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The University Players Call McDade ‘Home’ for 25 Years

The University Players Call McDade ‘Home’ for 25 Years
Acting in "On the Verge" are, from left: Jessica Lucas '07, Shannon Munley, DPT ’07, G’08, Ashley Teatum ’09 and Anthony Mercado ’09.

Players alumni reflect on how their experiences in the theatre shaped their minds and their careers.

The Joseph M. McDade Center for the Literary and Performing Arts. It is kind of a mouthful. Current and former theatre students or members of The University Players have called the building The CLP and referred to the theatre inside as “The Royal Theatre” or simply “the theatre.” Because of the hours the “theatre kids” have spent rehearsing, designing, directing, acting, studying and hanging out with friends in the building, many have simply called McDade their “second home” on campus.

“(The late) Fr. Panuska, then-University president, was instrumental in making sure this place was built. He was devoted to the arts; he rarely missed a play. He really is the reason this building is here,” said Richard Larsen, a professor and former chair of the Theatre Department who began his tenure at Scranton in 1993, the same year the building was constructed.

Named after the late Hon. Joseph M. McDade, who served 18 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, the McDade Center was modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in which the audience sits on three sides of the stage in a semicircle or thrust configuration.

“I had done theatre, but that was the first time I had been ‘in the round,’” said Marvin Minkler ’96. “Having the crowd right there was just really intimate. The reaction you’d get from the crowd was pretty intense.”

Before the theatre was constructed, The Players performed in various spots on campus, but in 1993 they were proud to have a new home. Over the years, students from all majors and backgrounds put on plays from a variety of genres, from classic to contemporary, from the familiar to the obscure. Theatre professionals were regularly infused into the mix as guest artists, serving as directors, designers and performers, to enhance the educational opportunities within the program.

Incoming president Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., is another who has an affinity for the arts. His booming voice was the narration for the play “On the Verge,” which was directed by Grace Zandarski, actor and faculty member at the Yale School of Drama.

“Theatre opens the mind,” Fr. Pilarz said in a recent interview. “It allows students to express themselves creatively and delve deeper into their understanding of the human experience. At Scranton, theatre is open to all so students form bonds with those they may not have met otherwise, and those connections come alive on stage.”

In Their Words

"On the Verge"

I remember really long and involved rehearsals, usually with only myself, Ashley and Shannon in the room, miming walking through the jungle with machetes or climbing a sheer rock face, all while wearing bloomers, corsets, and various other layers of clothes (which increased as we got closer to tech, obviously). It was the most physical and emotional work I had put into a role, maybe ever.” – Jessica Lucas ’07

Lucas evacuated from Loyola, New Orleans, after Katrina in 2005. She planned to go back but decided to stay at Scranton, where she felt she was being challenged both academically and in the theatre. “Making the decision to stay at Scranton quite literally changed my life path, and led directly to where I am now.” She is now an equity state manager in a professional theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.

’On the Verge’ was probably one of the most cerebral shows I’d encountered. It all seemed a little out there to me until we were on the stage one night at rehearsal: We three ladies began to move as one unit, reading each other from across the stage, and truly allowing the words to form our blocking (onstage movement). It was almost like a choreographed dance without rehearsal, just happening between us.” – Shannon Munley, DPT ’07, G’08 

Munley is now a physical therapist with Prana Functional Manual Therapy, specializing in treating dancers, performers and musicians. One day in 2014, she ran back and forth between her own Off-Broadway performance and acting as a physical therapist for performers behind the scenes at Matilda on Broadway.

Creating art with a group of like-minded individuals — it makes you a part of something much bigger than yourself. I learned to work together with people who had similar and different experiences from my own. I problem-solved. I worked with my hands. Art in general, but theatre in particular, is a mirror for the human experience. It shows us our best and worst selves, it instructs but is not didactic, and it transports us — audience members and cast and crew alike.” – Ashley Teatum ’09 

Teatum now works as a proposal manager for a construction company in Loveland, Colorado.

Of the 18 shows I was involved with during my time at Scranton, ‘On the Verge’ was one of the most challenging. We had an intense six-day rehearsal week, much of which involved very intensive movement work due to the highly visual nature of the play. It was tough, but by the end of it, it felt like one of the most close-knit ensembles I’d ever been a part of.” – Anthony Mercado ’09 

Mercado is a full-time grant writer with The New York Public Library. “By night, however, I am a playwright in New York City and Scranton. I wrote and directed an original adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ that made its world premiere with the Scranton Shakespeare Festival in June 2016 in the Royal Theatre.”

The Joseph M. McDade Center for the Literary and Performing Arts opened in 1993, but The University Players have long valued the power of the arts. The words etched into the building remind its visitors and passersby of the University's dedication to the arts.

“The Man Who Came to Dinner”

The Royal Theatre is a fun size; you can sort of connect with everyone in the room. You have this ability to be the center of the attention, and you have a story to tell. It really is similar in a way to what I do now. Whether presenting a case to the judge or the jury, the people rely on me to tell a story. They are relying on me to tell my client’s story in a convincing way. In both cases, you have the fun responsibility of taking the audience along with you. – Dale Bauman ’04 

Bauman is now in plaintiff litigation.

"Working"

 As the McDade Theatre was only a year or so old, everything was new when Michael saw it for the first time. His eyes went wide and instantly we knew that Scranton was the place he’d choose. Within a year, he became one of the first enrolled in the theatre program. He’d befriend new freshmen and transfer students interested in the plays and try to get them involved in all aspects of the productions: building sets, musical backup and audio, publicity and on stage.”– Walter and Christine Bagdzinski’s son, Michael, passed away while he was at Scranton.

After his death, Michael’s parents dedicated themselves to furthering their son’s passion for theatre. They created the Bagdzinski Scholarship to support future theatre students, including Sherly Daeceus ’09.

Being honored with the scholarship allowed me to feel more connected to the long history of The Scranton Players; connected to something much greater than the four years I spent on campus. The scholarship also allowed me to feel free to focus on my academic, creative and social college experiences. – Sherly Daeceus ’09

 

Daeceus now works as a clinical psychologist. “I primarily work with children and adolescents and, in this specialization, being able to not take oneself too seriously is necessary. Scranton theatre provided me with the tools to better express myself, laugh at myself when necessary and connect with clients on a more human level.”

“Holy Ghosts”

The theatre offers a much-needed arts side of your life. A lot of people don’t expect a soldier and an athlete to be a part of that. The theatre is a melting pot of all shapes and sizes.” – Marvin Minkler ’96 

Minkler was a Marine and served on the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier prior to coming to Scranton. He is currently a youth hockey director.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Wait Until Dark”

Being capable of collaborating with others, being able to receive criticism with an open mind, being determined to get better and better at what you love to do and pushing yourself to make it your reality is vital to any career. In reference to my choice to study theatre, a lot of people would ask me, ‘What do you think you’ll do with that?’ The truth is, I never worried for a second about what I’d do, because I knew everything I learned could prepare me to work in many fields.” – Kiley Lotz ’13 (front)

Lotz is a singer/songwriter who has played in Town Hall in New York City, Thalia Hall in Chicago and venues across the U.S. and Europe. “Performing at the University allowed me to develop my skill as a stage performer and connect with an audience on a human level.”

“110 in the Shade”

I learned about all of the inner workings of a theatre, from what each person does behind the scenes, to how and why actors move on stage, to the long hours spent in rehearsal and during the run of a show. Every single thing I learned is important to my career on Broadway. I can better understand and treat my patients. I know the physical demands that are required of their job roles, and they have trust and confidence in my ability to treat them because of this.” – Aileen M. Roginski ’02, G’ 03, DPT 07 (front row, third from right) with the company

Roginski is a per diem physical therapist for NeuroSport, in which she provides treatment to performers and crew members of Broadway shows (most recently "Miss Saigon" and "Escape to Margaritaville"). She is also a rehabilitation supervisor at STARS Manhasset, where she works with a general population of out-patients, and she created a performing arts specialty group for the STARS company.

Read about Scranton's tradition of supporting the arts and alumnus Michael Flynn '10, here.

Read more about the experience these alumni had in the theatre at Scranton here.

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