St. Francis College Theater Students Take the Lead

Three years ago, novelist and playwright Terry Quinn launched the Music & Theater Production Workshop, a once-per-year, spring semester course at St. Francis College, where Quinn teaches. Each year, four to five students are accepted to participate in the course, where they select and each act as “lead producers” for five dramatic pieces from start to finish.

Funding from Thomas Volpe, a member of the university board and patron of Quinn’s work, was organized by Quinn and Dean Timothy Houlihan to make the course a possibility. “It’s one way to enhance what the English and in particular the Communications departments were offering,” said Quinn. “This is a great outlet for students who want to operate directly in the drama area and do work there in the future.”

Each year, the workshop participants choose a name for their group – this year it’s the cheery title “Sunlit Sandwiches” – and put on their productions in March and April. A big emphasis is placed on students assuming a range of responsibilities they would come across in the world of professional drama.

“Being one of the lead producers of our last show,” said psychology and communications major Claribel Lizardo, “I can say it has been a magnificent way to learn about the pressures and technicalities that encompass the world of theatre and production.”

Lizardo was lead producer for the radio play Love Hurts, which was performed March 25 at the College’s Maroney Forum for Arts, Culture and Education, along with Unaccustomed to Fear, another radio piece lead produced by Michelle Madrazo, a senior studying Communication Arts.

“It's not just pass or fail anymore; we have a live audience and they expect a great show. That’s why I decided to participate in this workshop – what we do goes beyond the classroom and into the public,” said Madrazo.

Given the short time period the students have to not just put on, but to publicize, organize logistics, hire directors, coordinate with performers, and design materials for, the students step up to the demands of their workload.

“The main thing is to influence these young people in a way involving things you are passionate about and conveying that passionate attitude to them to have them make real input,” Quinn said. “To see them try to pull off a task as big as this is with real professionals in the music and theater industry and getting to watch them grow as they do so is an incredible experience.”

Next up, on April 29, the College’s Founders’ Hall will be the venue for the productions of cabaret piece Song of Loss and Love and Bad Evidence, a play authored by Quinn.