January 28, 2011

Courtroom Drama Takes Center Stage

Andy Geffken as Father Rivard and Ashley Manning as Sister Rita
 By Rachel Judy
Regent University Theatre's latest offering—The Runner Stumbles—is inspired by a 1919 murder trial in Michigan. As Father Rivard stands accused of murdering a nun in his parish, this suspenseful courtroom drama explores faith and forbidden love in the play The New York Times describes as "absolutely fascinating."

The Runner Stumbles runs Jan. 28-30 and Feb. 3-6.

Playwright Milan Stitt—himself a Michigander—grew up hearing with talk about the "tragedy" at the Holy Rosary Church in Isadore, Mich. "He took one part history and combined it with two parts imagination, and the result was The Runner Stumbles," explained the play's director, Dr. Michael Kirkland, MFA in theatre department head and professor in the School of Communication & the Arts.

Audiences will certainly see the quality that is a trademark of Regent's theatre productions as The Runner Stumbles explores a crisis of faith in two church leaders. "It tackles the issues of faith and passion head on," Kirkland said. "In this particular instance, we have a nun and priest who are both totally devoted to maintaining their vows of chastity. Nevertheless, they find themselves drawn inexorably toward each other. This precipitates a crisis of faith in both parties and, tragically, a subsequent act of violence."

Also, adds Kirkland, "the play puts strong themes front and center: faith, love, chastity, commitment, devotion to the law—both secular and religious. The play examines such thorny issues as the tension between rigid, dogmatic rules and the all too human needs of the sinner. Under what conditions can, or should, the rules of the church bend to administer compassion?

"As always, I have sought to highlight what is redemptive in the piece, and there is little doubt in my mind that ... what is revealed in the final moments of The Runner Stumbles will not only touch upon the truth, it will reinforce one of the greatest truths of all: Though we be great sinners, Jesus is a greater Savior."

MFA in Acting students Andy Geffken, Gene Gray and Sharon Eyster perform their thesis roles in this production.

Purchase tickets through the Regent University Box Office.

January 26, 2011

Congratulations, Marianne Savell!

Regent Theatre offers congratulations to Marianne Savell for her Los Angelos Drama Critics Circle Awards nomination! She has been nominated for Best Director for Wit.  Marianne was the guest director of Our Town and last season's Dancing at Lughnasa here at Regent.

Marianne is an accomplished actor, director and teacher  from Seattle and Los Angeles. She 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 where she graduated with highest honors and was a guest artist at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

We're very proud of Marianne and wish her the best of luck! To read more about the nominations, click here.

January 22, 2011

MFA Auditions, Spring 2011!

It’s that time of year again, and the professors are getting ready to hit the road.

Next week, Eric Harrell will be headed to Houston, Texas to audition actors for our next year’s MFA Acting class. Auditions will be held at the Hyatt Regency on January 28-29. These auditions are concurrent with the annual conference of the Texas Educational Theatre Association where Eric will be teaching a workshop on the integration of voice and movement.

The following week, Eric will be in Chicago, IL during the URTA National Auditions, holding auditions at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown on February 6-7.

On February 26, Mark Paladini will be at Vanguard University in Los Angeles, CA, holding auditions and teaching a workshop on auditioning for television and film.

Mark Paladini, Michael Kirkland and Scott Hayes will all offering workshops at the Southeastern Theatre Conference (SETC) this year in Atlanta, GA. They will see students at the unified auditions and hold private appointments on March 4-5.

Finally, any students wishing to combine their audition with a visit to Regent’s campus in Virginia Beach are invited to the University’s Spring Preview, where auditions with the full performance faculty will be held on March 11.

To schedule an audition at any of these locations, contact recruitment coordinator Jennifer Martin at 757-352-4228 or email auditions@regent.edu, and feel free to stop by and chat about Regent with our professors if you're in the area!

Hope to see you there!


January 14, 2011

The Runner Stumbles Opens January 28th

Father Rivard stands accused of murdering a nun in his parish. Based on a true story, this suspenseful courtroom drama explores faith and forbidden love in the play The New York Times describes as "an absolutely fascinating play."
Location: Communication Building - Studio Theatre

Cost: Adult-$15 Discount*-$12 Regent Employee-$10 Regent Student-$8

Call the Box Office for reservations at 757.352.4245

Want to know a little more about this intriguing production? Read the following notes by director Michael Hill-Kirkland!

August 23, 1907 is the day she disappeared. To this day, the mention of this date to residents of Isadore, Michigan often elicits a terse, “We don’t talk about that,” or a silent, accusatory stare followed by a dismissive huff and precipitous departure. To quote reporter Mardi Link in her 2009 book, Isadore’s Secret,

“Today in Isadore they refer to the crime as ‘the tragedy’—if they refer to it at all…One elderly woman pointed a bony finger at me and rasped, ‘You should be afraid of the evil eye.’ A force still feared in Isador.” (xiv)

In the mid-1980s, as a graduate student at the University of Michigan, I often heard Milan Stitt’s name touted as a prominent UM alum. Stitt was, after all, a proud native Michigander. Therefore, it should surprise no one that he had grown up hearing hushed whispers about the popular nun whose bones had been found under the woodpile at Holy Rosary Church, in Isadore. Isadore was (and remains) a small, isolated, primarily Roman Catholic, Polish-immigrant community. Located on a peninsula, surrounded by woods and swamp, on the north-western shore of the state. In “the tragedy,” the young playwright recognized all the criteria necessary for a fabulous pot-boiler; murder, intrigue, forbidden romance, and high drama culminating in a courtroom trial. He took one part history, mixed it with two parts imagination, and the result was The Runner Stumbles.

In 1974 a mutual friend, Joe Mathewson, put the play into actor-director Austin Pendleton’s hands. According to Stitt’s obituary in the March 12, 2009 edition of Playbill.com,

“Pendleton took the play to Lynne Meadow, artistic director of the then-young Off-Broadway company Manhattan Theatre Club, who liked it. Mr. Stitt, who once contemplated becoming a priest, sweated over several new drafts and the play opened in December 1974. Reviews were encouraging and the run proved popular with audiences. Two audience members, Del and Margo Tenny, were in the middle of starting their own theatre company in Stamford, CT, and they decided to put The Runner Stumbles in their first season. The production was a huge hit for the Hartman Theatre, as it was called, and a producer named Wayne Adams decided to take a chance and bring it to Broadway. It opened at the Little Theatre (now the Helen Hayes) on May 18, 1976…the play ran for six months.”

Dr. Michael Hill-Kirkland
Since then, the play has enjoyed several prominent revivals, including a film adaptation, directed by Stanley Kramer, starring Dick Van Dyke and Kathleen Quinlan as the ill-fated priest and nun. On the strength of The Runner Stumbles and other works to follow, Stitt would go on to head up the play development program at Circle in Square Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York.

So join us as we travel to April, 1911. It is four and half years since Father Brian Rivard walked away from his responsibilities as parish priest of Holy Rosary Church in Solon, Michigan, and into the ether. The scene is a small, rural courtroom and its adjacent cell. For you see, Brian Rivard has returned to Solon—where he is to stand trial for the murder of Sister Rita!

January 12, 2011

Regent Alum in Original Play

Looking for something extra special to do this Valentine's Day? Why not travel up to Richmond to see an original performance by Regent Alum Anna Koehler (MFA '10)?

Monday, February 14 · 7:30pm - 10:00pm, see the original play Cold Showers (written by and featuring Anna Koehler) which takes a funny and honest look at life through the eyes of a young woman named Sam.

DJ Epoc will also be there spinning some tunes, as well as photogapher Sam Allen.

Coffee and dessert will be served; door prizes will be given away to two lucky people; tickets are $10, and can be purchased in advance starting in January and at the door on the night of the event.

MFA '10 Alum Anna Koehler
For questions, contact lisa@commonwealthchapel.com.

The Robinson Theater 2903 Q. Street, Richmond, Virginia 23223