Icon Theatre puts the ‘I can’ back in theater Brings actors of all levels together

Casting everyone from professional actors to local drama lovers, community theater group Icon Theatre really brings people together, said Director Rebecca Lloyd.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Wednesday, July 9, 2008 12:00am
  • Life

Casting everyone from professional actors to local drama lovers, community theater group Icon Theatre really brings people together, said Director Rebecca Lloyd.

That’s what makes community theater so important, she noted.

“Icon Theatre has been a gateway for people to be able to connect and get to know each other, and that is really amazing,” Lloyd said. “When you do theater, every one of your senses is wide open and you get to know everyone on such a deep level. It’s something you never forget.”

Icon will celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer with the production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic cowboy musical, “Oklahoma!,” opening 8 p.m. July 23 at the Kentwood High School Performing Arts Center.

Lloyd, who teaches drama at Kentwood High School, said the last 10 years have been filled with many classic productions and memorable performances from students and members of the local community.

“It’s been full of some great productions that I’m really proud of and that the actors and technicians are really proud of,” she said.

Lloyd started the theatre group in 1998, the same year she started teaching at Kentwood. She said she recognized the talent her students had to offer right away and wanted to provide them with the opportunity to hone their craft all year long.

Through the years, Lloyd’s current and former students have joined community members for nine productions, including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Hair,” “Cabaret,” “A Chorus Line,” “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “The Fantasticks,” “Oliver,” “Urinetown” and “Kiss Me, Kate.”

Lloyd said the lead roles in the group’s productions are often frequented by some of her most successful drama students, many of whom are in or on the way to drama careers. The quality led to a name change at the theater.

“We used to be called the Kent Community Players, but we changed the name a couple of years ago because we found that many of our actors were going on to become professionals, and we wanted the name to reflect that kind of quality,” Lloyd said.

The director is proud to list the names of Icon and Kentwood drama veterans who have gone on to greater things and still come back to perform at home in the summer.

Kentwood graduate Kyle Pleasant, for example, is a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Musical Theatre and was a featured dancer on the big screen in “Across the Universe” last year. He played roles in “Chorus Line,” “Cabaret,” “Hair” and “Sweeney Todd” over the years.

Fellow Kentwood alumnus Julie Conuel recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati musical theater program and signed with a prestigious theater agency. She played major roles in the same productions as Pleasant.

Other notable Icon Theatre regulars include Jesse Brune, who now stars in reality-television show “The Workout,” Roosevelt University musical theater major Amanda Miller and Shenandoah Conservatory vocal major Kathleen Payne.

This year’s production of “Oklahoma!” will also feature notable Kentwood grads, including University of Washington theater student Kate Mosbarger as character Ado Annie Carnes and Boston Conservatory student Matt Varelia as Curly McLain. UW theater student Jake Christiansen will play Jud Fry.

Lloyd said she attributes her students’ successes to the professional atmosphere Icon provides and her directorial emphasis on acting.

“A lot of people in the area that do musical theater think that the singing and the dancing are the most important things, but I think that the acting has got to be the most important,” she said. “The relationships that your characters develop with each other make for a much more satisfying theater experience for the audience.”

She said she teaches her students to act with everything they have.

“You can’t act without using your whole being,” Lloyd said. “You’re using your body, you’re using your mind, you’re using your soul.”

And she said the result of all the hard work will be a solid production come opening night July 23. She said Icon shows are usually well attended, and she hopes this one will be no different.

“It’s going to be a great show,” Lloyd said. “The acting is really superior. We’ve worked very diligently to make these characters come alive.”

‘Oklahoma!’

What: Rogers and Hammerstein’s classic cowboy musical presented by Icon Theatre

When: 8 p.m. July 23-26 and July 30-Aug. 2

Where: Kentwood Performing Arts Center, 25800 164th Ave. S.E., Kent

Cost: $10 at the door

Information: Visit www.icontheatre.org.


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