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Theater Class Performs Road Shows

NMU students are taking two shows on the road and performing them in U.P. schools as part of the university's first "theater for young audiences" class. They have visited schools in Marquette, Gwinn and Gladstone, and will travel to Sault Ste. Marie and Hermansville next week.

The performance for grades 3-8 is "Michigan History Follies" (students are pictured during a recent rehearsal). This original play tells the story of how Alex has one day to finish a Michigan history project. Before he can finish, his work is stolen by two time-traveling bandits. Alex goes back in time to catch them and encounters Native Americans, The Kellogg Brothers, Motown artists, Henry Ford and other Michigan historic figures.

The performance for grades 7-12 is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” This shortened version of the Shakespeare play depicts Hermia and Lysander escaping into the woods from their tyrannical parents. Elsewhere among the trees, the fairy king and queen have a marital spat, which has disastrous consequences for Nick Bottom.

Ansley Valentine (CAPS), who teaches the course, said a challenge was designing sets that are portable and easy to assemble on site. Students are gaining practical applications that might be relevant to their careers, from running a touring company to writing an original show geared toward a youth audience.

"As a group, we worked out the outline for the show and wrote the first couple of scenes," said Valentine. "Then we divided the class into teams of two and each was primarily responsible for one scene. They were responsible for doing research and sharing interesting things they learned. A grad student and undergrad worked with me to clean up the writing and connect the individual scenes so it flowed well."

The project aligns with the class's service-learning designation. Valentine received three grants to support the effort: $2,000 from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs; $2,000 from the Target Foundation; and about $6,000 from the NMU Wildcat Innovation Fund.