WMU News

Students stage innovative fine arts production

Oct. 12, 2003

KALAMAZOO--It is often said that two heads are better than one.

With that spirit in mind, about 20 fine arts students at Western Michigan University are staging an innovative production that will combine all four disciplines within the College of Fine Arts: music, art, theatre and dance.

The show, being presented free at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, in the Dalton Center Recital Hall, is a collaborative effort being produced by music majors Christopher "K.C." Tuazon, a fifth-year senior, and senior Stephanie Bettig. Called "Conversation Pieces," it is an outgrowth of an earlier performance project Tuazon produced last year.

"It's not going to be boring," Bettig says. "This is not your typical recital. It's not what people will expect at all."

As the name implies, the production will provide pieces of conversations set to music and dance, combining elements across the performing arts spectrum. These conversations will take place in groups, one-on-one or as an actor's conversation with himself or herself. Photography will be used as an accompaniment to the performance of one musical piece. For added fun, students also are converting the recital hall's Green Room into a European café, complete with flavored coffees and pastries.

Tuazon says the production has been met with enthusiastic support from students in other disciplines. For example, a theatre student, who is acting as the show's stage manager, said a similar show could not have been staged without the help of students in other areas.

Tuazon recalls another student told him: "It's such a relief that someone's finally going out and bringing other performing arts students together, and you're the only one crazy enough to do it."

Working with students in other art disciplines also has been both eye opening and liberating for all the students involved.

"We don't get to work with the art, theatre and dance people for the most part," Bettig says. "But in the real world, everyone works together. So this has been very good training for us. And I think everyone just wanted to get out of the box that we're put in by the system. This has opened new doors creatively."

The process of working through the production was challenging because of the different perspectives involved. But in the end, the pieces were made stronger through collaboration, both Tuazon and Bettig say.

"You have to go to greater lengths to explain your concept," Bettig says. "But in many ways it makes the piece better because you end up incorporating someone else's artistic approach."

"Two people are better than one," Tuazon agrees. "You end up having a better chance for someone in the audience to 'get it.' "

The production is sponsored by the Undergraduate Entrepreneurial Program, a College of Fine Arts program that offers opportunities usually reserved for students in schools of business. The professional development initiative was funded by a private foundation and supports the college's outstanding junior and senior students.

"Conversation Pieces" runs under 90 minutes. Students are not staging it to fulfill any course requirements, but are doing it simply for the experience.

"We're just doing it because we thought it would be fun," Tuazon says.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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