Summer theater kicks off this week

By Joel Pierson H-T Theater columnist
May 28, 2017

Julia Paige Thorne as “Mona” in IUST’s opening production of “Dames at Sea”

Ahh, the Indiana University summer theater season is here. Back in the day, (said Grandpa), plays were held in the Brown County Playhouse. It cost tuppence to get in, and your program was hand scribed by monks. OK, I may be exaggerating a bit, but that’s how I remember it. Time marches on, and today’s summer plays are presented closer to home, in the Wells-Metz Theatre. Given these modern surroundings, it’s a tiny bit ironic that the first show of the season is a 1966 musical set in the early 1930s. But hey, at least it’s a lot of fun.

The show is “Dames at Sea,” a tribute to the lavish movie musicals of the ’30s. It’s the story of Ruby, fresh off the bus in New York after leaving her home in Utah. Determined to live the life of a Broadway star, she quickly meets a sailor who also has dreams of being a songwriter — and she soon realizes she has feelings for him. In classic musical comedy fashion, every new character we meet further entangles Ruby in romance and intrigue, on her path to fame and success.

Directing and choreographing the production is Kenneth L. Roberson, who shared, “These musicals from the ’30s, like ‘The Gold Diggers of 1933’ and ‘42nd Street,’ were Depression-era movies. They released people from what was going on in the world, and with our political climate now, it’s relevant.”

Professor Terry LaBolt of the BFA Musical Theatre program, the musical director for this show, added, “‘Dames at Sea’ is a delightful pastiche of the 1930s Busby Berkeley movies.”

The cast of six works hard to tell their story through song and dance — especially dance. “What helped to solidify the cast was the tap dancing,” Roberson said. “It’s a production where everyone has to do everything. You can’t hide behind the sweetness of the show.”

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

If you go

IU Summer Theater

WHAT: “Dames at Sea” by George Haimsohn, Robin Miller and Jim Wise

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. June 2, 3, 6-10, 13-17; 2 p.m. June 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18

WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington

TICKETS: $10-$20. Call 812-855-1103 or visit

Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. For more Bloomington arts news, visit
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(Really) getting to know the cast of ‘Dames at Sea’

By Amy Reader

When we watch a performance, it’s easy to think that the people on stage aren’t really people. Rather, they are beautifully talented demi-gods who can sing, dance, and act at the same time. However, actors are just like everybody else, with likes/dislikes/interests/aspirations all across the spectrum. Take a look at the hidden hobbies of the cast of Dames at Sea, they just might surprise you:

Yellow Brick WarHogan.jimmyJimmy Hogan enjoys the company of any book that can sweep him away from reality and into an adventurous world. His most recent indulgence is Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige, the third installment of the Dorothy Must Die series. “I like how it takes the cuteness of it out. It’s a very brutal story and I think it’s so cool to see something that is usually associated with childhood… turn into something so different and dark”

Balsley.broderick2017Broderick Balsley has an eye for style and a love for the fashion industry. According to Broderick, Summer 2017 is all about floral prints, stripes, and denim on denim. While he doesn’t design clothes himself, his knack for fashion has an influence on the way he erdem-001-1366dresses.

“I try to replicate many of the new, artistic designs and make them into my own outfits that fit into trending pop culture of the time.” As for who he thinks is making an impact in the fashion world, Broderick said, “I think the designer, Erdem, is really nailing the textures and patterns that are hot this year.”

Podulka.lisaLisa Podulka has a passion for Spanish culture, specifically the literature and theatre. After closing Dames at Sea, Lisa plans to jet off to Buenos Aires, Argentina to study abroad for the summer.

Evita BA

“My favorite Spanish-related musicals are Evita and Man of La Mancha! Actually my obsession with Evita is partly why I’m going to Buenos Aires.”


Before making the move to Indiana University to study musical theatre, Casey Lamont expressed her passion for working with special needs students. She worked with the organization PALS, which lets high school students assist their peers with Down syndrome, giving them a place to learn, make friends, and have fun.

pals logo

“I was [involved] back home, and still keep in touch with the students I was mentoring, but I’m currently searching for ways to get back into that here in Bloomington.”


When Julia Thorn takes off her dancing shoes, she turns to one of her favorite hobbies: knitting. Julia enjoys making cold weather accessories for herself and her family during the winter months.


“These mittens look a little crazy because they’re the first pair I made for myself,” she said. When asked if the mittens (pictured here) were baby-sized, she laughed, “No, those are my mittens. I kind of have baby-sized hands.”

When asked about his current obsession, Henry Miller, responded simply — He loves Diet Coke. “It’s like lowkey an addiction haha,” he said. “I’ve been trying to cut myself back but I usually drink about one a day.”Henry Coke

Please come see Dames at Sea, opening this Friday, June 2nd, to show your support for Henry and the rest of the incredible cast
and crew.




Reader17759906_1500301083322667_60115000267237763_nAmy Reader is a junior majoring in Theatre & Drama and Media Advertising. She is Director of Communications for University Players, where she recently portrayed Einstein in Picasso at the Lapin Agile. She also is the current president of Midnight Snack Comedy, an improv comedy troupe that features a variety of short-form improv, sketches, stand-up sets, and long-form improv.  Amy is from Lebanon, IN.

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A music director’s “Majestic” start

IU Faculty Music Director Terry LaBolt

We’re thrilled to share this story from “Dames at Sea” Music Director Terry LaBolt. This week Terry reached out to Tim and Jennifer Perrino of Cincinnati Landmark Productions to see if they might still have a photo or two of their production of “Dames” from 1974 on the Showboat Majestic, which was formerly owned by Indiana University, hosting productions between 1948 and 1973!

To our surprise and delight, what Tim aptly described as a “small trove of items”, scanned photos and newspaper clippings, appeared almost instantaneously in our email inboxes. Here we share Terry’s reminiscences and a few of these treasures from his first paid job in theatre.

When I began rehearsals for IU Summer Theatre’s production of Dames at Sea this month, I was flooded with memories from over 40 years ago. Back when I was in college, my very first job in theatre was “Dames,” aboard the Showboat Majestic in Cincinnati. I did many other shows there during my college years, but “Dames” remains special, a kind of first-born.

Back then tickets were a whole dollar and a half for Thursday and Sunday performances and an extra quarter if you wanted to come Friday or Saturday!

The Showboat Majestic. Photo courtesy of IU Archives. Read more at

As I began rehearsals this month at IU (remember I had not done the show since 1974), my memories of that first cast and the score (even the handwriting of the score engraver) were vivid. But now, with a lifetime of experiences, it is even more joyous to explore this delightful pastiche of the 1930’s movie musicals. Long before 42nd Street or the famous No, No Nanette revival, the characters in “Dames” poked gently at the predictable movie plots. The characters of Ruby (after Ruby Keeler) and Dick (after Dick Powell) fall in love in the course of one song (as it always happened), and the theater is going to be demolished (of course).

It is so exciting to have a new set of youngsters discovering this genre. All the historical references (“Aimee Semple and Shirley Temple”, “Jean Harlow and Gretta Garbo”) are forever part of my vocabulary, but the period costumes, jazzy razz-ma-tazzy lingo, and the ever-present tap routines are delightful discoveries for these 18-20 somethings. And every day when I see them in rehearsal, I am reminded of myself as that young college freshman, teaching music to a cast for the very first time so many years ago.

This summer’s production in the Wells-Metz Theatre, directed by Kenneth L. Roberson, is a joyful start to the 2017 Summer Season. Sets and lighting are designed by 2017 MFA graduates Kevin Nelson and Matthew Wofford, respectively, and the costumes are creations courtesy of the Department’s head of costume design, Linda Pisano.

The original 1974 cast members have had various careers, among them Broadway performer, television reporter, minister, composer/lyricist, and director choreographer. A recent social media post about doing “Dames” this summer garnered many comments from this first cast. Jim Walton, the original “Dick” is currently in the Broadway company of Sunset Boulevard with Glenn Close. As the summer progresses I look forward to connecting that first cast with this new production!

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H-T Preview: IU Theatre announces summer 2017 season

By Joel Pierson H-T Theater columnist

It’s just barely spring, and already we’re thinking about summer — for today, anyway, because Indiana University has announced their summer theater season, and once again, we have four plays to enliven Bloomington’s off season. Details are still being finalized, but I’ll provide more information before each show opens. Today, I can share an overview what’s in store.


From the department of “titles that would never fly in today’s society,” we have George Haimsohn and Jim Wise’s “Dames at Sea” (June 2-18). Premiering back in the 1960s, it’s a parody of big 1930s musicals, where the chorus girl comes to New York for her big break and gets a shot at stardom in the show of her dreams. Very self-aware as it tells its tale, “Dames at Sea” is having a good time, inviting the audience to do so as well. Beyond mere parody, it’s become a popular franchise that’s revived for national tours every few years.

Next up is another Jane Austen adaptation (following in the tradition of last summer’s “Sense and Sensibility.)” This season offers us Jennifer LeBlanc’s stage version of Austen’s “Persuasion” (July 8-23). It’s the story of Anne Elliot, a 19th-century woman in her late twenties. Her family decides to cut expenses by moving, and they rent out their home to a military man who’s just come back from war. By coincidence, this man is related to Anne’s former fiance, opening up the second chance for a relationship for the pair.

What would summer be without Shakespeare? OK, true, it would still be summer, but a bit less Shakespearean. Filling your Elizabethan needs this time is Jonathan Michaelsen’s production of “Love’s Labour’s Lost” (July 7-22), featuring three Ls, an extra u, and an apostrophe I always forget to put in. One of Will’s first comedies, it is the story of a king and three of his male friends who decide to avoid women for three years, in favor of studying and taking care of their health. What are the odds that they’ll meet four women who totally turn their heads and throw their plans off the rails?

Finishing up the season, we have another musical, a bit more contemporary than the first: Brett Ryback’s “Joe Schmoe Saves the World” (Aug. 16-19). Set in 2011, it’s the story of an American indie rock band and also the story of two Iranian students living in Tehran. It uses actual people and events to tell a fictionalized story about the similarities and differences between life in America and life in Iran. This musical, with its rock-and-roll score, pushes the envelope a bit and explores important themes of national and international significance. I’m calling it my one to watch for this summer season.

As I said, I’ll have more details on each individual show about a week before it opens, so keep watching this space. I’ll also be back with details on Shawnee Theater’s summer season.

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

If you go

Tickets to IU Summer Theatre shows are $10-$20 at the IU Auditorium Box Office, 1211 E. 7th St., Bloomington. You can also visit or call 812-855-1103.

• “Dames at Sea”: 7:30 p.m. June 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17; 2 p.m. June 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at Wells-Metz Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

• “Love’s Labour’s Lost”: 7:30 p.m. July 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 19 and 21; 2 p.m. July 16 and 22 at Wells-Metz Theatre.

• “Persuasion”: 7:30 p.m. July 8, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22; 2 p.m. July 9, 15 and 23 at Wells-Metz Theatre.

• “Joe Schmoe Saves the World”: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16-19 at Wells-Metz Theatre.

Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. For more Bloomington arts news, visit
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Musical Theatre: A success story

By Rinjisha Roy

Every year IU Theatre stages musicals as part of its regular season and summer theatre repertoires. Chronologically, this season we had Jesus Christ Superstar and The Drowsy Chaperone at the Ruth N. Halls Theatre, and we can’t wait to present Dames at Sea in the Wells-Metz as the first production of IU Summer Theatre 2017!

As someone who has grown up watching musicals back in my hometown, I was curious to know more about the origins of this art form and how it achieved eminence. Through a quick research, I found that Broadway’s first long-running musical was The Elves, staged in 1857. Gradually, the first Broadway theatres consolidated in New York in the 1920s, a period associated with rise of live theatre when people needed escapist entertainment to survive World War 1 and its aftermath.

Michael Wilkerson, Director of Arts Administration Programs, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Although live theatre grew popular around this time, it was challenged by a newly emerging art form- the motion picture. Professor Michael Wilkerson, Director of the Arts Administration program at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), talks in-depth about the circumstances that happened during this time. “Live theatre in its various incarnations has always changed depending on various changes in culture. In the middle ages, the theme was religion, and after the decline of religion as a centre of culture, you had a more secular approach to drama. Music became an adornment and theatre more lively and fun.”

Musical theatre, he says, was a way to make the entire art form cohere; however, ‘talkie’ films, as they were called, killed Vaudeville by the early 1930s. “Movie companies in Hollywood reached out to local theatres and said that if theatres chose to show movies that everyone was talking about, they would have to show them six nights every week. From the theatres’ standpoint, renting a film from Hollywood and staging it was vastly cheaper than hiring local artists to perform each night. And so began the decline of musicals. Almost immediately, with the exception of a handful, all regional theatres converted to full-time movie theatres. Due to an absence of government policy, there was no one to champion for the rights of local artists consequently laid out of work,” observes Wilkerson.

It was only with government intervention through the New Deal programs in the early 1930s that the live arts regained their lost importance. “When Roosevelt was elected President in 1932, he realized that unlike the strategy used by his predecessors, massive intervention on part of the government was now needed to curb the rising economic crisis.” Under Roosevelt’s initiative, the Works Progress Administration was the most influential New Deal agency that employed millions of people to perform public service projects, including about 6000 artists hired by the year 1936. Wilkerson feels that there were two reasons for inclusion of the arts into this project. “First, before the stock market crashed in 1929, Vaudeville had collapsed and there was a known crisis that local artists who were out of work needed support. Secondly, Roosevelt’s right-hand man, Harry Hopkins, championed for the arts.” Under the influence of Hopkins and Roosevelt’s wife Eleanor, the Federal Project Number One was created to extend New Deal relief to artists, a project that was beneficial for the arts for quite a few years.

At this time, musical theatre also became prominent. It came about as a response to usurpation by the movies, feels Wilkerson. “Artists collaborated to create a parallel to stories shown in movies, coupled with music set in a coherent plot but in a live setting. The only trouble was that there were not many theatres available then to showcase such art, which is part of why musical theatre is so New York centred even today,” he adds.

As the economy rebounded, the period between 1940s and 1960s saw a number of successes in musical theatre including ones like Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. The flourish can be largely attributed to the content of these shows that was largely detached from politics. “Earlier there was controversy surrounding the Federal Theatre Project, especially after a show called The Cradle Will Rock that was about labour unions and strikes. As the WPA got closed down, artists sensed that since it was expensive to create and stage musical theatre, it was wiser to show things that do not offend anyone,” explains Wilkerson. Hence the idea of lively and escapist entertainment took better shape in the form of musicals. In the 21st century, musicals have grown to be sophisticated, imaginative, and subtle, while at the same time retaining earlier traits of escapism and vibrant entertainment that still draw significant crowds.

And now, if you would like to escape this summer, A Year With Frog and Toad is in it’s final week at Cardinal Stage, followed by Cardinal’s final show, West Side Story, both featuring IU Musical Theatre BFA’s! And of course, don’t forget to check out IU Summer Theatre’s production of Dames At Sea, opening June 2nd in the Wells-Metz Theatre. Hope to see you all there!

We’d like to thank SPEA Arts Administration graduate student Rinjisha Roy for her numerous contributions to the 7th & Jordan blog and behind the scenes at IU Theatre this semester! She will be doing an internship with the IU Archives this summer.

Rinjisha  is from Calcutta, India and was a literature major as an undergraduate at St. Xaviers College in Calcutta. Her interests include writing, poetry, Shakespearean theatre and classical music.

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Year One, in the books


By James Nelson

Just like that, my first year of grad school is over. It seems to have flown by, but I can’t even wrap my head around everything that I’ve done this year.

Actually, scratch that. I’m going to make myself wrap my head around it. Because before I came to grad school, I didn’t have a clear idea about what I’d actually be doing here, and for anyone looking into doing a similar program, it might be cool to see an example of how you’d spend your time.

So, here’s a recap of the first year of my MFA program:

-My big first-year project was a full studio production of a play I adore, Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation. It let me work with some incredible undergraduate actors, conceptualize a play for a unique theatre space with few resources, and engage with a challenging text that reveals its complexity the deeper you delve into it.

-I collaborated with 1st-year playwright Aaron Ricciardi on three projects: staged readings of his full-length plays Can I See Your Face? and Nice Nails, and a fully-produced production of his one-act play Resting Bitch Face. Working with Aaron was great experience in new play development and rehearsing with a playwright in the room.

-As a bonus project, I directed a production of a one-act play (Richard Greenberg’s The Author’s Voice) with several of my MFA actor colleagues.

-I took two directing courses: an intensive project-based course and a directing lab in which I received feedback in the rehearsal room while I worked with actors and produced two plays.

-I got to teach my first college theatre course, a section of Acting I. It made me realize the deep layers of technique that help new actors approach the work as a trainable craft, and helped me practice these fundamentals in a variety of ways.

-I took 8 weeks of period dance training, a couple specialty acting courses, a seminar on Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill, and an ensemble creation course with devised theatre elements.

-I took a Shakespeare course with Henry Woronicz, who is just a gem, and it helped me feel way more confident approaching and breaking down classical text.

-I had extensive training in stage combat and got to take a certification test in rapier/dagger and unarmed combat.

-I assistant-directed Dancing at Lughnasa, which oriented me to the casting, rehearsal, and production process of the main stage productions here.

-I worked in the marketing office, writing press releases and marketing materials for the shows.

-I took an oral exam over my 30 book/play reading list and a written exam covering 10 directing theory books.

Whew! There was a lot packed in to these nine months! And it only gets crazier from here on out: I’m directing for the main stage next season, and the reading lists and courses get more difficult from here on out.

Let’s go, Year Two: I’m ready for you! Uh, well, I mean, let me have a couple months off first?

See you in the fall, IU!




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So Long, Farewell

By Ashley Dillard

Hello internet land! I am writing to you today with my last blog post (cue Semisonic’s ‘Closing Time’ as I drown my sorrows in a bowl of dairy free ice cream) because as of May 5th, I will officially be finished my MFA! Let’s face it– change is tough. Huge life changes are especially tough. But these big life changes, while scary, can also be exciting because it opens up your entire world to new possibilities! With graduation a mere week away, I wanted to chat with some of our 2017 Department of Theatre, Drama, and Contemporary Dance graduates and see how they were feeling about entering the real world.

Kevin Nelson’s professional headshot.

3rd year Scenic Design MFA Kevin Nelson has been hard at work trying to secure employment for post-grad school life. “When I think about graduation, I feel that it has come upon us far too quickly. This year seemed to fly by. I feel that I have missed opportunities to push myself this semester especially because my focus has been on finding work for post-graduation. However, I am ready to go out and do what I love doing away from an academic institution and the “safety net” that has been so wonderful these past three years.”



Josiah loves to stage manage!

Senior Josiah Brown echoes that sentiment of time flying by, “I’m feeling antsy. It’s like this big event that I’ve been planning and working towards for four years now and now that it is finally here, I’m not sure what to do about it. However, I do feel prepared and ready to tackle the day. I’ve met so many different people and been through so many different experiences that would have normally been out of my comfort zone before college. Between all of the bonfires at Lake Monroe, easy going summer days during IU Summer Theatre, countless unforgettable productions, late nights on campus, radio shows at WIUX, and so much more its hard to pick out just one as my favorite moment at IU. ”

Bailey during rehearsals for Antigone.

Senior Contemporary Dance major Bailey Prager finds the unknown aspect of the future part of the thrill, “I’ve just been focused on what’s next–where and how can I find work to keep me in the business. It’s really exciting! You never know where you’ll be in a few months!”




Courtney’s professional headshot.

Some of our graduates have made 1, 5, and 10 year plans to help them figure out what the right next step is for them. Senior Courtney Relyea-Spivak has thought out her options, “Paulina Makowska (Movement and Silks Choreographer for The Tempest, in which Courtney played one of the three Ariels) has offered me a job at a Pilates studio that she is opening in town. She will be helping me get the rest of my certifications so that I can be a fully trained Pilates instructor. She’s very flexible and will schedule my clients around whatever rehearsal schedule I have going on because she understands that it’s a day job and not my primary job. I don’t think I’d be able to find that flexibility any where else. I figured ‘better Bloomington than New York’ because it’s either go home and live with my parents for free (Courtney is originally from New Jersey) and then try to break into a bigger pond where I’m a much smaller fish or stay in Bloomington where I’ve spent four years creating a name for myself and there’s still ample opportunity.”

Matt’s professional headshot.

Like Courtney, 3rd year MFA actor Matthew Murry, already has solid plans for his post-graduation life. He has accepted an adjunct teaching position at University of North Dakota where he will be teaching acting. “Graduation is bitter sweet. I’m going to really miss my friends. We’ve worked really hard towards this culmination– to release ourselves back into the world is scary but exciting. Moving forward feels good, knowing that I have a job at the same university as my wife and being able to both direct and teach–the future looks bright. ”

Adam in dress rehearsal for Macbeth.



Senior Adam Decker is less sure about his plan, but knows the general direction he wants to go. “Graduation is exciting and scary, honestly. Any time you are going through a huge change in your life it’s going to be scary. Not only am I leaving college, but having been in school for my entire life, now I’m going into the real world and figuring out how to manage my time without a hard school schedule. It’s a big step, but I feel ready! I kind of have a plan. I will ideally be in Chicago. Over the summer I will be searching for a job. It’s close to home and I have a great support base there. Plus it offers a lot of opportunity for things like theatre and media without having to jump into a giant city like LA or New York. Ideally that is where I’ll end up–let’s hope it all works out!”

Lani and her colorful headshot.

3rd year Costume Technology MFA Lani Tortoriello can’t wait to put her education to good use! “I am really excited about graduation. I am less excited about not having a full-time job yet, but I am still excited. I think anyone who was working before they came to grad school may be more excited about entering the workforce than someone who is coming straight out of undergrad. I am excited to have things like time in the evening, real paychecks, and being able to go back out with a new, well improved set of skills. Right now I’m in the final round of interviews for a position at Florida State University in their costume shop.  It would be exciting if I get this job and I hope I do!”

As for me, I will be sticking around Bloomington for the next year, *hopefully* working in the area (I will be acting in IUST’s repertory productions this summer) and getting married here in October! I love this town so much. I met my soon to be husband here, I learned more than I could’ve ever imagined, I made the best friends in the entire world, and I got to meet all of you amazing IU theatre community members.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything IU!

Ashley Dillard is a 3rd year MFA actor at Indiana University. She has been seen most recently as Kate in Dancing at Lughnasa at IU, Katherine in Home at the BPP, Marianne in Sense and Sensibility and Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream both for IU Summer Theater. Though she calls beautiful Bloomington home now, she originally hails from Highland, IN.





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