When online theater guide BroadwayWorld.com announced that Sacred Heart University students had received a stunning 17 nominations for the past year’s productions, the immediate assumption was that those nominations were in the “High School/College/Education” category—an achievement that would have been impressive in its own right.
Such was not the case.
As it turns out, all those nominations were in professional categories, alongside performances and productions at such powerhouse regional theaters as Westport Country Playhouse, Long Wharf Theater and Hartford Stage, as well as graduate repertory programs like Yale Rep and Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the University of Connecticut. Indeed, Sacred Heart is the only undergraduate program in the state to join the ranks of the professionals in the nominations.
While the nominations represent significant recognition of the professional-grade quality of SHU’s undergraduate theater work, they are only the latest accolade the program has received. The Princeton Review currently ranks Sacred Heart in its list of only 20 best college theaters in the US, a ranking that is all the more astonishing when considering that the program is only in its seventh year of existence.
Jerry Goehring, SHU’s director of performing arts, credits the department’s success to the strength of its faculty. “Other places have so much in the way of facilities,” he says, “but we have the people.”
Indeed, they do. Goehring himself is the Tony- and Grammy-nominated producer of the Broadway musical adaptation of A Christmas Story, which Time magazine listed as one of the top 10 shows of 2012 and USA Today named the best musical of 2012. He is currently the lead producer for the upcoming 2018 Broadway revival of The Secret Garden. His faculty and staff include a cadre of veteran Broadway, off-Broadway and regional theater producers, musical directors and conductors, actors, choreographers and technicians, giving SHU students first-hand access to top-tier professionals.
“We focus on the work and on new creation,” Goehring says. Thus, a particular source of pride is that two of BroadwayWorld’s nominations are for new plays originating at the University—Gwen Mileti’s Seven Deadly Skeins and Dan Murphy’s Fault Lines, both recognized in the “Best Connecticut Playwright” category.
The regional and national buzz doesn’t distract the theater program’s director from his mission of finding and cultivating young, new talent. He accepts the “tip of the hat” with some pride on behalf of his team, then looks forward to the next project. Sacred Heart will again host the National High School Playwright Competition next summer, and scripts are arriving in the lead-up to the Jan. 1 deadline. The project grants select high school students the opportunity to work on their plays with the University’s producing team and performers for a full week, culminating in a public performance.
Goehring is thrilled that his successful program has brought attention to Sacred Heart and to Fairfield. “It’s nice to see people paying attention to what we’re doing here,” he says. “I think we’ve taken a lot of people by surprise.”
2017 BroadwayWorld Connecticut Awards – Best Actor in a Musical
Zach Lane / Tick Tick Boom
Henry Solomon, Jr. / Jesus Christ Superstar
Devin Towne / Jesus Christ Superstar
2017 BroadwayWorld Connecticut Awards – Best Actor in a Play
Patrick Robinson / Doubt: A Parable
Patrick Robinson / Comedy of Errors
Patrick Robinson / The Tempest
Patrick Robinson / Spoon River Anthology
Patrick Robinson / Macbeth
2017 BroadwayWorld Connecticut Awards – Best Actress in a Musical
Julia Vezza / Tick Tick Boom
2017 BroadwayWorld Connecticut Awards – Best Actress in a Play
Katherine Horne / Spoon River Anthology
Jordan Norkus / Doubt: A Parable
Jordan Norkus / Spoon River Anthology
Jordan Norkus / Macbeth
2017 BroadwayWorld Connecticut Awards – Best Connecticut Playwright
Gwen Mileti / Seven Deadly Skeins
Dan Murphy / Fault Lines
2017 BroadwayWorld Connecticut Awards – Best Costume Design
Nicole Jablonski / Jesus Christ Superstar
2017 BroadwayWorld Connecticut Awards – Best Younger Actor (under age 25)
Patrick Robinson / Macbeth
Here is the link to the voting standings: