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Theatre Program Thrives in Second Year at Fern Street

October 4, 2011

The cast of the fall musical Stop the World — I Want to Get Off is in final rehearsals for its sold-out opening night on Thursday in PBA’s Fern Street Theatre, which opened its doors a year ago on the outskirts of CityPlace, a short distance from campus.

The 12,000-square-foot, two-story facility at 500 Fern St. is the former home of Ballet Florida. The second-floor dance studio, complete with sprung floors, has been converted into a rehearsal space and classroom for acting, musical theatre, dance and movement classes.

The musical "Stop the World — I Want to Get Off" opens to a sold-out crowd on Thursday at PBA's Fern Street Theatre.
The musical Stop the World — I Want to Get Off opens to a sold-out crowd on Thursday at PBA's Fern Street Theatre.

The rehearsal space is one of the amenities the University’s theatre program gained when the University acquired the building in 2009. The building also houses faculty offices, classrooms and performance space.

Additionally, the program now enjoys a laboratory space that it didn’t have when it was housed on campus. "You need a space where you can go in and experiment," Professor of Theater Dan Gordon said.

The building’s proximity to other local arts institutions, such as the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and Palm Beach Dramaworks, is another bonus.

"We are a little arts enclave here," Gordon said.

PBA’s theatre department has enjoyed positive relationships with many of those institutions. Before the University had a black box theater of its own, the theatre program staged some performances at venues like the Kravis Center, Chapel By The Lake at First Baptist Church and the Norton Museum of Art.

The Kravis also has invited PBA students to take part in some of the workshops associated with its shows, Gordon said.

This fall, PBA’s theatre program welcomed a freshman class of more than 20 students. The program has about 70 full-time majors and at least a dozen minors.

"The students have pretty much fallen in love with the place since they have access night and day with their swipe cards," said Associate Professor of Theater Don Butler. "They can rehearse on their own or just come over to read a play aloud or do some improv or work on their dancing or voice."

Performances in the theatre repeatedly have sold out, and this weekend’s performance of Stop the World — I Want to Get Off is no exception. Written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, the show has been described as a musical version of Everyman.

PBA students have been putting on theatrical productions since the University was founded in 1968. Over the years, PBA’s theatre program has continued making a name for itself nationwide, faculty members said.

Palm Beach Atlantic University's Fern Street Theatre opened last fall.
Palm Beach Atlantic University's Fern Street Theatre opened last fall.

Many of the theatre program’s graduates have gone on to noteworthy careers on the stage and in film. Among them is film actress Rebekah Kennedy, a 2006 musical theatre graduate who appeared in the recent motion picture Season of the Witch.

Another 2006 graduate, John Henderson, recently traveled the world in 70 days performing on the Dawn Princess World Cruise. Prior to that, he portrayed the role of Gaston in the Disney Live! touring production of Three Classic Fairy Tales, which performed throughout Asia and Australia, and he also portrayed Woody in Mickey's Rockin' Roadshow, which toured the United States.

Andrew Cardy, a 2005 graduate, co-founded Hope in Glory Ministries, a touring drama ministry; Matt Hamel ’98 is a theatre director in New York and a Sunday service ministry leader at Lower Manhattan Community Church; Christi Avant Watson ’05 has toured nationally as an actor and singer as well as performed Off and Off-Off Broadway and in regional theater; and Patrick Moody ’76 appeared in such feature films as Smokey and the Bandit II with Burt Reynolds.

10/2011General News


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