Concordia University's theater arts students are busy preparing to present three virtual productions this fall, including the Christmas classic, "It's A Wonderful Life," as a virtual zoom radio play.
Joining students in the casts will be 10 administrators, faculty and staff making cameo appearances, including President Dr. Patrick T. Ferry who has a small role in “A Christmas Carol” and will lend his voice to one of the live radio commercials in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
“Much of my apprehension about transitioning to a virtual season of productions has been alleviated,” said Theater Director Lori Woodall-Schaufler, MFA, who was extremely pleased to receive 31 video acting auditions from students and 21 singing auditions over a five day period in mid-September for these shows:
- A Tribute to Singer-Songwriters
- “It’s A Wonderful Life”
- A Christmas Carol Radio Play, performed on WCUW Radio
“We had a tremendous response and all 31 who auditioned will participate,” said Woodall-Schaufler, who possesses more than 30 years of professional theater and teaching experience. An additional 15 students will be helping behind the scenes on the crew.
Students cast in “A Tribute to Singer-Songwriters” are: Marlia King, Giovanna Greco, Andrew Sear, Johnathan Robertson, Emma Fritz, Olivia Zimmermann, Shea Petersen, Aidan O’Donnell, Avrielle Schneider, Jackson Bowen, Cassidy Mertzig, Luke Hahn, Saylor Alberts, Olivia Crooks, Ardis White, Olivia Walters, Aaron Jackson, Elizabeth Beisel, Macee Goehmann, Jacob Tietyen and Eden Nass.
Theatre alumni participating are: Lianna Brice, Jonathon Gideon, Jonah McGinnis, Asher Puls, Angela Penterman, Joe Gallo, Chelsea Taylor, Courtney Richards, Stephanie Bongard, Lauren Simek, Anna Kolander, and Katie Vazquez, while faculty involved are Dr. Brian Harries, and Woodall-Schaufler.
Students who’ll be performing in “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol” are: Marlia King, Giovanna Greco, Andrew Sear, Johnathan Robertson, Emma Fritz, Olivia Zimmermann, Aidan O’Donnell, Avrielle Schneider, Jackson Bowen, Cassidy Mertzig, Luke Hahn, Saylor Alberts, Olivia Crooks, Ardis White, Olivia Walters, Aaron Jackson, Elizabeth Beisel, Jacob Tietyen, Eden Nass, Macee Goehmann, Noah Merz, Kendall Lotto, Esther Engwall, Kaden Torres, Ryan Murray, Joshua Barclay, Mikayla Amack, Joshua Davis, and Magdalena Horn.
In addition to Ferry, nine other administrators, faculty or staff will make surprise cameo appearances in the two Christmas shows.
Special guests include: Miranda Mumme, age 9, playing “Zuzu” in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (the daughter of theology professor Dr. Jonathan Mumme); Ryan Schaufler, playing Ebeneezer Scrooge (the husband of Woodall-Schaufler); and John Hefter and Ethan Boester, pianist and guitarist for “Tribute,” respectively. Our Redeemer Lutheran Church’s Contemporary Worship Praise Team, directed by alumnae Katea On’gera, will also be a part of “Tribute.”
“These truly will be all-around Concordia family celebrations,” said Woodall-Schaufler.
A Tribute to Singer-Songwriters is being filmed in four days and students will rehearse with Woodall-Schaufler several times via Zoom before it begins live streaming November 7. Links to all of the shows can be found on the Department of Theater web page. “We worked on the music of singer-songwriters in my last Musical Theater and Dance class and they really enjoyed it. I also thought our audiences would find music to be healing during these times of so much unrest.” Music will span the greats of the 1950’s up to today, according to Woodall-Schaufler, giving all generations a chance to enjoy their favorite music.
“It’s A Wonderful Life is such a feel good story and seemed right for this time,” said Woodall-Schaufler. “Many people have been examining their lives, what is dear to them, what needs to change and counting blessings. The pandemic has invited this perspective, and so taking a journey with George Bailey through his life seemed so appropriate.”
It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic 1946 American Christmas fantasy film that starred Jimmy Stewart as Bailey, based on the 1943 short story and booklet, The Greatest Gift, which was published as a book a year later.
Campus radio station WCUW will be the venue for “A Christmas Carol Radio Play.” It will begin airing after Thanksgiving weekend, continuing through mid-December. “We are reimagining the 1939 recording of it, and we’ll incorporate fun, time-period commercials,” said Woodall-Schaufler. “This holiday classic is meant to lift the spirits, get us all reflecting on what is dear to us, and get us in the Christmas mood.”
Woodall-Schaufler also plans on producing a series of 5-10 minute, virtually recorded Zoom plays based on classic pieces by Hans Christian Anderson, Louisa May Alcott, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, O. Henry and Lucy Wheelock for interested schools or home school groups after Thanksgiving for a freewill offering.
Concordia University’s theater arts program affords students an opportunity to develop their talents amongst a supportive and caring community.
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