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Behind the Scenes of SAU Theatre

May 2017


Join the St. Ambrose Theatre Department for a sneak peek behind the scenes! Each time another group of successful theatre students takes their final bows, there are tech crews and support teams behind them who aided in their production process. Of course, professors, fellow students, mentors, friends, and family members are part of those teams. However, it is time to raise the curtain to reveal some supporting characters who undeniably strengthen performances every year with their subtle, yet effective roles.

The St. Ambrose Theatre Department Advisory Board currently consists of three professional theatre figures, along with Department Chair Daniel Rairdin-Hale '04; former chair and theatre professor Dr. Corinne Johnson; departmental designer and technical director, Kris Eitrheim; and St. Ambrose Theatre department founder Michael Kennedy. This group meets annually to discuss recurring topics which include the past season's productions; the Michael Kennedy Theatre Scholarship; classroom and academic performance; upcoming guest artists; suggestions for the next season; the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival; and any other new or relevant business.

"The advisory board is a group of professionals in the field who advise us on how to best connect all of those [aspects of the theatre] with a curriculum that is going to prepare them to succeed in the field today," Johnson said.

dennyDenny Hitchcock (left), Jody Hovland, and Bill Theisen are the outside theatre professionals who comprise the current Department Advisory Board. Each has run a theater during their career, and they all have a broad range of experience along with valuable contacts that help St. Ambrose students acquire professional jobs in theatre. This board, specifically, has been so irreplaceable that Hovland and Theisen have been members for about seven years and Hitchcock for over 15 years.

"They remind us that the world of theatre is changing, and that professors need to stay active professionally to keep up with the times," Johnson said. She attests that the board has a "significant impact" ensuring the department's honesty by insisting on the justification of choices and adding wisdom and experience to decision-making. Some of the visible impacts include making Junior Seminar focused on careers in theatre and adding additional design classes.

The advisory board also is invited to all St. Ambrose Theatre productions, Senior Showcase, and the theatre department's big award ceremony, the Galvins.

"They are very empowering and supportive, but still will call us out when we need to be taken to task," Johnson explained. They all understand the St. Ambrose Theatre Department and have their own investments in the future of the department and students. "They understand the nurturing of young talent while holding our students to the highest possible standards. That's what they do at their theaters," Johnson described.

Hitchcock is the founder, owner, and artistic director of Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse in Rock Island, Illinois, and has been for 36 years. He lives in the Quad Cities and has benefitted from many St. Ambrose students by hiring them after observing their preparation and work ethic at St. Ambrose. Formerly, he was a professor at Augustana College.

jodiHovland (left) is a freelance director and actor and was the co-founder of Riverside Theatre in Iowa City with her husband, Ron Clark. Clark also is a well-known, professional director who recently guest directed St. Ambrose's production of Richard III. Johnson worked with both Hovland and Clark at Riverside Theatre. Hovland brings years of experience to the Advisory Board, mentoring interns at Riverside Theatre in addition to performing and directing as a professional artist.

bill theisenTheisen is a professional actor, choreographer, director, and the current director of opera at the University of Iowa. He has directed opera all over the U.S. and was the artistic director for the Skylight Opera in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"Theissen comes from a Catholic background and understands the department's spiritual foundation and service to humanity," Johnson said.

Ladies and gentlemen, let's give them a round of applause for all their hard work and support!

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