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MSU Theatre And Dance Will Stream Their Production Of "The Secret Garden" Online

(Poster design courtesy Missouri State University Theatre and Dance)

The Missouri State University Theatre and Dance Department will offer a season of “streamed command performances” this year, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  The fall season opens with the musical “The Secret Garden”, based on the Victorian-era children’s novel by Frances Burnett, with music by Lucy Simon, book & lyrics by Marsha Norman. Robert Westenberg directs this production. Following the death of her parents in colonial India, eleven-year-old Mary is sent to live with her reclusive Uncle Archibald in the English countryside. Archibald still mourns the loss of his beautiful young wife a decade earlier, and his vast mansion is devoid of joy. His only child, ten-year-old Colin, is a sickly boy, confined to his room. Seeking to escape the gloom, Mary ventures outside and discovers a mysterious walled garden that has been locked since her aunt’s death. With the help of “The Dreamers”— protective spirits from her past — Mary resolves to bring the neglected garden back to life and restore the beauty that once was. “The Secret Garden” is an enchanting tale of hope and healing.  It will be available ONLY as a digital stream online, September 15-18 at 7:30pm each evening.                            

Managing Director of MSU Theatre and Dance, Mark Templeton, talked with us on "Arts News" about how the decision was made to go all-streaming this year, what's involved, and how the public can watch the show, which was originally scheduled for performances last spring. "We're very fortunate that we were right in the final dress rehearsals (for 'The Secret Garden'), and we are fortunate that the entire class of that (show) were underclassmen." (No graduations among the cast members, in other words!) "So we were able to begin this semester kind of ahead of the game. The set wasn't completed, but very much in the final stages of being complete, as well as the costumes. We did have to replace a couple of our students out of their own personal concerns."
But director Bob Westenberg has been able to put the final touches on the production, and after a couple of dress rehearsals, Mark Templeton said they video-recorded the show. "We are very fortunate that the license-holder has allowed us to do that. And we are prepared to deliver this to our patrons electronically. We are one of the few universities that are actually executing a production--I know that many people are doing smaller shows--but this is a cast of 30 people, a full orchestra, which includes members of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. I've seen some of the footage, and I am super excited."
Westenberg had a production team, several of whom were experienced in video work, bolstered by some students from the new Master's program in the MSU Media, Journalism and Film department. If you're expecting a simple, single-camera shoot, think again, said Mark Templeton. "No, there are three cameras, and there's switching between cameras. It's not the highest level of production, but it's not something that's just soft and stagnant, either."
The Theatre and Dance Department will provide four online streams of "The Secret Garden," Tuesday through Friday evenings at 7:30pm September 15th through 18th. The streaming video will be available each of those evenings at; click on "Current Productions," and "Secret Garden" will be the first show on the page. Click on the "buy live access" button to purchase your viewing of the show--access goes on sale TODAY (Friday Sept.11) at 4:00pm.
Tickets will not be available by phone, but only online, said Templeton. "You can't call the box office at Missouri State Tix like you'd normally do. We have to go through this other entity, because it's kind of like bonded and ensured that they will make sure that no one's recording the performances, or it's not being delivered in a way that people can lift the material. And they guarantee the license holder that it will be destroyed after the viewing time is over" each of the four evenings. Unlike some similar streams, these will NOT be available for, say, a 24-hour period. "You just have to look at it as attending the live theater, but you're in the comfort of your own home. It will start at 7:30... and if you're late to your 'seat', you will miss part of the show!" You'll be able to log in and buy access to that night's stream during the first thirty minutes, between 7:30 and 8:00pm.
Tickets for a single-patron viewer access code are $21. "If you're going to gather and watch it in a kind of family setting, we do have a 'family pass' available" for $52. "We hope that we will be supported by the Springfield community," added Templeton. "We are really excited about this, but the challenges we have faced to get this work up have been... well, like nothing I've ever seen before! So we want people to see the work of these students--it's the culmination of work that started back in the spring."
Mark Templeton also pointed out that, being online, "The Secret Garden" will be accessible worldwide. "People, a lot of times, cannot see our performances because they live so dadgummed far away! Well, this time, anybody from around the world" can purchase access to stream the performance. "I had a call yesterday, and they were wanting to know how their friends in Liverpool (UK) could watch the show. And they're going to get up at 4:30am to watch the show! So this is available across the United States, and internationally as well."
But keep in mind: the number of viewers who can access each night's stream will be limited by the video-streaming service providing the technical facilities, said Templeton. "And just like the seats in the theater, we only have so many access codes that we can sell. So it will be first-come, first served."
MSU Theatre and Dance intends to do the rest of their 2020-21 season in "streamed command performance" form. "Our plans for the entire season will be to stream all of our shows all the way through May 2021. We are going to pivot our next couple of productions to kind of a smaller version of what we intended, because we want to be very mindful of the health and wellness of our students. We are going to go to a more limited setting of delivering any kind of virtual performances for the remaining part of the semester. So, that's why we have put so much effort into 'The Secret Garden,' to make sure that it really does showcase the talent of our students--our performers and our technicians."
Again, for information, visit; there you’ll find a “buy live access” button to purchase your viewing of the show.

Randy Stewart joined the full-time KSMU staff in June 1978 after working part-time as a student announcer/producer for two years. His job has evolved from Music Director in the early days to encompassing production of a wide range of arts-related programming and features for KSMU, including the online and Friday morning "Arts News." Stewart assists volunteer producers John Darkhorse (Route 66 Blues Express), Lee Worman (The Gold Ring), and Emily Higgins (The Mulberry Tree) with the production of their programs. He's also become the de facto "Voice of KSMU" in recent years due to the many hours per day he’s heard doing local station breaks. Stewart’s record of service on behalf of the Springfield arts community earned him the Springfield Regional Arts Council's "Ozzie Award" in 2006.