Argus Leader: Troupes New and Old Eager for Augustana's Summer Theater Festival

A new theater festival is coming to Augustana College this summer, giving new troupes and established groups a venue for shows.

The first Augustana Summer Theatre Festival will feature six different shows by four production companies. The shows are produced independently of the college, says Ivan Fuller, chairman of the college's Performing & Visual Arts departments.

"The college is making its theater available at a greatly reduced fee because it believes in offering an outlet for taking risks in theater and art," Fuller says. "That allows for the kind of theater that doesn't demand large audiences, although large audiences are certainly welcome."

All shows will be in the Edith Mortenson Center.

First up is the new musical "Edges," 7:30 p.m. June 3-7 and 2 p.m. June 6.

The musical asks, "Who am I?" and "Who do I want to become?" and "Won't you be my Facebook friend?" Fuller says.

Director Kyra Berkness is a 2007 Augustana theater grad who staged "The Last Five Years" as her senior project. Since graduation, she had been working in Denver as production assistant at the Denver Center Theatre Company.

Her new theater company in Sioux Falls is called Many Hats Productions.

"It's really exciting to get the chance, with Augie's new program, to start this independent theater movement in Sioux Falls," Berkness says. Rehearsals start Monday, although the four actors have had their music for a month, so they're ready to dive into working out other details of the play.

Berkness says she likes the "summer stock" feel of the new program and hopes it helps young theater students stick around during the summer break.

The second and third productions are by the Buhnenkunst Theatre Company, which produced "Springs Awakening" last summer.

This time, they will present "The Glass Menagerie" July 22-26 and "Mother Courage and her Children" Aug. 5-9.

The Bare Bodkins Theatre Company will perform "Two Gentlemen of Verona" Aug. 20-23.

A new student company, Accidental Genius, will produce the comedy "Sealed for Freshness" in the Acting Studio Aug. 27-29.

The final show will be Bare Bodkins' "Tuesdays with Morrie" Sept. 3-6.

"I'm happy that Augie is brave enough to take a leap and create something where there wasn't anything before," Berkness says. "I figured I should take a cue from them and take a leap myself."

Links to information on ordering tickets is available online.

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Jay Kirschenmann
Argus Leader
Phone: 605.331.2312