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SAU Theatre Students Work in Theatre – Even During Summer

September 2010

Some SAU Theatre students can't even keep themselves away from the theatre on their vacation time. Theatre students Andrew Benson, Val Zawada, Abby VanGerpen, Stephanie Seward and Tyler Reinert are just a few of those involved in summer theatre events.

Andrew Benson, senior, worked as the Performing Arts Coordinator Intern at Davenport Junior Theatre. "I learned so much about what it takes to run the programming for theatre spaces and coordinating rentals and class times and teachers," said Benson. He was also put in charge of the Junior Staff at several events, allowing him to direct the children's theatre at camp, which resulted in his being hired to costume design this coming winter.

Val Zawada '13 worked this summer to coordinate a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" dinner at Heritage Prairie Farm in Geneva, Ill. Given only a month to pull it all together, Zawada enlisted the help of friends from her hometown and from SAU to act in the show. They rehearsed once before the day of the show, but the real rehearsal started at 11 a.m. the morning of the performance and went until just before the show began around 7 pm. SAU students involved were Andrew Benson, Catie Osborn, Grant Legan, and Abby VanGerpen. Because the costume budget was so small, Zawada and her team rented costumes from a local shop and also pulled some from SAU. "Thank you so much to Dianne Dye for helping us out!"

Regardless of bumps and obstacles along the way, the show went on. "When the show actually started, I knew everything was going to be okay," said Zawada. "My favorite part was using what I had learned in the past year in this show. I heard myself saying things that Cory Johnson and Dan Rairdin-Hale had taught me; it was just a fabulous feeling to use my knowledge."

Abby VanGerpen, a recent graduate of the SAU Theatre program who played Hermia in the production of Midsummer, said, "it's absolutely amazing what your mind can come up with when under pressure—even Shakespeare lingo! Thanks Ambrose advantage!"

VanGerpen also acted in "Dog Sees God," a Harrison Hilltop Theatre play about the "Peanuts" characters years later. "It was fun to work with new people and be in a different space," she said.

Stephanie Seward '13 acted in Quad City Music Guild's production of "Curtains" this summer. "I got to play a really terrible actress who couldn't sing or dance and it was SO MUCH FUN," Seward said of her role in the show. This experience also allowed her to act alongside her father, Jim Seward, an '82 graduate of St. Ambrose. "It's always fun to work with my dad, he's so talented and I find I can learn a lot by watching him... I also find that the other people in the cast learn from him as well, and that's an awesome thing to watch," said Seward. The show was a great success and was met with complimentary reviews for both Sewards. "Seward is so crowd-pleasingly fine as this bad actress that it's a shame she only has one scene," said Thom White of the River Cities' Reader.

Spending the entirety of his summer (after traveling to England with the Theatre in London class) in Ithaca, NY, Tyler Reinert (shown at left) acted as the Prop Intern at the Hangar Theatre. But Reinert says that his experience was not that of a typical intern. "If I were to rename my position it would be Props Carpenter," he says.
Reinert was given drawings and then allowed to explore construction techniques to create the props in any way he wanted, as long as the finished product was true to the drawing he was given and performed the purpose it was meant to. Reinert spent most of his summer learning new techniques in the paint department, learning new ways to create a desired look. Through this experience, he found that his true passion is not in creating the props for other designers, as he previously thought, but in the design process itself. "When I had the opportunity to design and build something it was fun and rewarding," said Reinert.

But he says the discovery of what he really wants his future to be was not the most gratifying part of his summer. "The connections I've made with the people that make up the 'Hangar Family' will stick with me as the years pass," he says, remarking that his newfound contacts have provided significant benefits for him as he makes his way into the real world of theatre. "I would go back in a heartbeat."

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