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Students collaborate with Broadway-level professionals on new sports musical

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Northwestern students work with Broadway-level professionals in new musicals produced by the American Music Theatre Project.

Northwestern students work with Broadway-level professionals in new musicals produced by the American Music Theatre Project.

Source: American Music Theatre Project on Facebook

Source: American Music Theatre Project on Facebook

Northwestern students work with Broadway-level professionals in new musicals produced by the American Music Theatre Project.

Catherine Kim, Reporter

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In the American Music Theatre Project’s upcoming staged reading, theater and sports will meet to tell the story of one of the most renowned sports figures of the 20th century.

“Rockne” documents the life of Knute Rockne, the man who built the University of Notre Dame’s football team and lifted it to the “legendary” group it is today, director David Bell said. Rockne was one of the most motivational and inspiring coaches in a long line of influential sports leaders, Bell said.

Communication senior Justin Tepper said he did not follow football until he came to college. Not a sports fan himself, he said he had no knowledge of Rockne until he was cast in the show and realized how many thousands of fans loved the coach.

“If you go to South Bend and Notre Dame, he’s basically a god,” said Tepper, who will read for several characters in the production.

AMTP provides students the opportunity to work with top-notch professionals in the field while working on these new shows. Last year, when AMTP produced “La Révolution Française,” an epic musical telling a tragic love story set during the French Revolution, the people who co-wrote the lyrics and music of “Les Misérables” and “Miss Saigon” worked with the students for 10 days.

Students get to become part of a professional creative process through AMTP, which is a crowning achievement for anyone pursuing a career in the musical theater industry, Bell said.

“It’s incredible to be one of the first people to read words out loud or sing them out loud,” Tepper said. “While you are not necessarily the one creating (the performance), everything that you do helps to shape the final product.”

The lead characters in “Rockne” will be portrayed by Chicago and New York actors, while Broadway-level producers will join the crew as well, said Neal Davidson, who will read for the character of Gus Dorais, a football player and coach.

“(Bell) offhandedly told me the other day that the guy playing my best friend was the understudy for ‘Rocky’ on Broadway,” the Communication junior said. “These are really big-time fantastic performers, which is intimidating but also really exciting.”

The stage reading for “Rockne” will be held at Northwestern on Nov. 19 and then at Notre Dame on Nov. 20.

Davidson added that the production is a unique workshop because directors get to test out the full potential of their work.

“It’s more of a presentation of the material for the writer … to get a look at where the show is and get audience feedback on it,” he said. “Actors can start taking small steps into bringing the character to life.”

Staged readings like “Rockne” allow for the development of new shows which would otherwise be halted due to high production costs, Bell said.

The goal for “Rockne,” and any other show produced by AMTP, is for it to expand from its developmental reading stage and become a full-fleshed production. Tepper said he has high hopes for the show because of the experienced members involved.

“It’s so cool that there’s potential,” Tepper said. “You never know what the next ‘Hamilton’ is going to be.”

Email: catherinekim2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ck_525

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