Marquette Wire

Seniors turn capstone into touring theater company

photo+courtesy+of+Summit+Players+Theatre
photo courtesy of Summit Players Theatre

photo courtesy of Summit Players Theatre

photo courtesy of Summit Players Theatre

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A group of five Marquette seniors in the College of Communication prepare to go out into the professional world by making their own opportunities. The soon-to-be alumni agreed to work together and form a company called Summit Players Theatre. The company’s main goal is to provide free and accessible theater productions and workshops in the Wisconsin State Parks.

Hannah Klapperich-Mueller, one of the company’s members, came up with this idea several years ago.

“I was camping in Door County with my parents, and we walked past an empty amphitheater that looked like it hadn’t been used in a long time,” Klapperich-Mueller said. She said she realized there were several stages that were being underutilized and could become the basis of an original project. “I asked some members of my graduating class if they’d be interested in producing a show with me in lieu of a capstone project, and I got a slew of enthusiastic ‘yes’s,’” she said.

Klapperich-Mueller said their main motivation, apart from preparing for life after graduation, is to use theater as a tool to improve the community. She said the group seeks to “share free and accessible theater with communities around the state, and make a connection between creativity, learning and nature for the kids and families that might not be familiar with theatre or Shakespeare.”

The company is currently working on a project to perform an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the most highly-produced and highly recognized shows of all-time, and it has a story that is really accessible for people of all ages to understand,” Klapperich-Mueller said. “It takes place in a forest, which makes it perfect for outdoor theatre, and really, it’s so funny.”

While school is still in session, rehearsals have been limited, said Armando Ronconi, one of the company’s original members. “Many of the actors in Summit have been a part of the productions at Marquette, so rehearsals have been limited to production style meetings,” Ronconi said. “Just recently we have started working on text work on the script.”

Another member of the company, AJ Magoon, describes the adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as maintaining the originality and integrity of Shakespeare’s original, but made shorter and easier to understand. “The script is all of Shakespeare’s original words, but severely pared down. Some of the stranger sections or the more complicated phrases are gone, but the ideas are still all there,” Magoon said. “It’s really cool to see what we can do in terms of editing it and still making sure the message stays intact.”

Klapperich-Mueller said their decision to edit the original play is meant to shorten the performance while protecting the integrity of the story. “Our intention is to present the core of the story, minus some of the poetic frills,” Klapperich-Mueller said. “We want to prove that Shakespeare and classical theatre is meant to be exciting and full of life, not something that you dread reading for class.”

Summit Players has 13 shows and workshops scheduled in parks around Wisconsin. The workshops will be held prior to each performance, and will focus on understanding classical text and how to bring Shakespeare to life. Kaitlyn Martin, another one of the company’s members, said the main pillars of Summit Players are collaboration, education and innovation.”

“As we work through this production, we are developing ways in which to push each other as artists, push the text in what we hope to be innovative ways and find ways to make this production accessible to children,” Martin said.

According to the company’s members, the whole process has been a fun experience for each of them. “There is nothing more fulfilling than getting to create art with the people you love,” Ronconi said. Similarly, Klapperich-Mueller agreed that it is very rewarding to watch a group of skilled artists come together to make a great product, and to witness the extent of support from people outside the company. “Our Marquette community has really banded together to help us make this happen,” she said.

The members of Summit Players are excited to see their hard work pay off, and they urge everyone to come see their performances in June and July. “We’re bringing theatre to the people and we want to make it as easily accessible as possible,” Martin said. “Plus, we are doing it in the nature – there’s something extra magical about outdoor summer theatre,” Magoon said.

The performances are free thanks to public support on the company’s fundraising page, which will remain open through the end of the run to continue to raise money. According to Klapperich-Mueller, 50 percent of the proceeds will be donated to a Youth Theatre organization.

Starting on June 6, and running all the way to July 5, Summit Players Theatre will perform ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream in parks around the state. Until then, you can follow their progress by visiting their fundraising page, linking their Facebook page and checking out their blog.

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