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Morningside presents Irish drama 4/19/07

By Joanne Fox, Sioux City Journal staff writer

Whitney Gries, Brenda Chord, Audrey Hantla, Sharona Ernst

and Elizabeth Kelly rehearse a scene from "Dancing at Lughnasa,"

the next theater production at Morningside College. (Staff photo by Jim Lee)

Whether it's new versus traditional or young versus adult or Old World versus New World, change is never easy.

That premise is at the heart of the next production of the Morningside College Theatre Department.

"Dancing at Lughnasa" is a poignant adult drama set in Ireland in 1936. Laughter, love, and loss weave their way through the lives of  an impoverished family made up of five sisters and one little boy who lives in the center of their world.

The play is author Brian Friel's fictionalized memory of his childhood as that little boy. Lughnasa (pronounced loo-nah-sah) is a pagan harvest festival that was celebrated at the end of August and the beginning of September, explained Bette Skewis-Arnett, director of the show.

"It's still celebrated in some of the back hills of Ireland," she added. "It's an integral element to the show."

The play focuses on the five unmarried Mundy sisters who live on a farm outside Ballybeg, a small town in Donegal, Ireland. They include the teacher Kate (Elizabeth Kelly), the keeper of the hearth Maggie (Sharona Ernst), the familial leader Agnes (Whitney Gries), the eccentric Rose (Brenda Chord), and the romantic Christina (Audrey Hantla).

Their lives revolve around Christina's illegitimate son Michael (Tyrel Drey) who narrates the play. Adding to the drama are the sisters' older brother Jack (Mac Deeds), a priest returning to their home after 25 years as an Africa missionary and Michael's father Gerry Evans (David Keenan), who unexpectedly arrives as well.

"Michael is an adult man in his 50s who reflects back on all of this," Skewis-Arnett explained. "It's a dream-like presentation of his memories."

"Dancing at Lughnasa" was the winner of the 1992 Tony Award for Best Play, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Broadway Play, and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. The play was made into a 1998 movie starring Meryl Streep as one of the Mundy sisters.

"I saw it and just fell in love with it," Skewis-Arnett said. "But it's a big ensemble piece for women, so I was waiting to have just the right mix of actresses to do it."

One of the hurdles associated with the show is the Irish brogues that almost all of the cast had to embrace. Only the character of Gerry Evans speaks with a Welsh accent. To address that issue, Skewis-Arnett implemented a game.

"Every time they entered the theater, they would have to speak in their accents," she explained. "If not, they had to put a quarter in a jar."

Skewis-Arnett said the cast confessed they were fine with their lines in Irish, but when they were forced to speak in their street language in the brogue, it was more difficult.

"We called it our pot of gold," she said with a laugh. "They even challenged me to do the same and I think I put about $1.25 in."

Helping Skewis-Arnett was assistant director Rachel Radel. Randy Peters collaborated with the director on the period costume. Michael Rohlena designed the set and the lights. An interesting character in the play is a radio -- a sort of symbol of the outside world invading the Irish, Skewis-Arnett pointed out.

"It's the first wireless radio that the Mundy sisters acquired and it turns itself off when it gets hot," she explained. "Catelin Hoistad helped with that prop and the music needed to go with it."

"Dancing at Lughnasa" plays tonight at 7:30 p.m. with continuing performances on Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday at Klinger-Neal Theatre, 3700 Peters Ave. All tickets are general admission for $5. There is no reserved seating. The play contains some adult language.

Questions may be directed by calling the box office at 274-5196 or visiting the college's information Web site at and click on current shows.

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Cast for Dancing at Lunghnasa 4/2/07

The cast for the award-winning Brian Friel play Dancing At Lughnasa has been announced.

Dancing At Lughnasa, written by Friel in 1981, is a drama set in 1930s Ireland about five unmarried sisters, one with a young son, who seek out their lives in Ballybeg, a fictional village that Friel created based on his own experiences from Northern Ireland around Donegal.

The play was first produced in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, in 1990, and later met widespread critical acclaim on Broadway, where it won Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actress.

Cast members are Tyrel Drey, a freshman from Storm Lake, Iowa, as Michael; Elizabeth Kelly, a senior from Falls City, Neb., as Kate; Sharona Ernst, a senior from Falls City, Neb., as Maggie; Whitney Gries, a freshman from Onawa, Iowa, as Agnes; Brenda Chord, a junior from Edgemont, S.D., as Rose; Audrey Hantla, a sophomore from Sioux City, as Chris; Mackenzie Deeds, a junior from Sioux City, as Jack; and David Kenan, a junior from Cherokee, Iowa, as Gerry.

The play is directed by Bette Skewis-Arnett, professor and chair of theatre at Morningside. Michael Rohlena, admissions liason to theatre, is set and lighting design manager. The costume designer is Randy Peters of Sioux City.

Members of the crew include Rachel Radel, a junior from Mitchell, S.D., stage manager and poster and program designer; Beau Sudtelgte, a sophomore from Le Mars, Iowa, assistant stage manager; Tanya Anderson, a junior from Piedmont, S.D., props mistress; April Parkison, a freshman from Omaha, Neb., props assistant; Catelin Hoistad, a freshman from Huron, S.D., sound operator; Maggie Konecne, a freshman from Hardy, Iowa, light board operator; Christina Meranda, a sophomore from Ceresco, Neb., wardrobe; Trey Blackburn, a sophomore from Knoxville, Iowa, set and run crew; and Nicole Helgeson, a junior from Altoona, Iowa, house manager.

The play will be performed 7:30 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, April 19 to 21, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 22, at Klinger-Neal Theatre, 3700 Peters Avenue.

General admission is $5 for adults and $1 for students. Reservations can be obtained by calling the Klinger-Neal Theatre box office at (712) 274-5196.

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Cast posted for Butterflies are Free 1/20/07

Director Mike Rohlena has announced the cast for Butterflies are Free--the first production of spring semester. Sophomore Trey Blackburn is Don Baker, freshman Whitney Griese is Jill Tanner, junior Dave Kenan is Ralph Austin, and Bette Skewis-Arnett is Mrs. Baker, Don's mom.

"With only four roles, auditions were extremely competitive," observed Rohlena. Rohlena's stage manager, Rachel Radel,  gently corrected her boss, "Actually, there were only three roles open, because Mrs. Baker was precast." "That's right," Rohlena smiled, "how quickly one forgets."

Rohlena explained that roles in Morningside productions are very rarely precast, but since Mrs. Baker calls for an accomplished actor "of a certain age" he turned naturally to Skewis-Arnett, chair of the Theatre and Dance Department.

"I played this character in my undergraduate days," said Skewis-Arnett, "and enjoyed it immensely. When I picked up the script for auditions, I was amazed at how easily the lines started coming back to me." When asked how she would play the role differently after twenty years of experience, Bette lauged and quipped, "Less age makeup!" 

Butterflies are Free will play February 15-18 in Klinger-Neal Theatre.


Trey Blackburn                  Whitney Gries

Dave Kenan                      Bette Skewis-Arnett

                                                 Photos: Arthur Moss

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Auditions for Butterflies are Free 12/7/06

Auditions for Leonard Gershe's comedy, Butterflies are Free will be held in Klinger-Neal Theatre on Thursday, January 11 from 7-9 p.m. and on Friday, January 12 from 3-5 p.m.

"Butterflies" is a vintage romantic comedy, set in the year 1969. The play include four characters:  Don Baker, Jill Tanner, Mrs. Baker, and Ralph Austin.

Don Baker an aspiring folk musician-songwriter hoping to start a new life of independence in New York City. Don, who is blind, is determined to be free from his overprotective mother. Jill Tanner, on the other hand, wants to live a life free of commitment and responsibility. Mrs Baker just wants to bring her son home to the safe confines of the suburbs. In time, each character comically comes to terms with independence, commitment, love and each other.

General auditions are open to all students and will consist of cold readings from the script. However, theatre majors and minors are expected to have a memorized comic monologue prepared to be presented before the general audition. Students required to prepare a monologue can sign up for a time between 6:30 and 7:00 on the Thursday and between 2:30 and 3:00 on Friday.

Rehearsals will begin January 15 and will be held primarily during weekday evenings.

Butterflies are Free will play February 15-18.

The production is under the direction of Mike Rohlena.


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Audiences find Antigone appealing 11/15/06

They don't call it a classic for nothing.

Written over two millennia ago, Sophocles' Antigone remains one of the world's most popular Classical tragedies. Antigone's continued popularity was demonstrated at Morningside College last week, when over a thousand spectators attended the play during its six-day run.

"The first-year class of three hundred students read the play in Passport and then attended the production," explained Arthur Moss, the director of Antigone. "Another seven hundred people from the college community and Sioux City came to see the play. Those numbers suggest that audiences are still interested in what Sophocles had to say about war, piety, and patriotism," Moss added.

Passport is a course unique to Morningside College. In addition to introducing students to the academic culture and philosophy of Morningside, it engages students in reading and discussing significant works of literature. Antigone was one selection that all Passport students read. Passport is part of the core curriculum at Morningside, and Moss has taught the course since its inception.

According to Moss, the theatre program plays an important role in Passport. "Every year students read an important work of dramatic literature and then see it performed. That combination of reading, seeing, and discussing a play typifies the way Morningside brings the liberal arts to life." In the past few years, students have examined such notable plays as No Exit, Proof, and A Doll's House. Moss has either directed or acted in each production.


Above, the Chorus urges Creon to free the imprisoned Antigone

"It's a challenge to produce these wonderful stories, but we all love working on great plays," said Bette Skewis-Arnett, chair of the Theatre and Dance Department. "It's important for our students to work on a wide range of genres and styles. For example, in Antigone, the actors worked with masks, and had to create a theatrical sense of movement and heightened vocal expression. This kind of experience broadens their training." Skewis-Arnett designed the flowing costumes and expressive masks for the production.


                                                                                Below, the Chorus mourns for the fallen dead of Thebes.

"I think the most rewarding thing about doing Antigone," offered set and light designer Mike Rohlena, "is the creative freedom the play offers. A realistic set is made up of many small details, but Antigone is more abstract than that. The space is defined by a few bold, sharply defined forms, and the lighting is more emotional and suggestive than what's expected in a realistic play."

As part of the theatre and dance's department's commitment to serve the community, Antigone was performed for area high school students at a special matinee on Friday morning. Among the schools in attendance was Antigone cast member Whitney Gries' former high school, West Monona. Whitney's high school drama teacher, Wendy Bryce -- a Morningside theatre graduate -- led the Monana contingent.

Bryce observed, "I played Clytemnestra in Aeschylus' Agamemnon at Morningside back in 2001. It was a thrilling experience; I'm so excited that one of my former students has had the opportunity to do a Greek tragedy, too. You learn so much about acting and theatre history from doing these plays."

Below, Whitney Griese and Wendy Bryce


When asked if her drama students enjoyed Antigone, Bryce answered, "Absolutely!" She said, "When we read the play in class, it was difficult for them to get a full sense of the conflict. The language was also difficult to follow; but a good production makes the play more immediate and powerful."

Bryce's colleagues seemed to concur. In a post-production survey, 100% of the visiting high school teachers strongly agreed that bringing their students to see Antigone was both a positive theatre and educational experience.

"That's what we try to accomplish," concluded Moss "to create productions that are satisfying theatre and that also give you something to think about

. . . something to learn from. It's why we choose plays like Antigone. Even after two thousand years, they're still rewarding."

Photos: Arthur Moss

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Antigone takes the stage 11/15/06

Poster for AntigoneClassic Greek war tragedy presented at Morningside

By JOANNE FOX 11/16/06

Sioux City Journal/Weekender

It’s not easy standing up to the king of a country. It’s even more difficult when you’re just a teenager.

The Morningside College Theater Department presents “Antigone,” a Greek war tragedy written more than 400 years before the birth of Christ. However, it examines important issues that parallel life today.


The play, if you recall your World Literature 101 course, is the third part of the Oedipus Rex trilogy written by that most prolific of ancient Greek tragedy writers, Sophocles.

After the bloody siege of Thebes, the city stands unconquered. Polyneices and his brother, Eteocles, however, are both dead, killed by each other, according to the curse of Oedipus, their father.

Antigone (Tanya Anderson), daughter of Oedipus and sister to the deceased warriors, disobeys the orders of her uncle Creon (Dave Kenan), king of Thebes, who extols Eteocles as a hero and forbids the burial of Polyneices, claiming he is a traitor to the city.

Antigone defies Creon and buries Polyneices. Creon condemns her to death and has her buried alive in a cave. Though warned by the prophet Tiresias (Liz Kelley), Creon sticks to his decree, even refusing to listen to the pleadings of Ismene (Sharona Ernst), Antigone’s sister, and his own son Haemon (Greg Anderson), who is engaged to Antigone.                                               

Chorus and Creon from Antigone

At left, Creon and three members of the Chorus).

Eventually Creon yields and decides to free Antigone. However, he arrives at the cave too late. Antigone has hanged herself and is already dead. Haemon is enraged at his father and, failing to kill him, kills himself. Hearing this, his mother Eurydice (Sarah Schreur) also takes her own life at the fateful end of this Greek tragedy.

“It’s very much a classic protagonist/antagonist approach to drama,” explained Art Moss, director of the show. “Antigone fights for important issues she believes in and Creon is against them. She might not be a ‘pure’ heroine. She might possess characteristics we don’t like. She is complicated.”

Moss has chosen to present the play in true Greek tragedy form with costumes, masks and Greek architecture.


“The biggest challenge in presenting this type of show is that it takes a heightened understanding of the language of that time and a strong understanding of acting,” he said.

“Like Shakespeare, it’s important to first get comfortable with the language, then with the characters’ values and concerns and then masks and costumes,” Moss added.

“Antigone” runs today through Friday with 7:30 p.m. curtain times and a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. at the Klinger-Neal Theater on the Morningside College campus. General admission tickets are $5 and are available at the door or by calling the box office at 274-5196, Monday through Friday from 1 to 5 p.m.





Dave Kenan (left) as Creon
and Greg Anderson as his
son Haemon in Antigone.





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Theatre Faculty/Staff Busy Performing 10/29/06

October was a busy month for Morningside theatre faculty and staff. In addition to completing production for Cinderella and starting building and rehearsals for Antigone, they were involved in no less than four different venues, presenting everything from song and dance to a recreation of a classic radio event.

Steve Lundberg (Voice Instructor/Music Director) gave a voice recital of classical art music and modern theatre and jazz pieces in Klinger-Neal Theatre.

Randy Peters (Costumes and Shop Supervisor) produced a musical review from American musical theatre at the Le Mars Convention Center. Theatre faculty Arthur Moss, Bette Skewis-Arnett, and Mike Rohlena were among the featured performers.

RecentTragicEvents.jpg (190119 bytes)

Mike Rohlena (Design) is opening in the regional premier of a new play in The Box Series at Lamb Theatre. The play, Recent Tragic Events deal with the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11.

Also appearing in the play is Mike's wife, Andrea. Mike and Andrea have two dogs--but they aren't in the play.

Arthur Moss (Performance Studies) appeared at the Orpheum Theatre in a live recreation of Orson Welles' infamous 1938 radio version of War of the Worlds. The performance was recorded, and will be broadcast at 8:00 p.m., Halloween night, on KMNS 620.

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Antigone Cast List 10/10/06

Antigone will open November 15 and play through November 19

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Cinderella Opens 10/6/06

by david Streeby, Collegian Reporter

October 5, 2006

 The clock strikes midnight for Cinderella,
fall semester’s children’s play

Painted blue stone pillars stand, ancient in the stage lighting. Capstones support illuminated palace windows. This is the first dress-tech rehearsal for Morningside’s production of ‘Cinderella’ and the finishing touches are being applied before the actual performance. Pre–performance banter heard coming from backstage is evidence of the cast’s high spirits.

Mike Rohlena, set designer, discusses scene changes with the crew. He speaks with the firm resolve of a scenographer addressing the urgent matters of set manipulation during one of the last rehearsals. “The line is, ‘I don’t think the Prince slept at all that night,’ then the curtain will close, and we’ll turn the props around.”

In seconds the set is seamlessly transformed from Cinderella’s modest quarters into a grand palace. Rohlena continues, “…then the troubadour sings ‘we’ll be happy ever again’ as the curtain…” A drill can be heard as the final adjustments are made.

Randy Peters, the production’s costume designer, makes small adjustments to the wardrobes of several characters and talks about makeup, “Yes, we’ll apply some base and we’ll highlight the eyes…”

The theater is buzzing with excitement. Stage manager Christina Meranda explains her duties in passing, “We are five minutes to open, but I can tell you that the crew is handpicked. I’m responsible for prop handling and in general, keeping everything together.”

         Trey Blackburn as Repulsa

Photo courtesey of the Collegian Reporter

The program’s music director, Steve Lundberg, is now at the keys. He plays the beautiful themes of the show. The actors warm up with coordinated calisthenics.

A scrim is lowered and through some technical genius, a crescent moon is cast onto it. “Places, everyone!” Characters in hoop skirts and renaissance attire rush to their positions.

The show begins with the fairy godmother, played by Jacyln Buttermore, addressing the audience. She concludes her monologue with a rousing “Hit it, Steve!” and the music begins.

Characters are introduced in the troubadour’s song and he moves between narrating and being a character himself, playing the attendant of the shy Prince.

Scenes from Cinderella’s house are played against scenes with the Prince in his palace. Placed on either side of the stage, the parallel themes which blossom into love’s destiny are well conveyed.

Amy Salton plays Cinderella with natural innocence and the Prince’s hindered passion resonates in the debonair and dashing Joshua Phipps’ deep baritone.

Cinderella’s cruel stepsisters, Obnoxia and Repulsa, are played by Whitney Gries and Trey Blackburn, respectively. The pair is tremendously funny. Gries struts effectively in self–absorbed conceit and Blackburn screeches in falsetto for an outlandishly hilarious performance.

On being cast as a woman Blackburn says, “I thought the concept of a male playing the role of a stepsister was hilarious. I was happy to get the part.”

“Stop! Stop!” It is Bette Skewis–Arnett, the director. “Let’s go back to the song. Note the cue there as the sisters exit the stage.”

Lundberg interjects, “When the sisters exit the stage, I have a segue repeating their theme to cover that transition.”

Rohlena adds, “Right, we’ve got a light cue there, too.”

Skewis–Arnett, “Take it from the cue.”

The group has been rehearsing for four weeks. Skewis–Arnett discussed the casting process, “We started with auditions. I had to choose from over 40 people. There was so much talent it was difficult to decide who would be cast. We looked for people who would complement each other on stage and we considered vocal ranges, for example, Cinderella had to be a Soprano.”

The children’s production has become a tradition over the last ten years. It began with a visiting performer from Boston, librettist, Stan Gill, who wrote this musical version of Cinderella. Since Gill’s visit, Morningside’s Fall children’s productions have been enjoyed and anticipated by local schools.

Skewis–Arnett laughs, “The kids really make it fun, they scream during chase scenes and jump at the chance to participate.” There are six performances exclusively for area schools between Tuesday and Friday.

Morningside students and the public may attend performances in the Klinger-Neil Theater at 6pm on Friday, October 6 and at 3pm on Sunday, October 8. The cost is $1 with a student ID or $3 general admission. This is an Academic and Cultural Arts Series (ACAS) event.

For more information call the box office at 712-274-5196.

The Cast of Cinderella are:
Amy Salton as Cinderella
Joshua Phipps as the Prince
Jaclyn Buttermore as Godmother
Trey Blackburn as Repulsa
Whitney Greis as Obnoxia
Gregory Anderson as Troubadour
Directed by Bette Skewis–Arnett.

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Cinderella at Morningside College

By Joanne Fox, Sioux City Journal staff writer

Copyright, Sioux City Journal, 2006

The tale of a young woman, treated like a slave by her stepmother and stepsisters, has inspired picture books, movies and novels.

Amy Salton as Cinderella and Joshua Phipps as The Prince in Cinderella.

The story of Cinderella will again be retold in a musical with the same name by the Morningside College drama department.

This version of "Cinderella" follows the story of the young woman who rises from toiling in the cinders of her family's fireplace to marrying the prince and living happily ever after, explained the show's director Bette Skewis-Arnett.

"Because it is a children's show, we can't go too far off the track of the original," she said. "Kids need to recognize and follow along with a story that's familiar to them."

As one of the most-recognized stories in the world, the tale of Cinderella appears in the folklore of almost all countries. The Brothers Grimm popularized the fairy tale the best, even though their original version had no Fairy Godmother.

The Morningside production is a 1990 book and lyrics by Stan Gill and music by Cindy Bright. Some of the names are different and there is no wicked stepmother, but the rest of the story remains true to the original.

Enlightening the audience in this show is the Troubadour (Gregory Anderson) who provides an on-going explanation of the events. Cinderella (Amy Salton) fantasizes about the formal ball. Wicked Repulsia (Trey Blackburn) and Obnoxia (Whitney Gries) have been invited and lord that over their stepsister.

The night of the ball, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother (Jaclyn Buttermore) appears and grants her wish to attend the ball with the warning to return at midnight. The Prince (Joshua Phipps) falls in love with the mysterious women, but as midnight arrives, she dashes off leaving her glass slipper behind.

Armed with the only clue about his dream girl, the Prince searches his kingdom, having every woman try on the slipper. Once Cinderella tries the shoe on and it fits, the two are joyously united.

"As with all of our children's shows, there's audience participation," said Skewis-Arnett. "The kids will be invited to dance with the stepsisters for one thing."

The Klinger-Neal stage has been transformed into the castle, as well as Cinderella's home and the palace ballroom by set and light director Michael Rohlena. Costume director is Randy Peters. Musical director for the show is Steven Lundberg. The student stage manager is Christina Meranda.

There's even bits of magic in the show, Skewis-Arnett shared.

"The Fairy Godmother does appear and disappear in a puff of smoke and the pumpkin turns into a coach and mice into horses," she said. "But I can't give out how that's done. It's just magic."

The play is presented eight times, but six of the performances are only open to school students, Skewis-Arnett said.

"We have public, parochial, home-schooled and preschool students coming," she added; "everyone from four years to fourth grade."

The public performances are 6 p.m., Oct. 6 and 3 p.m., Oct. 8 at Klinger-Neal Theatre, located on the Morningside College campus. Cost is $4. Reserved seats are available one-half hour prior to show times. For more details, call 274-5196.

Photo by Jerry Mennenga of the Journal Staff.

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Auditions Set for Antigone  9/27/06

Auditions for Sophocle's Greek tragedy Antigone are being held on Thursday, October 5, starting at 7:00 p.m. in Klinger-Neal Theatre

Antigone is the story of a young woman who sacrafices her life rather than yeild to tyranical authority.

Or, is it the story of king who sacrafices his life in order to maintain the rule of law over theocratic zelousy?

Or is it . . . actually, rather than be told what it's all about, come to auditions and find out for yourself.

This production will feature a new adaption of the play by theatre professor Arthur Moss.





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Morningside A Popular Choice! 9/19/06

Morningside College enrollment increased 20 percent for the second year in a row with 1,722 full-time and part-time students for the fall semester, including the largest full-time, undergraduate enrollment since 1973.

"I knew that we were going to break enrollment marks," laughed head of scene design, Mike Rohlena, "after the Dean pleaded with us to add another section of Introduction to Theatre!" Asked how the larger numbers affect his work in theatre, Rohlena observed, "I really like what's been happing with enrollment, because it means more people will be getting involved in theatre productions and I'll get to work with a wide variety of students. It's the student-faculty inter-relationships that make a small college experience special."

Both full-time and part-time student enrollment contributed to the increase. Full-time, undergraduate enrollment rose 10 percent from 1,066 last year to 1,168 this year. The largest jump, however, was among graduate students, whose ranks grew from 291 to 490 this year, a 68-percent increase.

Among the student body are 403 new full-time students, including 71 transfer students and 332 first-year students. (Above, Morningside College Class of 2010 at Olsen Stadium)

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Cast Selected for Opening Production of New Season 9/6/06

The theatre season at Morningside got off to an exciting start this week, according to department chair, Bette Skewis-Arnett. "We had a wonderful turn-out of around thirty-five students at auditions for Cinderella," Skewis-Arnett said, "and I was able to cast several talented first-year students, as well has sophomores and juniors. I really enjoy seeing our new theatre majors getting the opportunity to act with the upperclassmen."

Greg Anderson       Trey Blackburn        Joshua Phipps

Troubadour"           "Repulsa"              "Prince

Jaclyn Buttermore      Whitney Gries          Amy Salton

Fairy Godmother"         "Obnoxia"            "Cinderella"

Cinderella is playwright and lyricist Stan Gill's version of the well-loved fairy tale. Cinderella is a musical for children, Skewis-Arnett explained, but adults seem to enjoy the production, too. "Half the fun of these shows is watching how excited the children become as the story unfolds," she said.  Cinderella is written to be performed in under and hour, and is filled with songs, dances, humor, and chases.

The cast includes freshman Greg Anderson, as the Troubadour; sophomore Trey Blackburn, as the wicked step-sister Repulsa; freshman Joshua Phipps, as the Prince; senior Jaclyn Buttermore, as the Fairy Godmother; freshman Whitney Gries, as the wicked step-sister Obnoxia; and sophomore Amy Salton, as Cinderella.  Bette Skewis-Arnett is the director, sophomore Christina Meranda is Stage Manager, Steve Lundberg is music director, and Mike Rohlena is scene and lighting designer.

Skewis-Arnett explained that most of the performances are already set aside for schools. "Thousands of students from around the area come to see our children's shows," Skewis-Arnett said. Two public performances are still available:  October 6 at 6:00 p.m. and October 8 at 3:00 p.m. Call Klinger-Neal theatre on the Morningside campus at 274-5196 for ticket information, or 274-5429.


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Morningside Receives “Best College” Designation 8/30/06

For the fourth consecutive year, Morningside College has been designated a “Best Midwestern College” by The Princeton Review. The designation reflects the opinions of students surveyed by The Princeton Review.

“At Morningside College, we are intentional about providing a student-centered, residential college experience,” said President John Reynders. “The faculty and staff are focused on our mission of cultivating successful, responsible citizens who understand the need for ethical leadership and have a passion for life-long learning. It’s a testament to their efforts that each year we continue to earn designations as a ‘best’ college.”

Mike Rohlena, head of the theatre department's scene design program, pointed to the mentoring relationships that develop between instructors and students during productions as an example of what President Reynders described. "When students work with faculty on a play for five or six weeks, they begin to see the kind of determination and responsibility that doing a job well requires," said Rohlena. "They see that theatre is very rewarding, but that it only really works if you approach it with passion and integrity."

Morningside was one of the “Best 361 Colleges” nationally and one of the 163 Midwestern schools that received the “Best in the Midwest” designation from The Princeton Review. Only 16 private and public schools in Iowa received this distinction.

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Morningside earns “Best College” Ranking 8/18/06

Morningside College has been designated one of the Midwest’s “Best Comprehensive Colleges-Bachelor’s” in the newly released U.S.News & World Report’s 2007 college rankings. Morningside is ranked no. 42 out of 108 comprehensive bachelor’s colleges in the Midwest. This is the third consecutive year in which Morningside has been distinguished in the U.S. News rankings.

Chair of theatre, Bette Skewis-Arnett, believes that one of the reasons the college earns high marks is because Morningside encourages students to become involved in a variety of creative activities. "We see students from many different disciplines participating in theatre classes and productions. Theatre is one of ways students bring the study of the liberal arts into their lives in a real and active way." Skewis-Arnett observed that science and business student often report that "taking an acting class or being in a play changed their lives and made them better in their

core studies. "Comments like that," said the professor of theatre, "are what we love to hear."

Morningside is one of only ten private colleges in Iowa to make this year’s “Top Schools” list in this category.

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2006-2007 Season Announced 5/3/06

Tragedy and Comedy

Morningside College's theatre department announced its upcoming season for next year this week. The fall semester will begin in October with Cinderella, directed by Bette Skewis-Arnett. Antigone, directed by Arthur Moss, will follow in November. In February Skewis-Arnett will direct Dancing at Lughnasa, and in April, Mike Rohlena will present Butterflies are Free. In May, Moss will direct The Three Little Pigs.


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Moss Receives Ver-Steeg Grant  5/1/06

Assistant professor of theatre, Arthur Moss, has been awarded a $2,500 grant from the Ver Steeg Faculty Scholarship fund. The grant will support the completion of a musical Moss is writing this based on the fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs.

Curved Down Ribbon: Ver Steeg Faculty Scholarship Grant

Dorothy and Clarence L. Ver Steeg established a fund for faculty scholarship designed to provide support for scholarly and creative endeavors.  Awards from this fund are be used to provide faculty with time off from their classroom and general faculty responsibilities in order to complete specific scholarly research and publication that would enhance their reputation and, by extension, that of the college. 

The Ver Steeg Faculty Scholarship Grant is established to support scholarly and research projects that result in an end product or presentation.  The grant is for all Morningside College full-time faculty. The Ver Steeg grants total $13,600 annually.  Faculty may apply for individual grants ranging from $500 to $13,600. Morningside College provides an additional $10,000 annually for capital expenditures associated with Ver Steeg scholarship activities.

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Johnson Chosen for Award  4/28/06


Acting theatre department chair Arthur Moss is pleased to announce that senior Mikaela Johnson of Colorado Spring, CO, has received the first annual Outstanding Contribution in Theatre award.

This award recognizes the contribution of a student to the Morningside theatre program that reflects the spirit of the college’s mission. The awardee must make a significant contribution to the theatre department through such areas as performance, scholarship, and production and must embody the spirit of life-long learning, ethical leadership, and civic responsibility--traits that define the Morningside College experience. 

 Mikaela was chosen by the theatre faculty to receive this award because she has been active participant in theatre classes earning high grades and demonstrating an excitement for scholarship that suggests a life time of learning and growing lies ahead. Additionally, Mikaela assumed roles in plays and on production crews that demonstrated her capacity to be an inspiring and principled leader. Lastly, in her contributions to the theatre department and college as a whole, Mikaela made an active contribution to the civic life of our community. 

This spring, Mikaela was accepted into the MFA acting program at the New School for Theatre in New York City.

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Record Number of Students Audition for Theatre Talent Awards 4/20/06

The Morningside admissions office reported that twenty students have been selected to receive theatre talent awards through the Celebration of Excellence scholarship program. This represents at 10% increase over last year. The average award was just over $1,500 dollars. It can renewed annually.

In order to be considered for an award, a prospective student must meet high academic standards, participate in an interview with faculty members, and then take part in an portfolio/audition process. During the audition, actors present two contrasting monologues from dramatic literature, spend some time working with faculty members, and submit a resume and letter or recommendation. Design and technical students review their portfolios with faculty members and also submit a resume and letter of recommendation.

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Mike Rohlena and Randy Peters Join Theatre Staff 4/18/06

After contributing mightily to the success of Morningside's theatre program, the college announced that Mike Rohlena and Randy Peters have been hired to permanent positions.

Rohlena and Peters were hired during department chair Bette Skewis-Arnett's year-long sabbatical leave. "Bette does so much for the department," reported assistant professor of theatre Arthur Moss, "that we needed two people to replace her!" Rohlena assumed Skewis-Arnett's classroom duties and also served as chief of scene design. Peters took charge of the costume shop, designing and building four shows, including the extensive costumes for Little Shop of Horrors. Rohlena also directed Little Shop.

Peters is a 1988 graduate of Morningside who specializes in antique fabric, clothing, and artifacts associated with period costume.  Rohlena is a graduate of Carrol College, who earned an M.F.A. in scene design from the University of South Dakota in 2005.

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Children's Theatre Program Earns Praise  4/14/06

After surveying area grade school teachers, the results are in:
Morningside's children's theatre program

is very highly rated.

During the run of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, teachers were asked to assess the quality of the current production. The teachers responded to questions posed on a scale between 1 and 5, with 5 representing either very strong agreement, or very high quality. Here are the results:

  1. Goldilocks the the Three Bears was superior to productions you taken your students to at other theatres:  4.4/5
  2. Attending Goldilocks was a positive experience for your students: 4.5/5
  3. How would you rate the following elements of the production?

"We are pleased that area educators think so highly of our productions," said Arthur Moss, director of Goldilocks. "It's wonderful to have their students in our audience; we always look forward to boisterous response to our our work."  Goldilocks plays to over 2,000 audience members.

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2006 Spring Green Trip Announced  4/7/06

The theatre and English departments at Morningside College will sponsor a theatre trip to Spring Green, Wis., from Thursday, Sept. 21, through Sunday, Sept. 24. The public is invited to attend.

The trip includes tickets to three plays by the American Players Theatre (APT), a professional repertory company. The plays include Shakespeare’s tragedies Julius Caesar and Romeo and Juliet and the George Bernard Shaw’s comedy Arms and the Man. Also included in the trip will be backstage tours of the theatre and informal gatherings with the actors. The trip will be led by Dr. Marty Knepper, chair of the English department at Morningside.

American Players Theatre, in its 27th season, is situated in a natural amphitheater on 110 acres of woods and meadow just off the Wisconsin River. The acting company produces plays performed in repertory during the summer and early fall each year. Founded in 1979, the theatre has become the most popular outdoor classical theatre in the country.

Cost of the trip is $250, which includes the theatre tickets, lodging, breakfasts, and transportation by automobile. Additional costs will include lunch and dinner meals, snacks, and optional activities. The group will depart from Sioux City at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21, and return around 1 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 24. Lodging will be at the Spring Valley Inn, a Frank Lloyd Wright-style modern facility equipped with a pool, sauna, restaurant, and gift shop, and located near a golf course. Reservations are available on a first-come, first-served basis until Monday, Sept. 11.

For additional information or to make reservations, contact Marcie Ponder in the English department at Morningside at (712) 274-5126.

College and high school students may qualify for a $100 travel grant. Travel grants are given to students who have financial need along with a strong interest in theater or English. Travel grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are not dispensed automatically to any applicant. Designated drivers will also receive stipends to pay for expenses. Students who wish to apply for the travel grant or persons who would like to be designated drivers should also contact Ponder at (712) 274-5126 or by e-mail.

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Cast Chosen for Goldilocks and the Three Bears 3/3/06


Director Arthur Moss announced the results of auditions for the children's musical Goldilocks the Three Bears.

Nicole Helgeson, last seen as Nora in A Doll's House is cast as Goldilocks, while Christina Meranda will play her mother, and Audrey Hantla is cast as her sister, Prudence.  The family of bears will be performed by Dave Kenan, Missy Keiper, and Sharona Ernst, who play Papa, Momma, and Baby Bear, respectively. 

Mike Rohlena is supervising his scene design class in creating the set, and Randy Peters is the production's costume designer. Morningside graduate and long-time accompanist for the college's music department, Mabel Huldeen, will play piano for the production, and Steve Lundberg is vocal coach and music director.

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Little Shop of Horrors Smash Hit!  2/28/06

Little Shop of Horrors, everyone's favorite musical parody of bad science fiction movies, proved to be very popular at Morningside, especially under the sure leadership of faculty member Mike Rohlena. The cast enjoyed full-houses and standing ovations during the one-week run.

"Auditions were held in December, and rehearsals began shortly before the official start of the spring semester," said Rohlena. "We've all worked hard on this show, and it really paid off." Perhaps no one works harder than the young director, a 2005 graduate of USD with an M.F.A. in design. "Mike directed the show, designed the sets and lighting, and built most of the plant, Audrey 2, himself," observed Arthur Moss, the production's master carpenter. "He gave so much of himself to Little Shop," said Moss, "and it's wonderful to see how successfully he realized his vision for the show."

Rohlena's vision would have been far plainer if not for the work of costume designer Randy Peters. "Musical are always exciting to design because they call for so much color and excitement," Peters explained. "Mike and I also wanted the costumes to reflect the characters changing emotions, relationships, and status. Since Little Shop tells a pretty complicated story through many different scenes, many of the characters had half-a-dozen costume changes," he added. When asked if he had to give up any sleep to finish the show, Peter's deadpanned, "Sleep? What's sleep?"

For those not fortunate enough to see the work of Rohlena and Peters, the dynamic design duo will be creating the set and costumes for Goldilocks and the Three Bears opening in April. Be sure to check it out!

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Doll's House, November 14, 2005


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Emperor's New Clothes, April 14, 2005

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The Mankdrake, February 17, 2005

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Little Red Riding Hood, October 6, 2005


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Rapunzel, September 30, 2004

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Proof, November 11, 2004

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Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Proof" coming to Morningside 11/5/04

Morningside College 's theatre department will present the David Auburn award-winning play “Proof” at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 11 to 13, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14, at Klinger-Neal Theatre. The production features Arthur Moss, assistant professor of theatre, in a lead role.

“It is a great experience for the students to have the opportunity to work alongside their professor, who is also a professional actor,” said Bette Skewis-Arnett, professor of theatre. “It is a working classroom experience for them.”


The performances are sponsored by Morningside's Academic and Cultural Arts Series (ACAS).


“Proof,” is a family drama about family relationships and responsibilities with a cast of only four characters. The play received the 2001 Tony Award and the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for drama.


Cast members are Moss as Robert; Jessica Jenkins, a junior from Essex, Iowa, as Catherine; Justin Clark, a freshman from Quimby, Iowa, as Hal; and Mikaela Johnson, a senior from Colorado Springs, Colo., as Claire.


Skewis-Arnett is the play's director and costume designer.  Aside from his role in the cast, Moss is

also the play's set designer. Rachel Radel, a freshman from Mitchell, S.D., is the assistant director.


The rest of the crew includes: Kimberly Marth, a freshman from Charles City, Iowa, sound board operator; Jennifer Benjamin, a sophomore from Estherville, Iowa, light board operator; Jordan Campfield, a freshman from Osceola, Iowa, stage manager; Andrew Goodell, a sophomore from Sioux City, stage crew; and Lia Lauderback, a sophomore from Spencer, Iowa, wardrobe manager.


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No Exit, November 20, 2003

Collegian Reporter


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Elves and the Shoemaker, October 4, 2003

Morningside College’s theatre department will present a production of the children’s musical comedy “The Elves and the Shoemaker” on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4 and 5, at Klinger-Neal Theatre, 3700 Peters Avenue.

Show times for Saturday are 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday’s show times are 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. The performances are sponsored by Morningside's Academic and Cultural Arts Series (ACAS).

Tickets are $2 and will be available by calling the theatre box office at 712-274-5196 starting Monday, Sept. 29.

Approximately 2,400 students and teachers from area pre-schools and elementary schools will attend special weekday performances of the play. All seats for the weekday performances have been filled.

The play is based on the children’s story by The Brothers Grimm.

Cast members are: Gethen Baker, a freshman from Edina, Minn., as Hearald; Daniel Bossman, a freshman from Sioux City, as the shoemaker; Jenna Rehnstrom, a sophomore from Hartington, Neb., as the wife; Joshua Creekmore, a freshman from Hartington, Neb. Lesa Gillespie, a freshman from Belfast, Ireland, as the nanny; Cassandra Bishop, a sophomore from Glenwood, Iowa, as Rosie; Sara Homrig, a freshman from Clarinda, Iowa, as P.P.; Kayla Glaza, a sophomore from Manchester, Iowa, as the tax collector; Jonathan Rotramel, a junior from Anthon, Iowa, as the lord mayor; Erin Mulvany, a senior from Tualatin, Ore., as Nod; Lia Lauderback, a freshman from Spencer, Iowa, as Nip; and Mikaela Johnson, a sophomore from Colorado Springs, Colo., as Num-Num.

Other students involved with the production are: Jessica Jenkins, a sophomore from Essex, Iowa, stage manager; Josh Goebel, a senior from Granville, Iowa, assistant stage manager; Joshua Brown, a freshman from Lorimor, Iowa, backstage and curtain puller; Lauren Stinson, a sophomore from Council Bluffs, Iowa, props; Jennifer Benjamin, a freshman from Estherville, Iowa, house manager; and Amber Donner, a senior from Sioux City, student costume designer.

The director is Bette Skewis-Arnett, associate professor and department chair of theatre at Morningside College. Art Moss, instructor of theatre, is the set designer. Terry Brooks, adjunct accompanist for the music department, will provide piano accompaniment.

Morningside’s theatre department produces four plays a year, including its fall and spring children’s plays, which have entertained more than 23,200 elementary school students and their teachers since 1987.

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Morningside Theatre Department receives MRHD Grant

May 21, 2003 -- The Missouri River Historical Development, Inc. announced the winners in its annual grant competition. Morningside was awarded a grant for $4225 for improvements to the Klinger-Neal Theater. The grant was one of 28 grants announced by M.R.H.D. for a total of $214, 912.

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Morningside College's Art Moss to lecture on Nazi rhetoric and the Holocaust

March 25, 2003 - Arthur Moss, instructor of theatre at Morningside College, will present "The Language of Abuse: Nazi Rhetoric and the Holocaust" on Wednesday, April 2, at 10 a.m. in Klinger-Neal Theatre, 3700 Peters Avenue.

His lecture will examine how the Nazis used language to characterize Jewish people.

The public is invited to the free event, which is sponsored by Morningside's Academic and Cultural Arts Series (ACAS).

Moss will provide an overview of how the Nazis used language that was designed to inflame distrust, jealousy, fear and hatred against Jewish people and persuade the German people to believe that mass murder was not only acceptable, but also a moral necessity.

Moss has done extensive research on the Holocaust and the Nazi era by reading books, transcripts of Nazi speeches, meetings, correspondence, opinion pieces, legal opinions, and various other historical materials.

"I've come to believe that the Nazi's main goal was to represent the Jews as the ultimate anti-symbol, responsible for all that was wrong with Germany and the world," Moss said.

Moss’ interest in World War II and the Holocaust came from his father, who fought in France and Germany during the war. His father served in the 14th Armored Division, which became known as the "liberator division" after it freed some 110,000 prisoners of war at Stalag 7 at Moosberg, Germany. After the war ended, Moss' father remained in Germany for several months and saw first-hand the horror of the Nazi concentration camps.

Moss has been a member of Morningside's faculty since 1998. He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1980 and his master's degree from Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas, in 1984. Before he joined Morningside's faculty, Moss taught at Saint Mary's University, Winona, Minn., and at St. Lawrence's University, Canton, N.Y.

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Morningside College music and theatre departments to present English production of one-act comic opera "Gianni Schicchi"

March 7, 2003 - The Morningside College music and theatre departments will present an English production of Giacomo Puccini's one-act comic opera "Gianni Schicchi" on Friday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. in Eppley Auditorium, 3625 Garretson Avenue.

The opera centers around the money-hungry relatives of Buoso Donati, an extremely wealthy man, who dies and leaves most of his money and possessions to the local monks. The family members persuade Gianni Schicchi to impersonate Donati and change his will, since no one outside of the family knows Donati has already died. Schicchi succeeds in changing the will, but gives most of the possessions to himself.

Dr. Gail Dooley, associate professor of music and director of the Morningside College Opera Theatre, is the music director of the production. Stage director is Bette Skewis, associate professor and department chair of theatre. Adam Orban, a senior from Le Mars, Iowa, is student assistant to the music director. Jessica Wheeler, a senior from Sioux City, is student assistant to the stage director. The piano accompanist is JoAnn Kots, a Morningside College music department accompanist.

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Morningside senior Kyle Wirth to present one-man play Barrymore's Ghost

February 21, 2003 - Morningside College senior Kyle Wirth will present the one-man play "Barrymore's Ghost" on Sunday, March 2, at 7 p.m. in Klinger-Neal Theatre, 3700 Peters Avenue.

The public is invited to the free event, which is sponsored by Morningside's Academic and Cultural Arts Series (ACAS).

Wirth, who is majoring in theatre, is a 1999 graduate of Sioux City East High School. He is the son of Kent and Deborah Wirth of Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The play deals with the life of American actor John Barrymore, whose career flourished during the 1920s and early 1930s. After gaining fame in the theatre, Barrymore abandoned the theatre altogether for the movies, where he was often cast more for his looks than his talent.

In the play, Barrymore is presented as a ghost that haunts a theater that is in rehearsal for a play. The gods sentenced him to his purgatorial existence as penance for his abandonment of the theater and the squandering of his talents in the pursuit of fame, greed and pleasure. Barrymore challenges the opinion of the gods as he painfully and humorously examines his life, touching on his rise to fame as a classical actor and movie stardom, his relationships with his sister and brother, and the failures of his four marriages.

The play was written by Jason Miller, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the play "That Championship Season" and was an Academy Award nominee for "The Exorcist."

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Everyman, February 20, 2003

Contemporary audiences are used to seeing scary films in which a figure of death stalks an unwitting human victim.  But probably few people are aware that the model for this alarming story goes back over five hundred years, to Merry Olde England?  The Morningside College Theatre Department will present one of the best examples of this ancient dramatic form when it opens Everyman on February 20.


Everyman (c.1495) is perhaps the most famous and frequently produced of all English plays from the medieval period.  It is considered a morality play, a type of drama very popular in the late Middle Ages. 

Morality plays dramatize a moral truth through a conflict in which allegorical characters representing godly virtues and human vices, struggle to possess the soul of a single figure who embodies all humanity. This character (Mankind or Everyman, for example), must, through trial and error, suffering and redemption, come to understand medieval conceptions of virtue and salvation.

Everyman perfectly demonstrates this model. When the play beings, Everyman is immersed in worldly pleasures. Suddenly, Death summons him to the grave, and Everyman must prepare to make his final reckoning with God and account for his life of   self-centered gratification.

Everyman discovers that none of his supposedly loyal companions (Fellowship, Kindred, and Cousin), figures whom he thought would comfort him in death as in life, will join him on his fatal last journey . His treasured Goods desert him too, and at the grave the qualities for the flesh (Beauty, Strength) also fade away. It is Good Deeds, the only possession of any lasting value, that stays with him, and with the assistance of Knowledge, Confession, and Priesthood, Everyman enters the realm of the divine.

Everyman is directed by Morningside Theatre Department chair, Bette Skewis.  When asked about her interpretation of the play Skewis said, “I have chosen to do a modern staging of the piece in hopes that it will speak to today’s audiences.” She observed that while the script is old, the moral of the play and the questions that Everyman confronts are timeless and universal.

But how to get people in 2003 to hear them?

Skewis revealed, “In order to make connections to a modern-day audience, I've kept the medieval language but updated the visual elements. We live in a very visual world and I felt this was a way to connect. So the costuming will not be accurate period reproductions, they will be clothing that we all recognize from the street.”

The setting and actor-audience relationship is also designed to make connections with the audience. According to Skewis, the performance will be done in an arena setting with audience seated on all four sides. “This is a visual symbol of the life cycle, with different levels and angles, to show this cycle is not always easy.”  She’s also added modern music, special lighting, and other technical effects. 

Even the selection of props for the play came under the director’s scrutiny.  “There is a character Goods-who represents all of the things that we feel we need to have in order to make our life matter,” said Skewis, “and I have updated all of the "stuff " to be modern -- DVD, cell phone, computer, palm pilot, etc.”

When asked if the play is too deeply rooted in a by-gone religious tradition to be applicable to today’s audiences, Skewis responded, “Historically, Everyman comes out of a medieval religious experience, but all of us, no matter what our religious convictions, will see that the questions the play raises about what it means to live a good human life are as important now as they were five hundred years ago.”

Everyman runs from February 20 to February 23 at 8:00 p.m. in Klinger-Neal Theatre on the campus of Morningside College. 3700 Peters Avenue.  Tickets can be purchased at the door. Call the theatre office, 274-5196, for more information.

Messenger: Tim Lynn

God: Rolando Lopez

Everyman: Kyle Wirth

Death: Wendy Joy Bryce

Fellowship: Katherine Tremmel

Kindred: Jaci Brandt

Cousin: Jessica Jenkins

Goods: Jennifer Benjamin

Good Deeds: Erin Mulvany

Knowledge: Mikaela Johnson

Confession: Cassie Bishop

Beauty: Jenna Rehnstrom

Strength: Chase Sullivan

Discretion: Jessica Wheeler
She is also Assistant Director

Five Wits: Jessica Alexander

Angel: Adrian Barcus

On crew: Angela Phillips, Lauren Stinson, Meleah Stout and Amber Donner

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"Fools" takes the stage at Morningside College

By Tim Gallagher, Journal staff writer

Scott "Deuce" Miller II (Slovitch), left, and Katelin Saufley (Yenchna), right, decide to have a little fun with Matt Tremmel (Mischkin) in "Fools" at Morningside College. The play opens tonight (Thursday) at Klinger-Neal Theatre. (Photo by Jerry Mennenga)

Wanna see an upside house?

Or a doctor who has a rubber fish dangling about his neck?

Then Morningside College's Klinger Neal Theatre is where you need to head as the college's theater department presents the Neil Simon classic "Fools."

"It's the idea of a normal person coming into a crazy world," commented Arthur Moss, instructor of theater and the play's director.

Bizarre is one word.

Fast is another.

"It's a very fast-paced comedy with a lot of one-liners," said Moss, who performed in the play while doing summer stock theater at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1984. "That fast pace is not a style students have worked a lot in. They see it through TV and movies, but they don't get the chance to work in it often."

There's a trick, he said, to getting that rapid fire rhythm nailed. Students have tackled the challenge in developing the right kind of pace and attitude.

The play debuts at 8 o'clock tonight (Thursday) and will show at that time Friday and Saturday. A 2 p.m. show is slated for Sunday. The performances are sponsored by Morningside's Academic and Cultural Arts Series.

"Fools" is a story about a group of Russian villagers who have been cursed with stupidity for more than 200 years. The villagers sweep dust from the stoops back into their houses and milk cows upside down in order to get more cream. A school teacher, Leon Tolchinsky, comes to town with the task of trying to break the curse. No one tells him he has only 24 hours to do so. If he fails, he'll have to spend the rest of his life in...well...the same state of idiocy.

Tolchinksy does stay, though, because he falls in love with Sophia, the daughter of the town's intellectual, Dr. Zubritsky, who has only recently learned the art of sitting down.


"In order to evoke the silliness that is caused by the town being cursed for stupidity, we created a very whimsical set," said Moss. "The main scenic unit sits on top of a large turntable that allows us to revolve an entire house during scene changes. Another house is built almost entirely upside down and has a slide instead of steps, and a third house has a steer living in the upstairs bedroom."

Moss examined the paintings of Russia native Marc Chagall to devise the set. "It's nominally set in this Russian village in the 1890s, but because it's so zany we looked to the paintings of Chagall. Most of his paintings depict memories of his childhood in a small Russian village. He interprets his memory through a fantastic use of color and line. He has cows flying through air and animals with almost human expression," said Moss.

The result: Deep purples, bright reds and intense greens. It's like Fruit Stripe Gum for the eyes.

Same goes for the costumes. Dr. Zubritsky, for example, carries a rubber fish instead of a stethoscope. And one cast member thinks she's selling flowers. She's not; those are fish.

Cast members include: Joshua Gobel, a junior from Granville, Iowa; as Leon Tolchinsky; Jessica Alexander, a freshman from Lincoln, Neb.; as Snetsky; Tim Lynn, a sophomore from Hamburg, Iowa, as the magistrate; Scott Miller II, a freshman from Mobile, Ala., as Slovitch; Matt Tremmel, a senior from Sioux City, as Mishkin; Katelin Saufley, a sophomore from Sioux Falls, as Yenchna; Charles Burton, a freshman from Champaign, Ill., as Dr. Zubritsky; Jessica Wheeler, a senior from Sioux City, as Sophia Zubritsky; and Kyle Wirth, a senior from Council Bluffs, Iowa, as Gregor Yousekevitch.

Jennifer Benjamin, a freshman from Estherville, Iowa, serves as assistant director. Bette Skewis, associate professor and department chair of theater, is costume designer.

Admission for the public is $5. Reservations may be obtained by calling the Klinger-Neal Theatre box office at 274-5196.


Morningside College theatre department to present
Neil Simon's Fools

November 12, 2002 - Morningside College's theatre department will present Neil Simon's comedy "Fools" at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, Nov. 21 to 23, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, at Klinger-Neal Theatre, 3700 Peters Avenue.

The performances are sponsored by Morningside's Academic and Cultural Arts Series (ACAS).

"Fools" is a story about a group of Russian villagers who have been cursed with stupidity for over 200 years. The villagers sweep dust from the stoops back into their houses and milk cows upside down in order to get more cream. A school teacher, Leon Tolchinsky, comes to the town with the task of trying to break the curse. No one tells him that he has only 24 hours to break the curse or he too will spend the rest of his life in stupidity. Tolchinksy stays because he falls in love with Sophia, the daughter of the town' s intellectual, Dr. Zubritsky, who has only recently learned how to sit down.

"In order to evoke the silliness that is caused by the town being cursed by stupidity, we created a very whimsical set," said Arthur Moss, instructor of theatre and the play's director and scene designer. "The main scenic unit sits on top of a large turntable that allows us to revolve an entire house during scene changes. Another house is built almost entirely upside down and has a slide instead of steps, and a third house has a steer living in the upstairs bedroom."

"The cast was encouraged to develop the same kind of wackiness," Moss said. "The actors were challenged to come up with barmy physical and vocal traits and to embrace a character mind-set in which even the simplest activity becomes a challenge."

Jennifer Benjamin, a freshman from Estherville, Iowa, is assistant director. Bette Skewis, associate professor and department chair of theatre, is costume designer.

Cast members:

Joshua Goebel, a junior from Granville, Iowa
as Leon Tolchinsky
Jessica Alexander, a freshman from Lincoln, Neb.
as Snetsky
Tim Lynn, a sophomore from Hamburg, Iowa
as the magistrate
Scott Miller II, a freshman from Mobile, Ala.
as Slovitch
Matt Tremmel, a senior from Sioux City
as Mishkin
Katelin Saufley, a sophomore from Sioux Falls, S.D. as Yenchna
Charles Burton, a freshman from Champaign, Ill.
as Dr. Zubritsky
Jessica Wheeler, a senior from Sioux City
as Sophia Zubritsky
Kyle Wirth, a senior from Council Bluffs, Iowa
as Gregor Yousekevitch

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Oleanna, September 14, 2000


Across the country students head to college.  For most, it means a return to training, to developing skills and futures. It means football, studying in the library, chatting in the commons.

But in David Mamet’s controversial play, Oleanna, college means picking one’s way through a minefield of misunderstanding, where a seemingly innocent conversation leads to charges of sexual harassment, and a hand on the arm leads to an accusation of rape. 

Oleanna opens September 14 in the Klinger-Neal Theatre at Morningside College. It features Katie Driscoll in the role of Carol, a student, and Arthur Moss in the role of John, her professor. 

The play begins when Carol comes to John’s office panicking over her failing grade.  At first, John dismisses her as just another complaining student looking for an easy fix. He’s eager to leave his office: he’s about to be awarded tenure and in the wake of his achievement he’s negotiating to buy a new house.

Gradually, John comes to see that Carol is sincere and that her problems are similar to ones he faced as a student. John decides to stay with Carole, and he attempts to form a personal bond with her.  Carol is alternately befuddled and flattered by John’s attentions.  He goes so far as to propose that they meet privately for the rest of the semester in a Socratic-like dialogue.  In exchange, he promises to give her an “A.”

At first, Carol agrees to his offer, but after discussing John’s behavior with an unnamed campus group, she turns against him.  She goes so far as to present his tenure committee with a long list of charges against him.  They range from the innocuous (he deviated from the syllabus) to the serious, (that he made sexual overtures towards her).

Now John is flabbergasted.  He claims that he was simply interested in helping her, and he tries all manner of tactics to convince Carol to drop her accusations.  His entire future is at stake, for if he is denied tenure he will loose his job, and consequently, lose the house he is trying to buy.  Ultimately, his efforts only antagonize Carol and isolate John from his colleagues. As John spins out of control the play careens to a shocking physical confrontation between teacher and student.

Oleanna, written in 1992, was inspired by some prominent cases of sexual harassment, including the Tailhook scandal, and the accusations made against Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill. Curiously, the play’s title doesn’t come from these scandals, but from a nineteenth-century folk song, (some say advertising jingle) about a Norwegian utopian community that was established in America. The community failed, and Mamet is perhaps suggesting that the notion of college as a place free of the tensions of larger society is a utopian dream, also bound to fail.

Wherever it is produced, Oleanna generates intense audience reaction.  Some see it as a misogynist diatribe.  Others see it as an accurate portrayal of the absurdities of unmerited accusations of sexual harassment.  Some critics have offered that the play is more about power than anything else. On Friday, Sept 15, audience members are invited to stay after the production and discuss their reactions to the script and performance.

Oleanna runs from September 14 to the 16. All shows start at 8:00 p.m. General admission tickets are $3 and reservations may be made by calling the Klinger-Neal box office at 274-5196.


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Arthur Moss, instructor of theatre at Morningside College, has been recognized by the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD) as an advanced actor combatant.

July, 2000 - Moss gained this status by attending the National Stage Combat Workshop held in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July 2000. He was re-certified in rapier and dagger, unarmed, and broadsword weapon systems. He also earned first-time certification in short sword, knife, single rapier, and single-handed broadsword.

The workshop was sponsored by the SAFD, a non-profit organization of theatre professionals, academicians, friends, and supporters who share a common interest in the art of stage violence. The society, founded in 1977, is committed to the highest standards of safety in the theatrical, film, and television industries.

Moss has taught at the Paddy Crean Stage Combat Workshop held annually in Banff, Alberta, at the Banff Centre for the Arts and has held workshops on sword fighting for the stage at the annual Iowa Thespian Festival in Indianola.

He received his bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and his master's degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.

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