For the first time since 1998, Walsh University is bringing staged productions back to its university campus.
All the world is a stage and, for Walsh University, that certainly rang true.
Fifteen years ago, University President Dr. Kenneth Hamilton led an effort to move the school's stage productions to the North Canton Playhouse. The belief was that the venue would provide the students with a more enriching theater experience. The North Canton Playhouse offered a full backstage area which, at the time, was something that none of the spots on Walsh's campus could provide. Ultimately, the North Canton Playhouse provided an area that was more conducive to theater productions than any space that Walsh could offer on its campus.
Now, however, the renovation of the Betzler Auditorium has allowed productions to return to the Walsh University campus. Thanks to the decision of Walsh President Richard Jusseaume to bring productions back to campus, students no longer have to trek off campus to take part in campus theater. Furthermore, the newly renovated auditorium offers a full backstage area unlike anything that the campus has been able to provide its theater-enthusiasts with before.
This weekend the Walsh University Genesius Players present Neil Simon's comedic drama "Lost in Yonkers," the students will stage the show in the university's own renovated theater. It will mark the first stage performance on campus since 1998.
"The University is really trying to re-establish a theater here on campus," said Mary McManaway, director of the Genesius Players and founder of the North Canton Playhouse. "The Center for the Arts has been used by the music department, band and choir, but now the Betzler Auditorium can be used for students involved in the art of theater" Now that Walsh has its own performance space again, McManaway is excited to re-establish a strong theater presence on campus.
McManaway's favorite part of any production is watching the students develop into the characters they are portraying.
"Theater is my passion and I love working with the kids and teaching them about it," McManaway said.
Auditions for the show took place in early September and were open to all Walsh University students. After auditions, the cast spent four days a week for nine weeks rehearsing the performance. All totaled, the small cast and crew of about fifteen will have put about sixty to seventy hours of work into the production.
"People don't realize how much work goes into these productions but I think we train the students very well," McManaway said. "They pull it off. You'd be surprised how many good actors come from these kids who've never been in a play."
Performances of "Lost in Yonkers" are set for 8 p.m. Nov. 15 and 21-23 at the Betzler Auditorium. A special matinee showing is set for 2:30 p.m. Nov. 17. Tickets, which will be sold at the door, are $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and younger. Walsh University students and staff are admitted free of charge.