one-year appointment to help lay a foundation for their new B.A. program. So for the 2008-2009 school year, I had the privilege of returning to Regent to teach, thinking I'd just head back out to L.A. once the year was finished. By that time, however, the economy had tanked, affecting everything, including the Industry. So I stayed in Virginia, reconnected with my agent, Sylvia Hutson, and began doing some local and regional film work.

The Lucky One

In October 2010, I learned that I had a call-back for a Warner Brothers film, the latest Nicolas Sparks adaptation called The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron as Logan Thibault. I flew out to New Orleans and auditioned for director Scott Hicks. Three weeks later I learned that I had booked the role I auditioned for, "Aces" (Drake Green), brother to the heroine with whom Logan falls in love. The role is small in screen time, but significant in story-line. I die while fighting in Iraq, and my family (namely, my sister Beth Clayton) is left to deal with my death, causing serious crises in the love story.
Though my character will be seen in pictures and flashbacks throughout the film, my only scene is at the very beginning of the movie (so don't be late to the theatre!...haha), as Aces and Logan come face-to-face nearly firing on one another while clearing a building.

Training Sessions for The Lucky One

Because the scene is short, they had only scheduled me for one day of shooting. But I learned later that they were bringing me in for military training. Director Scott Hicks wanted everything as authentic as possible, so I came a week early to get a crash course boot camp. Our training unit had us learning all the guns, how to hold them, shoot them, even how to walk and stand. The training culminated in learning what we were to be doing in our scene -- "taking" or clearing an enemy-combatant building. Zac joined us in training on most days, which is where we all gained some cohesiveness. We were all very professional, but it was nice when we got to relax and be a little crazy. I was relieved to find Zac as nice and approachable and professional as he was. Also, some days were lighter than others, giving us all plenty of time to tour New Orleans.

Kendal with Director Scott Hicks

Working with Scott Hicks was a pleasure. I had always loved the movie Shine (1996), which he directed. I also loved knowing his history as a photographer. During meals, he always invited me to take a seat at his table, introducing me as "my Aces." His wife Kerry is a sweetheart, too. He directed our scene with precision, even re-working our lines to flow better and consulting our "military experts" on the tiniest detail. I also loved that when he had a personal note, he always came to you, up close and personal. Though being "my Aces" during the shoot, it was nice to hear him refer to me as Kendal when I went to L.A. for my ADR sessions.

Kendal with Zac Efron

Latest News

While on the set of The Lucky One, I got to hang with a good many of the tech crew, all having traveled in from L.A. and N.Y. for this movie. But they were talking about all the work moving out of the larger markets and into the Southeast and that they were thinking seriously about changing zip codes. I flew back to Georgia from New Orleans with a clear vision of giving the Southeast and more specifically the Atlanta market my full attention. I grew up in a small town in N.E. Georgia, so my decision to move back to the Peach state made my family very happy. Besides a two month trip out to L.A., I have been back in Georgia getting things established. I auditioned for all the big agencies in Atlanta, and was blessed to get offers from all of them. I ultimately went with People Store and they have been great. Just recently, I shot a regional commercial for O'Charley's and co-starred in a episode of Tyler Perry's House of Payne. Upon moving back to Georgia, I also met my soon-to-be wife, Bree Dawn Shannon. We will wed on November 13, 2011. God is so very good!

October 26, 2011

A Message from Hannah Graham - Director of Two Rooms

Hannah Graham
 Originally written in 1988, Two Rooms examines the Beirut Hostage Crisis of the 1980s. About one hundred American and European citizens were abducted and held hostage in the prisons of Lebanese terrorists over the span of a decade. Some were executed, some died in prison, and some were eventually freed.

In light of September 11, 2001, Blessing’s play still rings as shockingly relevant. Still, we fight terrorists. Still, we have hostages overseas. Still, we worry for the well-being of our nation, as we grow increasingly unpopular in the Middle East. Though penned in ‘88, Lee Blessing boldly examines this uncomfortable issue, bringing to light a perspective all too often unacknowledged.

In addition to our foreign policy, however, Blessing also examines the morality of good intentions and the ethical dilemmas of war. Two Rooms asks the question, what happens when our best isn’t good enough? How valuable is one human life? If terrorists do what they believe is right and honorable, are they justified? What does that mean about our own beliefs? These are questions that we would all do well to consider. Particularly as Christians, it is important to take time to ponder what it means to be human, and reflect on what or on whom we rely for support.

Two Rooms is a play about survival. Yes, it’s about politics, but it’s primarily a love story driven by determination and fortitude. It’s about facing fears and making tough choices. It’s about success and failure. It urges us to hope when there is none, refusing to settle for less. This is not a play for the weak at heart. It’s a story for fighters.
So the next time your best isn’t good enough, return to your mat. You just might find someone there listening.

Two Rooms opens this Friday, and runs through Nov. 6th.  Showtimes are 7:30 on 10/28 - 10/29, 11/3 - 11/5 and 2:30 on 10/29-10/30 and 11/5-11/6. Call the box office for tickets at (757) 352-4245.

Please be aware, there is a content advisory with this show. The production contains mature content, including adult language, and is not appropriate for children or audience members who may be sensitive to such material.  

October 14, 2011

Redeeming Love adapted by Scott Hayes

“I want you to love me. I want you to trust me enough to let me love you, and I want you to stay here with me so we can build a life together. That's what I want”
― Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love
Scott Hayes, Associate Professor of Theatre and head of the MA Theatre program, is currently rehearsing a production of Redeeming Love, an adaptation of Francine Rivers’ novel of the same name. The book is extremely popular, having sold over a million copies, and Scott was thrilled to have the opportunity to adapt it for the stage. He states, “I was able to contact Francine Rivers through her writing agency. I expressed interest in adapting the novel, and send my resumé  to her. Up until that time, apart from a one man play I wrote for a college project and some short drama sketches for churches, I had very little playwriting experience… Francine granted me the rights to adapt the novel, and told me later that many requests had come before mine. I was amazed, and clearly saw this approval as a work of God. Francine only had a couple of stipulations. First, that I remain faithful to both her novel and the book of Hosea that the main female character was a prostitute. Second, that I faithfully dramatize Angel's conversion to Christianity. Because of my strong identification with the novel I had no problem with either of the stipulations.”

The play was produced in a workshop setting a few years later, and was a major success. Since that initial staging, the play hasn’t been produced again, until now. A local area church, New Life Providence, recently chose the novel Redeeming Love for a women’s reading group. The pastor, Tina Davis, heard of Scott’s adaptation and contacted him, asking him to present a couple of scenes for the reading group. Scott says, “The response was fairly overwhelming. Women were crying with identification, there was quite a bit of prayer, and repeatedly we were asked when we would produce the entire play. A few months later, I was working on other things, assuming that Redeeming Love was once more back on the shelf. Out of the blue, Tina Davis called me and asked if the church could commission a production of Redeeming Love."

Redeeming Love is based on the story of Hosea in Bible, who marries a prostitute named Gomer. Although she is repeatedly unfaithful to him, he continues to pursue her and call her back to being his wife. The story is a picture of God’s relationship to the Church, and how His unconditional love always calls us away from our sin and back to him. The novel is set in “California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.” The prostitute named Angel meets a man name Michael Hosea. “A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go.” (Excerpts from Francine Rivers’ website:

The story had a very personal connection for Scott. He says, “A couple of years before reading the novel I had been delivered from an addiction cycle, and that deliverance came when I finally accepted my identity as a Christian - adopted by the Father as an heir, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Angel, the prostitute, was struggling against her relationship with Michael Hosea because she couldn't accept she was good enough, she couldn't separate herself from her past sin. Redeeming Love wasn't just a romance novel, or a woman's novel, it was my story.”
The company for this production is made up of Christopher Graham, a graduate from Regent's MFA in acting program; Brittany Baird, Marilyn Schappacher, and John Scritchfield, all current M.A. theatre students; and Elizabeth Litwak, Alicia Bonham, and Justin Winters, current MFA students.

Elizabeth Litwak has enjoyed the challenge of working on another original script (she was previously cast in Disorientation of Butterflies, written by MFA alum Alaska Reese Vance, which premiered this summer at the New York International Fringe Festival). She says “Working with Scott has been so amazing, because he’s taken this story, primarily viewed as a woman’s novel, and interpreted it from a man’s point of view, which gives a lot of life and color to the story. It’s a great challenge because Scott can do whatever he needs to do to shape the story. His specific point of view brings cohesion and a definite through-line to the script.” Beth also identifies with the universality of the story. “It’s a true story of redemption – raw and real, not sanitized like many Christian stories tend to be. The message is pertinent to everyone today – that redemption that’s available to us all.”

MA student John Scritchfield agrees. "I think more people than we realize struggle with grace. This play tells the story of undeserved and unexplainable love...I have had to take a look at my personal relationship with Christ and admit that, like Angel, I've fled from the open arms of love. I have sold myself short. It's wonderful to know though that this love will always take you back. In the love of Christ, you always have a home."

MA Marilyn Schappacher enjoyed the experience of using theatre in a ministry capacity.  She states, "I intend on using my training and knowledge of theatre for Christ and to raise the spirit of excellence in the theatre ministry community and craft. Many souls can be led to the amazing God that we serve and that is where my heart is at the end of the day."

The production of Redeeming Love is to be the culminating event for New Life Providence's DNA Conference, an annual event for young women. The conference is on October 21. There will be one additional performance the next night as part of New Life's Arts Cafe series. For more information, contact Tina Davis at

October 10, 2011

Three Musketeers Promo Video

Check out this amazing promo video for Three Musketeers.  You don't want to miss this show!

Three Musketeers runs Oct. 14 - 23 in the Main Theater.  Get your tickets today! Call the Box Office at 757-352-4245

September 28, 2011

Michael Hill-Kirkland, Director of Three Musketeers

Dr. Michael Hill-Kirkland

Read what Dr. Kirkland has to say about this special upcoming production!

It is April, 1974. An eighteen year old aspiring actor sits, totally enthralled, in a darkened movie house in Fullerton, CA, excitedly grasping his high school sweetheart’s hand. He is watching actor Michael York, as D’Artagnan, in Richard Lester’s film adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, featuring fights arranged by William Hobbs. I sat on the edge of my seat (as if you hadn’t already guessed it was me), my heart racing, a smile on my face, and no little sense of envy as I observed D’Artagnan fighting off several of the Cardinal’s Guard as he attempts to gain entrance to the Royal Ball, and save Queen Anne from a fate worse than death. As the images flickered across the screen I whispered to my girl, “I’ve got to learn how to do that!” And so began my life-long love affair with theatrical swordplay. So you may have already guessed at this point--this one is personal.

I took my first sport sabre class in the fall of 1975 and somehow managed to struggle my way onto the Cal State Fullerton sabre squad. A semester later I was competing at the regional level. The following year would find me competing at the national level. After all those years of baseball and football, I had found my sport! My final competitive bouts were fenced in 1980, at UC Berkley, where I and my teammates on the Salle du Grenadier sabre team would win the Pacific Coast Championships mere months before I would enter graduate school. Unfortunately, working summers as a professional actor precluded attending the Society of American Fight Directors National Stage Combat Workshop until 1990. Once there, I found excellent instruction, a philosophy to undergird the art form, and lifelong friends and associates--one of whom, Richard Ryan, would later become Master at Arms for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, until a burgeoning career as a cinematic fight director would force him to relinquish the position. I was honored when, upon occasion, Richard would invite me to teach his RADA students. I always learned something new when working with him. Eventually, he found himself staging fights for such prestigious films as Troy, Stardust, The Dark Knight, and Sherlock Holmes 1 & 2. In each case he exhibited an uncanny ability for developing a unique martial style which served as a natural extension of character—very much like William Hobbs had achieved in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers. There was the naïve, enthusiastic style of D’Artagnan. Then there was the dark, explosive rage of Athos and the playful, devil-may-care approach of Porthos. And finally, the religious gravity of Aramis--offering last rights to fallen opponents. And so it is we come full circle to that darkened cinema in 1974. How so? One of Richard’s earliest mentors was William Hobbs, Fight Arranger for the Richard Lester’s Musketeer films. He learned well. And now, nearly twenty years after rooming together at the SAFD Teacher Training Workshop, Richard and I have teamed up to bring you this recent adaptation of Dumas’ classic tale as re-imagined by farceur Ken Ludwig. (You might be interested to know Richard staged the fights for the premiere production at the Bristol Old Vic, in the UK.) It has been a joy to collaborate with him on this production. And, as always, I have learned from him.

I have always loved Dumas’s story of love, honor, and revenge with a singular passion. It is a story bursting with themes: faith, brotherhood, friendship, loyalty, courage, patriotism--and above all, a swashbuckling spirit of adventure that has always appealed to the little boy in me. In Ludwig’s script, Constance playfully teases D’Artagnan, “You remind me of a little boy from Gascony with a wooden sword shouting 'Death to the King’s enemies!'”

My wife, who sat in that same darkened cinema with me thirty eight years ago, would tell you that Constance has my number. I have a feeling she may have yours as well. And now, mesdames et messieurs, please travel back with us to a time when love was pure, honor was everything, and sons were told by their fathers to “fight for justice and make courage your watchword.” Indeed, a time when friends not only knew but lived John 15:13,

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

A time when friends would say, and back it up with their lives:

“All for one--and one for all.”

Three Musketeers opens October 14 and runs through October 23 in the Mainstage Theater.

September 26, 2011

Featured MFA: Britain Willcock

Britain Willcock is a third-year MFA in Acting student who is currently immersed in rehearsals for his thesis role - Porthos, in Ken Ludwig's adaptation of The Three MusketeersThe Three Musketeers is being directed by Dr. Michael Kirkland and features the work of Hollywood Fight Director Richard Ryan.  Britain is excited for the role for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to use some of the extensive combat training he's received since coming to Regent.  Here's what Britain had to say about it:

"When I began my M.F.A. experience here at Regent University little did I know that a passion would be unearthed in me by Dr. Michael Kirkland. One of the unique aspects of Regent University's M.F.A. program is its emphasis in stage combat due to Dr. Kirkland's affiliation with the Society of American Fight Directors. Utilizing his training as a Certified Teacher, he has integrated required stage combat classes into the curriculum. Through three semesters of combat (Unarmed, Rapier and Dagger and Broadsword/Quarterstaff) I developed a deep love and passion for this 'illusion of violence' within the theater. It combined my love for sports and physical fitness with the creative world of the theater. Under Dr. Kirkland's tutelage I have attended two Regional SAFD events (Virginia Beach Bash) and tested in all four weapons to achieve 'Actor Combatant' status with the SAFD. My new-found passion then drove me to seek out further training. At the 2011 Virginia Beach Bash I met Fight Master Richard Ryan who opened my eyes to the National Stage Combat Workshop and advised me to consider attending.

Britain at the National Stage Combat Workshop
So, on June 19th, 2011, I left for Winston-Salem, NC to study for three weeks with some of the best Fight Choreographers in the world. The workshop can only be described as a stage combat boot camp as the Advanced Actor Combatant section worked six days a week from 9 a.m. till about 10 p.m. The first week was spent performing SPRs (Skills Proficiency Renewals) in which each day we found a new partner, learned a fight, found and memorized a scene and performed that very evening. The following two weeks allowed us to learn three new weapons (Knife, Smallsword, Sword & Shield) in which we tested on July 8th. While Fight Master Richard Ryan was the head of the Advanced section, we had the pleasure of also working with Fight Masters K. Jenny Jones, Allen Suddeth, and David Wooley. At the end of the workshop I had earned the status of 'Advanced Actor Combatant', had tested in 7 of the 8 weapons receiving a 'Recommended Pass' in 5, and had won the National Stage Combat Workshop award for 'Best Fight Scene.' Ultimately, the experience was an incredible exploration into the world of acting conflicts. Not only has this experience motivated me to become more physically fit and to seek out further training, it has also had a great impact on my acting. Exploring the motivations and actions that lead to physical conflict has clarified my understanding of 'being in the moment' and the idea of being 'made to do' something (concepts set forth in our Meisner-based actor training.)

I feel honored to have studied here at Regent with Dr. Kirkland and am forever thankful for his passion for the world of stage combat and his students. Thanks to him I have become a better actor, athlete, and have found a new love that I plan to pursue further in the future."

Come experience the stage combat technique of Britain and the other accomplished actors in The Three Musketeers, which runs on the Main Stage from October 14 - 23.  Call the Box Office for tickets (757) 352-4245.

September 23, 2011

Great Review for Beau Jest!

Full article can be found at

The Regent Theatre Company lights up the stage once again!

By: Paul Baker

Opening night for Regent’s delightful comedy, Beau Jest was a sight to behold. Not a seat in the small, studio theatre was empty. If you didn’t get your tickets early, you were bound to miss out. Although the set was simple–a dining room table with six chairs and a sofa, the circular stadium seating made you feel as if you were sitting at the table with the actors – right in the middle of a hilarious romp that will keep you laughing in utter hysteria!

Whitney Rappana, brought down the house as Sarah Goldman, a young Jewish woman who tries to avoid her mother’s ploy to fix her up with “nice Jewish boys.” She hires an actor to play the perfect Jewish boyfriend at the family dinner table.

There’s only one problem. He’s not Jewish! Sarah’s real boyfriend, Kris Kringle, played by Chris Bookless, does not carry one Jewish bone in his body. And Jeff Fazakerley’s riotous portrayal of the stand-in actor beau, Bob, will leave you gasping for breath from his hysterical attempts to be Jewish enough for Sarah’s parents.

Beau Jest just gets funnier as the story continues to unfold. You cannot help but laugh from Amy Dunlap’s flawless portrayal of Miriam, the annoyingly perfect Jewish mother, or Michael McLendon’s hilarious rendering of Abe, the stubborn Jewish dad. Even Andrew Wilson lit up the stage, playing Joel, the intelligent but somewhat oblivious brother.

Each scene builds as Sarah eventually falls in love with Bob, the actor–whose lack of Jewishness gradually unravels before her family. By the end of the play everybody wants to know “What are you going to do Sarah?”

Get Your Tickets Now!

Beau Jest is one family dinner you don’t want to miss! You will find yourself rolling in your seat and wiping tears from your eyes at the same time.

September 16, 2011

Heartwarming Comedy Kicks Off Theatre Season

By Rachel Judy
What happens when a young woman is afraid to take her boyfriend home to meet the parents? Audiences will find out in Beau Jest, the season's first Mainstage Theatre production at Regent University, opening on Friday, Sept. 16.

Written and set in 1989, James Sherman's play tells the story of Sarah Goldman and her traditional Jewish family eager to see Sarah settled down and married. The only trouble is, she's afraid to introduce them to her boyfriend because he's not Jewish. Rather than tell the truth, Sarah hires an actor to play the man she introduces to her parents.
"No one writes comedies like this anymore," observed guest director Marianne Savell. "This is a truly funny play with great writing. It has a sharp truth to it that will be very moving to the audience and yet the play doesn't have a mean spirit. It's sweet and it sneaks up on you."
MFA in Acting students Whitney Rappana and Amy Dunlap will perform their thesis roles in Beau Jest as Sarah Goldman and Miriam Goldman respectively.
Returning for a third year as a guest director at Regent, Savell has previously directed Dancing at Lughnasa in 2009 and Our Town in 2010.
Savell credits the theatre faculty and students as the main reason she keeps coming back. "The faculty are fantastic. They are real artists, and they have the skills and passion to pass on their knowledge and experience to the students," she said. "The students are serious and focused."
Similarly, Eric Harrell, chair of the theatre department, is excited that the students can work with Savell. "As an educational theatre, it is important for us to bring working professionals to campus to interact with our students," he explained. "Savell represents the crème of the crop. She has both an impressive resume as a union actor and director, but she also has the heart of an educator. She is a shining example to our students of how one can succeed in a challenging profession while maintaining a positive Christian witness."
Marianne Savell
Savell is an adjunct professor at Vanguard University, an associate artist with Taproot Theater Company and a member of Directors Lab West. She received her MFA in Acting from the University of Illinois and has been a guest artist at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. She served as producing director of Actors Co-op in Hollywood and on the advisory board of Provision Theater Company in Chicago and was invited to the prestigious New Harmony Project to direct Margaret Hunt's new play And the Ravens Feed Us in 2008.

Purchase tickets for Beau Jest at the Box Office.
Phone: (757) 352-4245

September 7, 2011

What We Did This Summer!

We're back in school now, but Theatre Artists don't take summers off! Check out what our students and faculty were up to this summer!

Whitney Rappana, Jared O'Dell, Ashley Manning and
Michael Hill-Kirkland in Blackbeard and Calico Jack

Dr. Michael Hill-Kirkland wrote, produced and appeared in an original pirate show at the Oceanfront called Blackbeard and Calico Jack. The show also featured Ashley Manning (MFA), Whitney Rappana (MFA) and Jared O’Dell (B.A.)

Scott Hayes appeared at the Oceanfront in the historical presentation Naval Airpower Legacy. The show was produced and directed by adjunct professor Derek Leonidoff, assisted by Sarah Grice (B.A.)

MFAs Andy Geffken, Tabitha Ray, Zachary Bortot, Amy Dunlap, Britain Willcock, Chris Bookless, Diana Coates, Marji Peters, Kristi Meyers, Ashley Manning, Jeff Fazakerley, Chad Rasor, Nathan Schmidt, and B.A.s Stephanie Graybill, Jared O’Dell and Alicia LeBlanc presented a Regent Shakespeare Company production of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Scott Hayes.

West Side Story

The Regent Summer C.A.M.P.’s production of Suessical, Jr. was directed by alumna Kaja Dunn with music direction by MFA Alicia Bonham. West Side Story was directed by alumna Hannah Hughes with music direction by MFA Whitney Rappana. B.A. Beka James choreographed both productions. Tianna Yentzer and Courtney Conger stage managed. Ashley Manning , Ash Ragghianti, Nathan Schmidt, Zach Bortot and Britain Willcock all served as instructors. Dave Foster was the Scenic Designer and Technical Director for both camp productions.

Seussical, Jr.!

Derek and Jennifer Martin toured productions of And Sarah Laughed and Private Lives to Massachusetts as part of their Americana Theatre Company. The casts also featured alums Andy Geffken and Hannah Hughes.

MFA Britain Willcock attended the National Stage Combat Workshop and achieved Advanced Actor Combatant Status while also winning the National Award for "Best Scene."

Brad Archer, Marji Peters, Chad Rasor

Marji Peters and Rochelle Cheeks Archer

Katie Fridsma

MFA Alums Alaska Reese Vance and Nathan Schmidt took their original musical The Disorientation of Butterflies to the New York International Fringe Festival where the production ran for two weeks. The cast included a mix of current students and alumni: Brad Archer, Rochelle Cheeks Archer, Katie Fridsma, Beth Litwak, Marji Peters and Chad Rasor. Alaska Reese Vance received the Festival's 2011 Excellence in Directing Award. Congratulations, Alaska!

Zachary Bortot (MFA) worked on fight direction for the Reno Little Theater production of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.

C.J. Hill as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd

Costume Shop Manager C.J. Hill played Mrs. Lovett in the Theatrrix production of Sweeney Todd. Mike Salsbury (MFA) played Judge Turpin and Micaela DeLauro (MFA) was in the chorus.

Diana Coates (MFA) partnered with the Virginia Stage Company to develop a five week theatre camp for the Achievable Dream Academy in Newport News. Over sixty students participated in the various workshops and rehearsals and final performance. She continued her efforts of raising support for the Miracle Mansion Project, a theatre and entertainment complex set to open in 2014.

Hal Prince with MFA A.J. Lease

MFA Andrew (A.J.) Lease met famed producer/director Hal Prince (Sweeney Todd, Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story.) Below is a sample of the interview…

AJ: What is the most important musical of all time?

Hal Prince: has the most important book since Sallinger wrote his novels...

AJ: What is the best musical of the last decade?

Hal Prince: The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown

AJ: Who is the best composer out there today?

Hal Prince: Jason Robert Brown

AJ: Finally, what would a short list of musicals be for undergraduate students to be familiar with before they graduate?

Hal Prince: Mostly...the classics- Oklahoma, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Guys and Dolls, West Side Story, Gypsy, Fiddler on the Roof, and Sweeney Todd...I say that instead of Company (the most important) because Company was a concept musical after all.

Michael Mclendon (MFA) and Marji Peters (MFA) taught a Shakespeare workshop at Princess Anne Middle School. Michael was also the editing teacher for Regent's Film C.A.M.P.

Mike Salsbury (MFA) played a blind rabbi in the Endowed Student Film, a re-telling of Bernard Malamud's short story "The Silver Crown."

Erin Fossa (MA) performed at the Mystery Dinner Playhouse Theatre here in Virginia Beach.

Marilyn Schappacher (M.A.) with Dancing Waters Drama Group in The Blessing Tree and with Chamberlayne Actor’s Theatre (CAT) in Pirates of the Chemotherapy. Her cast was nominated for the Best Ensemble Award for the Richmond Theatre Awards, the Artsies.

Sarah Brierly (B.A.) spent six weeks working at Ligonier Camp and Conference Center as a counselor in training (CIT) and assisting in both the theatre activities as well as working in the kitchen. For the remainder of the summer she helped a local production of Wizard of Oz.

Matt and Tiana Downey started a new theatre company called The little BIG Theatre Company. They produced their first performance Runaway Cinderella. The company seeks to change the way people look at faith-based Christian theatre and seeks to change the community for the arts. They are currently preparing for the next show, William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, directed by recent MFA grad, Chad Gilliland. Runaway Cinderella also featured Mike Salsbury (MFA), Kristi Meyers (MFA), Diana Coates (MFA), Alicia LeBlanc (B.A.), Margaret Beasley (B.A.) and Dan McGary (B.A.) and was Stage Managed by Tianna Yentzer (B.A.).

Andrew Schappacher (B.A.) participated in Ballet Magnificat’s four-week dance intensive in Jackson, Mississippi.

Rachel Migliore (B.A.) spent her summer interning at Airmid Theatre Company, a professional theatre located on Long Island that is dedicated to bringing classic plays written by women back to the stage. She performed in a production of Jack and the Princess Who Never Laughed, and managed wardrobe for the world premiere of A Little Betrayal Among Friends.

Debbie Wright (B.A.) directed Disney's Beauty and the Beast for a local Richmond children's theatre group, Alpha Theatre and Arts Company. She also worked with a student-run theatre guild (Thursdaenite Players) to produce Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in which she directed and played Lady Montague.

Check back often to see what Regent Theater is up to next!

May 23, 2011

Alumni Take Production to Festival in NY

By Rachel Judy

Regent University alumni Alaska Reece Vance '10 (Communication & the Arts) and Nathan Schmidt '11 (Communication & the Arts) met in 2008 when a mutual friend suggested they collaborate on a script for a play. That collaboration resulted in The Disorientation of Butterflies, a musical that was recently accepted into the New York International Fringe Festival, one of the largest multi-arts festivals in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues in New York City.
The Disorientation of Butterflies will be performed during the festival, scheduled for Aug. 12-28, 2011. Regent Communication & the Arts alumni Bradley James Archer '10, Katie Fridsma '10, Elizabeth Litwak '07 and Hannah Hughes '11, and current MFA in Acting student Marji Peters will perform in the musical.

"The Disorientation of Butterflies is a musical story of a young woman struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts and thoughts of death," explained Vance, who wrote the script and lyrics for the music. "It also deals with the lives of her mother and sister and how they deal with the mysteries of life and death."

Vance's theatre company, The Drifting Theatre, will produce the musical.

Schmidt, who composed the music for the show, acknowledges that tackling such a serious topic in a musical is a challenge. "The Disorientation of Butterflies is about death and suicide and how you use your time. It's not a musical in the light fluffy sense," he said. "Theatre is always about the story ... rather than the music. The music is another tool that comes along to undergird the story and tell it better."

"I hope this production will speak to anyone who has ever questioned existence or struggled with depression, anxiety or thoughts of suicide, as well as those with loved ones dealing with these issues," Vance added. "As a writer, I have something I want to say to the world, and any opportunity to have people listen is a blessing and an honor."

Both agree that the topics are intense but extremely relevant to today's audiences. "Reading [Vance's] script really helped me to understand more of what people who struggle with [depression] face—what exactly they're dealing with ... the issue of control, the burning desire to understand why things happen in life," Schmidt said.

The show debuted in 2010 at Regent as a lab production, and Vance and Schmidt hope to return to the university for another performance before they take the show to New York.

April 27, 2011

Theatre Season Finale Offers Timeless Musical

By Rachel Judy

Conrad Birdie (Andy Geffken) and Kim McAfee
(Whitney Rappana) try to escape the paprazzi
In its final production of the 2010-11 season, Regent University Theatre tackles one of the most beloved Broadway musicals—Bye Bye Birdie. The show runs April 29 - May 1 and May 6-8.

Bye Bye Birdie tells the story of fictional singer and teen icon Conrad Birdie who travels to a small Ohio town to make his last television performance and kiss his biggest fan before he is drafted. The original Broadway production won four Tony Awards, ran for more than 600 performances and resulted in a movie adaptation starring Ann-Margret, Janet Leigh and Dick Van Dyke.

While the musical is set in the 1960s, director Scott Hayes believes Bye Bye Birdie has a timeless element audiences of all ages can relate to.

"As I began analyzing the script, I realized the musical had been written so the audience would recognize a spoof on current events—rock 'n' roll as a new genre and that genre's effects: the cult of celebrity and a growing chasm between the teenage fans and their parents," Hayes explained. "The male rock celebrity is an enduring American tradition. Right now my pre-teen daughters are outgrowing Justin Bieber and, before that, the Jonas Brothers. A generation prior screamed for the Backstreet Boys, and the list goes back in time ... Bye Bye Birdie is at once nostalgic and current, spoofing the past and the present."

Bye Bye Birdie features music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams.

Purchase tickets at the Box Office.

April 25, 2011

Bye Bye Birdie Opens This Week!

When 1960s heartthrob Conrad Birdie is drafted into the Army, a lucky fan will give him "One Last Kiss" on The Ed Sullivan Show in this Tony Award-winning musical and audience favorite.

Here are some reflections from Scott Hayes, director of Bye Bye Birdie!

It seems as if every person in the theatre has some experience with Bye Bye Birdie.  Birdie’s own beginnings were incredibly humble. Composer Charles Strouse and producer Edward Padula worked on the musical Saratoga, where Padula told Strouse he had an idea for a teenage musical.  Strouse teamed up with lyricist Lee Adams with whom he had written weekly revues for an Adirondack summer camp called Green Mansions. In fact, “Put on a Happy Face” came from one of those revues. An actor in a tragedy mask would come out and complain about the world, and another actor with a comic mask would sing the first few stanzas of what would become one of the most recognizable songs in music theatre.  Together Strouse, Adams, book writer Michael Stewart and yet-unknown director Gower Champion toiled along without a fully realized concept until 1958, when Elvis Presley was drafted into the Army.  When it was announced Presley was to give a “last kiss” to a specially chosen Women’s Army Corpswoman (WAC), the musical creators had a concept for their show. 

The musical’s title character was originally named Conway Twitty.  Strouse claimed the production team had no idea that there was an actual Conway Twitty until Twitty threatened a lawsuit, and the name was changed to Conrad Birdie.

The musical had fairly successful out-of-town tryouts, yet arrived in New York with only $245 in advance box office sales. One of the reasons for the poor advance sales was the lack of recognizable stars. Chita Rivera had excelled in West Side Story butwas no box office draw, and her leading men, Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde, were almost completely unknown.  The production was a surprise hit, winning four Tony Awards, running for more than 600 performances and spawning the movie version with Ann-Margret and Janet Leigh.  Strouse, Adams and Champion (not to mention Rivera, Van Dyke and Lynde) became music theatre royalty, creating other musicals such as Golden Boy, Applause, Nick and Nora, Rags, Hello, Dolly!, I Do! I Do!, and for Strouse —Annie .

 When I was asked to direct Birdie in the spring of 2010, I was personally and nostalgically thrilled.  I had been introduced to acting during a high school production of Birdie in 1983.  However, as I began analyzing the script I realized the musical had been written so the audience would recognize a spoof on current events—rock and roll as a new genre, and that genre’s effects: the cult of celebrity and a growing chasm between the teenage fans and their parents. Our contemporary audience would not be looking at the musical as it was intended. 

Last July I was leading a panel for a Christians in Theatre Arts conference during which I asked the creators of the musical spoof Altarboyz if they thought the demise of boy bands would hurt the show’s appeal.  They made the point that the male rock celebrity is an enduring American tradition.  Right now, my pre-teen daughters are outgrowing Justin Bieber and, before that, the Jonas Brothers.  A generation prior screamed for the Backstreet Boys, and the list goes back in time—Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, the Bee Gees, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and, yes, Elvis.  Bye Bye Birdie is at once nostalgic and current, spoofing the past and the present. 

Bye Bye Birdie runs April 29-May 1 & May 6-8 in the Main Theater

Contact the Box office for tickets today!
757.352.4245 or
Adults: $15 — Discount*: $12 — Employees**: $10 — Regent Students: $7

*Includes military, senior, student, alumni and child (age 5-18).
**Includes Regent and CBN employees.