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Theater students shine on stages across the country this summer

July 15, 2013 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

Many students of the Liberty University Department of Theatre Arts are using the summer months to notch professional stage credits, an important résumé builder as they prepare to pursue a full-time career in theater.

Liberty students and graduates can be seen on stage across the country — in community shows, dinner theaters, and other professional venues — from the Lynchburg area, surrounding communities, and across the Commonwealth, to Seattle, New York City, Kentucky, and Colorado. There are also several students and alumni working behind the scenes as choreographers, technicians, programmers, designers, set builders, and in various crew positions.

Rising senior Rachel Lind (right) and junior Jonathan Hogue, two students of Liberty University's Department of Theatre Arts, are currently in a production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" near Seattle. Photo by Bob Baltzell/ASTRA.

Rising senior Rachel Lind and junior Jonathan Hogue are currently in a production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” near Seattle. Because they were in school when auditions took place, they auditioned remotely via video. Lind is playing “Martha,” one of the brides, and Hogue portrays “Caleb,” one of the brothers.

Hogue, who calls Seattle his hometown, said experience is the best way to learn.

“The more shows I do, the more I feel ready to tackle the professional world of theater,” he said. “It’s great being home and getting to actually practice the skills I've learned in classes.”

What Hogue values the most is the strong Christian influences in Liberty’s theater department.

“They are training me to be a Champion for Christ in the very secular world of theater,” he said.

The opportunity to work professionally over the summer has allowed Lind, a Seattle native, to grow as a performer, and as a dancer in particular, she said. Last summer she appeared in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” with the same theater company (All Saints Theatrical Repertoire Association) and “Xandu” with ArtsWest, another Seattle-based theater company.

Rising senior Tim Ross is working with Jenny Wiley Theatre in Prestonburg, Ky., appearing in productions of “The Sound of Music” (ensemble) and “Oklahoma” (“Cord Elam”). He said he enjoys working with actors who have a significant amount of professional experience and learning from them. But his education has prepared him to fit right in in a professional setting, he said.

“Liberty’s theater department has more than sufficiently prepared me for an experience like this,” he said. “From stage combat to rehearsal etiquette, I feel very comfortable jumping into these shows and dedicating all of my energy to the characters and the stories.”

The theater department not only gives students opportunities to gain experience in top-notch collegiate productions during the mainstage season at Tower Theater, it also provides a chance for a professional credit with its professional branch, Alluvion Stage Company. In addition, the department provides networking opportunities across the country as well as auditions for professional shows and motion pictures.

Rachel Day, who recently graduated from Liberty's theater department, received glowing reviews for her portrayal of "Maria" in Peach State Summer Theater's production of "The Sound of Music." Here she is photographed with the rest of the von Trapp family cast. Photo by Genny Wynn/PSST!.

Recent graduate Rachel Day is wrapping up a two-month contract with Peach State Summer Theater (PSST!) where she landed three leading roles and received glowing reviews from a local newspaper.

Day connected with PSST! at the 2013 Southeastern Theatre Conference March 6-10 in Louisville, Ky. She was among a group of 18 Liberty students who attended the conference, where they were able to audition and meet with representatives from theater companies across the nation. Liberty paid for the trip, including travel and lodging. All students (including non-theater students) were welcome to participate but had to pass a screening at Virginia Theatre Association in February first.

“Because of the generosity of the theater department, and ultimately Liberty University, a bunch of us were able to land jobs in our field,” Day said.

Day said it is a blessing to be able to work with professional actors from across the country. She said she has had the opportunity to speak with many of them about the training they received at other colleges and programs.

“I am just struck by the remarkable level of excellence that the Liberty University Department of Theatre Arts demands, teaches, and instills in their graduates,” she said. “I would definitely say that everything that I learned while spending time at LU has served me really well and has put me in a very competitive position. I am just really grateful for that, and I’m really excited to see where the department is going to go.”

Day is currently investigating professional opportunities in Florida and Pennsylvania. At Liberty she is remembered for a number of stellar performances, including “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Peter Pan,” “Ragtime,” and “Into the Woods.”

Hogue, Lind, and Ross will all be appearing in Alluvion Stage Company’s upcoming production of “Les Misérables,” which opens Sept. 13.