Ragtime, Nov. 11-14, marks a milestone in theatre department growth

By Janel Shoun on 11/2/2010

  
  

 

 
 
Ragtime, the Musical
Nov. 11-14
Collins Alumni Auditorium
7:30 p.m.
A special sign-interpreted show will be available on Nov. 11.

$15 for the public
$10 for university faculty
$5 for students.

Tickets are available through the
Lipscomb University Box Office
at 615.966.7075
or through Ticketmaster.

For more information, contact
Mindy Fernandez at
 
The debut of Ragtime on the Maybelle Carter Memorial Stage in Collins Alumni Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 11, will mark the latest in a string of milestones for the Lipscomb University School of Fine and Performing Arts in the College of Arts and Sciences.
 
Ragtime will be the third blockbuster musical staged in Collins since Department of Theatre Chair Mike Fernandez came to Lipscomb. In addition to expanding the scope of Lipscomb’s productions over the past two-and-a-half years, Fernandez has worked to expand the theatre faculty, try new formats such as dinner theater productions and outdoor performances and maximize Lipscomb’s connections to local theater artists and companies.
 
His work has paid off, as the department has grown exponentially from a handful of majors to 30 theatre majors and 15 minors in just the past three years. Fernandez now has his sights set on establishing Nashville’s first Master of Fine Arts in Theatre in the next few years.
 
2010 also brought the beginning of a three-year renovation project to Lipscomb’s University Theatre, located in Sewell Hall. This year, additional faculty offices and a student common area were added to the space. Over the next two years, the university plans to renovate the performance space – a black box theater to be used for student showcase performances, the costume and set shops and the exterior of the building.
 
When Lipscomb President L. Randolph Lowry came to the university in 2005, he pledged to support a revitalization of the fine arts programs, saying that “we can’t be an outstanding liberal arts institution without having outstanding art, music and theater programs.”
 
Since 2005, the department of music has received a new facility – the Thomas James McMeen Music Center, two new Steinway pianos and a $1 million endowed chair in piano. The department of art is breaking in a new facility – The James D. Hughes Center, opened Oct. 26 – housing additional studio space for instruction and the John C. Hutcheson Gallery.
 
The theatre department has benefitted by the addition of numerous faculty who are actively involved in the local theater scene. Vali Forrister, co-founder of the Actor’s Bridge Ensemble and David Lipscomb High school alumna;  Beki Baker, education director for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival; and Robin Berg, a local actress, have been hired as adjunct professors.
 
Full-time hires include Jake Harbor as technical director and David Hardy as assistant professor of theatre with a specialty in lighting and set design. Larry Brown, a former Lipscomb theater professor, has returned to the department to teach history of theater.
 
In addition, Lipscomb is serving as the home site for the Blackbird Theater, a professional company dedicated to producing locally created original works. The Blackbird’s founders, alumni Greg Greene and Wes Driver, will serve as additional resources for Lipscomb’s students, offering the opportunity to work behind-the-scenes in a professional production.
 
The theatre department’s growth will be spotlighted Nov. 11-14 when the department presents Ragtime, the Musical, in Collins Alumni Auditorium. Directed by theatre chair Fernandez, Lipscomb’s production will feature local actor Jamal Bakari King, who has appeared in the Tennessee Repertory Theatre’s productions of To Kill A Mockingbird and Big River, and New York professional choreographer Justin Boccitto, who has taught at the Julliard School and directs the Group Theatre Too at the Circle in the Square Playhouse in New York City.

Fifteen African American cast members were selected through Lipscomb's Kappa Iota Theta, a student group dedicated to promoting intercultural relationships and understanding. The musical explores the reality of the “American dream” and various social justice issues that are just as relevant today as they were at the turn of the century, Fernandez said.