Summer Theatre Program Helps Bring Community and the University Together
Every year, the School of Performing Arts and the College of Arts & Letters showcase Southeast Idaho's talent in their Summer Theatre productions. Each production features various members of the community and ISU in classic plays, including Honk! The Musical, The King and I, and
This year, the Summer Theatre brought Oliver! to Southeast Idaho and showed the Valley how talented our community is.
"Our community took this script and pulled it right off of the page," said Diana Livingston Friedley, director of Oliver! and ISU music professor. "Our cast did an incredible job of making this play come to life."
The cast for Oliver! included 61 members, ranging in ages from six to 80, and an 11-piece orchestra. The cast included elementary school students, ISU professors and current students, and community members. The main character, Oliver, was played by Alex Jones, an 11-year-old student at Grace Lutheran School. This is the third play that Alex has been in, all of which were Summer Theatre productions. Alex's mom and sister were also in Oliver!
"Summer Theatre is valuable in a number of ways," said Elissa Jones, Alex's mother. "Actors are exposed to different music, have the opportunity to be around stellar actors, perform with live music, and learn from great directors."
Stephanie Ripley played the role of Nancy. Livingston Friedley said she first saw Ripley perform as Mary Poppins at the former Mystique Theatre. Livingston Friedley thought "Wow, she would make a great Nancy" and was excited when Ripley tried out for the role.
Another example of a cast member is Geoffrey Bennett was a full-time instructor for the College of Technology, who played the role of Fagin. This was the second time Bennett had played this role. Before teaching at ISU, he was a professional actor for 25 years. He was excited to be a part of Summer Theatre and perform alongside his son.
Livingston Friedley said another great thing about this cast was that many of the kids played in her first Summer Theatre production of The King and I two years ago. "It was fun to see how these actors have grown up and have them participate in another performance," she said.
The production team for Oliver! included several ISU faculty members and community members including Geoffrey Friedley, Lauralee Zimmerly, Shaun Nichols, Tara Young, Zach Jelke, and Johnie Rankin. Livingston Friedley said she couldn't have directed the play without the help of the production team.
Over 1,700 people filled the Stephens Performing Arts Center to see the performances. These theatre-goers included seniors in assisted living centers and students in area after-school programs who were able to attend a special performance before the opening.