Eight undergraduate Theatre students (six actors and two designers) are preparing to travel to the United Arab Emirates to participate in the first International Theatre Festival at the American University of Sharjah, located about 15 miles from Dubai in the city of Sharjah.
The students are traveling with Department of Theatre Chairperson Kirk Domer and Associate Professor of Theatre Rob Roznowski, who will both be actively involved in the festival. Domer will work with student designers and help teach a series of design master classes, while Roznowski will work with the acting students and lead workshops on Inner Monologue in Acting.
“I imagine all our eyes are going to be opened to see how the different universities approach this important theme.”Kirk Domer
“I wanted to be a part of the Dubai trip for many reasons, but the first one I can remember was thinking, ‘Where is the last place I will ever have the chance to explore in this world?’ Dubai was the simple answer,” said Katelyn Wilson, a senior Theatre major. “I am looking forward to exploring and experiencing a new culture with totally different customs. I have never been somewhere so foreign to our customs in the United States. I consider myself very lucky to have this experience.”
Student Actors Present New Play
As part of the festival, the acting students will perform a new play, Be. Longing., written by Roznowski, which they have been rehearsing since the end of last semester. To go along with the festival theme, “cultural identity,” the play is a collection of scenes that examine different aspects of cultural identity – socialization, work, adolescents, etc. – and how we become the people we are. The play performance at the festival is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 2, and will be followed by a professional critique session that is open to the public.
The other universities participating in the festival also will present a play based on the cultural identity theme.
“I’m intrigued to see how each institution will respond to the charge of the play development surrounding cultural identity, diversity, and inclusion,” Domer said. “I imagine all our eyes are going to be opened to see how the different universities approach this important theme.”
Student Designers and Arabian Nights
The student designers will work on a common script project, an American adaptation of Arabian Nights, where they will be paired with another design student from a different university and will design sets and costumes for their version of Arabian Nights.
“Everybody constructs environments. Everyone selects clothing for actors. The exciting part will be to see how we erase the international boundaries and use our common design vernacular to work together,” Domer said.
Festival organizers suggested Arabian Nights, allowing them to be content experts on location, while the American students are content experts in American-style writing.
“Designing Arabian Nights in the United Arab Emirates will allow us to conduct primary research,” Domer said. “During the first two days, we will have various city tours to immerse ourselves in the culture so students will see the architecture and experience modern-day fashion in order to incorporate those real-life observations into their design.”
Besides the performances and common script project, the students also will participate in master classes as part of the festival, with the acting students being instructed in different types of acting led by theatre faculty from the United Arab Emirates and other Middle Eastern countries.
“Our students have been given this wonderful opportunity to absorb and appreciate different cultures.”Kirk Domer
Department of Theatre alumnus Ted Rhyner, who earned an MFA in Production Design with an emphasis in Lighting from Michigan State University in 2010, is an Assistant Professor, Lighting Designer, and Technical Director at the American University of Sharjah. He suggested that MSU’s Department of Theatre submit a proposal to the festival and it was accepted.
“The festival itself is paying for everything while we are there. We just had to pay for the airfare,” Roznowski said. “They are paying for the housing, the food, the classes; so it’s a pretty amazing opportunity for the students.”
Students were selected as part of the department’s theatrical season casting process among those Theatre students who indicated a desire to travel to the United Arab Emirates.
The MSU students who are participating include:
- Joseph Lancour, junior set designer
- Ian Klahre, sophomore actor
- Katelyn Wilson, senior actor
- Trevor Earley, senior actor
- Taylor Blair, senior actor
- Lucy Wagenaar, junior costume designer
- Grace Hinkley, senior actor
- Raied Jawhari, sophomore actor
“Our students have been given this wonderful opportunity to absorb and appreciate different cultures,” Domer said, “and although we all create art in different ways…the show always opens.”
The group will travel to the United Arab Emirates on Friday, Jan. 27, and return on Sunday, Feb. 5.