The School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s 100-year anniversary celebration proved to be quite the production.
The weekend-long event, called “The Big Bash,” included alumni receptions and reunion productions, providing an opportunity for current School of Music, Theatre & Dance students to connect with established alumni.
Nearly 150 graduates were scheduled to participate, with notable alumni in attendance, including “Glee” star Darren Criss and Jack O’Brien, a noted director and producer.
Event organizer Jennifer Knapp, department administrator for the Department of Theatre & Drama, said The Big Bash took nearly two years for a nationwide alumni committee to plan.
“We have regional committee members,” she said. “So we have members in New York, Chicago and LA, and then we also have a local committee alumni group.”
The first prime time of the weekend, a reception, was held in the Power Center for the Performing Arts. At the conclusion of the reception, StarKid, a production company formed by Michigan students through the student organization Basement Arts, performed its most popular numbers from several of their past shows, including routines from “A Very Potter Musical” and “Me and My Dick.”
Criss, starring as Harry Potter, opened the show and was later joined by additional cast members to perform their number, “Goin’ Back to Hogwarts.”
Theatre Prof. Nancy Uffner, a production stage manager for University Productions, said she was excited to see her students interact with alumni.
“I think it’s important for the current students to see the alumni and to see all the different choices they can make with their theatre degree,” she said.
Uffner, who received a master’s degree from the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, said she was also looking forward to reconnecting with her former classmates from the school’s now-defunct graduate program, and seeing how they thought the school had changed since their time there.
Since the school has shifted entirely to undergraduate studies, Uffner said there are more opportunities for undergraduates than there would be otherwise.
“All the principal roles are played by undergraduates, undergraduate students get to design scenery, lights, costumes,” she said. “These kids walk out of here with a portfolio. That’s a big deal.”
Friday night’s event was a red carpet reception hosted in the Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus, followed by a performance of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “All My Sons,” written by University alum Arthur Miller.
During the reception, alumni walked across the red carpet, where they were filmed and interviewed by faculty members of the School of Music, Theatre & Dance to remember the occasion.
School of Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Liam Loomis, who attended events over the weekend, said Friday he was looking forward to learning from former students and garnering inspired by where their degrees have taken them.
“I’m looking forward to making a connection,” he said. “It would be very helpful and reassuring for me to hear all the fantastic things people have done, hoping I can follow in their footsteps.