It's the role of a summer: Working six seven-hour days a week for six weeks to create two stage productions from the ground up, then presenting those shows at home and on the road.
Eleven Central Michigan University students are spending their spring and summer this way at CMU's
Bush Theatre as part of the
Summer Theatre company.
"It's as close to a professional experience as an undergraduate student can get," said Steven Berglund, director of
University Theatre. "They are involved in every aspect there is."
The students do it all, from acting to building sets, creating costumes, designing sound effects, assistant directing and more.
"If you talk to alumni … Summer Theatre is the most significant educational experience they had while at Central." - Steven Berglund, director of theater
Creating a company
Joining the company is a serious commitment, and the selection process includes an audition and interview. Students who are selected receive a scholarship stipend to pay for their summer expenses and are enrolled in TAI 590 to earn credit toward their degrees.
Intensive vetting is essential, because each person must fill a variety of roles for each play.
"We need a mix of people who can do different things," Berglund said. "When you put together a theater company, you need people who can run lights, design sound, do technical work, as well as act."
A student may act in one play and perform a more technical role for the other. Scott Henze, a
theater double major from Shelby Township, Michigan, plays the role of a character named Kirk Douglas in "The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby" and works as the wardrobe director for "Self-Help." Both comedies are by playwright Norm Foster.
Theresa Polgar, a
broadcast and cinematic arts student from Sterling Heights, Michigan, performs the role of Melanie in "Kooshog Lake" and operates the sound board for "Self-Help."
Students work on measurements for costume creation.
Splitting up the work
The company spends three-and-a-half hours in the mornings working on one play, then three-and-a-half hours in the afternoons on the other.
Time not on stage is spent painting sets, organizing props or sifting through costumes looking for the right pieces to make a character come alive.
Though Henze plans to pursue professional acting after he graduates, he finds one of his favorite parts of the company thus far has been working with University Theatre Costume Designer Ann Dasen.
"I really like putting the costumes together on a form," Henze said. "It's really gratifying to see the character come to life like that."
For Polgar, being able to try different things is the top of her favorites list.
"I've never acted before, never actually worked in the costume shop, never done a lot of set construction," Polgar said. "It lets the students in the company become really well-rounded in theater."
A significant educational experience
After six weeks of hard work, the company will debut both shows in four Bush Theatre performances June 21-24.
After the curtain falls June 24, members of the company will pack sets, costumes and themselves into trucks and take their show on the road to the Beaver Island Community Center Theatre for two shows July 5 and 6 before returning to Bush Theatre for four final performances July 12-15.
"If you talk to alumni, almost all of them who have done summer theater have said the same thing," Berglund said: "Summer Theatre is the single most significant educational experience they had while at Central."
Showtimes at Bush Theatre
- "The Great Kooshog Lake Hollis McCauley Fishing Derby" — 7:30 p.m. June 22, July 12 and July 14 and 2 p.m. June 24.
- "Self-Help" — 7:30 p.m. June 21, June 23 and July 13 and 2 p.m. July 15.
CMU Ticket Central
for more information on the upcoming theater schedule.