For most college students, summer vacation is a break from what they’re studying. It is a time to relax, earn some extra money or take a trip. For some, however, summer provides an opportunity to further their studies out in the real world.
For students interested in fine arts, summer is a great time for summer stock, summer theatre and opera. Several Ouachita students took advantage of summer opportunities from coast to coast, working in settings ranging from Los Angeles to North Carolina.
In Los Angeles this summer, senior Elisabeth Hipp, a vocal performance major from Memphis, Tenn., participated in the Opera Works program.
“Here in L.A., I worked with professionals in private coachings, movement and yoga, acting and improvisation,” Hipp noted. “This program is a place where, as an artist, you grow as an entire person, not only vocally, which I did.” Hipp’s opera training paid off when she originated the role of Bianca in the International Opera Company’s world premiere of “La Bisbetica” in Citta della Pieve, Italy.
Seventeen hours down the road from Los Angeles is Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the United States. Two Ouachita students, Ashley Partridge, a senior musical theatre major from Baton Rouge, La., and Jody Lee, a senior music and theatre arts double major from Arlington, Texas, worked in the canyon area. Partridge was a scenic artist and props master and Lee played Abel Tatum in “Texas: A Musical Drama.” Lee also played Leonato in the Texas Players production of “Much Ado about Nothing” and was the stunt captain of the Texas Fire Stunt Team. He was set on fire more than 15 times.
“The theatre faculty at OBU provided me with the skill to find a job in the field of theatre through classes and one-on-one training,” Lee said. “They provide a knowledge of how to not only perform but also how to collaborate with fellow artists.”
The next summer stop for Ouachita students was the greater Dallas area. Katie Willhite, a senior theatre arts and Christian studies double major from Rowlett, Texas, was filmed in a commercial for Iamsecond, a Christian organization based in Dallas, and was in an independent film, “Wuss!” Cessany Ford, a senior theatre arts major from Paragould, Ark., interned and stage-managed for the Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne, Texas.
“It helped me grow professionally,” Ford said. “It was a wonderful experience, and I can’t wait to return.
Moving out of Texas state and into familiar Arkansas territory, the next summer stop is Little Rock. Kathryn Kellogg and Moriah Patterson performed in “Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical.” Kellogg, a junior musical theatre and mass communications double major from Sherwood, Ark., was a tribe member and dance captain, and Patterson, a junior musical theatre and education double major from Sheridan, Ark., was a tribe member. Both could be seen twirling in the sun with beads, flowers, freedom and happiness.
The next region on the summer tour was a trip to the foothills of the Ozark Mountains where Katie Edenfield, a senior vocal performance major from Fort Worth, Texas, had the opportunity to perform with Opera in the Ozarks. The troupe performed three operas: “Carmen,” “Tosca” and “Don Giovanni.”
“It was a really cool thing to get to be a part of,” Edenfield said. “I got to be a part of the ragazzi chorus for ‘Carmen’ and ‘Tosca’ and was one of the peasant girls in ‘Don Giovanni.’ I was also given the part of the shepherd in Tosca.”
North to Missouri, Jacob Watson, a senior musical theatre major from Wynne, Ark., was barrel turning his heart out in “Guys and Dolls.” He performed as Scranton Slim/The Master of Ceremonies at Missouri State University’s Tent Theatre.
“It was an unbelievable experience and it was my first professional acting job,” Watson said. “It was an incredible summer! The show also received overwhelmingly great reviews and we played to a sold-out house every single night.”
Watson also began his candidacy for the Actors’ Equity Union. “Actors’ Equity Union is a necessary part of being a professional actor,” Watson said. “I am officially considered an EMC which is Equity Membership Candidate, and it shows professional theatres my ability to work in a completely professional environment.”
Some 16 hours away in North Carolina, Andrew Miller performed at the Brevard Music Festival. “It is a pre-professional training program that focuses on opera,” said Miller, a junior vocal performance major from Dalworthington Gardens, Texas. “We did three full operas and one musical in the two months we were there. There was also a night of scenes, a concert of arias and many private concerts including Bach cantatas.”
The musical performed was “Tintypes.” The three operas were “Die Fledermaus,” “Marriage of Figaro” and “Pirates of Penzance” in which Miller played the Major General.
From coast to coast, Ouachita students performed this summer in locations scattered 3,000 miles across the nation. Each student took away unforgettable stories, memories and experiences. They built new friendships, met future co-workers, started their careers and had the opportunity to do what they loved and what they are being trained to do – create.
By Kathryn Kellogg