Jay Spills the Beans on the Spelling Bee

By Jay Hemphill

Inspired by the many local spelling bees occurring annually across the United States, the Tony Award-winning 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee follows an eclectic group of mid-pubescent participants as they compete for total spelling bee domination. With the forthcoming IU Summer Theatre (IUST) production of Spelling Bee, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the origins of the National Spelling Bee.

Diana Hull of Akron, Ohio, steps to the microphone to open the 22nd annual National Spelling Bee in 1949. (Photo: Courier-Journal archive photo)

The first National Spelling Bee was organized by the Louisville Courier-Journal, in collaboration with eight other newspapers, in 1925. Although the National Education Association held a children’s spelling contest in 1908, the competition did not contiue and the idea was not revisited until 1925. The organizer of Kentucky’s statewide grade-school spelling bee, the Louisville Courier-Journal invited other American newspapers to sponsor students in a countrywide bee, with the purpose of “helping students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.”

During the first “Bee”, more than two million children competed in local spelling bees, much like but not as musical as the one portrayed in The 25th Annual Putman County Spelling Bee. By the summer of 1925, the spellers had been narrowed down to nine contestants, each sponsored by one of the participating newspapers. Just like today’s competition, the final round was held in Washington D.C., a dream destination for the characters in Spelling Bee. The first ever national spelling bee champion was 11-year-old Frank Neuhauser of Louisville, Kentucky, who later returned to the city of his earlier triumph and lived in the DC area until his death in 2011 at the age of 97. Young Frank correctly spelled the word “gladiolus”, winning a cash prize of $500 and a visit with President Calvin Coolidge.

The Bee proved to be an extremely popular event, and soon the number of participating newspapers and spellers boomed. Over the decades The Bee has experienced steady growth, with the number of contestants doubling in the 1980s. In 1994, The Bee formed a partnership with ESPN to provide live broadcast coverage of the Scripps National Spelling Bee Finals. Over 1 million people tune in to watch the Finals. Such prominent media coverage has undoubtedly contributed to the ever-increasing public interest in The Bee, which now reaches 11 million student spellers every year.


(Sources: Official National Spelling Bee website, spellingbee.com and EW Scripps Co. Website, scripps.com)

  • Although a honey bee is used in the offical National Spelling Bee logo, the “bee” in spelling bee refers to a gathering of people for a specific purpose, i.e. a quilting bee.
  • National Spelling Bee champions have met with the current President since its beginning in 1925.
  • On Nov. 30, 1939, Scripps acquires the National Spelling Bee from the Louisville Courier-Journal.
  • Merriam-Webster began an affiliation with the bee in 1958, with its Webster’s Third unabridged dictionary emerging as the official arbiter of a word’s spelling.
  • Since its beginning in 1925, The Bee has been held continuously, except during the World War II years of 1943 – 1945.
  • Spelling Bee co-champions were declared in 1950, 1957, 1962, 2014 and 2015. This occurs when neither speller is able to correctly spell the final word.
  • Texas is the state with the most National Spelling Bee winners, with 11 champions.
  • Indiana has had three National Spelling Bee champions.
  • Of the champions, 52.1% have been girls and 47.9% were boys.
  • In 2015, Vanya Shivashankar spelled the longest winning word “scherenschnitte,” and in 1984, Daniel Greenblatt won with the shortest winning word to date, “luge.”
  • In 2017, 5-year-old Edith Fuller becomes the youngest to ever qualify for the national finals.
  • The winner of the 2018 Scripps National Spelling Bee will receive an engraved trophy, $42,500 in cash, reference libraries from Merriam-Webster and Encyclopedia Britannica, plus trips to New York and Hollywood to appear on Live with Kelly and Ryan and Jimmy Kimmel Live!.


(Source: Official National Spelling Bee website, spellingbee.com)

1925: The Louisville Courier-Journal organizes the first national spelling bee.

1930: NBC broadcasts the final hour of competition on the radio.

1941: Scripps-Howard Newspapers takes over ownership of the program.

1943: The Bee takes a three-year hiatus during World War II.

1946: The Bee resumes and is first broadcast on television on NBC.

1950: After hours of head-to-head spelling, Colquitt Dean and Diana Reynard are declared the first co-champions.

1974: A taped version of the finals appears on PBS.

1975: Hugh Tosteson of Puerto Rico becomes first spelling bee champion from outside the 50 states.

1987: A record 185 participants forces Bee officials to eliminate the practice round of spelling.

1991: CNN provides live coverage of the finals.

1994: The Bee begins broadcast partnership with ESPN.

1998: Jody-Anne Maxwell of Jamaica becomes first international speller to win the Bee.

1999: Spellbound documentary films the national spelling bee.

2002: The Bee implements a written test for the first time.

2006: The championship finals air live in primetime on ABC.

2013: The Bee adds vocabulary to the written test.

2017: The Bee celebrates its 90th year.

Hemphill.jay2018Jay Hemphill is a graduate student in IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. Most recently seen in the 2018 Machinal, Look for him this summer in IUST’s productions of Our Town and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

We are fortunate to have Jay as a member of our marketing team this summer, and look forward to seeing him on stage as he continues in the MFA Acting Program over the next two years.

Sources: ESPN.com, spellingbee.com, scripps.com, merriam-webster.com

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Speech Given in Honor of Ron Wainscott’s Retirement – April 28, 2018

Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance PhD candidate Bridget Sundin recently delivered the following speech at our annual “Drama Prom”, an event that caps the academic year. It is an opportunity for the presentation of awards, accolades, and an exchange of sincere appreciation between faculty and students.

The 7th & Jordan Blog was not created as a mere propaganda machine for the Department’s productions and achievements. It is rather an opportunity for us to pull back the curtain, behind which we most often reveal encouraging, entertaining, and inspiring stories from our students, faculty, and staff. But no institution is without controversy, and to fail to give voice to dissent would be to fail as an institution of higher learning. So in that spirit, we are reprinting the text of this speech in its entirety honoring Dr. Ronald Wainscott, who retires this year following more than 20 years as the illustrious head of IU’s PhD program in Theatre History, Theory, and Dramatic Literature.

PhD Candidate Bridget Sundin

Good evening. I was honored when I was asked to say a few words about Dr. Ronald Wainscott,  a man who has been my mentor these past four years I’ve been a PhD student at Indiana University. When Ron indicated that he would not be in attendance tonight, I asked him if he would like me to say anything in particular. His reply, in usual Ron style was, “What the hell, say whatever you want.” I bet Ron thinks I’m going to make some jokes tonight at his expense. I must admit, I did ponder writing a skit where Josh Robinson played a future Ron looking to start acting again in his retirement. For example, wouldn’t it be funny to see an imaginary future Ron auditioning for the roles of King Lear, Big Daddy, or Lady Bracknell? But instead, I am going to use the blank check Ron gave me to say something grounded in history because I would rather make Ron proud than make him chuckle.

The first theatre course taught at Indiana University took place in the English Department in 1915 and was entitled “The Staging of Plays.” By 1931 the Division of Speech was created in the English Department to accommodate the growing number of theatre classes offered. IU’s Department of Speech was formally created in 1945 and was renamed the Department of Speech and Theatre in 1957. In 1971 the Dept. of Speech split into two, one branch of which became the Dept. of Theatre and Drama. In 2014 the department became the Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance. As you can see, the theatre, drama, and performance folk have always already been evolving.

Dr. Ron Wainscott, Professor of History, Theory, and Literature

Ron Wainscott got his PhD in Theatre and Drama here at IU in 1985, where he studied with theatre history legends Oscar Brockett and Richard Moody. While you have most likely heard of Oscar Brockett via his Theatre History textbook, I trace this direct genealogy of scholarship to emphasize that if you have studied with Ron you have not only benefited from his world-renowned expertise in American Theatre and Drama, but you have benefited from the link he provides to two of the most if not THE most important American theatre historians of all time. If you haven’t had the good fortune of having Ron as a teacher here at IU, maybe you’ve had one of his PhD students as an instructor in Intro to Theatre or Script Analysis.

Ron has been the head of the PhD program in Theatre History, Theory, and Dramatic Literature at IU since 1995, and what you might not know is that it is one of the most respected theatre doctoral programs in the country – with a rich 70 year history boasting 95% job placement rates, which is unheard of in this day and age in higher ed. In November of 2017 both faculty and doctoral students were informed that the PhD program in Theatre and Drama would be terminated.

The demolition of the PhD program in Theatre and Drama is a disgrace to Ron’s legacy as well as the 70 year legacy of our doctoral program.

In conclusion, if Ron has taught me anything it is this: we are often surrounded by idiots with no understanding of history. This might sound like one of Ron’s harsh funny truths that you laugh at and write down in your notebook so you never forget, but what I think Ron really means is until we take on active roles as students of history, the future is a cheap version of what could be.

Thank you.

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Gracie Black: Making the most of Contemporary Dance at IU

By Sara Cruz

IU Contemporary Dance BFA Gracie Black

Senior BFA in Contemporary Dance, Gracie Black, has received the Provost’s Award for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity! Gracie is a senior studying Contemporary Dance and Apparel Merchandising and has taken advantage of every opportunity to engage and excel during her undergraduate studies, not only dancing and choreographing for IU concerts, but also dancing for professional companies in Indianapolis, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

The Provost’s Award consists of a collaborative effort between students and mentors. Students are nominated by professors and then selected by a committee of faculty members. The award was created in 2010 to recognize exceptional student work and the importance of undergraduate research and creative activity. This is the second time in four years that a student from Contemporary Dance has won in the category of Performing & Creative Arts.

Gracie was nominated by Associate Professor and Director of Contemporary Dance at IU, Elizabeth Shea, who speaks highly of her portfolio. What sets Gracie’s work apart is her professional experience.

“As a dancer, I’m researching every time I walk into the studio. Dance is about constant growth and development not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well,” said Gracie.


Gracie Black in Hot Dust (obscured galaxies), choreography by Elizabeth Shea

Gracie has worked continuously on her craft throughout her four years at IU. For the past two summers she was accepted into the Hubbard Street Summer Intensive in Chicago, where she familiarized herself with the repertoire of the company.

“This is a national, highly rigorous audition process, and Ms. Black is the only student during my 17-year tenure at Indiana University to be accepted into this program, not once, but twice,” said Shea.

At IU, students participate in the performances as a company, dancing repertory by professional choreographers, including works by Kyle Abraham, Andrea Miller, Elizabeth Shea, and Nyama McCarthy-Brown. In 2016 while taking part in a piece by Shea, “The Rise of Otherness”, Gracie together with the other dancers in the set had the opportunity to perform at the faculty concert on IU’s Ruth N. Halls stage, and in Philadelphia and New York City as guest dancers.

The Rise of Otherness, Liz Shea, Winter Dance 2017 (Photo by Jeremy Hogan)

The Rise of Otherness, choreography by Elizabeth Shea | Photo by Jeremy Hogan

“The Rise of Otherness” was also presented again at Indiana University as a Themester project. When one of the original dancers was not available, Shea then invited the director of Phoenix Rising Dance Company, Justin Sears-Watson to fill in. After performing together he invited Gracie and fellow student Jay Man to be guest dancers with Phoenix Rising. They traveled to New York City over winter break to perform the piece “Speakeasy” with the company at the Association for Performing Arts Professionals (APAP).

“Gracie, through hard work, commitment, intelligence, talent, and a strong sense of community, has taken advantage of every opportunity she was offered during her time at IU.  I have no doubt she will make an impact in the professional dance world,” said Shea.

Please join us in congratulating Gracie Black! Her newest work will be performed this weekend at our final production of the season, New Moves: Student Choreographers’ Showcase. Friday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 2 pm in the Wells-Metz Theatre.

Sara Cruz is a graduate student in the Arts Administration program in IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. She is a Marketing Assistant for the Theatre this year, and brings great talent and enthusiasm to the job.

Sara is from Brazil and earned a bachelor’s degree in music from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC before coming to IU.

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Theatre Geek of the Week: Richard Roland

With City of Angels heating up the Ruth N. Halls this week, who better to talk with than the man behind the magic, Director Richard Roland!

What do you do at IU, and why do you do it?
I am an Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre, and I teach acting in both sung and spoken text. I also teach musical theatre form and analysis and musical theatre history. I am especially fascinated by how our history as a country is represented on the musical stage, and how what’s happening on the musical stage in turn influences our culture! I have to pass on this knowledge. It just isn’t enough to be a good singer, actor, and dancer. To be a successful theatre artist, one needs to know the cultural context of whatever piece they’re working on; knowing the history and reasons why a piece came into existence is just as important. The thoughtful actor is the successful one.

When did first you realize you were a theatre geek?
I don’t think it was a singular moment, but rather a series of events. I was raised in a theatrical family: both my parents had enjoyed successful Broadway careers, and I grew up around theatre people. I remember watching variety shows on TV in the early 1970s and being captivated by the dance numbers. I remember my mother taking me out of kindergarten one afternoon to see a rerelease matinee of “Singin’ in the Rain” at the Ziegfeld Theatre and I knew I had to do something like what those beautiful people were doing on the screen. Then my parents took me to see my first Broadway show – the 1974 revival of Gypsy starring Angela Lansbury – and I was hooked. Because of the scene in which Baby June and Louise “grow into” Dainty June and Louise through the use of dance and strobe lights, my 5 year old brain thought they were literally growing up on stage, and I thought that was the magic of the theatre. We went backstage afterwards since my parents knew a lot of the cast and crew, and I remember walking across the stage and thinking how odd and alien a place it was, but that I had to be a part of it. It’s an incredibly pretentious thing to write, but I was convinced I could feel a different, heightened energy when I walked onto the Winter Garden stage that night. Hooked ever since.

What is your favorite thing about the theatre, and why?
My favorite thing about the theatre is that it’s always larger than life. It allows artists to think big and to BE big. We don’t go to theatre to see the normal, the everyday. Even in “slice of life” plays, there’s something bigger happening on stage – the drama of it makes it large. We even use the word “dramatic” to describe someone’s larger-than-life behavior. Film is the realm of realism/naturalism. Stage is the realm of heightened reality!

Rich, Ray, and adorable pup Millie.

What do you do outside of your theatre endeavors?
Food and travel! Cooking is therapy, and travel is always a privilege and an adventure. My husband and I travel as much as we can, and when we can take our two Labrador Retrievers with us, it’s even better. We have a small cabin on a lake in Ontario, Canada which is our quiet place.

What have you learned in your first year here at IU?
Working on City of Angels with students who were not yet born when the show premiered on Broadway, and to most of whom the heightened world of film noir is quite foreign, or completely unknown, has been an education to me in that they are absorbing the style very quickly. In this case, the noir style has to be heightened in its own way, but then to put it on stage is only to heighten it even more. Not only have I urged them to watch films like The Big Sleep (1946), Double Indemnity (1944), and The Maltese Falcon (1941) (from all of which City of Angels borrows heavily), but other period dramas and comedies like Mildred Pierce (1945), The Women (1939), and His Girl Friday (1940) just to understand how snappy dialogue and witty repartee are handled! It occurred to me that they are actually learning another technique: how to handle a period piece. Learning how to land a punchline old-school style, or obey the rhythm of smart aleck banter is just as valuable as learning how to handle the rhythms, whether solo or in back-and-forth, in Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter. One cast member said in rehearsal, “So it’s like an Aaron Sorkin script, just set in 1948,” and I was so impressed that his generation knew a writer with whom they could identify this style! Interestingly enough, the City of Angels libretto was written by Hollywood’s master craftsman of quips Larry Gelbart (M*A*S*H, Three’s Company, Tootsie).

When no one is watching, what song do you love to dance or sing along with?
There are so many, but I will always groove along with Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” and Robbie Neville’s “C’est La Vie.” Yes, I hit my teens in the 1980s.

Who in the theatre world inspires you, and why?
Boiling that down is nearly impossible, so I’ll have to throw out some names and condensed reasons! Matthew Warchus because of how he directs with kindness and clarity. Hal Prince because he took so many risks which resulted in tremendous successes and spectacular failures. Judith Ivey because she is always the kind of actor I want to be. Tony Stevens because he could make anyone feel good on stage. Kathy Fitzgerald for making outrageous choices on stage. Sutton Foster for her leadership and professionalism. My father for his encouragement, support, and his sharp, honest, and unclouded perspective on show business.

Do you have any words of advice for new theatre students?
Persistence. Training. Resilience. Training. Knowledge. Training. See the world. See the country. Taste everything. See everything. Training. Kindness.

What exciting projects do you have coming up?
Once City of Angels opens, I go right to work preparing for rehearsals for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee by William Finn and Rachel Sheinkin for IU Summer Theatre. We’re in the process of finishing casting, and we’ll start rehearsals in June. I’ve worked on the show before, and I look forward to getting back into it! I have a couple of small projects in New York that I have to keep developing, so part of my summer travel will include that!

You can enjoy Rich’s first IU production, City of Angels, now through Saturday, April 21st in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre! Tickets and information at theatre.indiana.edu.


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H-T REVIEW: Dark films morph into a brilliant musical act in ‘City of Angels’

By Connie Shakalis | H-T Reviewer Apr 14, 2018

Casey Lamont sings in the IU Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance’s production of “City of Angels.”

Cy’s matters.

Cy Coleman’s, that is. The once child prodigy from New York City teamed up with the clever and super-smart lyricist David Zippel and writer Larry Gelbart (“M*A*S*H” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”) to create a musical for those who love words, music or film noir. Lines include (in rhythm) “It would be wise if I kept my eyes off her thighs” and “Nobody ever got mad being quoted to himself.” There is also a reference to pencil-envy.

“City of Angels” (1989) won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical — Larry Gelbart; Best Original Score — Cy Coleman and David Zippel; and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.

A double story, it tells of a novelist, Stine (Cole Winston), who is persuaded by Hollywood producer/director Buddy Fiddler (Dom Pagliaro) to allow his detective story to be turned into a screenplay. “Everybody writes books — but screenplays!?” As we watch the development of that tale, we also learn another: the fictional detective’s — as it comes to life.

Typical in film noir (a dark, convoluted style some believe grew out of German Expressionistic cinema — menacing and macabre), the plot is anything but linear. Betrayal, twists and near misses enchant. Also typical are greed and jealousy. “You’re so jealous of my track record,” Stine’s novel’s character Detective Stone (Joshua Scott Carter) accuses. Indeed, we learn that Stine does aspire to be much more like his fictional Stone than the nerdy, soft-spoken writer he is.

Soft-spoken, until he sings. Winston’s voice could blast the keys off his typewriter. Someone had alerted me in the lobby before the show Friday night: “You’re going to love Cole,” she said. I do. Another remarkable voice is that of the witless but charming Jimmy Powers (Jake McCutcheon).

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But, then, this is a show for singers, and musical director Terry LaBolt and director Richard Roland have assembled a wondrous cast of them. Every musical number gleams, particularly those involving the quartet, Angel City Four, and a few of the duets.

Coleman is all about jazz, and his score is well suited to these talented Indiana University voices. I thought of the vocal quartet Manhattan Transfer (maybe even better, here). Although Courtney Foxworthy’s costumes are a real high point, I could almost have just closed my eyes, missing their sexy, colorful splendor, every time these ensemble numbers started. Coleman’s harmonies are so close they border — thrillingly — on cacophony.

And LaBolt’s skin-tingling brass section. At first I feared his wonderful band would overshadow some of the voices, but they toned it down quickly, and the balance became nearly perfect.

A clever choreography piece by Liza Gennaro is a police officer kicking the chair out from under Stone, on cue.

Everyone was effective and appealing. I’ll choose a few who stood out. Lisa Podulka is a born comic. Audie Deinlein is, well, precious. Dancer Victoria Wiley kept catching my eye, even when I was admiring someone else. As previously mentioned, the quartet, Angel City Four, is one of this production’s best assets.

Casey Lamont moved me as Stine’s loving, persuasive wife. Pagliaro kept me laughing as the slimy movie producer. Mary Beth Black’s “You Can Always Count on Me,” sung as both her characters, was a treat.

Film noir’s classic downbeat attitude, rife with cynicism, disrupted sequences and sex, gets an upbeat spin with Zippel’s, Coleman’s and Gelbart’s story. The cynicism, disruption and sex stay, but we get two and a half hours (with intermission) of raucous, happy adventure.

Another of film noir’s ingredients is flashback, and Roland uses a witty reverse-the-dialogue trick here. He even has the actors involved say their lines backward, as in truly backward, letter by letter.

If the rest of the numbers don’t send you home happy, the finale, “I’m Nothing Without You,” will.

As Stone says of artists when they get together, “The traveling compliment show,” with each raving (and inwardly eye-rolling) about the others. But this production, with its superb lyrics, score and book and rave-worthy direction and performances, does deserve plenty of compliments.

If you go

WHO: Indiana University Department of Theater, Drama, and Contemporary Dance

WHAT: “City of Angels” by Cy Coleman, David Zippel and Larry Gelbart

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Apr. 13-14, 17-21; 2 p.m. Apr. 21

WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theater, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

TICKETS: $10-$20. Call 812.855.1103 or visit theatre.indiana.edu.

Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. For more local arts news and reviews, visit heraldtimesonline.com.


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Theatre Geek of the Week: Cole Winston

Cole Winston as Hollywood writer “Stine” in IU Theatre’s CITY OF ANGELS

What do you do at IU, and why do you do it?
At IU, I study Musical Theatre. It’d been my goal since around freshman year of high school to go to school for musical theatre and it was my sophomore year that I learned about and decided I wanted to audition for the BFA program in the future!

When did first you realize you were a theatre geek?
I first realized I was a theatre geek when I found myself enjoying cast recordings more than non-theatre music, which must’ve been around age 10. When I was younger I was most drawn to the fact that you could follow a story on a cast recording; there was always something to follow and look forward to, even on repeat listens. That influenced my continued interest in performance itself and finding new shows to learn about and want to perform, which I still continue to do with each show discovered.

What is your favorite thing about the theatre, and why?
My favorite thing about theatre is how encompassing it is as both a performer and audience member. I’ve never been in a show in which I not only learned about performing, but about personal growth, human behavior, healthy relationships, etc. As an audience member I’ve never left a show that, in some capacity, hasn’t made me think or feel something, regardless of its positivity or negativity. You learn life skills through your stage skills, and I’m incredibly lucky to have found so much joy in that.

What is one project you’ve undertaken at IU that has taught you the most?
Being a part of
The Wave workshops here was incredibly invigorating and enlightening. Getting to work with such brilliant minds as they crafted a show before our eyes was not only educational, but wholly enthralling. I learned so much about the experience of being in a workshop, crafting character and structure of a show from a writer’s perspective, and making theatre with only some desks and rehearsal blocks. I can’t say enough positive things about it.

When no one is watching, what song do you love to dance or sing along with?
My favorite theatre song to jam to right now is “And They’re Off” from
A New Brain. I think William Finn is such a brilliant writer both lyrically and compositionally, and the song is a mainstay now in my audition book. Whether jamming to it before rehearsal or performing it in an audition, it’s a fun one. My favorite non-theatre song is “Digital Witness” by St. Vincent. Such an underappreciated musician, and all her music is wonderful. Look her up!

Who in the theatre world inspires you, and why?
One of my biggest theatrical inspirations is Mandy Patinkin. He is a performer with such versatility and ability in every sense of the words. When it comes to people who can interpret and present music beautifully, I think of him instantly. Whether it’s “Move On” in
Sunday in the Park with George, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” in The Wild Party, or “Losing My Mind” from Follies, he has such a strong grasp of musical language that I both envy and learn from.

What do you do outside of theatre?
Outside of theatre, I most often find myself catching up on sleep! Other than that I’m a political junkie, a puzzle solver, and a
Parks and Rec aficionado. Being in the lucky place of doing what you love for a career means I rarely do too much outside of performing, and I’m so grateful for that.

Do you have any words of advice for new theatre students?
If I could give a word of advice to new or incoming students, it’d be to educate yourself in the areas you don’t find interesting. Do what scares you. If you’re an actor take a playwriting class, if you’re a stage manager take a costuming class, if you’re a designer take a dance class! Learning about different things in the theatre world will never hurt you. The worst it can do is give you a better perspective on that work and the most it can do is introduce you to something you want to do the rest of your life. Exploration is key!

What is one exciting project you are currently working on, or have coming up? (as if we didn’t know…)
Coming up this Friday we open
City of Angels in which I play Stine, a novelist struggling to adapt his book for the screen while trying not to gray the lines between reality and fiction. It’s a wonderful show to be a part of and I’m humbled to be working with such talented, dedicated people. After the show, however, I’ll be sticking around Bloomington for the summer! I’ll be in both The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Chip Tolentino and Our Town as Wally Webb. I’m stoked to be doing my first shows in repertory and to play such different roles. Onward and upward!

Before becoming a Hoosier, Cole  Winston appeared in multiple professional productions with companies including First Stage, the Milwaukee Rep, and Skylight Music Theatre. He has also performed extensively as a vocalist, winning two years in a row in the Wisconsin NATS musical theatre competition and taking runner-up in the nationwide Songbook Academy competition in Carmel, IN. Cole is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.



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H-T Preview: IU brings movie within a play to the stage next weekend

By Joel Pierson H-T Theater columnist | Apr 8, 2018

Indiana University | Courtesy photo“City of Angels” cast members rehearse at IU’s Ruth N. Halls

A play within a play — it’s not just for works of Shakespeare. Opening this week on IU’s stage, the musical “City of Angels” makes good use of the theatrical technique. To be perfectly accurate, it’s more of a movie within a play, but the effect is much the same. Let me set the scene(s) for you.

The mean streets of Los Angeles, late 1940s. We meet a hard-boiled private eye named Stone with a chip on one shoulder and a bullet in the other one. He’s on a case that’s gone south, trying to find a missing heiress, and he’s got a bad feeling about it. But then—psych!—we meet Stine, a novelist who’s written a story called “City of Angels” that he’s adapting into a screenplay, as we watch. Stone’s plight is coming to life, courtesy of Stine’s typewriter.

Theater is a living thing, and Stine crafting Stone’s story in the moment reminds the audience of this at every turn. So, what the audience gets is two stories side by side, each fully fleshed out. As Stone tries to solve the case and find the dame— (Sorry, got caught up in the 1940s lingo. I really do have feminist leanings.) —Stine is trying to stay focused on his screenplay, despite his wife’s apprehension about stepping into this new medium.

The story of “City of Angels” comes from the mind of Larry Gelbart, writer of such screenplays as “Tootsie” and “Oh, God!” and such television classics as “M*A*S*H” and “The Danny Kaye Show.” Gelbart’s wit and creativity were legendary, and this shines through in the dual narrative here. Stine and Stone’s worlds, though separate, become intertwined as circumstances for each of them become similar and familiar. As the plot thickens, the writer and his character seem to influence each other’s thoughts and actions, building to a dramatic conclusion.

The cast of 32 is made up of musical theater BFA undergraduate students. Cole Winston plays Stine, while Joshua Scott Carter plays Stone. Almost all of the supporting cast doubles up, with a role in the screenplay and a role in Stine’s “real life.” Some fancy stagecraft helps the audience keep on top of whose story we’re in at the moment.

The score is all about the jazz, a fitting choice for the time and place. Songs like “What You Don’t Know About Women,” “You Gotta Look Out for Yourself,” “Ev’rybody’s Gotta Be Somewhere,” “All You Have to Do Is Wait,” “L.A. Blues” and “I’m Nothing Without You” move the plot along as they captivate the audience.

The show won six 1990 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and even if it doesn’t have the name recognition of a “Les Miserables” or a “Phantom of the Opera,” what it does have is the guts and the glory. (Sorry, there’s that 1940s lingo again. Maybe I should see somebody about that.) And it definitely has the pedigree to create an entertaining — dare I say enchanting? — evening of musical theater.

Contact Joel by sending an email to features@heraldt.com with “Pierson” in the subject line. 

If you go

WHO: Indiana University Department of Theater, Drama, and Contemporary DanceWHAT: “City of Angels” by Cy Coleman, David Zippel and Larry Gelbart

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Apr. 13-14, 17-21; 2 p.m. Apr. 21

WHERE: Ruth N. Halls Theater, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

TICKETS: $10-$20. Call 812.855.1103 or visit theatre.indiana.edu.

Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. For more local arts news and reviews, visit heraldtimesonline.com.
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