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All the Way to China: Theatre Professor's Collaboration Travels to Asia

Tommy Iafrate

Photo courtesty of Tommy Iafrate

From Radford University to Carthage College in Wisconsin, the American musical theatre will make its way to audiences Shanghai, Xi'an, and Beijing.

Theatre assistant professor Tommy Iafrate is collaborating with faculty and students from Carthage College on two shows that will travel to China this summer. He is musically directing 10 students in the musicals “Next to Normal” and in a shortened version of “Once on this Island.” A theatre faculty member from Carthage, a colleague of Iafrate’s during graduate school, will direct the shows.

To prepare, the actors will learn their roles on their own. Prior to going overseas, Iafrate will work with the casts in Kenosha, Wis., for about a week and then do minor tweaks to the shows while in China.

“Both productions are small enough in terms of cast and props that they will be relatively manageable to bring overseas.,” says Iafrate.

The productions will also be presented in English. The Shanghai Conservatory has showcased American artists over for over a decade to help their students train in this American musical theatre. This means the American students will perform for Chinese students as a way of sharing this art form.

“The American musical theatre is a relatively new art form in China,” explains Iafrate, “Traditionally, Chinese performers are trained in their biggest strength; an artist trains to become a singer, a dancer, OR an actor - not ‘and’! The American musical theatre requires performers to be ‘triple threats’ that can do all three.”

This trip is about sharing art forms and experiencing other cultures for both students and audiences.

Iafrate is very enthusiastic about this and when asked about language barriers or challenges, he says, “I'm sure there will challenges, but I think they'll be things like needing an extension cord and not knowing how to ask for one! It is my hope that the spirit of academia and the intercultural forum will be enough to carry us through without any major hurdles.”

He is very grateful for this opportunity and thanks Corinne Ness and Carthage College for including him in this project. He is looking forward to sharing what he learns about Chinese theatre and culture with his students at RU.

For more information about RU's department of theatre, visit www.radford.edu/theatre.

Feb 10, 2014

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