Omaha Area Youth Orchestras: Love at First Hear
<p><span>Aviva Segall has always been passionate about music. Hearing the cello for the first time as a little girl, she remembered that “I got up and started screaming, ‘I want to play that one, mommy!’ It was love at first hear.”</span></p><p><span>For the past 20 years, as Music Director and Principal Conductor at Omaha Area Youth Orchestras (OAYO), Segall has been hearing the beautiful sound of other young people discovering music. The program serves 550 musicians annually, ages eight to 18, in Omaha, Council Bluffs and surrounding areas. It reaches more than 100 schools and 29 school districts. Now in its 60th season, OAYO has grown to six orchestras (“four orchestras by audition and two by teacher recommendation”) and 18 chamber music ensembles. All provide high-level musical instruction and such performance opportunities as concerts and outreach events. And: “We occasionally have a new music ensemble, and our conductor for that is our alumnus, Vimbayi Kaziboni, who was the assistant conductor for the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris and is now the new music conductor at Boston Conservatory at Berklee.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/12107753_880688532008474_4085583307009051999_n-1.jpg" width="960" height="639" /></p><p><span>OAYO started as a combined effort of the Omaha Symphony Guild and the public schools, said Segall. “The goal,” she added, “was for the schools to enable more advanced musicians to perform great works of classical literature, inspire musicians to advance and to bring back musical leadership skills to their school orchestras.” In addition, it was thought that being a member of OAYO would inspire the young musicians to appreciate the Omaha Symphony, creating both the artists and the audiences of the future.</span></p><p><span>To strengthen this bond, “We have two side-by-side rehearsals and a side-by-side concert every year with our top group, Youth Symphony, and the Omaha Symphony. Maestro Thomas Wilkins, Music Director of the Omaha Symphony (and principal conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra) conducts most of that concert. </span></p><p><span>“The Omaha Symphony also does two side-by-side rehearsals with our second orchestra, Youth Philharmonic,” Segall added. “Our youngest string group, Youth Concert Strings does a side-by-side with the string players of our top group, Youth Symphony. It allows our Youth Symphony strings to close the loop, being both mentors and mentees!”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/1378334_528593917217939_820938525_n.jpg" width="720" height="960" /></p><p><span>Since joining OAYO, Segall has added orchestras and have expanded the chamber music offerings. An ambitious impresario, she is always busy adding and tweaking; but also, when necessary, accommodating. “We just try to do the right thing for our musicians and our community. Depending on the needs of the community, we have expanded some programs in the past,” she said. However, “we are in the process of re-evaluating our programs to better fit the changing music education landscape. Young musicians have busier and busier lives, so we are trying to make sure that their experience with us fits in with their primary commitment to their schools. We have been switching our schedule to have more ‘events’ that can be optional for our high school musicians at busy times during their school year.” Especially with OAYO’s entry level Prelude programs, “We are trying to figure out how to make sure they are offered in places and times that work with student needs, especially transportation needs.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/543105_275462325864434_1724930719_n.jpg" width="720" height="479" /></p><p><span>Segall draws inspiration from Maestro José Abreu, the founder of Venezuela’s El Sistema children’s music project. “José Abreu (who passed away this March) talked about the orchestra as the ideal society. In short, all the qualities you expect to find in the ideal citizen are refined and polished through practice, rehearsal and performance in an orchestral musician. Those include knowing when to lead and when to follow, how to take responsibility for your own part so you can contribute to the good of the whole, when your voice is the most important and most importantly, when it is time to step back and listen to others.”</span></p><p><span>OAYO enjoys a great deal of community support. “We have fabulous community partners,” she said, listing “public schools, professional arts organizations and other community partners. All parents volunteer three times in a season; we also have been lucky to have wonderful staff and board members. We go for the win-win-win in every partnership. ”</span></p><p><span>This year, for example, “We had a Veteran’s Day concert at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum. There was a fighter plane in the concert space!” In situations like these, “If our students have a great experience and our partners get their goals in a collaboration met - and we have the capacity to do it - it is a good partnership.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/1817_604902432920420_578176019_n.jpg" width="960" height="686" /></p><p><span>OAYO has been with Ludus for about two years. Ludus was selected, according to Segall, “as the least expensive, most adaptable option that ‘talks to Charms’” - the predominant office assistant software used by schools for their extracurricular programs. “We still need to figure out how to make it work with Charms better and need to figure out the season ticket packages more effectively, said Segall, “but we had some staff turnover….”</span></p><p><span>Segall has more wishes, such as performance venues that are less expensive and in which “ we could have more rehearsals!” She also wishes for “a composer in residence and could commission pieces for all of our orchestras and chamber music groups every single year. Especially pieces that the groups could perform together.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/1044912_479592238784774_1730842124_n.jpg" width="720" height="480" /></p><p><span>She loves what alumni like Kaziboni and William Welter, the new principal oboe of the Chicago Symphony, have achieved. “We have a number of other professional musicians, but also teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors, etc! I am very proud of all of our alumni! The best thing is to see the children of alumni in our program!”</span></p><p><span>Most of all: “I love my job! I always say if you want to have faith in the future of this country, all you have to do is spend three minutes with any one of the fabulous young musicians in OAYO!”</span></p><p>If you’re in the Omaha area, and are interested in attending one of OAYO’s concerts, check out their Ludus portal at <a draggable="false" href="https://oayo.ludus.com/index.php">oayo.ludus.com</a>.</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/31944340_1663593583717961_4381688887639015424_n.jpg" width="720" height="960" /></p>
Hermantown High School: Life Needs Drama
<div title="Page 1"><div><div><div title="Page 1"><div><div><p>Theater has always been an important part of the Hermantown High School student experience. “There has been a Drama Club at Hermantown since the school was formed in 1942,” said Musical Director Ken Ahlberg. He would know: For nearly half that time, Ahlberg himself has been part of Hermantown’s performing tradition; first as a student in the 1980s, then as a teacher, starting in 1994. Today, with nearly 700 9-12K students, Ahlberg estimates that 100 of those are involved in the Drama Club each year, which currently puts on one full musical, one dramatic production, and a competitive one act each year. “We have recently tried an evening of student-directed one acts,” said Ahlberg, “hoping to have the plays include student-written plays.” (There is a special focus on one-act plays because, since 1970, Hermantown has participated in the statewide one-act play competition that’s overseen by the Minnesota State High School League.)</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/36786089794_6c50c4b28d_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1356" /></p><p>Considering that Hermantown lists 30 extracurricular activities (from Alpine Skiing to Wrestling), having one in seven students involved in theater is impressive. Flexibility is key to student participation, said Ahlberg. “The percentage of our actors and crew who are also varsity athletes is very high. I think the biggest reason we are able to get nearly 20% participation is that we welcome all students to audition, then work our rehearsal schedule around the students’ activities. It makes it a bit challenging to come up with a rehearsal calendar, but it allows all students to try out, even if they are in other activities.”</p><p>Some of the students are versatile talents and have demonstrated presence of mind under pressure: “We have had some goofy events where smoke detectors set off the fire alarms during You Can't Take It With You,” remembered Ahlberg, “but my absolute favorite moment was during The Drowsy Chaperone, during the Man in the Chair's monologue where he complains about cell phones in the theater. During this one performance, a patron's cell phone began ringing! Our Man in the Chair improvised a few lines that couldn't have been planned. Robert Martin would have loved it, I'm sure.”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/37447002576_0faf8fc1ab_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1536" /></p><p>Since 1999, Ahlberg has been directing the school’s musicals - with the occasional non-musical thrown in. “I have always wanted to direct a Sondheim show, and this fall we are producing Into the Woods, so I am very excited!” Some previous personal favorites include The Light in the Piazza, Les Miserables, The Drowsy Chaperone, Urinetown, Pippin, Little Women, Guys and Dolls and Man of La Mancha.</p><p>And, for a school that does not offer a theater curriculum, a surprising number of its alumni go on to work in theater. In fact, there is a student who is currently doing online school because he is also “doing eight shows a week in Newsies at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, along with an HHS alumnus,” said Ahlberg.</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/36825099573_24112fb8f9_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1536" /></p><p>“We have a surprisingly large number of students who become theater majors, and make their career on and about the stage,” he added. “We have an alumnus who is now a costume designer in New York City, who had the great fun of dressing Chita Rivera in The Visit. Another alumnus is touring in the band with the performing artist M. Ward. We have several working actors and instrumentalists all around the country. We are extremely proud of our Equity actor Shad Olsen!” Ahlberg noted that Olsen was in his 7th-grade choir when he started teaching.</p><p>But for Ahlberg, theater was always an easy choice. “I have always been involved with plays,” said Ahlberg, admitting that “my dad made a stage in our basement, complete with curtain, where my next-door neighbor and I put on plays that our families would have to come and watch.” In college, however, Ahlberg discovered the joy of directing. “I have been onstage as an actor a number of times over the past several years, but I find I enjoy directing the most.”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/10230812524_f560ed8ae1_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1536" /></p><p>Recently, Hermantown High School moved to a new building. “This is our second year in our brand-new high school,” noted Ahlberg, “and I have to say that we might just have the best theater space in the area. We were blessed to have had our lead architect in the project have his bachelor’s degree in technical theater. Previously,” he recalled, “our performance space was a 200-seat lecture hall with the upstage being a foldable “wall” that opened to the cafeteria and was 10 feet from the gymnasium. No fly, no wings, no pit, no catwalks, no green room, no scene shop, no dressing rooms. Yet, we put on amazing shows!</p><p>“Happily, we now have a 680-seat theater with a full fly, catwalks, a space for the ‘pit,’ a green room/scene shop with a 15-foot-high loading bay door from the outside, dressing rooms, costume storage and state-of-the-art sound and lighting. Our dream is now for increased financing, so we can fully utilize the space the community has so graciously provided. We now have space where we can stage Mary Poppins with full flying effects, if we could only afford to do so.”</p></div></div><div><div><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/37462855612_f2fa2eeb9b_k-678x1024.jpg" width="678" height="1024" /></p><p>When it comes to his students, however, Ahlberg wishes that “all of our Drama Club kids find a place where they are welcome, where they can ‘try on’ being someone totally new. And perhaps find out something new about themselves, and that they have experiences that they can take with them in whatever walk of life they end up taking - whether it is in the arts or not.”</p></div><p>Interested in seeing Hermantown's production of Into the Woods? Visit their Ludus ticketing portal at <a href="https://hhstheatre.ludus.com/">hhstheatre.ludus.com</a> to purchase tickets!</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/10257793223_5a63ad26fb_k.jpg" width="2048" height="1536" /></p></div></div></div></div></div>Share0Share +10Tweet0

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GhostLight Productions: Shine a Light
<div title="Page 1"><div><div><div title="Page 1"><div><div><p><span>One characteristic of a great idea is its persistence. “My wife and I had always wanted to do ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,’” reminisced Mark Lorentzen, co-founder and artistic director of Ghostlight Productions. Trouble was, living in the relatively small town of Sequim, WA, it was hard for the Lorentzens to attract established theater groups to the Olympic Peninsula. Then one day, “We came to the realization that we should just produce it on our own.”</span></p><p><span>Not that starting a theater wasn’t always at the back of his mind. “I was a musical theater/opera major in college and was a professional performer.” After moving to the Peninsula, the decision was made: the area was perfect to establish a summer stock type theater. The company quickly gained a reputation for new plays as well as new interpretations of the classics. “We feel strongly that arts programs are essential to the building of a strong community." So, in the spring of 2015, “We gathered some actors, rented a theater and Ghostlight Productions (GLP) was launched.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Annie-3.jpg" width="1200" height="800" /></p><p><span>Theater people are familiar with “ghostlights,” those faint stage lights that help actors and performers locate their marks on stage. Ironically, in the middle of Spelling Bee, GLP’s actors discovered that several “blackout” cues had been added to the lighting plot. “There was quite a bit of panic when everything went pitch black in the middle of the show - stage, pit, everything!<span>  </span>Our light tech had to improvise the cues until we could figure out what had happened.” </span></p><p><span>Such is the life of a gypsy company (one with no home theater). “We currently rent one of several venues here on the Peninsula,” said Lorentzen. “The PA Playhouse and the Sequim High School Auditorium are the ones we use the most. We use the playhouse for our more intimate shows. The high school we use for larger “blockbuster” shows.”</span></p><p><span>Both types of shows are handpicked by the company for audience appeal, among them, Titanic: The Musical. “We were lucky enough to produce the West Coast premiere of the new ‘ensemble’ version of the show,” remembered Lorentzen, who, with his wife, played the lead roles of Fred Barrett and Kate McGowan. “It was a beautiful and life-changing show.</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/25151876_2051599581736889_6001536924850365765_n.jpg" width="720" height="480" /></p><p><span>“When you are a new theater group,” he added, “you have to play it relatively safe. As our reputation and following has grown, our audiences are opening up to some ‘riskier’ productions. For example, we are producing Next to Normal this winter.” Lorentzen noted, “We definitely would not have felt as comfortable producing a show like that (albeit brilliant) when we were starting out.”</span></p><p><span>One of the reasons GLP feels comfortable taking risks is the company’s growing involvement in the community. “At the moment, all of our performers are (very dedicated) community members - although we are starting to work with Actors Equity Association on some potential special appearance contracts for specific shows.<span>  </span>We have had casts with as few as six and some numbering close to 50!”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/White-Christmas.jpg" width="960" height="639" /></p><p><span>Since 2017, GLP has been a nonprofit. “We decided to go with a 501(c)(3) structure because we wanted to focus on what was important to us: the art. Now, with a board, they get help with show suggestions from members, which are then put to a vote for approval.<span>  </span>If something doesn't make the cut for the season,” said Lorentzen, “it is usually put on the back burner.” Having nonprofit status makes it easier for GLP to offer educational programs like “a Musical Theater Jazz Dance workshop taught by our resident choreographer, Anna Pederson,” he said, adding, “We have plans to add more performance and technical workshops very soon!”</span></p><p><span>Lorentzen is very happy with GLP’s progress. “I’ve often heard people say ‘never start a theater company.’<span>  </span>While we have had ups and downs, I’m so glad we decided to do it. One of the greatest lessons anyone can learn is the power of shared experience. It is a truly beautiful thing when people still talk about a show, two or three years after.”</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Les-Mis.jpg" width="960" height="640" /></p><p>GLP has engaged Ludus for the past two years and is very happy about it. What stood out to Lorentzen about Ludus was that “it seemed to be built by people who were as passionate about the ‘experience’ as we are.”</p></div></div><div><div><p><span>Jay Rocha and Juanita Chamberlain, who alternate as Head of Box Office, not only have had good experiences with Ludus, they are looking to add more customization. “We use Ludus exclusively for our ticket sales both online and at the box office,” said Rocha. “We designate a head of box office and then we train additional volunteers. Ludus is very intuitive, making it easy to train volunteers to help at the shows (basic functions can be taught in 15 minutes or less). It has been a delight to see the feature set grow and develop over the years,” he added, ”making our job easier and more professional. It's great to have all the reporting tools at our disposal and the quick stats screen is my favorite place to go during a show to see how we are doing on sales!”</span></p><p><span>Moving forward, Rocha wants to learn more about direct emailing tools in order to collect donations for GLP’s growing theater program. “One tool we've seen other theaters use is a ‘giving tree’ that features specific items (a microphone, a light, a soundboard, etc) for donors to sponsor’ by giving that specific amount. A digital ‘giving tree’ would be interesting.</span></p><p>To purchase tickets to Ghostlight Productions upcoming performance of Next to Normal, you can visit their ticketing portal <a href="https://ghostlightproductions.ludus.com/" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">here</a>!</p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Sequim-High-School-Auditorium-2-e1536085770435.jpg" width="2016" height="1512" /> Sequim High School Auditorium</div><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Mark-Danielle-300x300.jpg" width="300" height="300" /> Mark &amp; Danielle Lorentzen</div></div></div></div></div>Share0Share +10Tweet0

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Concord: Making a Joyful Noise
<div title="Page 1"><div><div><div title="Page 1"><div><div><p>Few marching bands have had a book written about them, and few of those books have been as eloquent as the one written about Elkhart, Indiana’s Concord High School Marching Minutemen. Kristen Laine’s American Band: Music, Dreams, and Coming of Age followed the dramatic trajectory of the Minutemen as they defended their state title in 2004. And while that story took place nearly 15 years before, for today’s Concord’s Music Department and the community it serves, the history books will need to make room for many more chapters to come.</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/12593616_10208941470947740_2566250196215982104_o-1.jpg" width="2048" height="1499" /></p><p>Concord’s legacy is particularly strong because it’s frequently reinforced by its alumni and staff. Band Leader Cameron Bradley (who played alto saxophone in the 2003 championship) is an alumnus, as is Band Director Jack Hinkle, who graduated from Concord in 2013. It’s acknowledged that the level of alumni talent, expertise, and community involvement is very high, as many students become music teachers in the area.</p><p>That also goes for Concord’s staff. Of those congratulated for the 2003 win, four - Scott Spradling, Bryan Golden, Steve Petersen, and Scott Preheim - remain in today’s winning lineup. Spradling, now Head Music Director, thinks Concord’s level of teaching consistency is hard for many other schools to achieve; after all, he said, “Since 1960, there have only been four directors of music (Spradling should know: he has been on staff since 1990). “Some schools go through closer to 40 directors in that period of time.</p><p>Finally, there’s the overwhelming community support, of which Bessie Huneryager stands as a prime example. Huneryager, spent years as a “band mom” and a “jazz mom” while her daughter attended Concord. Having joined the Music Department as its secretary in 2016, she now helps coordinate the efforts of the program and its supporters. Which takes a lot of work, seeing how invested the students are in the program. “This local Indiana high school has one of the largest marching bands competing at ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Association),” said Huneryager. “Over three-quarters of the student body has been in the music program at some point during high school (about 2,100 students total, 9-12K) and about 600 kids are currently involved.</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/14352498_1538694926146763_4156017346068577306_o-1.jpg" width="1476" height="640" /></p><p>A lot has changed since the Minutemen’s early successes. Most important, however was the band’s promotion from a Class B marching band to Class A status in 2017. For a school of its size, noted Huneryager, “The Minutemen are the largest marching band that competes at ISSMA.” Besides consistently placing in state marching band championships for more than three decades, other high points along the way have included marching at Walt Disney World in 2010, seven times in Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 2014, as well as in the Rose and Orange bowls.</p><p>“These things, all working together,” Spradling continued, “creates a curriculum that’s highly participated in. It's amazing how many kids and parents come back each and every year,” he remarked, adding “The staff is so incredibly dedicated to improving the program all the time, working hard, and seeing things through.”</p><p>Of the three annual shows put on by the program, the Christmas Spectacular, which is Elkhart’s main holiday event, is the most elaborate. In recent year it comprises multicultural celebrations like Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. “This performance features every student in the music program from band, orchestra, choir and color guard (Concord’s Dance Program),” noted Spradling. “And anytime the entire music department is on stage, performing at the same time is an amazing sight. Over 500 kids performing at the same time!”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Screen-Shot-2018-08-20-at-10.31.06-AM-1-1024x683.png" alt="" width="1024" height="683" /></p><p>In March, the one-night Spring Carnival, a band-and-orchestra concert that features choir and dance elements; and a Pops Concert that follows in April.</p></div></div><div><div><p>While there is plenty of competition among students for the top spots, there is also a large amount of collaboration. For example, the school’s Jazz Cafe event, which has been going on for more than 25 years, invites kids from other jazz bands at other schools to come perform - “which is unique,” said Spradling, “because students are used to going to other schools to compete against each other.” The Jazz Cafe, which converts the gym into a “night club” (Spradling: “You’d have no idea it was a school”) also serves a fundraiser for various music programs.</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Screen-Shot-2018-08-20-at-10.33.08-AM.png" width="1172" height="780" /></p><p>According to Huneryager, parental involvement can be almost immersive, what with the need for fundraisers, concessions, chaperones, set building, crowd control, uniform spot-cleaning - you name it. Businesses can get involved as well; said Huneryager, “The Band has one fundraiser with a local car dealership, which brings in brand-new vehicles. When people come and drive them, then rate their experience, the car dealership gives $50 per drive.”</p><p>For its three annual shows (and the occasional fundraising event), Concord has used Ludus for the two years, which has been a great help to the organizers. “Before Ludus,” Huneryager said, “We had no way to do reserved seating specific to our venue, and we had to physically sit people in order to do assigned seats." Since Ludus, “It’s been a tremendous help with the performances, allowing us to serve all patrons smoothly.” Added Spradling, “ The biggest compliment I can give is that I didn't notice the program. It worked so smoothly, without hiccups."</p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Planning to see Concord’s Christmas Spectacular, Carnival or the Pops Concert? Visit Concord’s ticketing portal at </span><span style="font-weight: 400;"><a href="https://concordmusic.ludus.com/index.php">concordmusic.ludus.com</a>.</span></p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/IMG_8493-X3-2.jpg" width="1600" height="1067" /></p></div></div></div></div></div></div>Share0Share +10Tweet0

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MacTheatre: Schooled to Be the Best
<div title="Page 1"><div><div><div title="Page 1"><div><div><p>Today, arts programs are being cut from school budgets all over the country, to the detriment of students and their communities. It’s a lose-lose for everyone since, according to a report by the National Endowment for the Arts students engaged in the arts have <a href="https://www.arts.gov/news/2012/new-nea-research-report-shows-potential-benefits-arts-education-risk-youth" target="_blank">“better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement.”</a></p></div></div></div><p>But in Texas, one community has stepped up time and again, first to launch McCallum Fine Arts Academy in Austin, TX, and then to nurture it, with epic results. Here is their story.</p></div><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Screen-Shot-2018-08-06-at-10.51.28-AM-1024x512.png" width="1024" height="512" /></p><div><p>According to Joshua Denning, Head of Theatre at McCallum, commitment to the arts reaches back to the early 1990s, when a group of community members interested in creating a fine-arts immersion program contacted legendary Texas drama educator and Austin Hall of Famer Ruth Denney (1914-2007), founder of Houston's High School for Performing and Visual Arts. “It was Ms. Denney who recommended McCallum High School,” said Denning, citing the school’s dedication to arts education and proximity to a concentration of arts organizations.</p><p>After joining UT at Austin’s faculty, Denney continued to mentor the fledgling program, which has since created bonds with such state and civic arts organizations as The University of Texas College of Fine Arts, the Austin Chamber Music Center, Texas State University, the Austin Classical Guitar Society, ZACH Theatre, the Austin Symphony, MINDPOP, The Long Center, Ballet Folklorico, Ballet Austin and more. “Our program has grown along with the growth of the city of Austin,” said Denning. “Each season the casts, productions values and audiences have become larger and more sophisticated.”</p><p>Denning himself has been with the program for seven years. (“Eight at McCallum,” he adds, drawing the distinction between the Academy, which is a magnet program, and the high school itself.) Under his direction, the theatre at McCallum Fine Arts Academy has twice been awarded the distinction of Austin's Outstanding Academic Theatre by the Central Texas Excellence In Theatre Awards presented by Austin Entertainment Weekly. “I come from a background of 25 years of working in professional Equity theatre on every type of contract from national tour, to theatre for young audiences, to summers stock, to European ‘Broadway’ productions, to cruise ships, to regional theater, to workshop musicals, to warehouse theater. I take that versatility and experience and infuse it into all of our productions and classes.”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Screen-Shot-2018-08-06-at-11.12.12-AM-1024x567.png" alt="" width="1024" height="567" /></p><p>Each season, MacTheatre does two mainstage musicals, two mainstage straight plays, and a student-directed one act play festival that typically features five one-acts completely produced by students. “The result,” said Denning, “has been more and more support from the community each year. We served 8,000 audience members last year, many of whom, I am happy to say, do not even have children or grandchildren in the program. They come to our shows because they have a reputation of quality.”</p></div></div></div><div title="Page 2"><div><div><p>McCallum Fine Arts Academy’s accelerated arts curriculum attracts and includes talented and motivated students from public, private, charter and home schools; these hail from all areas of Austin. Among the stated purposes of the academy is “to develop well-rounded students, critical thinkers, collaborators, and a community of arts advocates.”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Me-and-My-Girl-1-1024x682.jpg" width="1024" height="682" /></p><p>It also has created a few stars of tomorrow, like Zoe Graham and Violett Beane. “When I have a student like that,” said Denning, “I know it's my job to give them as many tools as I can to prepare them for all of the challenges that lie ahead for them. Star quality will only take them so far; a bit of technique is needed to make them ‘director-proof’ or pull them out of a difficult dramatic situation.”</p><p>While there are about 125 Acting and Technical Theatre majors within the Fine Arts Academy, “our shows are open to any student on our campus,” said Denning. “Within a school year I would estimate that we have 175 or so students from McCallum involved in our season. When you factor in parents, we are talking about 400 people altogether.”</p><p>In fact, behind MacTheatre’s talent, technique and ambitious productions stands an army of parents. “I am blessed beyond measure to have the parent support that I have at McCallum,” enthused Denning, “Our parent advocacy group is phenomenal; they operate like a very successful small business.” The parent advocacy group supervises the theater’s box office and has Chair and Vice-Chair positions with an accompanying sub-committee. All box office issues and requests and forwarded to them. “Many of them come from the professional marketing and tech worlds and they apply those skills to the parent advocacy organization. The results have been extraordinary.”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/MacTheatre7.png" alt="" width="903" height="743" /></p><p>Listed among its other blessings is MacTheatre’s modern, professional facility, which includes an industry standard-sized stage. “I have to say,” admitted Denning, “I like the kind of artsy, edgy feel to the auditorium itself. It reminds me of a modern art gallery in a metropolitan city.”</p><p>MacTheatre has been with Ludus for about a year and a half. For Denning, it was the answer to a problem common to many independent theaters. “We operate out of two venues,” he explained, “and were having an issue with walk-ins and people sneaking into the theater without tickets.” Denning chose Ludus for its ability to provide reserved seating with scannable, accountable tickets to help us combat that issue. “Ludus had those features. It was easy to implement, and its customer service has been so helpful in making sure that each of shows runs as smoothly as possible.”</p><p>The most recent season culminated in a sell-out performance of West Side Story. “There is an alchemy created by that powerful mix of the vitality of youth, coupled with the optimism of musical theater. It’s a feeling you don’t get from professional theatre a lot of the time,” Denning admitted, adding, “It’s pure joy.”</p><p><img src="http://spotlight.ludus.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/MacTheatre5-1024x671.png" width="1024" height="671" /></p></div></div></div>Share0Share +10Tweet0

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