The Arts and U

By Madeleine Gail Rex, Pioneer Theatre Company publicity manager

Disney’s “Newsies” leaps onto the Pioneer Theatre Company stage this month, along with a 29-person cast of professional and local actors, including five University of Utah students.

Although PTC is a fully professional regional theatre and its casts consist primarily of Actor’s Equity (union) actors, larger productions include a number of non-Equity actors as well. Because of the close relationship between the U and PTC, students are provided a unique opportunity to work in a professional theatre, alongside professional actors and under the direction of directors with years of experience in the industry.

Christopher DuVal, head of the actor training program at the U and PTC’s resident fight choreographer, said that the relationship between the two organizations is almost unparalleled.

“I don’t think I can think of a single other undergraduate training program that has the proximity with a theatre that offers professional opportunities,” he said. “If there are any, they’re rare. Like super rare.”

In order for an actor to join the Actor’s Equity Association, they must have worked a certain number of weeks on Equity productions or be offered the contract by a professional theatre. PTC allows undergraduate students to make their way toward a union contract while also working with actors who are in the midst of long careers in theatre.

The “Newsies” cast includes students Patrick Ryan Castle, Jesse Klick, John Peterson, Katryna Williams and Amanda Wright, as well as a student assistant stage manager, Martin Alcocer. Some students, like Peterson and Wright, have performed on the PTC stage multiple times.

“Working at PTC is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had while studying at the U,” Wright said. “Getting to spend my afternoons observing the work ethic and processes of these incredibly talented individuals has fueled my drive and ambition in a big way.”

According to DuVal, there’s “a lot of crosspollination happening” as he and Karen Azenberg, PTC artistic director, work to tighten the bond between the professional theatre company and the university theatre department. Recently, they officially established a new apprenticeship program allowing students to work closely with the theatre for an entire semester and Azenberg also teaches as an adjunct professor.

“Karen and I are continuing to talk frequently about how to continue to forge that relationship and make it stronger and more beneficial both to Pioneer Theatre Company as well as to the theatre program. It’s a really active and really vibrant [relationship].”

See professional and student actors take the stage in “Newsies” through Dec. 20. For more information and for tickets, visit