The saying “there’s no place like home” rang true this summer for several Southeastern Theatre alumni as they returned to their alma mater for a collaborative theatre production of Moon Over Buffalo.

61131254_2292151224202460_2943119686679658496_nAssociate Professor of Acting and Directing Jim Winter directed the comedy play written by American playwright Ken Ludwig. Well-known for slapsticks and comedic innuendos, Moon Over Buffalo is also famous for being the one play that successfully tempted Carol Burnett back to the live stage after a 30-year absence from Broadway. It seems she was not the only one lured back to the stage through this production.

Winter applied for his second Endowed Professorship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) two years ago to get funding to produce the show, and he was successful. His staff then reached out to 100 Southeastern alumni, and over 80 replied with an interest in working on or supporting the endeavor.

“Our first effort featured the talents of over 20 of those graduates. Nine appeared on stage, and the rest served as designers and crew members for the production,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to make this an annual event the entire community can look forward to, with each new show featuring the talents of different alumni.”

Winter explained that although the NEH Endowment funded this first production, ticket sales and community support are the only way to guarantee funding for future alumni productions.

With a span of 25 years of Southeastern theatre alumni coming together to celebrate their time at Southeastern, Winter described this particular production as a special and unique event.

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Jaimee Rome behind the scenes

“Not only was this project two years in the making, but the entire cast and crew of Moon Over Buffalo happily agreed to participate in the unprecedented production for free,” Winter said. “The whole production was spawned from the close ties we maintain with our alumni. They always come back and support new generations in theatre. How amazing is it for a student who graduated in the ’90s to act alongside a student who graduated in 2015?”

Theatre alumni cast in lead roles were Shane Stewart of Greensburg as George and Kace Parker of Covington as Charlotte. Additional alumni cast members included Olivia Waguespack and Ben Norman of Covington, Lindsey Ehricht of Hammond, Chelsea Krause of Gonzales, Trey Lagan of Ponchatoula, Karista Filopoulous of Mandeville, and Jeff Polito of Lake Charles.

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Ben Norman and Kace Parker

A 2014 Southeastern graduate, Krause was excited to be one of the first to have the opportunity to work on a production with theatre alumni across decades. “What I enjoyed the most was returning to the Vonnie Borden stage to act on a more professional level with former peers and other alumni from both before and after my time,” she said. “The first few rehearsals we were just playing and discovering the world, but it was so much more seamless because of the experience everyone brought to the table. I was incredibly thankful for the opportunity because it allowed me to work on my craft with old friends and put on, what I believe, was a really hilarious show for the department that I called home for four years.”

Ehricht, a 2008 and 2011 Southeastern graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling, respectively, was also delighted to return to the stage that brought her so many pleasant memories as an undergraduate and to reconnect with fellow students.

“I was really excited to work with this particular cast and crew,” she said. “Some people I am so close to that they are practically my family, and some people I met for the very first time.”

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Chelsea Krause and Shane Stewart

A 2001 graduate, Stewart said he became very nostalgic while working on the play and thoroughly enjoyed his return to the stage for Moon Over Buffalo, his walk down memory lane, and catching up with former classmates and teachers.

“Working on the production certainly reminded me of how much Hammond and Southeastern meant to me and helped me as a theatre professional when I was young and just learning,” he said. “It’s amazing the amount of talent that has passed across the stage of Vonnie Borden, and it is a rare occurrence to have that much talent in one place at one time.

“Having attended graduate school with Jim Winter and learning under Professor of Theatre Design and Technical Directing Steve Schepker, it is nice to know that the theatre I loved so much in my youth is in such good hands,” Stewart continued. “There is no theatre community like Southeastern’s in the state of Louisiana.”

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By Tonya Lowentritt

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