Barry McNamara  |   Published July 04, 2016

Summer theatre

Monmouth’s Campagna directing Damn Yankees in Kansas City suburb
  • Monmouth College Assistant Professor of Theatre Vanessa Campagna coaches a student during a recent production. Damn Yankees, which Campagna is directing, will be performed at Gladstone Theatre in the Park at 8:30 p.m. July 8-10.
Monmouth College Assistant Professor of Theatre Vanessa Campagna is spending part of her summer involved with baseball.

But rather than participating in the game, she’s directing the classic musical comedy Damn Yankees at Gladstone Theatre in the Park, which is in the Kansas City suburb of Gladstone, at Oak Grove Park. The musical will be performed at 8:30 p.m. July 8-10. Admission is free.

Set in 1950s Washington, D.C., Damn Yankees is a retelling of the Faust legend during an era when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball and the former Washington Senators were perennial cellar dwellers of the American League. The plot is based on the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop, who also co-wrote the book for the musical.

“It’s been fabulously challenging,” Campagna said of the baseball-themed production. “Working with sports is a whole new ballgame – literally. I’ve learned so much about the sport of baseball.”

While Campagna deals mostly with traditional college-age students in her Monmouth productions, she’s directing a much broader range of actors this summer.

“I’m working with a huge age range this summer, from 10 years old to in their late 60s, and from young, raw talent to seasoned professionals,” she said. “It keeps me in this nice limbo, and it’s going to make me a better director for the way it’s making me find different communication styles to reach individuals in such a diverse group.”

This is Campagna’s third summer directing at Gladstone Theatre in the Park, but her experience with the company goes back two decades. She started there with a part in the children’s chorus for Meet Me in St. Louis. She worked her way up to the title role in Peter Pan and to playing Polly Baker in the Gershwin musical Crazy for You. Campagna will direct Meet Me in St. Louis April 6-9, 2017 at the College’s Wells Theater.

“We are the only completely free musical theatre company in the Kansas City area,” said Campagna, who began teaching at Monmouth in 2012. “Donations are accepted, but there is no charge. Just bring a blanket and a lawn chair and come on out. We typically have audiences of 2,000 to 3,000 people at each of our performances.”

Campagna is not only directing Damn Yankees, she is also the choreographer and costume designer; in addition, she is co-designing the lighting and sound plots. She’s even had to learn some chemistry as she works with the flash pots that create a quick flame and large puff of smoke whenever the show’s devil, known as Mr. Applegate, appears. Among those on the production staff is her mother, Susan, who is a professional musician.

Campagna said that working in the Kansas City area during the summer has also been a good way for her to develop new ties for the College.

“Most of the high schools around here are large 4A and 5A schools with strong theatre students,” she said. “I have my foot in the door and am networking with a lot of really amazing young people. It gives me an opportunity to talk to them about Monmouth, and how going to college in Illinois doesn’t mean driving eight hours to Chicago, as well as how a liberal arts education can benefit those pursuing careers in the theatre.”

Damn Yankees will be performed July 8-10 at Gladstone Theatre in the Park. More information is available from Gladstone Theatre in the Park.   Full schedule for the 2016-17 season of Monmouth College theatre
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