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Creative Talent Shines on Hatfield Hall Stage

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Cinderella And Prince

Timeless Love Story: Lexi Harris plays a young woman who is transformed from a chambermaid into a princess and finds true love with the kingdom's prince, played by Jonathan Jungck, in the Rose-Hulman Drama Club's Cinderella production. (Photos by Nathan Montgomery)

Since its grand opening 12 years ago, the Hatfield Hall Theater has become a hub for student creativity on campus, as well as a source for inspiration and pride throughout the community. Performers and patrons commonly refer to the facility as the "Little Jewel of the Midwest."

Rose-Hulman students have showcased their acting, singing, and dancing talents in such spectacular theatrical productions as The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, Cats, and this fall's Cinderella.

Hatfield Hall is also home to rehearsal space for vibrant chorus, string ensemble, jazz band, and concert band student musical groups; classrooms for academic courses covering such interesting topics as Music History After 1900: Recorded Sound and Music of the World; and a performing arts series that brings a variety of entertaining shows to campus.

It's all part of Rose-Hulman's tradition of providing a solid technical foundation enriched by a healthy focus on creativity, curiosity, and the humanities and social sciences, with the hope of graduating modern-day Renaissance scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

"Back in the Renaissance, there wasn't any separation between what was an engineer and what was an artist," says Steve Letsinger, coordinator of arts programs and arts curator. He cites Michelangelo as an example. "I believe the hero of this age will be the person who is the artist-engineer or engineer-artist," he says.

Rose-Hulman doesn't have a theater, music, or art department, and students do not receive academic credit for their stage work. But that doesn't stop student groups from producing crowd-pleasing performances.

"Our drama club theatrical performances have earned a well-deserved reputation for providing shows with high-quality standards on stage (performances), behind the scenes (technical crew), and musically. They are simply dazzling," states Daniel Tryon, Hatfield Hall's manager and director of student performing arts. "Our students are so talented and enjoy the opportunity to showcase those talents on our great stage."

Lexi Harris, a sophomore computer science major from Owasso, Oklahoma, is enjoying her role as Cinderella.

"Having the opportunity to be a student and a performer is one of the reasons I chose to attend Rose-Hulman," she says. "In my first two years, I have been a member of the cast in Cinderella and Cats. What could be better than that?"

"We work hard in the classroom, but play hard in other areas of campus life, like drama club," adds Jonathan Jungck, a junior software engineering student from Great Falls, Virginia. He plays the prince in the musical. "I didn't get involved with drama club until last year (as a sophomore), but I'm glad I did. It keeps me busy and helps me focus on both sides of life at Rose-Hulman-academics and student life."

Cinderella also features an orchestra, conducted by Norm Hanson, with 31 student musicians, alumni Kevin Forbes and Geoffrey Ong, and community members; a large technical staff, led by Hatfield Hall Production Manager Randy Carle and set designer Michael Compton; vocal director Chad Roscoe; and costume designer Jessica Becker.

Mouse Scene

Ready to Help: Cinderella (Lexi Harris) won't be ready for the Kingdom Ball unless she gets help from several special friends in this scene from the Rose-Hulman Drama Club's Cinderella production.

"Everything for this show has been hand-made, stitched in-house, and designed with care and an appreciation for a small, independent theater," says director Terence Hartnett, a veteran of Midwest theatrical productions. "Everywhere you turn, talent is on display at Rose-Hulman. Cinderella is another example of how our students excel-in and out of the classroom."

The drama club is also planning to perform the hilarious French farce A Flea in Her Ear during the winter quarter and the musical Les Miserables next spring.

Tryon points out that all of the student music performing groups has an abundance of students rehearsing as many as two nights weekly in Hatfield Hall. The concert band, directed by Julie Dugger, has approximately 60 student members. Roscoe leads the Rose Chorus, with nearly 30 students, while Hanson keeps students in tune in the string ensemble and jazz band. There's also a pep band that plays at home football and basketball games.

"There's something for everyone," Tryon says.

Hatfield Hall

About Hatfield Hall

Opened in 2002, Hatfield Hall houses a 602-seat theater, an alumni center, and offices for development, external affairs, and alumni affairs.

The state-of-the-art theater replaced the Moench Hall auditorium, which had been used as a performing arts venue for 76 years. The building also includes rehearsal and practice rooms for student groups, storage for music and theatrical equipment, and a shop area for set construction.

Hatfield Hall was funded by a $14 million gift from 1984 alumnus Mike Hatfield and his wife, Deborah, and is named in honor of his parents, Larry and Pat. A large portrait of Larry and Pat hangs near the Alumni Center.