Students sing, dance way through summer at Porthouse Theatre

Jessica Lentine

Kayce Cummings (right) is a professional actress who will be attending Kent State in the fall. Here she is seen performing at Porthouse Theatre along with Stephen Brockway, a professional actor from New York City.

Credit: Beth Rankin

While most summer school students are sitting in class, listening to lectures and doing homework, theater and dance students are getting hands-on training and experience while doing what they love.

Numerous students in the School of Theatre and Dance are working alongside seasoned professionals during a 10-week summer season at the Porthouse Theatre. The Porthouse Theatre is a summer theater that features three shows set on the grounds of Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls.

“It gives them a great opportunity to work in a professional setting,” said Effie Tsengas, director of public relations and marketing for the Porthouse Theatre.

Between the box office, costume crew and cast, 60 to 70 percent of the students working at the theater are Kent State students, according to Tsengas.

Michele L. Burger participated in the program while she was a student at Kent State and is now the stage manager for the season’s third show, West Side Story.

“You get to work with professionals,” Burger said. “That is the most valuable experience that you can have; to be able to take their experience and learn from it.”

Burger said there were other benefits that attracted her to the program.

“It was an advantage to me as a student,” she said. “It’s close by, they provided housing and you get credit hours.”

Burger was offered the job of stage manager before she graduated in December 2004.

The theater provides a unique training experience for students working in all areas of theatre.

The professional actors, guest directors, designers and technologists also hold studios and workshops for the students. This is another opportunity for the students to gain knowledge, in addition to the skills they acquire by being a part of the production process.

While the theater holds open auditions, Kent State encourages theater and dance students to participate in the summer program by offering credits toward graduation. In addition to the large number of Kent State students involved in the program, the university is also the center of operations for the summer theater.

“This is pretty much Porthouse headquarters,” Tsengas said.

Rehearsals are held in the E. Turner Stump Theatre and tickets are sold at the box office in the Wright Curtis Theatre, both located in the Music and Speech Building. In addition, set building is done on campus and the sets are moved to Blossom the week before the show opens.

The summer season opened on June 16 with the Off-Broadway hit The Spitfire Grill. The second show of the season was The Boys Next Door, which showed from July 7 to 23. Closing out the season is the legendary musical, West Side Story, which shows from July 28 – August 14. Tickets are available online at the Porthouse Theatre Web site or at the box office by calling (330) 672-2497.

Contact general assignment reporter Jessica Lentine at [email protected].