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BWW Blog: Campus Theatre Brings Students Together, Draws Alumni Back - Frosty's World #4

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Active Minds and The Yellow Tulip Project, aim at smashing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

BWW Blog: Campus Theatre Brings Students Together, Draws Alumni Back - Frosty's World #4

It's fun to see the broad influence of student theatre on our entire campus. Spring Awakening, from Duncan Sheik and Steven Sater, is in the middle of a four day virtual run at Baldwin Wallace University. We don't have football on campus this fall, but our fall musical prompted a homecoming for BW Broadway alumni. The rock musical's themes, which deal with young people's emotional struggles and mental illness, inspired a connection with our campus' chapter of Active Minds, the national organization that supports mental health awareness and education.

The campus posters promoting Spring Awakening came with a special twist. The large promotional graphics, featuring a stunning symbolic purple tree, were displayed at multiple campus locations. This year, however, students that passed by added their own art to the posters. Active Minds and The Yellow Tulip Project, aim at smashing the stigma surrounding mental illness; their missions were echoed by students who covered the posters with personalized yellow paper tulips, each inscribed with responses to the question, "What gives you hope?" Steven Sater's words, "In spite of the darkness, life somehow goes on." encourage all of us to find hope and these advocacy organizations remind us that we are never really alone. Macintosh HD:Users:frederickfrost:Desktop:what gives you hope.png

Plastering the Spring Awakening promotional posters with yellow tulips on top of purple trees in the fall season is definitely not botanically correct, but it holds a special meaning for our university students, who are looking at a long, socially isolated winter ahead. Each May, just as finals week finishes at Baldwin Wallace, the campus is covered with beautiful yellow and purple tulips. Finishing your last final exam surrounded by thousands of spring flowers is a joy that can brighten even the rainiest spring day.

Macintosh HD:Users:frederickfrost:Desktop:BW Yellow Flowers.pngThe BW fall musical also inspired campus memories from theater alumni who returned via school sponsored virtual chats hosted by Communications Arts and Sciences Instructor Claudine Grunenwald Kirshner. This year's performance of Spring Awakening is actually a return engagement. The musical was performed by Baldwin Wallace students in collaboration with the professional theater at Beck Center for the Arts in 2012. Three current Broadway performers, Zach Adkins (Melchior), Kyra Kennedy (Wendla) and James Penca (Moritz) each had a virtual campus homecoming, and were introduced to the current BW students performing these roles in the 2020 production.

I'll leave play reviews to the professionals, but I'm quick to say that the November 19 Spring Awakening performance was a thrill to watch. The visuals and sound were flawless and beautiful. All the hard work of the gifted performers and crew that is making this virtual presentation bloom in a pandemic won't be forgotten any time soon.

Homecoming was also the focus of our Baldwin Wallace Arts Management Association Networking Event held last week on Blackboard Collaborative. Students had a chance to interact with BW alumni in breakout sessions and hear their stories. Tabitha Glista described her work at Carnegie Hall, and the long road that led her to a job as performance manager. Cameron Dunbar, an innovative Los Angeles cinematographer specializing in stop motion film, led a frank discussion about the difficult life of free-lance employment. Cleveland Playhouse Square's Vice President of Education Daniel Hahn highlighted the organization's collaboration with the Step Afrika!, fresh off its 2017 Broadway run at the New Victory Theatre. Five Days with Step Afrika will be presented as a streaming event in February 2021, in collaboration with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. This partnership is an important component of Playhouse Square's mission to serve the Cleveland inner-city community. Finally, Los Angeles' musician and composer Braden Pontoli discussed his work as a conductor and educator, collaborating with dance and theater companies across the country. These alumni took different roads when they left our campus in Berea, OH!

Macintosh HD:Users:frederickfrost:Desktop:Stephaine_ Klemons .pngThis national perspective has been supported by the growing popularity of the Zoom chat format in the hands of enthusiastic college students. There are hidden gems all over the Internet for Broadway fans. I found a gem, scoring a visitor invitation to the Ohio State University Hillel Foundation's recent presentation of the Inside the Room where it Happened featuring Broadway performer and choreographer Stephanie Klemons. She serves as the Associate Choreographer and Global Dance Supervisor of Hamilton. Of course, every fan boy and girl on the chat wanted to get some good backstage gossip about their favorite show. Klemons talked about how long and physically demanding the show was on the performers, and about the astonishment that each of them felt when the show became a global hit. What was her advice for college students? "Don't take any advice and don't give any advice!" Klemons described her search to find open career doors, her unusual choice of a college major in Genetics and Microbiology at Rutgers University, and her battle to juggle family and work life as a young mother. Thanks, OSU Hillel, for letting me crash the event!

Macintosh HD:Users:frederickfrost:Desktop:Laura With Tulips.pngThe fall semester is drawing to a close. Thanksgiving and holiday break are going to be unusual this year, for obvious reasons. What gives you hope? I'm wishing you lots of Baldwin Wallace University yellow tulips in your future!


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From This Author Student Blogger: Laura Frost