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Theatre Arts: Learning before a live audience

Theatre Arts
In her role as director of the Theatre Arts Department's Mainstage production of "The Promise Keeper," Associate Professor Anita Gonzalez (far left) works with Andrew Barresi '10 (Theatre Arts) and Jo'Lisa Jones ' 11 (Theatre Arts), two members of the 23-student cast rehearsing for a Feb. 28 opening night.

Sitting in the front row of Parker Theatre, Shari Griswold '10 (Theatre Arts) takes notes as Anita Gonzalez, associate professor in the Theatre Arts Department, directs actors in the department's next Mainstage production, "The Promise Keeper," which opens on Feb. 28.

As a director, Gonzalez said she relies on Griswold, her stage manager, for everything from finding props to selecting sound cues.

"There are so many production details," said Gonzalez. "And I'm counting on her to remember them all."

Rehearsals for the drama, which is set in Brazil, began in late January.

Griswold earned the position by performing well in her classes, which cover a broad curriculum, including such topics as theater history, literature and theory. She also moved up the ranks of the various productions. She works closely with her assistant stage manager, Molly Phillips '10 (Theatre Arts).

Frank Trezza, chair of the Theatre Arts Department, said the experience that Gonzalez and Griswold have of working together on a theatrical production is at the heart of the Theatre Arts Department's dedication to providing its students with a dynamic educational experience.

Trezza said students in the program bring their classroom experiences to life on the stage during the academic year through the four to six productions the department puts on each season.

"Our theaters are our laboratories," said Trezza.

The department functions as an academic department by day, but at night, transforms into an independent theater company, according to Trezza. The theatrical season is fastpaced, just like its real world counterpart, and Trezza said that there are usually two plays in varying stages of production - one is close to being ready while the other is just getting started.

While "The Promise Keeper" rehearsals are underway, the department's production of "Our Town," which held auditions at the same time, will begin its rehearsals in mid-February to be ready for its April 24 opening night.

Trezza and the Theatre Arts faculty make an effort to produce varied seasons that mix contemporary and classical works to offer students a chance to experience different types of plays. Trezza said the department usually features a musical every year, a Shakespearean play every other year and Greek play every fourth year.

Trezza said that it is important to expose the department's aspiring thespians and crew members to "models of excellence." To that end both faculty members and other professional theater players work with students. Gonzalez has brought in Stanley Carmichael, a professional lighting designer from New Mexico, and Ken Lauber, a Los Angeles film sound designer, to work on "The Promise Keeper."

For more information about the Theatre Arts Department, visit www.newpaltz.edu/ theatre.