Memories from 90 Years of Dance

We asked our alumni to send in their memories to share with you. Enjoy this look back at our dance program through the eyes of our alumni.

Don’t forget to buy your tickets to our 90th Annual Spring Dance Concert and Alumni Dance Concert, March 1 through 3. See below for details.

Sharla Peterson Desentz  – Class of 1997

As a student who found the WSU dance program and company, I was thankful for that and all that it exposed me to, the ability to continue to perform, opening myself up to Modern Dance (which was unknown to me as an incoming student there) but allowed me to learn that my mind, body and soul was craving it!  I was able to experience a semester abroad at the Laban Centre for Movement & Dance my senior year, auditioning for – and getting selected to perform with – the Leni Williams Dance Company that was in residence was a major confidence booster for me and something that meant so much and still resonates with me!   I am still teaching dance, but also, thankful that I am still able to perform as a modern dancer with the established DDCdances modern dance company.  

Ashlee Merritt

Graduating from the dance program at WSU with my BFA gave me the platform and confidence that I needed to take a leap after graduation across the country and dance professionally in both L.A. Contemporary Dance Company (under direction of Genevieve Carson/Kate Hutter) and Clairobscur Dance Company (under direction of Laurie Sefton).

The experiences and tools that I accumulated from WSU provided me with a jumpstart on my professional career that I continue to invest in each and every day. I will forever cherish the three years I spent there, some of my most treasured and breakthrough moments were within those walls of Old Main! 

Paula Kramer  – Class of 1978

Well certainly my experiences at WSU have resonated continually throughout my personal life in Detroit and in St. Petersburg Florida. and in my professional career.  I could not have had better mentors than Ann Zirulnik and Ruth Murray and Georgia Reid and you!  And, oh my, the iconic teachers that came to WSU left me with emotional, intellectual and physical knowledge that continues to inform the choreographic and theatrical work that I am doing today.  I still have and refer to the lesson plans that AZ had us create so that for our exposure to students of all ages would be rich with multi arts experiences.

Of great importance is the fact that Detroit Dance Collective (now DDC Dances), a professional modern dance company, was formed in 1980 with WSU dance colleagues Barbara Selinger, Sue Darr, Anita Surma and myself. Just a bit later, Kay Davis Rediers and other Wayne dancers enriched DDC’s roster. The company reaches toward its 40th Anniversary still giving great service to the art form and to many arts communities.

I am grateful for the awards I received from the Dance Alumni Association, the Dance Department , the Department of Education and of course, the Arts Achievement Award from the university. My wish is that the present and future students reach for excellence in the art form and realize that they are now a part of a rich dance history that they must contribute to in a significant way.

Minou Carey Jones

My best memories with the WSU Dance Company are when we performed at the State Theatre and late night rehearsals to prepare for childrens’ concert and Spring concert.

My experience with the dance department provided me with life-long lessons that helped prepare me for my career as a Community Organizer.  I currently serve as the Executive Director for the Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan and I still dance. I have been a member of the Detroit Ballroom Dance Explosion Team for 10 years.

Denise M. Allen – Class of 1996

Most Memorable Memory at WSU: My most memorable memory at WSU is when Georgia Reid told me “To always be ETHICAL in your approach as a dance educator. This is the only thing that will matter in the end:”. To this day, I stand on that advice from a very dear DANCE EDUCATOR/ADVISOR from the Wayne State University Dance Department.  

Nia Silao 

Entering Wayne State University as a freshman, I was signed up as pre-med. Living in the dorms, I met a myriad of people and participated in many social events, but something was still missing. I missed dancing. Luckily, I was already at a university with a stellar dance program. Deciding to audition was scary. I was changing the trajectory of my life forever. And it was exactly what I was looking for. 

After training in a local dance studio studying ballet, tap, and jazz, being exposed to modern dance and improvisation felt uncomfortable to most, but fulfilling for me. I remember learning how to contract sitting on the floor like Martha Graham with Leslie Williams, executing mind boggling tendu combinations based on Cunningham technique with Jeff Rebudal, realizing there was another Ballet technique called Cecchetti and memorizing the positions of the body with Stephen Stone, running stairs and doing handstands with Ray Robinson, exploring the possibilities of time, space, and energy with Eva Powers, and becoming obsessed with Kinesiology (remember, I was signed up as pre-med!). 

I remember becoming infatuated with the connections between music and dance and learning how to edit my own music with Jon Anderson, and revelling over the fact that dance can be an intellectual field.

I remember meeting Meg Paul for the first time at Music Hall, participating in residencies and master classes with ballet, tap, and modern masters from all over the world.

I remember being encouraged to go to auditions all over the country and making it past most cuts and owing it all to my training. 

Yet, I also remember not wanting to move away. I began to see how graduates were making a splash in the Michigan dance scene. We were the big fish in a small pond. We danced in already existing companies, started our own, created dance festivals, provided quality education in schools and studios around the area. And I’m seeing what a difference this can make in a community, city, and state; and what a difference it made in my life. 

Seeing how this department has grown over the years makes me proud to be an alumni. It started as a section of the physical education department. Then it became its own. Now it is combined with Theatre and offering masters programs! The efforts and investments being made to recruit talent from all over the country, and to turn around and send out educated, open minded dancers back into the world is the most rewarding element of still being involved. Here’s to another 90 YEARS OF WSU DANCE!

Karen Leighton Amick

Dance Education offers a path towards innovative thinking with limitless possibilities.  Too often, there is an assumption that the creative path will serve only in the artistic environment without crossover to one’s overall career choice or daily life.  When one learns the process of creativity, one learns how make something from nothing.  The understanding of this process and learning to trust such a process is what allowed me to build the company I have today.  I have a saying mounted in my office, “a mountain is built one stone at a time.”  Dance education taught me which stones, how many and in what order to lay the foundation.  There is really not a day that my education in dance has not touched my life.   I am the Chief Executive Officer of the first and largest mental health case management company in Michigan.  Upon Quality Care Consulting’s inception, no one was using social workers or psychologists for case management of those who sustained a brain injury.  It was with a confidence and competence to apply innovation that I entered the field.  I already knew how to create and make something from nothing, and so there my task began.  I “choreographed” policies and developed systems within my company that are now a standard within my industry.  Mental health case managers are now used throughout Michigan for the care and recovery of brain injury.  Throughout Quality Care Consulting’s history, we have preserved social justice for the disabled.  QCC has navigated thousands of patients through the rehabilitation process and has given them access to their healthcare benefits and restoration of their personhood.  There is no question that the work done has saved lives.  It also preserves the quality of ones life and the lives of those who surround the injured.  I credit the education I received at Wayne State University for my ability to create.   I celebrate the ripple effect it has had within my life and the lives I have been privileged to touch.   As for my daily life, nothing gives me more joy then design.  I built and customized my home from an empty lot before I moved to the home where I now reside:  a historical horse and carriage barn.  I love and support the arts.  I support education that fosters the right brain child as I believe it will be the innovators of tomorrow that will be the key to our future.  

I have many beautiful memories at Wayne with a few standouts:  when I received the Copperfoot Award for choreography.  It was one of the proudest moments I can remember and was so life affirming.  Also, dancing at the top of Old Main.  The creaky floors, the sound of wind through the windows and the feeling of being one with the sky.  I remember Eva Powers inviting me to audition for a dance scholarship and telling me I have nice feet (pointed banana feet).  I remember receiving the scholarship and feeling validated in my passion of dance.  A very special thank you to all my beloved teachers at Wayne who helped me and fostered me to who I am today.  Congratulations Wayne and well done!

Marina Cantarella Russo

What I remember are all the hours of practice, my love of choreography, the performances and the all night parties!! And from all of this, I am the luckiest person because I have obtained and retained sister friendships that have lasted over forty years – THE DIVAS: Kay, Mary, Sandy, Portia, Linda, Gwen, Shelia, Susanne, Sue Ellen and me. These ladies are the greatest gift of all and I love them all!!

Martha Dobbs

In 2008, Dance Workshop had the pleasure of choreographer Jan Van Dyke setting her piece SPIKE on the company during a guest residency. After seeing the piece on film I knew I wanted to perform the title character role but thought it would be a long shot because of the immense talent in the company. So I was equally shocked and ecstatic to discover I had been cast in the piece and as the principal! I worked hard during rehearsals and continued that work after the residency had ended to connect with my character on such a deep level. SPIKE took Dance Workshop to Hunter College in NYC for the Sharing the Legacy Conference and my relationship with Jan provided the opportunity for me to learn one of her solo works, Luna, in conjunction with an undergraduate research project. 

Get tickets to our 90th Annual Spring Dance Concert

Celebrate our 90th Anniversary of Dance at Wayne with this thrilling weekend at the Bonstelle Theatre. Join us as we highlight national and international works from top-performing artists.

With only two regular performances plus one Alumni Dance Concert, you don’t want to miss the artistry and athleticism of our dance discipline.

Performance Schedule

  • Friday, March 1 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Alumni Dance Concert — Sunday, March 3 at 5:30 p.m.

Nineteen Years of Creating Young Playwrights

Photo Credit: Ethan Williams

This year marks the 19th annual Louise Heck-Rabi Playwriting Festival, a staple of the Studio Theatre. Each year, six or seven semi-finalists are chosen out of numerous play submissions. The plays are given a table-read to an open audience, workshopped and critiqued, and three are chosen to be fully produced in the Studio Theatre! Each play is written, directed, performed, and designed by student artists, and each playwright is awarded the Louise Heck-Rabi Endowed Scholarship in Dramatic Writing from the Wayne State English Department.

But how did this all get started?

Back in 1976, Louise Heck-Rabi graduated from Wayne State with a PhD in English. Louise was an active member of the Poetry Society of Michigan, and the founder of Downriver Poets and Playwrights. An accomplished playwright herself, her works include Women Filmmakers: A Critical Reception and Rock the World, a one-act comedy which was performed Off-Off-Broadway in 1973. Louise stayed close to Wayne, however, and began working on-campus as a librarian and assistant professor.  In 2000, the turn of the century, Louise created this playwriting scholarship and festival in hopes that young Detroit playwrights would carry on her passion for original productions.

Photo Credit: Ethan Williams

This year’s selected plays all follow the theme of crossroads, and significant moments of choice and decisions. Woodhull by Sarah Summerwell, MFA in Acting, is a dark comedy set in Brooklyn, in which two siblings struggle with consequences stemming from mental illness and addiction. An unexpected visit from a mutual friend brings news that forces the family to question their faith in an individual’s ability to change. Unethical, by Joe Gaskill, BA in Theatre, is a thought-provoking drama inspired by real events. The play takes a spotlight to one man’s experiments and fascination with disgust in others. Ethical duties to others, sociopathic tendencies and confrontations between test subject and experimenter are explored throughout. Pettycoats, by Matthew Smith, MFA in Acting, is a lighter affair, a comedy loosly based on a 1792 newspaper article titled “The Petticoat Duelists”. The (likely fabricated) article tells the story of two women becoming involved in a swordfight with one another. Inspired by this and lamenting the incredible rarity of sword-fighting women in plays, Smith wrote this quippy, snappy, and delightfully posh play.

Fred Shahadi, Wayne State Alumni and 2001 winner of Heck-Rabi Playwriting Festival

This incredible opportunity for students has been a successful event for almost 20 years now. It’s a fulfilling experience not only for students to showcase their work, but also for fellow performers and faculty members to witness the talent and hard work that beams from these individuals. The festival encourages students to dream big. One of the festival’s very first winners back in 2001, Fred Shahadi, is now an award-winning playwright and television writer living in Los Angeles. He’s best known for his position as head writer for Recipe Rehab on CBS. This experience has that ability to guide students down that pathway, by teaching them how to conduct their own work, and ultimately making it come to life.

Buy tickets here!

Director’s Notes – Avenue Q

As I sat down to write my thoughts for Avenue Q, it was easy to think, “Why should I write notes for this show?  It’s absolute entertainment.”  Then, I realized that it was important to help people recognize that there is much more to this show than meets the eye.  As easy as it is to simply think of the show as “Sesame Street for adults,” there is much more to it.

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Twyla Tharp and Benjamin G. Bowman

Wayne State University Brings Twyla Tharp’s Ground-Breaking Work, “The One Hundreds,” as the Fall 2018 Allesee Guest Artist in Residence in Dance

Twyla Tharp and Benjamin G. Bowman
Twyla Tharp and Benjamin G. Bowman
Ms. Tharp’s photograph may not be reproduced without written permission of Richard Avedon. Copyright © 2003 Richard Avedon.

Detroit, Michigan: The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, part of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at Wayne State University, announces the licensing and staging of world-renowned choreographer, Twyla Tharp’s ground-breaking work, “The One Hundreds,” staged by former Tharp company member, Benjamin G. Bowman as the Fall 2018 Allesee Guest Artist in Residence in Dance.

Twyla Tharp’s “The One Hundreds” will also serve as a community engagement event where 100 people from WSU’s theatre and dance department, college, university, and alumni along with the Metro Detroit dance community will join our dance majors onstage at the Music Hall for the December Dance Concert to perform one of The One Hundred phrases simultaneously. 

Two public performances of the December Dance Concert will take place on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets for the December Dance Concert are on sale now, starting at $15, and may be purchased online at or by phone at 313-577-2972. For purchases made online, additional ticket and order fees may apply. Ticket prices are subject to change.

“’The One Hundreds’ is a hundred eleven-second segments that are performed by two dancers in unison separated by four seconds between each segment…Five people each do twenty different segments simultaneously so that the one hundred are represented one-fifth of the time and then one hundred each do one in eleven seconds, right? You follow me? Let’s go through it again. Five people do twenty representing all the phrases in one fifth of the time. And then one hundred people each do one simultaneously. In eleven seconds.” — Tharp, as quoted in “Ballet Review,” Vol. 4:1 in September 1971. 

Since graduating from Barnard College in 1963, Ms. Tharp has choreographed more than one hundred sixty works: one hundred twenty-nine dances, twelve television specials, six Hollywood movies, four full-length ballets, four Broadway shows and two figure skating routines. She received one Tony Award, two Emmy Awards, nineteen honorary doctorates, the Vietnam Veterans of America President’s Award, the 2004 National Medal of the Arts, the 2008 Jerome Robbins Prize, and a 2008 Kennedy Center Honor. Her many grants include the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

In 1965, Ms. Tharp founded her dance company, Twyla Tharp Dance. Her dances are known for creativity, wit and technical precision coupled with a streetwise nonchalance. By combining different forms of movement – such as jazz, ballet, boxing and inventions of her own making – Ms. Tharp’s work expands the boundaries of ballet and modern dance. 

In addition to choreographing for her own company, she has created dances for The Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Paris Opera Ballet, The Royal Ballet, New York City Ballet, The Boston Ballet, The Australian Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Martha Graham Dance Company, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Atlanta Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Today, ballet and dance companies around the world continue to perform Ms. Tharp’s works.

In 1992, Ms. Tharp published her autobiography “Push Comes to Shove.” She went on to write “The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life,” followed by “The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together.”

Today, Ms. Tharp continues to create.

Benjamin G. Bowman was introduced to dance through an outreach program instituted by the North Carolina School of the Arts’ (UNCSA) Ballet department, studying under Sonja Tyven and, later, with Duncan Noble, Melissa Hayden, Gina Vidal, Frank Smith and Gyula Pandi. He attended multiple summer sessions at both the San Francisco Ballet School and the School of American Ballet (SAB), while continuing training with the staff of the Kansas City Ballet. Mr. Bowman was accepted to SAB as a full-time student, following his sophomore year at UNCSA and joined the Kansas City Ballet in 1986. He

then joined the Fort Worth Ballet in 1988, where he became a Principal Dancer in 1990. He joined the New York City Ballet in 1993, performing with the corps de ballet and in many soloist and principal roles,

until leaving the company in the spring of 2000. After NYCB, Mr. Bowman was invited to join a select group of dancers that Twyla put together to create two new works for the American Dance Festival. The group continued to tour and create work for the next two years, while generating the material that formed the basis of “Movin’ Out”, Twyla’s hit Broadway show set to the music of Billy Joel, in which Mr. Bowman originated the role of “James”. Post- “Movin’ Out”, Mr. Bowman worked freelance for a number of choreographers, and wrapped a long career working with Martha Clarke on the revival of her Obie award-winning show, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. Mr. Bowman lives in New York City and freelances as a teacher, choreographer, and both acts and is represented by Access Talent as a voice-over artist. He has been setting work for the Twyla Tharp Dance Foundation since 2010.

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit



Headshots for Mr. Bowman and Ms. Tharp are included for media use.

Benjamin Bowman Headshot
Twyla Tharp Headshot

Ms. Tharp’s headshot must include the following credit: This photograph may not be reproduced without written permission of Richard Avedon. Copyright © 2003 Richard Avedon.

Goneril and Regan’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents

As parents age they look forward to their care-free days of retirement and being taken care of by those who they helped raise. Here is our alternative take on that tradition.

Image result for false praise gif

  1. Lie to them and shower them with praise. This will only be temporary, the praise, not the lying. Once you have won the favor of your parent(s) by showering them with false acknologements and praise, they will leave you their wealth and property and you will able to do with it as you see fit. Make sure to really lay on the admiration thick, because the more siblings you have, the harder it will be to win a larger piece of that pie.

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  1. Send them off on their own. Once you’ve secured their fotune, it’s time to let those frail old birds leave your nest, which you barely allowed them to move into in the first place. This is where having extra siblings DOES help, and you can pass the burden over to the rest of them.

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  1. Turn their other children against them. There is power in numbers, and depending on how powerful your parents are will determin how many sibings you need on your side. Don’t worry, it won’t take all of you, just a few. If you get lucky and have a sister who tries to be sincere about her feelings and ends up looking ungrateful, congratulations! They’ll never fight with you again because they know they have no place else to go!

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  1. Weaken them, physically and emotionally. This is the most fun part! Taking away the things that they have worked hard for to enjoy yourself is a sure sign that you are only out for Number Uno. Have they got friends trying to turn you against them? Blind them! Too many people around to protect them? Have guards fired.

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  1. Make them watch their kids die. As a bout of phychological warfare, lock them up with a long lost relative who they regrettable disowned and make them watch as that person dies. Is it a son or daughter of theirs? Even better. Only someone who has completely lacks human empathy or a shred of compassion will be able to commit to this final step, so good luck staying strong!


While we might think that all the above steps are great when it comes to dealing with aging parents, but we want to share a slight warning.

Image result for And Now a warning Gif

If you are a terrible person and do terrible things, history has taught us that we all have a way of getting whats coming to us. Just remember that money can’t buy you happiness. So after you finish destroying your parent and stealing all their wealth, don’t expect to get too much joy out of it. Most likely you’ll go mad before long and meet your own untimely demise. Perhaps even by the hand of one of your co-conspirators. (Insert surprise face here)

Six-Time Tony Award-Winning Lighting Designer, Natasha Katz Honored With 2018 Apple Award

Natasha Katz received the 2018 Apple Award (with John Wolf, Chair)
Natasha Katz received the 2018 Apple Award (with John Wolf, Chair)

At a reception on Thursday, April 19 at the Fisher Theatre, John Wolf, chair of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, a department within the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at Wayne State University, presented the 2018 Apple Award to legendary, six-time Tony Award-winning lighting designer, Natasha Katz.

Ms. Katz, who’s prolific career has spanned the globe and the performing arts, spoke with the group about her appreciation for being honored by Wayne State University. Following the reception, Ms. Katz, John Wolf, the students and faculty, attended the Broadway in Detroit touring production of School of Rock, for which Ms. Katz designed the lighting.

On Friday, April 20, students and the public were invited to join Ms. Katz at the Studio Theatre at the Hilberry, where she reflected on her incredible career and shared wonderful insight into what it means to be a successful, working artist in the theatre.

View the discussion below via our Facebook Live feed.


About Natasha Katz

Natasha Katz is a lighting designer who works extensively in the worlds of Broadway, Opera, and Ballet. She was recently nominated for a 2017 Tony Award for Hello, Dolly!, and a 2017 Olivier Award for her work on The Glass Menagerie. She won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Play for her work on Long Day’s Journey Into Night. She has six Tony Awards, with 14 nominations.

Among over 50 Broadway credits include designs for Frozen (February 2018), Springsteen on Broadway (2017), Meteor Shower (2017), Cats (2016), School of Rock, An American in Paris (Tony Award), Gigi, Skylight, Aladdin, Motown, Once (Tony Award), Follies, Sister Act, Elf, Collected Stories, The Addams Family, Impressionism, Hedda Gabler, The Little Mermaid, The Coast of Utopia: Salvage (Tony Award), A Chorus Line (revival), The 25th Annual Spelling Bee, Tarzan, Aida (Tony Award), Sweet Smell of Success, Twelfth Night, Dance of Death, Beauty and the Beast, The Capeman, Gypsy. She has subsequently recreated her designs for many of these productions around the world.

She has lit such luminaries as Zachary Quinto, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mike Tyson, Jessica Lange, Helen Hunt, Mary Louise Parker, Christopher Plummer, Elaine Stritch, Cathy Rigby, Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Claudette Colbert, Rex Harrison, and has designed concert acts for Shirley MacLaine, Ann-Margret, and Tommy Tune.

In the world of Dance, Natasha is a frequent collaborator with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, with projects including The Winter’s Tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Cinderella, and Tryst, all at the Royal Opera House in London. Other collaborations with Mr. Wheeldon include Continuum (San Francisco Ballet), Carnival of the Animals and An American in Paris (New York City Ballet). Her other dance work includes American Ballet Theatre’s production of “Don Quixote” and productions with companies including San Francisco Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and National Ballet of Canada.

For the Opera stage, her credits include Die Soldaten for the New York City Opera, two productions of Norma for Joan Sutherland: the Opera Pacific in Costa Mesa, California, and the Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, She has also worked with The Royal Opera on Cyrano de Bergerac, directed by Francesca Zambello.

Her film work includes Barrymore starring Christopher Plummer, and Mike Tyson: The Undisputed Truth. She has also lit the HBO Television specials Mambo Mouth and Side-O-Rama.

Her permanent audio-visual shows include The Masquerade Village at the Rio Casino, Las Vegas, and Big Bang at the Hayden Planetarium in New York, and for Niketown in New York City and London.

A New York City native, Natasha trained at Oberlin College, and early in her career was mentored by Roger Morgan.

About the Apple Award

The Apple Award, named for Sarah Applebaum Nederlander, is given by the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University on behalf of the Nederlander family. In 2001, the Nederlander family formed a partnership with the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts at Wayne State University, establishing the Sarah Applebaum Nederlander Award for Excellence in Theatre; an annual theatre award and visiting artist fund in their mother’s name.

The Apple Award brings a nationally prominent theatre professional to Detroit and the Wayne State University campus as a guest lecturer to interact with and educate the rising stars of the Department of Theatre and Dance through master classes and a question-and-answer style forum. Previous Apple Award winners include Garth Fagan, Neil Simon, Carol Channing, Stephen Schwartz, Mandy Patinkin, Patti Lupone, Marvin Hamlisch, Elaine Stritch, and Tom Skerritt.

Your Subscription Makes an Impact

Purchasing a subscription for the Theatre and Dance at Wayne 2018-2019 season includes priority seating, free ticket exchanges, show swap, discounts for additional ticket purchases and invitations to exclusive events throughout the season.

Purchasing a yearly subscription is much more than just a ticket.

Subscription purchases also make up a significant portion of the department’s annual operating budget.

“I love interacting with our patrons,” said third-year MFA candidate, Brian Haven. “I especially enjoy meeting patrons who have been coming to shows at Wayne for years and hearing the stories they tell of the many shows and many company members they have seen go through the program.”

Performers, stage managers, and designers appreciate the support and dedication to the arts through subscribers’ attendance.

“A packed audience can provide energy that can greatly impact the performance,” said Haven. “They are such a valuable component to any live performance.”

Subscription funds aid students in their ability to explore, create and design in the classroom. Then take their work to the stage. Subscribers are directly contributing to building the next generation of theatre artists.

“Keep supporting the arts, but especially keep supporting the educational arts!” said fourth-year BFA student Patrick Roache. “You’re empowering the future of theatre here!”

Connecting the community through the arts works to support more than the theatre and dance department. It supports Wayne State University and the Detroit community.

“From faculty/staff to guest artists to my peers, the people have made such an impact on my life,” said Haven. “I hold a special place in my heart for my fellow graduate company members. We are a family that supports one another and help each other to grow.”

Your Subscription in Action

Rachel Smith is a fourth year BA theatre student who has performed in lead roles at the Bonstelle Theatre including Grandma in Harriet Jacobs, Women’s Leader in Lysistrata, and Paulette Bonafonte in Legally Blonde.

When asked how she has grown as an artist she replied, “I’ve reached a level of confidence that has allowed me to continually and unabashedly follow my dreams. I didn’t have that same sense of security before I came here. That feeling of being on the right path is invaluable.”

For Rachel seeing returning patrons’ faces is a positive experience. She loves the energy and liveliness audience members can bring to a performance.

“We are working for you! Putting our best foot forward as sort of a thank you for your support.”

Sister Act: The Musical

“The subscribers are what makes everything possible.”


Natalie Colony is a third-year MFA Lighting Candidate. She has been the lighting designer for Inspecting Carol, Raisin in the Sun, Alice in Wonderland and more!

She is grateful for being a part of the Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne and for the opportunity to really hone her craft in an open and respective environment.

“There is nothing more gratifying than knowing people return time and time again to watch your art,”

“Knowing that you want to come back and see live theatre and watch us grow as artists make the work we do that much more meaningful.”

Colony loves seeing returning patrons. She enjoys when audience members recognize her work and even start up conversations about her lighting choices.

“Gail and her husband remember me even though I’m never onstage,” said Colony. “They know which shows I’ve designed and they always have insightful questions about my art. I always am happy to see them and welcome them back to the theatre.”

Brian Haven is a third-year MFA Stage Management Candidate. He has been stage manager for Underpants, Clybourne Park, Twelfth Night, You Can’t Take it With You and most recently The Colored Museum and the 89th Annual Spring Dance Concert.

His work in the department of theatre and dance at Wayne has been highly valued.

“I have had many great experiences and opportunities to learn and work with many intelligent, talented, and wonderful people,” said Haven.

Wayne State theatre and dances hols a special place in many of the student’s hearts and audience members have a lot to do with the positive experience stage managers, lighting designers, actors, and directors have when working on graduate and undergraduate productions.

“I love interacting with our patrons. I especially enjoy meeting patrons who have been coming to shows at Wayne for years and hearing the stories they tell of the many shows and many company members they have seen go through the program,” said Haven.

Patrick Roache is a fourth year BA theatre student who has performed in lead roles at the Bonstelle Theatre including Jud in Oklahoma!, Men’s Leader in Lysistrata, Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Warren Huntington III in Legally Blonde.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Over his undergraduate career, Roache has had the opportunity to participate in several productions on the Bonstelle and Studio Theatre stage. He has been a part of Motor City Cabaret for three years and study at the Moscow Art Theatre School through Wayne State’s study abroad program, Month in Moscow.

All of these opportunities have been supported by subscribers and returning patrons who support the arts in the Detroit and University’s community.

“Keep supporting the arts, but especially keep supporting the educational arts! You’re empowering the future of theatre here!”


We’re excited to welcome guest artist, Gelsey Bell to Wayne State University

Gelsey BellWe’re thrilled to have performer and vocal artist, Gelsey Bell to Wayne State University this week where she’ll lead workshops in Voice and Movement and Performing on Broadway with our current students.

Gelsey Bell is a New York City-based singer, songwriter, and scholar. Her performance creations have been presented internationally. She has released multiple albums. She was a 2017 recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Music/Sound award and she is currently the Exploring the Metropolis Ridgewood Bushwick Composer-in-Residence. She is a core member of new music ensemble thingNY, performance collective Varispeed, and improv trio the Chutneys. Her works include ScalingOur Defensive MeasurementsThis Takes Place Close By (with thingNY), and Prisoner’s Song (with Erik Ruin). She originated the role of Princess Mary for Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 (from Off-Off-Broadway to Broadway) and Pearl in Ghost Quartet. She is also known for her performances in Robert Ashley’s Crash, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler’s River of Fundament, John King’s Micro-Operas, Yasuko Yokoshi’s BELL, Kate Soper’s Here Be Sirens, and Gregory Whitehead’s On the Shore Dimly Seen, which incorporated her original vocal improvisations. She has a PhD in performance studies from New York University and is the Critical Acts Co-editor for TDR/The Drama Review and the Reviews Editor for The Journal of Interdisciplinary Voice Studies. She is currently finishing a book on American experimental vocal music in the 1970s.

Want access to amazing guest artists?  Consider furthering your education and training with a degree in Theatre or Dance from Wayne State University. Learn more.

Sister Act Fun Facts!

Sister Act: The MusicalAs the opening of Sister Act: The Musical approaches we thought it’ll be cool to share some fun facts about the show!

  1. Deloris as sister Mary Clarence was partially inspired by a real nun. Mother Dolores Hart was a Hollywood actress, singer, and dancer. She starred in movies like Where the Boys Are and King Creole. She became a nun and left the industry at 24 years old.
  2. There are two different versions of Sister Act: The Musical. One is set on Christmas Eve and Deloris wants to go to Philadelphia to become a star; this musical is performed on Broadway here in America. The second musical is already set in Philadelphia and is performed at the West End, which is like Broadway in London, England.
  3. Paul Rudnick, the writer of the movie, wanted it to be a drag comedy and thought a nun’s habit was close enough for drag for a woman.
  4. The musical originated in 2006 in Pasadena, CA.
  5. The musical was nominated for five Tony awards, including Best Musical, but sadly did not win any of them.
  6. Bette Midler was the original lead actress in the movie and not Whoopi.
  7. Carrie Fisher helped with re-writing the script.
  8. The actor who played the detective in the Sister Act movie is named Bill Nunn!
  9. The original character name was not Deloris, but Terri Van Cartier. It changed to Deloris because Whoopi wanted to play someone named Deloris.
  10. The original music was made by Alan Menken, an eight-time Oscar winner.