Theatre Students to Participate in London’s International Youth Arts Festival

April 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Eight University of South Carolina Upstate theater students and two theatre technicians have been invited to participate in the International Youth Arts Festival from June 29 – July 22 in Kingston, England. They will stage a production of John Cariani’s play, “Almost, Maine,” which will be directed by Lee Neibert, assistant professor of theatre.

This year’s talented student cast includes Leah James, Ashley McFadden, Anna–Elyse Lewis, Joelle Gwinn, Chris Smith, Ryan Barry, Patric Phillips, Chandler Crawford. The two students in the production crew are Will Luther and Nick Whitworth.

“I fell in love with The Rose and everything about London when I performed and studied abroad there this past summer. I’m honored and so unbelievably grateful for this opportunity. I can’t wait for this adventure and the journey I’ll experience with everyone. I feel like I’m floating! It’s amazing!” says theater student Joelle Gwinn.

Patric Phillips agrees.  “Being able to participate in the festival a second time is a monumental blessing and puts things into perspective. I never would’ve thought a small town boy like me would be acting on an international stage. I am proud to represent USC Upstate and am ready to make a statement about Shoestring Players’ theatre!” he says. Philips is also a theatre major.

The play revolves around the town of Almost, Maine, where town residents fall in and out of love in ways that the audience does not expect. This often leads to funny reactions. The play has been described as a “comic romantic roundelay” by The Wall Street Journal and was given stellar reviews by several other sources. “Almost, Maine” inventively explores the mysteries of the human heart, touching audiences with laughter, heartbreak and hope.

This is not the first summer that USC Upstate theatre students have participated in this international festival. According to Jimm Cox, chair of the Fine Arts and Communication Studies department, this year’s group will be the third group to attend in recent years. At last year’s festival, he says, “there were only three American schools represented and USC Upstate’s group was the only one out of the three to have a fully realized production whereas the other schools had staged readings instead of a complete play.”

Participation in this festival is an important part of the relationship that USC Upstate’s Theatre Department has enjoyed with England’s theatre elite. In 2010, a special agreement was signed allowing for students to intern at the Rose Theatre in Kingston Upon Thames, London during a five-week summer term. That theater is based on the Elizabethan-era Rose Theatre in London, where the plays of Christopher Marlowe and early plays by Shakespeare were staged.

In exchange, Stephen Unwin, renowned Rose Theatre director, thespian and author travels to USC Upstate each fall to lead acting workshops, master classes for upper level theater students, and discussions on a variety of theatre topics. He will be on campus in October and November 2012.

“No other college or university in the world has such an arrangement with the Rose Theatre,” says Cox. “It is a tremendous honor for the university and for our students. Exposing our theatre students to festival and study abroad opportunities will forever enrich their lives by expanding their horizons and giving them the chance to see the world from a completely different perspective,” says Cox.

Stephen Unwin, the current artistic director of the Rose Theatre, founded English Touring Theatre in 1993, where his Shakespeare productions include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Macbeth, As You Like It, Henry IV, Parts One and Two, King Lear and Romeo and Juliet. He has also directed a dozen operas, worked across Europe, and authored several books including The Pocket Guide to Shakespeare’s Plays, So You Want To Be a Theatre Director?, The Guide to the Plays of Berthold Brecht and The Well Read Play.

For more information contact Jimm Cox at (864) 503-5697 or jcox@uscupstate.edu, or Lee Neibert at (864) 503-5987 or lneibert@uscupstate.edu.

Pictured in photo:
Bottom row (left to right): Ashley McFadden, Anna Elyse Lewis, Joelle Gwinn, Leah James, Chris Smith
Top row (left to right): Jimm Cox, Ryan Barry, Chandler Crawford, Will Luther, Nick Whitworth, Lee Neibert