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Arts and Entertainment

MSU Theater 515 Class Produces Theatrical Vignettes About Social Issues

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(photo courtesy Missouri State University Department of Theater and Dance)
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The Missouri State University Theater 515 class, "Theater for Social Change," explores new theater that addresses social issues in the community in partnership with various non-profit organizations.  Their final project of the fall semester will be Mosaic, a series of theatrical vignettes dealing with such social issues as autism, mental health, AIDS, and speech disorders--all of which are relevant to the Springfield area, according to the class's instructor, Dr. Telory Arendell, Assistant Professor of Theater and Dance.

Dr. Arendell bases her instruction in the class on how to get "devised theater" about social change on-stage, "based on other practitioners who have come in the past--people like Berthold Brecht as a really good example.  (The students) get a good grounding on all of that before we use our own service-learning experiences to try to craft a (theater) piece."

One of the Theater 515 students is Senior theater and dance major Ethan Ritschel, who says the class requires students to acquire 15 hours of service-learning experience by working with a local non-profit.  There are 12 students in this semester's class. "Each of my classmates partnered with a different organization.  My organization was Art Inspired Academy, which works with individuals who have developmental disabilities, and they create theater, music and fine art with those individuals.  So I've been working in the theater class with them, and it's taught me a lot about myself as an artist and about what I want to do in the future."

"At the heart of each scene" in Mosaic, says Ethan in his Dramaturg statement for the show, "is a difference, and the way we treat it is vitally important. How we represent identity shapes how people are."

Having each student work with a different service learning organization was something of a departure for the class, according to Dr. Arendell. "Some years I have everybody go to the same service learning place.  And this time I really opened it up, which made it slightly more difficult to make the (theatrical) piece. But these different vignettes that we use actually really do speak to each other.  So, whereas AIDS, you would think, maybe doesn't have anything to do with autism, I think there are things that blend everything together."

Ethan says the vignettes in Mosaic range from a monolog to scenes between two actors, and entire group scenes involving as many as seven or eight actors onstage. Dr. Arendell adds, "Some of the work that we're doing is taken from published scripts, but some of it is actually written by students in the class."

There will be a single performance of Mosaic on Thursday December 3rd from 11:00am to about 12:15pm in the Craig Hall Coger Theater.  Admission is free and open to the public.  For more information, email Dr. Arendell at tdarendell@missouristate.edu.