By Jillian Ramsey
This article was originally published in Issue 1, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (September 9, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
Act 1 is the DeSales University Division of Performing Arts, which houses the theatre, dance and TV/film departments, as well as chorale. Mr. John Bell, who serves as a director, choreographer and conductor, heads the division. Bell’s professional credits are comprised of the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theatre, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Meadowbrook Theatre, the Orlando Shakespeare Festival, the Virginia Opera and the Michigan Opera.
Altogether, this semester Act 1 has six different productions coming to both the Shubert Theatre and the Main Stage at DeSales’ Labuda Center of Performing Arts.
Bell says, “We’re excited about all of the productions this semester. “Bus Stop” opens our season and is a wonderful play by the Great American playwright William Inge. It is a funny and poignant play about life and growing up.”
Some other theatre productions coming to the Main Stage throughout the fall semester are “Once Upon a Mattress” and “Merry Christmas, George Bailey”.
“It’s always fun to treat our students and our audiences to titles that have never been produced on the Labuda Stages,” Bell adds.
In addition to all of the exhilarating theatre productions at Labuda, there is also the Screendance Film Festival, which is a collaboration between the dance and TV/film departments. This festival allows DeSales students from different departments to collaborate and bring unique artistic abilities to the table within a 48-hour time span.
Labuda’s Schubert Theatre will also house the dance department’s Emerging Choreographer’s Concert, popularly known as ECC, which is titled “Ignite” this year. ECC is a dance concert in which all of the choreographers are
DeSales University dance students who put together the entire show.
“I always look forward to the Emerging Choreographer’s Concert because it is presented in the intimate Schubert Theatre with the audience seated on three sides.
That’s a marvelous space in which to watch dance,” Bell says.
Mary Kate Selby, a senior dance major, will be presenting her work in ECC for the first time this year. Her piece will be about the Holy Trinity exploring the concept of how three distinct beings make one. Selby has about 21 rehearsals to teach her dancers the piece and to rehearse the dance as well.
Selby says, “ECC is very exciting because it is a purely student show. We work together as students and put this show on. It gives us an idea of what the real world would be like after graduation and truly is such a beneficial process for the department as a whole, whether you are performing, choreographing or part of the crew, you are gaining skills that will enhance you as a working professional in the dance world.”
According to Selby, “My favorite part of being a part of Act 1 is the supportive and family-like atmosphere. That is something that drew me to DeSales in the first place. This program is a place where you can be yourself, but also grow immensely in the four years you spend here at DeSales.”
Everyone has their own reasons as to what makes Act 1 so special to them. “Of course I think our faculty and students are what makes the DeSales’ Performing Arts Division different from other schools. But I also attribute much of our uniqueness to our audiences. Our patrons are some of the most loyal and supportive people I’ve ever encountered,” Bell says.
All of the students in the DeSales Division of Performing Arts work tirelessly to put on so many wonderful shows each semester. Act 1 as a whole has a lot to offer its audience and the fall semester is just the start to another year of breathtaking student performances.