With BFA programs in theater, musical theater, and theater design and production, the Shenandoah Conservatory excels as a training ground for young theater professionals. Intensive training with inspiring and well-connected educators, coupled with the immersive experience of sharing the halls with other music and dance artists, prepares students to engage in their craft at the deepest levels.
Shenandoah has long been committed to collaboration, particularly in recent years with ShenCoLAB. Tell us more about it.
Shenandoah is one of the few universities in the country to bring together music, theater and dance under one roof. This means that students from all three areas interact naturally on a daily basis. But to make things more intentional, Shenandoah also hosts ShenCoLAB, which is a week-long collaborative arts program where we cancel Conservatory classes and give the spaces away to students so they can work on cross-disciplinary projects they have imagined together. On the last day of this week, we are having a big multi-location festival where groups share their work. The results are always amazing.
What shows are your theater students working on this year?
This season’s lineup includes Hair, Dracula, Bright Star, A Chorus Line, Nora: A Doll’s House, and this spring’s interim incubator project. As you can see, although Shenandoah has long had a reputation as a “pop/rock school”, we make sure our students are well trained in…everything.
You also recently dedicated a new theater space, right?
Yes! The Harold Herman Lab Theater just opened last April. It joins our other two spaces, Ohrstrom-Bryant Theater (630 seats) and Glaize Studio Theater (our black box, 180 seats), as another place where our students can hone their skills. The Lab Theater is equipped with state-of-the-art lighting and sound design tools and is meant to be a playground of sorts for our theater students as they learn to design, direct and perform. It is an intimate space with seating for around 60 people.
Tell us about some of your former students.
Shenandoah has alumni working all over the world. From our acting program: Taylor Bloom (’17) appeared on the national tour of The Simon & Garfunkel Story; Charles Brice (’09) worked on Black Angels Over Tuskegee, Blue Bloods and Chicago Fire; and a play by Carmen Burbridge (’20) was recently featured in a miniseries produced by Portland Playhouse. From Theater Design & Production: Greg Iannarilli (’15) worked as a lighting technician for The Dream in Vegas, and Emily VanDervort Heilig (’99) was part of the Broadway premiere of Shrek the Musical. The Shenandoah Musical Theater continues to place students in prominent roles: Drew Elhamalawy (’21) and Kelsey Marshall (’24) have been cast in Sticks and Stones, a Broadway benefit concert featuring Audra McDonald at the benefiting Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation; Jessie Hooker Bailey (’10) appeared in Broadway productions of Waitress and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical; and Ian Campayno (’08), Emma Benson (’18) and Zachary Bigelow (’18) all appeared on Something Rotten’s Broadway tour. In December, Kathy Voytko (’94) received heartfelt congratulations on stage from actor Hugh Jackman for replacing Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo at the last minute.
What do your theater students do in the summer?
In addition to the many summer opportunities they land across the country (and around the world if they sign with a cruise line), a number of our theater students from all disciplines have the opportunity to work here in Winchester for summers as part of the Shenandoah Summer Musical Theater (SSMT). SSMT does three productions over the summer months with multiple performances each week. This summer we are proud to present 42nd Street, Bridges of Madison County and Cinderella by Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Many people are unaware that there are many options in the world of theater design and production. What routes could they take in Shenandoah?
While Theater Design & Production (TDP) is a single degree, Shenandoah offers six interest-based emphases. Students end up learning a lot about all areas, but choose one (or sometimes two) as their specialty. TDP options include scene management (making sure everyone involved in production knows what they’re doing), technical production (turning designers’ plans into reality), costume design, movie design lighting, scenic design and our newest addition, Sound Design & Reinforcement.
Anything else we should know?
Study theater at Shenandoah Conservatory is an incredibly powerful experience, and we always look forward to working with the next generations of students who, sooner or later, will become leaders in their fields.