The energy in the rehearsal area at Cleveland State University is instantly apparent. Actors rush by, loudly discussing the difference between Appalachian accents. The high, lilting voice of a soprano, singing along with a piano, fills the air. They have good reason to be excited. They are preparing for the second season of CSU Summer Stages, the university’s professional repertory theater company, which will present three shows from July 10 through Aug. 10.
But this is not your typical student theater. Summer Stages also employs professionals from Broadway, local theater and film and TV. Everett Quinton, known for his work with the Ridiculous Theatrical Company in New York City, has returned to Summer Stages for a second year to work alongside the students.
“Young actors are so eager,” says Quinton of what he loves about participating in Summer Stages. “I want to be part of that with them.”
Most of the students involved attend CSU and are participating in an apprenticeship for college credit. They work on every aspect of the shows, from acting to set construction. In exchange, they attend workshops held by the guest artists on topics such as Broadway dance techniques and Shakespearean verse.
“To have people of this caliber saying, ‘In addition to performing, I’m also going to teach,’ ” explains Dr. Michael L. Mauldin, director of the Dramatic Arts Program at CSU, “that’swhat this whole thing is about.”
Possibly the most valuable lesson the students learn is their first-hand experience with professional theater. “Any apprentice that goes in there, it’s going to take them really far,” says CSU sophomore John Paul Soto, an actor for one show and assistant director for another. “It’s going to prepare them for actually working under these conditions.” Not too shabby of a deal: Starving college artists get to soak up the expertise of pros just for doing what they love.
And the audience, in turn, gets professionally run shows a bit different from the usual summer fare. Most theaters stage well-known shows to compete with outdoor fairs and festivals, explains Mauldin. Summer Stages does the opposite, presentingDark of the Moon, a love story with witches and Appalachian mountain folk, the farceRough Crossing, and a rock-opera version ofTwo Gentlemen of Verona.
“The shows are very strange choices,” Soto says. “Definitely not the type of shows that are heard about lately, but they’re definitely worth seeing.”
Tickets are available for $15. For more information, call (216) 687-2109 or visit csuohio.edu/theater.