Summer theatre entertains and educates

Appalachian State University's Department of Theatre and Dance began a new endeavor this year: summer community classes and a Front of the Curtain Festival, performed in August. Some participants of the acting workshops were cast in the festival's productions.

The Front of Curtain Festival's performances of "Mousetrap," "Promises" and "Spit Like a Big Girl"—all literally performed in front of Valborg Theatre's stage curtain—engaged the community in a new way while providing learning opportunities for students outside the regular school year.

Organizers consider it a big success. They're already planning next year's lineup, which likely includes a commercially popular play, a dance concert and an original theatre work.

Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" opened this year's festival. The cast included current theater and dance faculty and staff. Auditions were held for parts and those who understudied for the production received roles in later productions.

"'Mousetrap'" was a big help in getting people in, which brought even more people in for the other performances," said Derek Gagnier, associate professor and director of the festival.

The second performance was a faculty dance concert, which featured new and reconstructed work from current theater and dance faculty and emeriti. The performance also featured pieces danced to live music performed by community members.

Associate professor and author Joel Williams' play "Promises" was the third festival event. Faculty emeritus Ed Pilkington directed the reading and facilitated a discussion following the reading. Students who understudied for "Mousetrap" were cast for this play.

The final performance, "Spit Like a Big Girl," was written and performed by Clarinda Ross, Appalachian alumna and Actors Equity Association guest artist.

The Department of Theatre and Dance also held community classes and workshops on theater and dance throughout the summer. These included Cre8tive Drama Dance Camp, Appalachian Actors Studio, an open summer dance class series, and Now and Next: Dance Mentoring Project. The dance classes have been offered in previous summers, but the acting classes were new this year.

Theatre and Dance at Appalachian

Appalachian's Department of Theatre and Dance offers B.A. degrees in dance studies and theatre arts, and a B.S. in theatre arts education. It also offers minors in theatre or dance and a wide variety of courses that fulfill general education requirements in wellness and the humanities. The department's programs are accredited by The National Association of Schools of Theatre, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.