By Clayton Levins
Opportunities come in many shapes and forms for Jacksonville University students during their summer. One took shape for two theater students as they received the chance to travel to the Sundance Theater Institute.
Michele McGovern, a recent JU graduate, and senior Nick Boucher attended the Theater Lab at the Sundance Resort in Utah over the summer.
The lab is a three-week program focused on development in which creative advisors, dramaturgs, peers, actors in the Lab ensemble and Sundance Institute artistic staff work with the playwrights to address the needs of their script and play. These collaborations encourage a high level of innovation before plays move onto the stage, according to the Sundance Institute.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us,” Boucher said. “You learn so much from everyone there because you’re working with professionals in the field that you want to be in.”
The two received their opportunity after McGovern attended the Institute’s theater lab at White Oak Plantation in Yulee, Fla., in November 2011. The institute was so impressed with McGovern at White Oak that they asked her to attend the lab in Utah. Boucher visited McGovern, his girlfriend, and set an equally good impression.
“I think they were really impressed with their work ethic and passion,” said JU theater professor Deborah Jordan, who taught both Boucher and McGovern. “This is something we really try and instill in our students here at JU.”
During their three-week stay in Utah they worked as stage managers for noted actors and playwrights such as Cherry Jones, Keith David and Lemon Anderson. They were in charge of keeping track of breaks and making sure their playwrights had everything they needed.
“I grew so much as an artist and was able to gain a sense that my life and my goals were headed in the right direction,” McGovern said. “There is nothing like being in a room with people who not only share your passions but also want to see you develop and succeed.”
The connection to the Sundance Institute was made by Jordan 10 years ago because of a friendship with artistic director Philip Himberg. Jordan has sent 15 students to different Sundance Institute events.
Only 10 students throughout the U.S. are selected to attend the Theater Lab at the Sundance Resort in Utah. With McGovern and Boucher attending, that gave JU two out of 10 spots, a tremendous accomplishment not only for the students but the JU theater program.
“I’m like a proud mother,” Jordan said. “Anything that I can do to get them ready for their experience beyond JU I will do, and I believe our whole department feels that way.”
McGovern graduated in May and is now trying to make it as an actor and creator.
“I don't believe I would have gained this experience if I had gone to college anywhere else but JU,” McGovern said. “JU provided me with the tools to build irreplaceable connections within my industry, connections many actors and artists strive to make throughout their entire careers.”
Boucher is a senior working on the theater department’s next production, “Dracula: A Radio Play,” a reenactment of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast.
“It’s a really interesting concept because the actors will be on stage dressed up like voice actors, reading their scripts in their hands,” said Jordan.
Directed musically by JU professor Scott Watkins, the show will feature a live orchestra performance when it hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and Oct. 30 at Terry Concert Hall.