Eclipse's DOGFIGHT Provides Home For Emerging Artists

Eclipse's DOGFIGHT Provides Home For Emerging Artists

For fifteen years Summer Stock Stage, a premier educational theatre company in Indianapolis, has provided students ages thirteen to nineteen with an extraordinary performing arts experience. As the company neared its tenth anniversary, artistic director Emily Ristine Holloway saw a chance for Summer Stock to grow -- and a void to fill within the Indianapolis arts community.

"We found there was a shortage of opportunities for young professionals and college students," Holloway said. "There were very few places for them to showcase their talents in a professional setting in Indianapolis." Holloway took this problem to the Summer Stock board and came up with an idea. That idea developed for years as the company grew and eventually manifested in 2017 with the creation of Eclipse, a professional offshoot for Summer Stock alumni.

Eclipse's freshman production "Spring Awakening" played the IndyFringe Basile Theatre in June of 2017. The production opened to rave reviews and brought 11 college students back to Indianapolis for the summer. At the time of its opening, Holloway stressed that "providing professional opportunities for performers who are just embarking on their careers helps attract and retain emerging artists in our community."

On May 31, 2018, Eclipse returns with the central Indiana premiere of the hit musical "Dogfight." From the songwriters behind "La La Land," "The Greatest Showman," and "Dear Evan Hansen," it tells the story of a group of marines who go out for one last night of fun before being deployed to Vietnam. "Dogfight" will feature eleven performers who graduated from central Indiana high schools and attend or attended nine different colleges.

A major highlight for the production comes in the casting of its two leads: Patrick Dinnsen and Leela Rothenberg. Dinnsen and Rothenberg have shared a similar trajectory thus far: They're both Indiana natives and alumni of North Central High School. They both went on to receive degrees in Musical Theatre from Elon University. They both moved to NYC to pursue careers as professional actors. And, most importantly for this production, they both got their theatrical starts at Summer Stock Stage.

In "Dogfight," Dinnsen plays Eddie, a young marine who enlists a sweet girl named Rose, played by Rothenberg, to win a bet with his friends. But when Rose realizes his ploy, she changes the games and teaches Eddie about love and compassion. "It's been amazing to have been a part of Summer Stock Stage, and to go off to college and NYC, and to come back from time to time to see just how much Emily Holloway and the team have done for the arts in Indianapolis," recalls Dinnsen. "Her dedication to fostering young artists and providing opportunities, not just for the actors, but the audiences as well, to experience the high level productions she's able to provide is a priceless addition to the culture of Indianapolis. It makes me proud to be a Hoosier!"

The supporting cast includes 9 current college students, hailing from all over central Indiana, many of whom are being provided their first professional opportunity in theatre. This is true for Hope Fennig, another North Central alum and rising senior at New York University, who made her professional debut last summer in Eclipse's "Spring Awakening." "Eclipse allowed me to have my first professional theatre experience while working with familiar faces that give me happiness and comfort," said Fennig. "The fact that I was able to be learning and gaining a great resume builder, all while being able to spend the summer at home was incredible."

For Isaiah Moore, a rising junior at Butler University, Eclipse sends a message to the Indy arts community. "Eclipse shows other theatre companies in Indy that young artist can be taken seriously if you give them the opportunity," he said. "Eclipse has wholeheartedly trusted its young artists to do the work that's needed, and I'm beyond grateful for this opportunity."

"Dogfight" opens at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre on May 31 and runs until June 17. Tickets for the 12 shows are available at Tickets are $20 opening weekend and $30 for all other performances. Dogfight includes mature content and strong language.

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