Theatre School to ‘honor’ Amish Community in Centennial Celebration

Marcus Donaldson

The School of Theatre and Dance will celebrate its 100th anniversary with a benefit dinner and the opening of its fall musical “Plain and Fancy” Friday.

The celebration will begin with cocktails at 6 p.m. in the Roe Green Center, and dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. in the Erdmann-Zucchero Black Box Theatre. Tickets are $75 per person, and this includes dinner and a ticket to “Plain and Fancy.” There is also a $100 ticket option that includes dinner, a ticket to the musical and a $25 tax-deductible donation for student scholarships.

Proceeds from the dinner will benefit student scholarships at the School of Theatre and Dance, said Cynthia Stillings, director of the School of Theatre and Dance. The school will also host its first ever alumni award ceremony during the dinner, Stillings said.

The opening performance of “Plain and Fancy” will begin at 8 p.m. in the E. Turner Stump Theatre located in the Kent State Center for the Performing Arts. The musical is centered around an Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

“Maintaining the authenticity of this sect of people is so important to me, and that goes into the clothing, it goes into their beliefs, but at the same time, this is a musical,” said Terri Kent, director of “Plain and Fancy.”

The Amish don’t dance once they’ve chosen to be in the church, Kent said.

“But it’s a musical, and there [will be] dance numbers,” Kent chuckled.

Graduate student April Rock is the costume designer for “Plain and Fancy.” She and Kent both worked to give an honest representation of Amish culture.

“One of the main goals that we have for the show is to really make a connection between the audience and the plain people that we’re portraying in the show,” Rock said. “A lot of people have a misconception that the Amish people are backwards, or … that they’re not as intelligent, don’t know as much as we do, because of the way they live.”

The musical hopes to “bring as much authenticity and honor as many … authentic traditions to the particular sects in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania as [it]

The School of Theatre and Dance started as a department in the School of Speech. G. Harry Wright served as the chairman of the then theatre department of the School of Speech from 1935 to 1964.

“G. Harry Wright and Earl Curtis were leaders of the school,” Stillings said. “The school started out as a department in the School of Speech, and then it became its own school. And then, in the mid 90s we merged with dance to become the School of Theatre and Dance.”

The Erdmann-Zucchero Black Box Theatre was named after two pioneers in the theatre and dance program at Kent State.

“Under the leadership of Lou Erdman and Bill Zucchero, the school saw great growth,” Stillings said.

The school’s growth did not stop with Erdmann and Zucchero.

“The next growth spurt has been in the last decade,” Stillings said. “We have 300 majors [and] programs in Ashtabula, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Stark, and newly renovated, state-of-the-art facilities.”

Erdmann and Zucchero founded Porthouse Theatre in the 1970s. Porthouse Theatre is Kent’s summer theatre program and is the premiere summer theatre in northeast Ohio, Stillings said.

The Erdmann name is connected to the School of Theatre and Dance is more than one way. Louis Erdmann’s son Karl is a production manager for the school.

“Karl grew up in the school,” said Effie Tsengas, the director of communications and marketing for the College of the Arts. “He just has lots of ties. Like, his whole life was spent there.”

Contact Marcus Donaldson at [email protected].