After the success of last year’s first-ever summer theater season, the SHU Rep Company, an advanced group of University thespians and stage crew members, will be back on campus toward the end of June to work on a number of performances, workshops and readings.
They will present the musical Barnum, about the career of Bridgeport’s P.T. Barnum—America’s greatest showman from 1835 to 1881—throughout July in SHU’s Little Theatre. Toward mid-July, they will present Godspell, the family-friendly musical that follows Jesus and his disciples as they form a sense of community.
Like last year, SHU students also will learn and collaborate with pre-Broadway composers and this year’s winner of SHU’s National High School Playwright Competition, all of whom have created unique and new work.
During the four-week program, 10 SHU actors and two SHU crew members will work seven days a week from about 8 a.m. to midnight. “To be a good actor or actress, you have to do this every day. You have to want to improve your craft,” said Jerry Goehring, director of performing arts at SHU.
As a Tony- and Grammy-nominated producer, Goehring understands the drive and passion required to participate in such an intense program. He’s been director of performing arts for 12 years and said he was thrilled last year when the summer program debuted. Goehring said he grew up performing with summer-stock theater programs that involved working on five shows at once. While that model has all but disappeared, he is pleased his program can provide students with a serious approach to theater that gets them learning and acting every day.
“It’s also fun for the high school students to come and see what kind of department we have,” Goehring said, referring to the National Playwright Competition winners. High school students apply for the competition and, if selected, submit their own unique script. The winner spends a week at SHU working with and hearing constructive criticism from the SHU actors, faculty and staff. The student then rewrites the script throughout the week, ending their experience with a public reading of the story by the SHU Summer Rep Company.
In addition to the student thespians’ excitement about summer theater, Goehring said the community is happy to have it as well. “They’re not used to having us here during this time of year, but a lot of people loved it” last year, he said. “They enjoyed coming here and snickering at Avenue Q [last year’s summer production]. They know we produce quality work.”
Goehring said all actors in the summer program audition for their parts. “These are student-driven programs. I’m here to make sure it goes OK, but they drive it,” he said.
For more information on the program’s summer productions, visit the Edgerton Center website.