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The Hilltop Where We Perform

The Hilltop Where We Perform


From Left to Right: Krista Berry, Mancy Oney, Vanessa Vuckovic, Derek Burton, Terry Isley, Jileannette Figueroa Rivera, Anthony Ginger, David “Hoss” Hamar, Maceson Spencer, and Kyle DePriest.

Graceland University’s Theatre Department has risen to the occasion once again to put forth a homecoming show that generations will remember. Over the past few years the department has presented musicals such as Big Fish (2015), Into the Woods (2014), and Little Shop of Horrors (2013), but this year Graceland has decided on something a little different: a revue.

A musical revue typically consists of beautiful ballads, charming dance numbers, and group skits combined together under a single theme for a show. Since the homecoming theme this year is “The Hilltop Where…”, the theatre department wanted to stick with a similar idea. Broadway on the Hill stars ten Graceland undergraduate students and Jack Ergo’s innovative pit orchestra. Directed by Tracy Salter, Broadway On The Hill is comprised of songs affiliated with the prestigious Tony Award, known formally as the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre.

Members of the company, including the cast, Tracy Salter, and Jack Ergo, came back to Graceland early this semester on August 18th to get started on the production due to homecoming being three weeks earlier than normal so that it doesn’t line up with mid-terms as it has in the past. They spent that time rehearsing one-on-one with Jack Ergo on music and recent Graceland graduate Jillian Ford, ’16, on choreography. They endured long days and arduous rehearsals so that they could make the most of their extra time before the semester began.


Class of 1993’s Tracy Salter, from the retired Leilani House, chose to direct a musical revue at the end of the last school year to give the department a change of pace. Over the summer she worked with Jack Ergo on narrowing down the songs from the thousands to choose from and assigned homework to the cast to come back on August 18th with two songs memorized and ready to perform. Salter says, “Working on a revue is different work from me because there are a lot less straight acting scenes, but that doesn’t discount the acting that happens during every single song. It’s definitely more work for the musical director and the choreographer”.
So far the experience has been vastly different for Salter and the cast. It’s her first revue, and she enjoys that its open-endedness lends itself to any possible theme and any possible song. One of the more challenging parts, Salter says, is finding songs that fit the actor and their skills. Seeing them work on those skills has been rewarding, though – “As always, it’s just watching the actors go from zero to one hundred. The growth that is displayed throws me every single time.” Next semester Salter is excited to have the students work with a guest actress on Gary Heisserer’s spring show, Wit (written by Margaret Edson). She believes it allows students to experience a wider variety of education and training from various professionals. Also next semester, the department will participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, in Des Moines this year, with nominees auditioning and competing for scholarships. Salter says next semester the department has a lot of acting and tech responsibilities with six seniors producing their senior shows. Student collaboration is just another way the theatre department builds character and interpersonal relationships between its colleagues.



Kyle DePriest, a senior on Cheville House from Mount Pleasant, IA, says that working on Broadway on the Hill has helped build character and company comradery. DePriest says, “It’s the fact that I can solo and still be company in someone else’s piece. That and there’s a lot less lines to memorize.” DePriest has been cast in musicals since he has been at Graceland and had lead roles in both the two past homecomings as Jack in Into the Woods (2014) and Will in Big Fish (2015). Doing a musical revue has been different for him, but he likes the way it gives him a chance to discover many different characters instead of heavily indulging in just one. DePriest hopes to join a theatre company after college with a high level of professionalism so that he can work on his craft before heading to a master’s program. In Gary Heisserer’s upcoming play, Speech and Debate, DePriest will be playing Howie. He’s also very excited to be producing his senior show this upcoming spring. DePriest will graduate at the end of the year with a major in Theatre.



“The biggest difference between a musical and a revue,” Derek Burton says, “is that a revue is a collaboration of the best hits from many different productions. I like the revue concept because it allows for the audience to buzz after a performance and they prepare themselves for the next.” Burton is a senior from Liberty, MO and a member of Apage House. His enjoyment of theatre stems from recreating the message that a playwright built from the ground up. Burton’s been involved with the theatre department since he came to Graceland, and has a theatre major along with a major in business administration. After graduation in the spring, Burton hopes to start his own business and provide for himself and future family through entrepreneurial means. Previously Burton starred as The Mysterious Man in Into the Woods (2014) and Don Price in Big Fish (2015). Later this year Burton will also produce his senior show along with the other seniors in the major.


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About Jenna Pitstick

Jenna Pitstick is a junior Theatre & Film and English double-major with an avid love for dogs, pancakes, and social justice. She is also co-president of Graceland’s Social Equality Alliance.

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