Theatre News


ESU Theatre Season

September 26-30

Ronald Q. Frederickson Theatre

November 2-5
Karl C. Bruder Theatre

March 7-10
Ronald Q. Frederickson Theatre

April 25-28
Karl C. Bruder Theatre

For Tickets: Call 620-341-6378 or visit the Memorial Union Ticket Office on the Emporia State University campus, online at

WELCOME to our new faculty. Bob Hart and Susan Williams join the ESU Theatre faculty this fall replacing Dan Matisa, who moved to Illinois and Susan Mai, who retired.  Both Bob and Susan are ESU grads who bring with them a wealth of experience.  Bob earned degrees in playwriting and acting from the University of Arkansas; Susan completed her MFA in costume design at Kent State University.  Most recently Susan worked as a costumer at Liberty University.  Bob directed productions for ESU Summer Theatre in each of the past two seasons.  

SUMMER THEATRE 2017 a great success.  Running from June to July, our 63rd season featured an old chestnut and three new works.  Audiences enjoyed Neil Simon's Star-Spangled Girl, the outrageous karaoke musical Don't Hug Me, the charming Children's show The Top Job and the hilarious and heartwarming Miracle on South Division Street. Next season promises more of the same audience-pleasers.

OUR SPRING 2017 grads.  Congratulations to Suzanne Carlgren, Bailey Carter, Arijana Cook, Ethan Crapser, Colter Lemmon, Kun Li, Sydney Main, Nathan Short, Jerilyne Troyer, Cameron Reynolds, Lexi Riddle, Courtney Romero and Zhu.

KCACTF 49 IN DES MOINES, IOWA.  January 2017.  Emporia State Theatre had excellent representation at last week’s regional festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF). Four faculty members and 21 students traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, for the eventl.  ESU is in Region 5 of KCACTF which includes colleges and universities from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.Six ESU students were among the 326 nominated for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. After the Monday January 23rd auditions, 66 students advanced in the semi-final round on Wednesday, including ESU students Fran Opheim (junior, Olathe) and her partner Rachel Muirhead (junior, Hays) along with Senior Nathan Dale Short (Paola) and his partner Mollie McClanahan (freshman, Topeka). 16 finalists competed for the scholarship on Friday night, including Short. At the end of the evening, Short was named the regional runner-up to Christa Gesicki from the University of South Dakota. Gesicki will compete for the national award in April. In the event that she is unable to attend, Short will audition at the Kennedy Center.

Short and Hewleek McKoy (sophomore, Olathe) were also finalists in the Music Theatre Institute.  Along with their fellow finalists, they performed the final musical number at the festival. Matthew Mahr (sophomore, Overland Park) was awarded an honorable mention for his lighting design for “The 39 Steps”.  His design was presented in the regional Design Expo, where designers from the region displayed their design work in set, lights, costume, arts management, stage management and sound.  The work of several ESU student designers, playwrights and stage managers were also displayed in the Design Expo. After the final round of Ryan auditions, the festival was treated to the Region 5 costume parade, featuring costumes by Faculty Costume Designer Susan Mai.  Five of her costumes from the spring 2016 production of “The Birds” were selected to be shown. ESU Alumnus Jamie Urban (BFA, 2005) was also represented in the costume parade with her designs for the Wichita State University production of “Chicago.” The auditions and the costume parade were presented in the historic Hoyt Sherman Theatre in downtown Des Moines on the final night of the festival.

The stage crew showdown team, comprised of Ethan Crapser (senior, Overland Park), Isabella Harvey (junior, McPherson), Mahr, Abbi Timmermeyer (junior, Andover), and alternates Allison DeMeyer (senior, Mulvane), and Tyler Lang (senior, Wichita) failed to break out of the first round, but was awarded the Spirit Award, given to the team showing the best school spirit at the event. ESU also won the Spirit Award five years ago. The event provides an opportunity for technical theatre students to imporove their stagecraft skills in a series of timed events. Commendations for outstanding work in the region were presented to Faculty Set Designer Nancy Pontius and Faculty Technical Director Chris Lohkamp for set design and sound design for “The Flick”. Cameron Reynolds (senior, Louisburg), Ryan Howerton (senior, Haysville), Gabe Serrano-Diaz (freshman, Olathe) and Bailey Carter (senior, Topeka), received commendations for their performance in “The 39 Steps”.  Susan Mai also received a commendation for her costume designs for “The Birds.”  Director of Theatre Jim Bartruff coordinated the Institute of Theatre Journalism and Advocacy along with guest journalist Michael Morain, former drama critic for the Des Moines Register . Dustin Bittel (junior, Ellis) was a participant in the institute.

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINTER 2016 GRAD Evan Eisenbarth (BFA, Cassoday). 

SUMMER THEATRE 2016 Our 62nd season of award-winning summer theatre comes to Emporia in June and July.  The season opens with a new musical vaudeville, COMING TO AMERICA (June 15-18).  It is followed by Neil Simon's THE DINNER PARTY (June 29 - July 2); DON'T DRESS FOR DINNER (July 13-16; and, THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID PLAYS (July 27-30).  As always, tickets are available from the University Ticket Office at 620-341-6387                                      

OUR SPRING 2016 graduates include Michael Abbott (Great Bend), Elliott Brest (Tonganoxie), Emmanuel Cockrell (Junction City), Nick Coyan (Olathe), Jingyi Hua (Dalian, Liaoning, China), Elizabeth Kennell (Belton, MO), Andrew McCutcheon (Gardner), Miranda Nation (Winfield), Justin Tinker (Las Vegas, NV), Lisa Tinker (Derby) and Rochele Watson (Oak Grove, MO).

KCACTF, Region V - Festival 48 – January 2016 - ESU Theatre was well represented at the regional festival of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) last week in Bloomington, MN. Hosted by Normandale Community College, ESU was represented by 25 students and several members of the faculty. The March 2015 production of The Treehouse Effect by ESU Alums Mark Warner and Brandon Jensen was the featured production at the festival, performing for an audience of almost 800 at the Ames Center for the Performing Arts in Burnsville on Thursday January 21. Several other award were presented to ESU Theatre at the festival. Chris Lohkamp, theatre technical director received a Certificate of Merit for his scenic design for "The Treehouse Effect." Faculty costumer Susan Mai was awarded a commendation for her costume designs for "As You Like It." And Lisa Tinker (senior, Derby) received a Certificate of Merit for her stage management of "South Pacific." The ESU Stage Crew Showdown team was in the finals for the third straight year, but wound up in second place among the 21 teams. Team members were Ethan Crapser, Elizabeth Kennell, Tyler Lang and Andrew McCutcheon. 335 student actors in region V (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota) auditioned for the Irene Ryan scholarship and competed early in the week. Sixty-four semifinalists emerged including four from ESU: Elliott Brest (Senior, Tonganoxie), Brandon Jensen (BFA, 2015, Salina), Nathan Dale Short (Senior, Paola) and Justin Tinker (BFA, 2015). They participated in the semifinals on Wednesday with their partners Abbi Timmermeyer (Sophomore, Wichita), Senior Miranda Nation (Winfield), Fran Opheim (Sophomore, Olathe) and Logan Wohlford (Senior, Valley Center). In awards presented at the end of the week, the company of THE TREEHOUSE EFFECT received a plaque. Evan Eisenbarth (Senior, Cassoday) won the regional set design award for his drawing and model for "The Playboy of the Western World." Nathan Dale Short was selected to perform in the Music Theatre Intensive and Lisa Tinker was the runner-up in the Stage Management initiative. After a busy and productive week, the students returned to Emporia on January 23.

FUNDRAISER for KCACTF production of The Treehouse Effect. On Friday January 15 (before heading up north) a fundraising performance for The Treehouse Effect was presented at the Bruder Theatre.  We had 227 audience supporters and raised $3,827 for the trip to Minnesota! A generous contribution from Thomas Transfer and Storage helped to make the trip possible.

Ben Pilat (BFA, 2005) presented the annual Pflaum lecture in December.  He currently teaches lighting design at Pepperdine University.

Congratulations to our December 2015 Grads - Chandler Archer-McGinnis, Adam Helmer, Brandon Jensen, Halie Luken, Justin Tinker.

Welcome to ESU DAN MATISA, our new assistant professor of Performance, History and Dramatic Literature. Dan joins us from NYC, where he most recently taught at Elon University.  A member of Actor's Equity and SAG/AFTRA, Dan received his training at the Asolo Conservatory at Florida State University.

Summer Theatre 2015 - Our 61st season

KCACTF Festival 47 ESU Theatre was well represented at the annual gathering of Region V of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.  To read more about it click here.

60th season special event.  Senior Marah Melvin (Iola) presented a late night one-woman revue as a special event...part of our 60th anniversary season of summer theatre.  Entitled Miss Adelaide's Late Night Hour "The Psychology of Love," the fast paced revue in the Bruder Theatre--following the Friday July 11 performance of Too Many Cooks.

Summer Theatre 2014 - Our 60th Season
The 2014 Summer season is our sixtieth consecutive season...a record to be proud of.  We celebrated in a big way with an alumni reunion in June, special performances and the return of alums and friends for the season.  The season opened with Blithe Spirit (which was first presented in our first summer season sixty years ago), Nunsense, Too Many Cooks and The Arkansaw Bear rounded out the season.

Theatre Alums and the Super Bowl
Our alums continue to find work and show up in the most interesting places.  Throughout the holidays, Katie Amanda Keane (BFA, 1996) was featured in a Jared commercial.  The spot also ran during the Super Bowl.  Katie returned to campus in the fall of 2011 to present the George R.R. Pflaum lecture.

Another theatre alum Breon Bliss was featured in a commercial called "Together We Make Football - 2014 Super Bowl" which ran multiple times during the Super Bowl.  He will be remembered for his performances in Little Shop of Horrors, Guys and Dolls, Once Upon a Mattress and other ESU Theatre productions in the mid 90s.  In his cast biography for the Summer 1995 season he wrote that he "plans a professional acting career."

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