UofL connections filled the professional company – onstage and behind the scenes – during the summer 2014 run.
The planning began with two employees: Charles Nasby, technical production manager at UofL and the technical director/assistant scenic designer for Kentucky Shakespeare, and UofL assistant professor Daniel R. Hill who acted with Kentucky Shakespeare this season.
“The goal was to create a loose relationship for our students to get professional opportunities three blocks down the street from campus,” Nasby said. “They could surround themselves with people who know theater.”
Most of UofL’s influence was felt backstage with Nasby and legendary Louisville set designer Paul Owen, as well as several other professional crew members. Seven students and recent alumni were hired by Kentucky Shakespeare artistic director Matt Wallace as stage managers, assistants and interns for sound, props, carpentry, lighting and more.
Gaining professional experience also is something that Hill preaches to his acting students from the first day they arrive in his class.
“My students will be professional-ready when they audition,” he said. “I have to expose these students and get them opportunities to be cast.”
Hill hosted a showcase in fall 2013 for the graduate students in his Shakespeare courses. A longtime performer in Shakespeare troupes across the country, Hill used his connections to bring in directors from various companies. Among them was Wallace, who was impressed with the caliber of UofL’s students. Nine student actors participated in the showcase, five got callbacks and one, Tia Davis, was cast in a leading role for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and supporting roles in “Hamlet” and “Henry V” this summer.
“I was extremely proud of her,” Hill said. “It was sort of validation of everything we’re trying to do here at UofL. This is what is supposed to happen.”
Hill joined Davis on stage – in “Hamlet” they portrayed husband and wife – where he received rave reviews for his role as Flute in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Two additional actors in the company, Greg Maupin and Jeremy Sapp, also are UofL alumni.
For Hill, earning roles while teaching allows him to keep up-to-date with the latest trends in theater and share them with his students. It also sets an example of the dedication required to make it onstage.
The experience of being involved during the most popular season for Kentucky Shakespeare has been invaluable for the students, Nasby said. Kentucky Shakespeare set an all-time attendance record for this season’s shows at about 21,700 during the professional run. The remaining month of the program features children’s groups like Kentucky Shakespeare’s Globe Players and local theater ensembles.
While Davis and Hill have finished their roles, the backstage workers will stay with the organization through August. Nasby, for one, believes that their professional experience this summer will benefit them for years to come.
“The momentum of Kentucky Shakespeare is endless,” Nasby said. “I’m glad for our students to be a part of that.”
UofL at Kentucky Shakespeare
Daniel Hill, assistant professor, theatre arts
Tia Davis, graduate student
Jeremy Sapp, alum
Greg Maupin, alum
Kyle Ware, alum
Charles Nasby, technical production manager, theatre arts
Anna Neikirk, student
Michelle Gentry, student
Kathryn Spivey, student
Will Dyre, student
Alex Cooper, student
Mo Stucker, alum
Collin Sage, alum
Hannah Pruitt, alum