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Two theatre majors travel to Kennedy Center

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Viele, who is majoring in theatre tech and design, has worked as a stage manager for both university and professional productions in Kansas City, but she saw the national festival as an opportunity to open her mind and dream bigger. "I had always thought I would stay in this region to work, but I got a chance to work with a student group from Puerto Rico and had to deal with a language barrier," Viele said. "That experience was so positive and made me think I could go more places than I ever thought possible."

Hrabe also had a transformative experience at the national festival when she had master classes with Moisés Kaufman, Tony Award-nominated director and playwright of The Laramie Project, and Molly Smith, legendary theatre director and artistic director. Hrabe said the advice Smith gave was some of the best she had ever heard. "She had us write down things under four categories: things we love, like, dislike and hate. Then she said to eliminate the middle two categories and, as an artist, only focus on the things we love or hate. That made complete sense to me."

Hrabe said she also learned to appreciate UCM even more when she talked to students from other universities. "I would talk about how the dean and the president of the university were supportive of our program, and they would say that all that mattered at their schools was sports," she said. "Some students even said that the chair of their department was never seen. Here Dr. (Richard) Herman goes out of his way to have a personal relationship with every student who wants one."

The support of the administration closely parallels the passionate support of patrons who help the department through gifts to the UCM Foundation. Their annual gifts have covered travel expenses to attend conferences and to compete in the theatre festival, as well as underwritten operating expenses for various productions. Larger gifts, like the one that endowed the guest artist series, have a lasting impact on students.

In the spring of 2012, the guest artist series brought Paula Vogel and her Pulitzer Prize-winning play How I Learned to Drive to campus. Hrabe was so inspired by Vogel's talk last spring that she keeps the video of it on her iPad. She also spent a lot of time talking with Jason Bohon, the most recent guest artist and a UCM alumnus, about professional networking among other topics. His advice helped her get a directing internship at the Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre in Rockville, Md., this summer.

Viele, who earned her associate's degree from State Fair Community College and then spent one semester at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, has been able to work professionally as a stage manager in Kansas City for several years. However, she sees finishing her degree at UCM as a springboard to even bigger opportunities. She will be helped along the way with a New Theatre Guild scholarship next year.


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