Alumni return to COD stage to play roles in Buffalo Theater Ensemble's 'Holmes and Watson' Sept. 5 to Oct. 6
Seven College of DuPage theater alumni, whose attendance spans nearly 30 years at the college, return to campus to direct, design and act in Buffalo Theater Ensemble's 2019-2020 season opener, "Holmes and Watson," running from Sept. 5 to Oct. 6.
BTE Artistic Director Connie Canaday Howard calls it a homecoming of the most talented actors, directors and technicians in the business.
"It is incredibly emotional for me and such a humbling experience," she said. "It's important for current students to know that they can graduate and work in the field, and come back and contribute at their alma mater. This is a huge part of why I'm committed to BTE. It's all about becoming artists and then sharing that gift with the world."
COD class of 1994 alumnus and past John Belushi Scholarship recipient Ron May is directing the production. May credits Canaday Howard with encouraging his growth as a director.
"When I was a student at COD, it was Connie who suggested I turn my focus to directing," he said. "She gave me the confidence to believe in my abilities and her suggestion changed the direction of my life. I see the chance to direct for BTE as an opportunity to complete a wonderful karmic circle."
May is founding artistic director for Tempe Arizona's Stray Cat Theatre, where he has directed more than three dozen shows. Other directing credits include Phoenix Theatre Actors Theatre, Phoenix's Nearly Naked Theatre, Black Theatre Troupe and Planet Earth Theatre and Arizona State University's Mainstage in Tempe. He was named a finalist for the 2018 Zelda Fichandler Award and was nominated as an artist for the 2019 Governor's Arts Award.
"Holmes and Watson" cast features BTE ensemble members and COD Distinguished Alumni Robyn Coffin ('97) and Chris Kriz ('92).
During Coffin's time at COD, she earned the John Belushi Memorial Scholarship, which made it possible for her to attend school. After graduating, she transferred to Columbia College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in theater. Her love for BTE and her experience at the College inspired her to stay connected to the program.
"I was exposed to BTE years ago and found my experience incredibly valuable," Coffin said. "Once I went to Columbia, I came back to do "Hamlet" and have always supported BTE throughout the years. I jumped at the chance to work with people I've admired and respected for so long."
Working alongside former classmates and being able to share in collective professional success speaks to the high caliber of COD's Theater program, Coffin said.
"There is proof in the pudding, for lack of a better saying," she said. "Look at how many people are successful in their careers that have been cut from the same cloth, the same knowledge. It is absolutely an example of the excellence COD has to offer."
Coffin has found success as an actress, starring in more than 45 professional shows, including a current recurring role on NBC's "Chicago Fire."
"COD's Theater program was monumental for me and my development as an actor," she said. "The program taught me so much about my craft, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities they gave me and the knowledge I acquired. I learned how to be a professional, how to be prepared, how to have confidence and trust my choices. Most importantly, I learned to be bold."
"Holmes and Watson" production staff includes alumna Danielle Wiesman ('10) as production stage manager and alumnus Anthony Urso ('08) as assistant stage manager.
Urso, who has worked in professional theater since graduating, enjoys the camaraderie on set.
"It's great that so many alumni can be working together on the same show," he said. "We are all working hard to put on the best production we can because we are all so passionate about the high caliber theater program at COD."
After graduating from Illinois State University, Wiesman helped with stage and production management for different productions at COD. Her love for BTE led her to her current job as a technician for COD's Event Services.
"When I was a student at COD and working in the theater program, it was my dream to work for BTE as a professional," she said. "I wanted to give back to a program that had helped shape me into the professional I am today. I jumped at the chance to work with my old professors now turned colleagues. It has been wonderful to work with everyone and to have crossed one of my dreams off my bucket list."
Wiesman's favorite part about her job is that she gets to pass on her wisdom to current theater students.
"I have been so proud to work with students and watch them grow, learn and excel at something they love," she said. "I get to give back to a program that has meant and still means so much to me."
Additional "Holmes and Watson" cast includes BTE ensemble member Kurt Naebig (Class of 1999), Norm Woodel as Watson, Ken Borden, Stephanie Murphy (Class of 2006), Matt Penn, Michael Pesola, Mike Speller and Steven Winterstein.
The artistic and design team includes Claire Chrzan (lighting design), Amanda Herrmann (properties design), Stephanie Hurovitz (stage manager), Rachel Lambert (costume/hair/makeup design), Pauline Olesky (scenic design) and John Tovar (violence choreographer.)
Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the MAC's Playhouse Theatre on the College's Glen Ellyn campus, 425 Fawell Blvd.
Tickets are $42. Running time is 90 minutes with no intermission.
For tickets or more information, visit www.atthemac.org or call (630) 942-4000. Please note: this play contains adult themes and language.
A pre-show discussion with the director and designers is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5.
A post-show discussion with director, actors and crew is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 7.