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Creative Connections program showcases educational value of theater

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

By Kristi Jourdan, Arts & Culture student writer - University Relations

MSU’s Department of Theatre is collaborating with community members and other departments on campus to showcase the educational value of theater with the Creative Connections program.

The program, which is in its first year, aims to incorporate academics and explore the history and art behind this year’s performances at both the MSU Auditorium and Wharton Center.

Lisa Kron’s “Well,” which runs until Sept. 28 at Arena Theatre, brings a local community aspect to the program as the play’s setting is in a Lansing neighborhood. Other departments involved include photojournalism, gaming, astronomy and sustainability, among others.

“One of the university initiatives is about collaboration and cross-pollination,” said Rob Roznowski, assistant professor of theater and founder of the Creative Connections program. “The connection works both ways. We enhance their message, and they help make our message deeper or richer. Rather than being so insular, we’ve got this huge campus, and we’ve got a huge supply of experts in the field where we can work together.”

Actors in the musical “Cabaret,” which runs Oct. 14-19 at Fairchild Theatre, are studying expressionism, Dadaism and German history post-World War I to gain a full understanding of their characters. To help the students learn about the detailed history behind Nazism and a pre-World War II Berlin, Darren Ilett, assistant professor of Linguistics and German, Slavic, Asian and African Language, visited Roznowski’s class.

“A lot of time we get compartmentalized in our departments,” Ilett said. “And we lose a lot of richness by getting stuck in our particular field. We can be challenged and enriched by interaction with other departments.”

In return, “Cabaret” actors have offered to perform live previews of the musical to Ilett’s classes.

“They want it to be historically accurate,” Ilett said. “It’s exciting to see other people get enthusiastic. I like that they’re reaching out from different productions to different departments.”