Summer Theatre with Sacred Heart’s Repertory Company

From left are TAP members Jordan Norkus, Courtney O’Shea, Edward Feeley, Zachary Lane, Gwen Mileti, Justin Weigel and Dan Murphy. They will perform Avenue Q in the Little Theatre at Sacred Heart University from July 13-30, 2017. Visit edgertoncenter.org for additional information. Photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek 7/13/17

By Jordan Norkus

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Sacred Heart University’s Repertory Theatre Company presented their first-ever Summer Theatre Program this past July.

“It was a chance to fully immerse in theatre for an entire month, which is something I’ve never been able to do,” said senior Edward Feeley.

The month-long event included 12 performances of the Tony Award-winning musical, “Avenue Q,” four outdoor performances of “Macbeth,” the Emerging Artist Series, and New Musical Workshops—resulting in a final tally of 24 shows done in 25 days.

“There was little to no downtime between the shows and rehearsals, which sounded stressful but wound up being really fun,” said Feeley.

An average day for the cast and crew members started at 9 a.m. and ended around 11 p.m. Every day was packed with “Avenue Q” and “Macbeth” rehearsals, reading through new scripts, singing through a new Pre-Broadway musical, workshopping with the two winners of Sacred Heart’s National Playwright Competition, and performing back-to-back shows on the weekends.

“We slept very well at the end of the day,” said senior Zachary Lane.

With so much going on, it was important for everyone involved to manage their time wisely. Memorizing lines and doing the prep work before the month began made the workload easier.

“I had to put my head down and show up to whatever the rehearsals were for the day,” said senior Patrick Robinson. “It needed a full commitment and there was no time to take it lightly.”

Putting on multiple shows at once also meant portraying different characters. According to the cast, each role demanded its own share of creative involvement.

“It was a unique challenge, but one we were all up for,” said Lane. “We all became very good at changing gears after the first couple of days, and it quickly became second nature.”

The challenges didn’t end there. Putting on “Avenue Q” meant introducing a whole new component that the Theatre Arts Program has never done before: puppets.

“Avenue Q” is an R-rated musical that follows a recent college grad and his new-found friends as they find their “purpose” in life. Similar to “Sesame Street,” a majority of the characters are puppets.

“We learned how challenging it was to control these puppets—constantly making sure you’re both looking in the same direction, emoting large enough so the audience can tell how your puppet is thinking and feeling, and making sure puppets don’t upstage anyone,” said sophomore Courtney O’Shea. “It took a lot of practice, but once we started using them everyday, we began to get the hang of it and started to feel very connected to our puppets.”

The production of “Avenue Q” wasn’t the only aspect of Summer Theatre that introduced something new. “Macbeth” was performed outside in the University Commons Amphitheater. The show was free and open to the public, and audience members were encouraged to bring picnic dinners and a bottle of wine.

“The outdoor setting made everything seem a little more epic, especially the fight scenes,” said Feeley.

The cast experienced some challenges performing outside like passing cars and loud crowds nearby. However, they used the outdoor elements to their advantage.

“One aspect of performing outside was that nature incorporated itself into the show,” said sophomore Andrew Peloquin. “The wind, the birds chirping, the sun setting, all of these changed the mood of the show and made it into something so much bigger.”

The Emerging Artist Series was another big feature of Summer Theatre. The company welcomed two high school students who were the winners of Sacred Heart’s National Playwright Competition: Brie Leftwich from West Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Gwendolyn “Wendy” Kuhn from Georgetown, Texas.

“Working with the high school playwrights was a blast. They worked so hard and cared so much about their work,” said Robinson. “It was a great experience for them, but also for us as we had the opportunity to work with young writers and help them in their process.”

When the month was over, the cast and crew felt closer than ever and were proud of what they’ve achieved.

“We became one giant family that put the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional,’ said sophomore Justin Weigel. “We spent every waking hour together for an entire month and laughed and made memories I’ll never forget.”

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