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March 30, 2007

VAPA launches new professional theatre; announces summer headliner

This summer the University of Louisiana at Monroe School of Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) will launch the state's only professional summer stock musical theatre and light opera.

After just four short years at ULM, VAPA is quickly becoming the area's cultural magnet. Internationally-renowned actors who have lead roles in VAPA's new Louisiana Lyric Opera are contributing to that success.

The new theatre will open its preview season with Nicholas F. Saverine, who will play Mushnick in "Little Shop of Horrors" (Aug. 2 - 5) and the Major General in "Pirates of Penzance" (Aug. 16-19). Saverine has performed in Austria, Germany and on Broadway in both "Les Miserables" and "The Phantom of the Opera."

To find additional Broadway talent for the lead roles, VAPA director Keith White traveled to United Professional Theatre auditions, where he reviewed more than 900 professional actors in just a few days.

"Our new professional theatre will expose our community to top-notch performers," White said. "And for the emerging talent we attract from all over the nation, this theatre will serve as a stepping stone for them. It will give them national exposure."

White has been researching and planning the new professional theatre - the only one of its kind in Louisiana - for almost three years. With the support of the community, he plans to make it a huge success.

The professional theatre will produce three shows between July 5 and Aug. 20 each summer; hire principal actors with Broadway experience; hire a resident ensemble of college and early professional performers through competitive auditions; hire production and technical staff to design, mount and work backstage for each show; and most importantly, expose the regional and community to professional theatre.

In preparation for the new theatre, White hired two new directors. Mark Ross Clark, the new director of Opera/Music Theatre, comes to ULM from Indiana University where he was the director of opera. He has a DMA in opera production from the University of Washington and has directed his own opera company in Northern California.

Robin Stephens, the new director of Dance, comes from Coastal Carolina University where she served as a dance instructor and a choreographer.

Stephens has a degree in musical theatre from Oklahoma City University and Louisiana State University. She has performed on Broadway and was in the original cast of "42nd Street."

VAPA has flourished under the direction of White, who was hired at ULM in 2003, said ULM President James E. Cofer.

Shortly after Cofer arrived at ULM, he saw the potential for a school that would combine art, music, theatre and dance, and VAPA was officially formed in 2002. "Through the efforts of our talented faculty, staff and students, the School of Visual and Performing Arts has quickly made reality our vision of ULM as the gateway to an impressive array of cultural opportunities."

Visit for complete information.about the Louisiana Lyric Opera.

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