Firstly, I love the Maryville College Theatre Department. The experiences I’ve had learning how to build sets, craft props, and run the shows backstage have become some of my favorite parts of my college experience.
There was a time in my life, around my sophomore and junior year, where being on the carpentry crew was really the only outlet I had to feel competent and see that competency put into practice for a broad audience. Through carpentry, I’ve picked up the hobby of woodworking and will enjoy that for the rest of my life.
The Maryville College faculty and Clayton Center staff within the department have been some of the most positive influences on my life. Heather McMahon taught my First Year Seminar class four years ago, Improvisation in Art and in Life, and that was one of the nicest and purest experiences I had as a freshman. Kevin Grigsby taught me everything I know about carpentry and to be capable in his eyes is one of my proudest personal achievements.
The students in the department have become my closest friends and roommates over the years. The memories I’ve made with them and lessons they’ve taught me will forever make me a better man. I wouldn’t trade anyone in the department for the world because they’ve meant the world to me.
Because I love and am loved by this department, I feel comfortable bringing to light an issue that I have with the casting decisions made on “Shrek The Musical.” Only one Maryville College student received a role on the main cast. The rest of the main cast is made up of non-students and community members. The ensemble is a mixture of students, faculty, and community members as well.
Of course, there are no small roles in theater. Halie Lafon even demonstrated this with her performance in “Much Ado About Nothing” earlier in the semester—my favorite part of that show, but the fact is students who pay money to attend Maryville are being passed over for roles in major shows. This is a problem that doesn’t sit well with me.
The theater and music majors who auditioned for the show would have gained invaluable experience in lead roles for such a large production. This would’ve been valuable work experience and a major booster to any resume.
Maryville College students are assembling the set—many of whom auditioned for the lead roles, but they won’t be doing the bulk of performance in “Shrek The Musical.” This is a tragedy that rivals any of the Classical Greek plays.
I felt similarly about “9 to 5: The Musical” two years ago, but I also felt concerned that I would alienate myself from the rest of the department if spoke up about it. I now feel as though I have enough clout to make my opinion known in a very public forum.
My brothers and sisters in the department pour their blood, sweat and tears into every production we put on here at MC, and they deserve better. I’ve seen so many of them grow greatly as actors and performers in my time with them, and “Shrek The Musical” would’ve been an opportunity for them to grow even further and have an experience that would better prepare them for the professional world they aspire to inhabit.
If you invest a lot of time into something and love that something so much, you should be comfortable with giving it constructive criticism. This department and the people in it saw me through the darkest time of my life. I don’t know if “Shrek The Musical” will feel like a Maryville College show anymore—there’s something off about it.