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Theatre Students Take to the Boards in Nova Scotia
By Professor Roger Ellis, Theatre Program in the School of Communications
A group of six Theatre students hit road north in Spring/Summer session to present their stage work to audiences in Canadas Maritime Provinces at the 10th biennial Liverpool International Theatre Festival. The event featured troupes from North America alongside global touring companies. Hosted by the Nova Scotia Drama Association, LITF offered fourteen performances, six workshops, school residencies, daily adjudication responses, and exciting social events.
The Liverpool Fest is a biennial celebration that has been growing in popularity since 1992, and is one of the world's most prestigious amateur theatre festivals. To many who have visited this charming celebration over the decades, it is unique among other fests in the size of its local audiences who turn out in large numbers to attend the plays and who also accommodate foreign visitors in their homes. This years LITF hosted productions from Algeria, the United States, Italy, Canada, the Czech Republic and Wales. Performances were held in Liverpool's historic 1902 Astor theatre, as well as in local K-12 schools.
The six GVSU students toured in Fall 2009 with the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festivals Bard to Go players, prior to receiving the invitation to Canada. Each year, Grand Valley Shakespeare produces a fifty-minute collage of scenes that travels for a month to K-12 audiences around Michigan. And for the past decade, the University's Shakespeare Festival has responded to numerous invitations from abroad inviting CLAS students to present work in international venues. Sponsored by the Padnos Center, the School of Communications, CLAS, and other campus organizations, student actors have also presented their work in Jamaica, China, and Italy.
The Liverpool Festival places special emphasis on performance outreach by scheduling tours to local schools. Three separate shows were offered this year for elementary, middle school children, and senior high school students. In fact, this season LITF invited two special youth performance troupes to serve young both young audiences in special shows as well as to present work to the general public on the mainstage program. The Bard-to-Go company from Grand Valley Shakespeare presented a collage of love scenes from Shakespeare's plays entitled LOVESTRUCK.
Students contributed a portion to the overall expenses. The rest of their expenses were paid through a generous special grant from the Padnos International Center, grants from Integrative Learning, the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival, and fundraising that the students themselves did through benefit performances. Karen Libman solicited all the funds and arranged for their transportation. Sally Langa was responsible for getting them packed and to the airport. Ben Cole, their director, remounted the show and made sure they were ready to go. Roger Ellis met the students in Nova Scotia and made the initial contact and solicited the invitation. The group of five actors and a stage manager included Ann Dilworth, Darion Murchison, Kat Lee, Aaron Sohaski, Jill Zwarensteyn, and Maureen O'Brien. They were led by Dr. Roger Ellis, founding director of GV Shakespeare and faculty member in the School of Communications, who arranged the tour for the Grand Valley students. Ellis was also presenting one of the performance workshops for the international participants, and representing the International Amateur Theatre Association where he chairs the Artistic Development Committee.
The students spent six days presenting work, participating in workshops and public talkbacks of the plays, in addition to enjoying social events and local tours of the Nova Scotian seacoast.
A short video documentary of students on the Bard-to-Go's 2008 tour to China can be found on the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival website: www.gvsu.edu/shakes.