For the past three years, senior Theatre major Hannah Martin has gained valuable experience working alongside Broadway professionals as part of ĭmáGen, an educational collaboration between MSU’s Department of Theatre and the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts & Creativity at Wharton Center.
Each year, ĭmáGen brings together, on the same stage, MSU musical theatre and dance students, Broadway performers, and local high school and middle school students. Martin, who plans to graduate in May with a B.F.A. in Theatre, has been a part of each ĭmáGen production since its inception in 2014.
“There’s a lot of pressure; it’s a lot of work; and It’s definitely challenging, but there is an awesome support system here and to be able to experience this in a safe environment with my friends before going out in the real world is really special,” Martin said. “This is an absolute dream to be working on this kind of thing while still in college because it’s everything I hope to be doing as a professional after I graduate.”
This year’s ĭmáGen production is Temple, based on the life of the visionary, inventor, best-selling author, animal science professor, and autism activist Temple Grandin. Martin is the understudy to the St. Brigid character.
This is an absolute dream to be working on this kind of thing while still in college because it’s everything I hope to be doing as a professional after I graduate.
“Performing alongside the professionals is really invaluable,” Martin said. “Watching their process and how they handle themselves in rehearsals, how they commit to their characters, the choices they bring to their characters, is really beneficial for amateur actors and actors that are hoping to pursue this professionally.”
Through the years, Martin has been involved in all aspects of the ĭmáGen production, starting out before it even began as a research assistant, helping to establish the production and the process. She also performed in the ensemble in the first ĭmáGen production. For the second ĭmáGen production, she was on the search committee to select a musical. The committee ended up choosing “For Tonight,” a new musical by Shenelle and Spencer Williams and Whitney Rhodes.
“We had looked at a lot of new works to determine what was the best fit for the university and for our audiences. It was an awesome experience,” Martin said, “and the piece we brought in was just beautiful. We were the first fully staged production of ‘For Tonight.’”
Martin played Nettie, who is the younger sister of the main character in “For Tonight,” and debuted a song. And as the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts and Creativity at Wharton Center arts management intern, Martin has helped cast the high school students every year.
Because of her involvement in ĭmáGen Martin has made many connections, which she describes as “priceless.”
“As many people in the business that you can know, the better,” she said. “A lot rides on your talent and work ethic and ability, but at the end of the day you need to have people who can recommend you. It’s so awesome to have these directors’ names on my resume.”
During their time at Michigan State University, the Broadway professionals not only work on the show, they also teach master classes and workshops.
“We bring in this whole incredible team from New York and not only do I get to put the director’s name on my resume, I also have master classes with these actors on my resume,” Martin said.
A lot rides on your talent and work ethic and ability, but at the end of the day you need to have people who can recommend you.
The Temple performance will be a work-in-progress, staged concert reading where the actors will hold binders for much of the show.
“A lot of Broadway shows start out as workshops and readings like this,” Martin said. “It’s really a unique process to be able to inhabit your character fully while also holding a script, a score, and a pencil. It’s just an art form in and of itself. So to have that experience and to be able to say that I know how to do a workshop is really valuable.”
Temple has only had one production in its history, which took place in 2006. The following three performances are scheduled, including a sensory-friendly performance, at the Wharton Center’s Pasant Theatre:
- Friday, October 21, at 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, October 22, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
The Saturday matinee performance will be sensory-friendly, meaning it will be modified for audience members with sensory input disorders, ASD, or other differences.
Tickets are available at the official source to purchase Wharton Center tickets online, whartoncenter.com, at the Auto-Owners Insurance Ticket Office, or by calling 1-800-WHARTON.