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More than just plays

Barry McNamara
The official 2010-11 schedule for the Crimson Masque, Monmouth College’s theatre organization, features five productions, but staging those performances is just a small part of the many activities in which MC theatre students participate.

Earlier this semester, 19 Monmouth students attended the American College Theatre Festival in Lansing, Mich.

“The conference offered our students the opportunity to compete against the likes of the University of Michigan and the University of Illinois, as well as peer colleges from the ACM, such as Beloit,” said assistant professor of theatre Janeve West.

Ivy Bekker of Bloomington, Michael Carioto of Worth and Emily Frazer of Jerseyville were chosen to represent the college in the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Competition. Their respective scene partners were Patrick Le Blanc of Jerseyville, Greg Dortch of Des Plaines and Jon Snowdon of Roscoe.

Mary Bohlander of Marengo competed in the directing competition with a scene from “Proof,” performed by Nick Dadds of Peoria, Merissa Lewiston of Keokuk, Iowa, and Allyson Frazier of Schaumburg. Snowdon, Morgan Hubbard of Stronghurst and Mike Miller of Naperville competed in the Critics Competition.

Also in attendance at the conference were Abigail Davis of Springfield, Karissa Inman of Peoria, Sarah Kindt of Bolingbrook and Nick Munson of Moline, who represented Alpha Psi Omega, the national theatre honorary. Kim Freeman of Oak Forest, Kaylah Henderson of Libertyville and Wynton Shannon of Chicago also attended, representing Crimson Masque.

The experience included multiple productions and workshops in stage combat, movement and voice for the actor, as well as playwriting, directing and new script development.

“These students were chosen for their excellence in production, for their commitment to the program and for their dedication to the creation of theatre on campus,” said West.

The close of fall semester brought new works, new views and new talent to the MC stage. Student-directed one-act plays featured direction by Bekker, Bohlander, Davis and Jamie Kistler of Gerlaw.

“Each director took a risk with their craft, and I was impressed with the outcome,” said West. “Topics ranged from friendship, love and loss to meta-theater, existential questions, hope and despair.

The pieces served as a portion of the final project for the “Principles of Directing” course, which is taught every two years by West.

“The students had a series of requirements that they could experience and present in most any way they could imagine,” she said. “These directors approached their work with serious creativity and professionalism, combining research and preparation with creative improvisation. It was a great night.”

In partnership with Carl Sandburg College, a showcase of student-written work was performed during the same week as the one-act plays. After the CSC performers poked fun at politics, kung fu movies and online dating with broad humor and huge characters, Monmouth theatre students – or, more accurately, the “Morbid Dork” theatre troupe – took the stage.

Created in 2009, by Kistler, Alex Nall of North Henderson and recent MC graduate Ken Yeater, the troupe’s purpose is to “present original, never-before-seen material to a diverse audience.” Written by Nall and based on a story by Kistler, the troupe performed “The Walrus,” combining hilarity with bizarre darkness in exploring two friends in moral conflict with themselves, each other and their environment.

Finally, Alpha Psi Omega members Davis, Jenny Erbes of Warsaw, Inman, Kistler, Munson and Nall were charged with producing an end of the semester showcase. The WIT Theatre was filled with scenes, monologues, poetry and music presented by a wide array of MC students. The evening also served as an opportunity for the students who would be taking part in the Irene Ryan Acting Competition to practice before a packed house.

“I am in awe of the depth and breadth of talent we have on this campus,” said West. “We have many theatre majors, biology majors, psychology majors and so many others who are brimming with artistic talent, so I’m happy that we’ve found so many outlets for their work.”

The next Alpha Psi Omega showcase will be at the end of the current semester.