Indiana State University theater talents are making an impact on Lincoln, Nebraska.
Dr. Arthur Feinsod, ISU emeritus theater faculty and former Artistic Director of Crossroads Repertory Theatre, is directing the production of Our Town at the only fully professional theater company in the state of Nebraska, the Nebraska Repertory Theatre.
ISU Department of Theater graduates Charles Adams and Andy Park are also involved with the production. Park, who graduated in 2000, serves as the Artistic Director of Nebraska Repertory Theatre, and Adams, who graduated in 2014, is an actor and writer who plays the role of Simon Stimson, the town’s alcoholic choirmaster.
“While working on this production with a full company and doing so live in-person has been grand both here [Lincoln] and New York [for music workshops],” Adams said, “to me, the most meaningful aspect of this has been getting to collaborate with Arthur. He was my mentor during my ISU days…We understand how the other works and there is a true collaboration that takes place between us. You don’t find that often and people recognize that.”
Said Park: “I remain very proud of the education I received at ISU, and the chance to work with Arthur and Charles reinforces how important it is for artists to go to a successful theater program like ISU for college. Not only did I develop the skills to pursue my career choice, but I built lasting relationships with faculty and alumni that I continue to nurture.”
The production will present a reimagined version of Thornton Wilder’s 1938 play with new music by New York-based Craig Woerz, a former student of Feinsod at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. It is arranged by Charlie Alterman, conductor and music director of the Broadway revivals of Pippin and Godspell, and the first production of Next to Normal on Broadway. It is orchestrated by Jonathan Dinklage, first violinist and concert master of Hamilton on Broadway.
“Thornton Wilder writes in a preface to Our Town that his play ‘is not offered as a picture of life in a New Hampshire village.’ Nor is our production,” Feinsod wrote on his director’s note. “Our contemporary Stage Manager imagines what an early-twentieth-century Grover’s Corners might have looked like if it could have become truly inclusive and diverse, with no religious, racial, or ethnic intolerance or bias-based restrictions standing in the way of its formation, eventual appearance and daily operation. Our Stage Manager achieves – and offers us a glimpse into – a vision of humanity that lies beneath culture and individual difference.”
Feinsod, chair of the ISU Theater Department from 2001 to 2009, says this is a feather-in-the-cap for the ISU Theater Department and provides a glimpse of the successes of its graduates.
“I still cherish my education at ISU,” Park said. “My time in the ISU Theater program was transformational. I developed practical storytelling skills and the confidence required to go forth and fight for what I want. I’ve had the privilege to create and produce theater around the country and the world, and I never would have had the success or the learned how to pick myself up after a failure without the foundation of my training at ISU.”
Our Town opens on April 15 and runs through April 24. The production is dedicated to the late Trinidadian director/playwright Tony Hall, Feinsod’s friend who directed productions for the Crossroads Repertory Theatre, ISU Department of Theater’s summer program. Hall co-taught playwriting with Feinsod for a couple of years at Trinity College before following him to ISU and Crossroads Rep with his own musical, The Lucky Diamond Horseshoe Club, which Hall directed in Terre Haute. Hall later returned to Crossroads to stage Feinsod’s play, Table 17.
“Arthur’s vision for Our Town is a powerful reminder about how deeply we’re connected,” Park said. “We are in a season of divisiveness where folks seem to emphasize our differences over our commonalities. Our Town, as we’re presenting it on the Nebraska Rep stage, is a powerful reminder about the opportunity we have to love, embrace and support everyone in the community.”