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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Departmental News

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News from the Department

Our students talk about their experiences here

Jordan Oxborough

Jordan Oxborough

Between Jordan and his older brother Jared, there has been an Oxborough on stage here at Minnesota State University, Mankato for most of the last decade. Find out what Jordan, who graduated with his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre this May, has to say about his experience here. Watch and listen.

Cassie Johnson from Our Town

Cassandra Johnson

Cassandra "Cassie" Johnson went from partnering for two KCACTF Irene Ryan Scholarship Competition Finalists to being a Finalist herself, finishing third in Region V in her senior year. Although she just missed the opportunity to compete in the Ryan Nationals, she went to the national festival, singing "People Like Us" from The Wild Party with none other than Jordan Oxborough. Watch and listen.

Cassie and Jordan share some memories of working in live theatre.

Gabriel Sell in Assassins

Gabriel Sell

Gabriel Sell may have entered his first year in the Department of Theatre & Dance as a freshman, but he left a veteran, having appeared in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Our Town, Assassins and The Pirates of Penzance on the Mainstage and as B'rer Bear in the children's theatre touring production of Rabbit Tales. He finished his first year as the second-ever recipient of the Timothy Huebsch Emerging Theatre Artist Scholarship. Watch and listen.

Matthew Stairs in boom

Matthew Stairs

Matthew Stairs literally burst on the scene at Minnesota State University, Mankato in the fall of 2014 when he was cast as "Gaston" in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. He had transferred from Casper College in Wyoming. Before the season was finished, Matt had also starred as "John Wilkes Booth" in Assassins, earning Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship nominations for each (and eventually earning Semifinalist honors at the Region V Festival) and he'd appeared as "Jules" (see above) in the Studio production of boom. Watch and listen.

Gabe and Matt share some memories of working in life theatre.



Department awards more than $57,000 in scholarships

The Minnesota State University, Mankato Department of Theatre & Dance has announced its scholarship awards to current students for the 2015-16 school year.  The 34 named scholarships total more than $57,000, a more than 27 percent increase over the previous year.

“It is an amazing gift from our donors that we are able to bestow every year to our finest students,” says Department Chair Paul J. Hustoles.  “We keep them so busy, it is almost impossible for our majors to hold down a part time job.  This money helps them afford to go to college and to entertain close to 40,000 patrons while doing so.”

Scholarship amounts range from $1,400 to $2,800 for the top scholarship, created in honor of former Department Chair Theodore J. Paul 30 years ago, the Ted & Katy Paul Theatre Scholarship.  Most scholarships are endowed but many come from annual gifts (the longest one, being 26 years old, in memory of patron Lorraine Larson).

Students who apply must have a sufficient grade point average, proven service to the department or clear potential for such, and are voted on by faculty and staff.  Assignment of specific scholarships may be based on the type of student the donor wishes to support (e.g., actor, scholar, designer, etc.).

This is the first year of the Brianna Richmond Cowles Theatre & Dance Scholarship, created in memory of the 2008 department alum who died unexpectedly while home on break from the professional theatre tour on which she worked.  In its second year is the Timothy Huebsch Emerging Theatre Artist Scholarship created by the Minnesota State Mankato alum from Good Thunder who has been honored for his giving and success.

This is the third year for the Tom & Harriet Bliese Theatre Scholarship and the ninth for the Fred & Karin Bock Theatre Scholarship, both created to honor emeritus department faculty.  Current Department Chair Paul J. Hustoles has his name on two scholarships—the Mary Jo & Paul J. Hustoles Musical Theatre Endowment Scholarship, created by them 22 years ago, and the Paul J. Hustoles Theatre Endowment Scholarship created in his honor by Norb Harrington, former President of Wells Fargo Bank of Mankato 16 years ago.

Other scholarship donors include past students, Theatre & Dance patrons and even two university presidents: Margaret & Daniel Preska (now in its 6th year) and Richard and Mary Davenport (in its 5th year).  Founding Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, and building namesake, Jane F. Earley’s Theatre Endowment (in its 6th year) will give out three awards this year.  Scholarships are formally announced during the annual Theatre and Dance Awards Gala held the Saturday before finals week in the spring.  When possible, the donors are on hand to make the presentation.

For a full list of scholarships and their history, visit this page on the department web site.

Irene Ryan competitors 2015

Minnesota State Mankato sends several to national KCACTF Festival

Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Department of Theatre and Dance participated along with 1,464 registrants, representing 82 colleges and universities, in the Region V Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival gathering at Normandale Community College and the Guthrie Theater during festival week, January 18-24, 2015. 

Minnesota State Mankato advanced more students to the Semifinal and Final rounds of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition than any other school in the Region (the largest region in the country).  Making the top 16 out of a field of over 400 Ryan nominees, Ryan Finalists included Adam Yankowy (2nd year MFA Musical Theatre from Louisville, KY) partnered by Erin Horst (1st year MFA Musical Theatre from Vinton, IA).  Adam went on to win Best Musical Theatre Actor in both the Finals and Semifinals and Erin won Best Partner in the Final Round.  Adam was also a Semifinalist last year.  Also in the finals were James Ehlenz (senior Musical Theatre BFA from Columbia Heights) partnered by Steven Labine (junior Musical Theatre BFA from Detroit Lakes) and Leigh Jacobson (senior Musical Theatre BFA from Champlin) partnered by Emily Scinto (sophomore Musical Theatre BFA from Lakeville).  Emily won Best Partner in the Semifinal Round as the partner of Semifinalist Matthew Stairs (junior Musical Theatre BFA from Casper, WY).  Also advancing to the Semifinals was Kendra Verhage (senior Acting BFA from Lawrence, KS) partnered by Maureen O’Malley (sophomore Musical Theatre BFA from Hopkins).  Finally, Cassandra Johnson (senior Musical Theatre BFA from Benson) partnered by Amanda Mai (sophomore BA Theatre Generalist from Beaver Dam, WI) broke to the Finals and then took 3rd place overall in the Irene Ryan Competition!  All students in the final round, performed on the Guthrie Theater’s famous Wurtele Thrust Stage.

The really amazing news comes with the special Musical Theatre recognition for six Minnesota State Mankato students who performed in the Musical Theatre Intensive on the Guthrie’s McGuire Stage.  Two “songs” were selected to be invited to perform at the Kennedy Center itself as part of the National Festival—and the singers will be treated like Irene Ryan winners for their trip to Washington DC.  The songs included “The Gun Song” from Assassins, featuring Adam Yankowy, Erin Horst, James Ehlenz and Matthew Stairs; and “People Like Us” from The Wild Party, featuring Cassandra Johnson and Jordan Oxborough (senior BFA Musical Theatre from Eagan).  All six students are heading to the national festival!

As always, Minnesota State Mankato was well represented with a variety of “behind the scenes” awards.  Anna Alex (3rd year MFA Sound Design from Cincinnati, OH) captured the national level 1st Place in Sound Design for Our Town and will also be heading to the Kennedy Center in April.  Lauren Nelson (junior BFA Design/Technology from St. Cloud) took the national 2nd place Costume Design award for Gabriel.  Regional awards were numerous.  Matthew Caron (3rd year MFA Directing from Mankato) was a Finalist in the Society of Directors and Choreographers (SDC) competition and also took 1st Place in Regional Poster Design and Publicity, and 2nd Place in Regional Scenic Design for Boeing BoeingMichael Sheeks (3rd year MFA Directing from Robbinsdale) was a Semifinalist in the SDC competition and won the 1st Place Regional Dramaturgy award.  Isaac Sawle (1st year MFA Technical Direction from Minneapolis) took the 1st Place Regional Technical Project award for Gabriel.  Timothy Williams (senior BA Theatre Generalist from Mounds View) took the 2nd Place Regional Allied Craft award for Hairspray.  Nick Voight (senior BA Theatre Generalist from Mankato) earned an Honorable Mention in the Stage Management competition.  Colton Moyer (senior BFA Acting from St. Paul) earned an Honorable Mention in Dramaturgy.  Costumes from As You Like It, designed by David McCarl (faculty), were invited to the juried Annual Costume Parade. 

KCACTF Certificates of Commendation for past productions at Minnesota State Mankato were awarded to (in chorological order): Alisa Bowman (BFA Design/ Technology 2014) for Costume Design for Kiss of the Spider Woman.  Noah J. Files (MFA Scene Design 2014) for Scene Design for Kiss of the Spider WomanLuke Walchuk (2nd year MFA Sound Design from Waukegan, IL) for Sound Design for As You Like It.  John Paul (Faculty) for Scene Design for As You Like It.  Samantha Goerss (BFA Design/Technology 2014) for Stage Management for The Drowsy Chaperone.  Nick Voight for Stage Management for Beauty and the BeastHeather Grandprey (2nd year MFA Costume Design from Circle Pines) for Costume Design for Our Town.  Matthew Caron for Directing for Our Town.

During the past year, faculty members John Paul, Heather Hamilton and Paul J. Hustoles have served as Region V Respondents.  Paul presented some design workshops and Hustoles presented a theatre management workshops at the festival.  Hustoles continues his service to Region V by being on the Regional Advisory Board and served as the Festival Registrar for this, his fifteenth time.