What is 2nd Studio

Posted: November 20, 2023 | Author: Abbie Cochrane | Read Time: 6 minutes

Students in a theatre for a 2nd studio production rehearsal

While famous for the Tony award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival, Southern Utah University is also letting students take to the stage, director’s chair and more through the student-run theater, 2nd Studio! Operated entirely by students, this theater department within a theater department hosts two shows a semester, as well as monthly showcases and a bi-annual 24-Hour Theater performance. 

2nd Studio is overseen by a board of exemplary students who take up different responsibilities to ensure that the theater runs smoothly. Every year, each student leader is carefully selected after an interview with the faculty advisor, Dr. Scott C. Knowles, and the student whose position they are taking over. 

“I love the amount of agency that it gives students to create their own art and collaborate with each other,” said Artistic Director Hannah Luther. “It allows us to be a part of every single part of the production process and to take real ownership of what we do. Everything we do is created by our peers, and it creates community in a big way. Nothing has the potential to bond people like theater. Yes, there are long hours, but those hours are spent making friends. Making friends as an adult can be challenging, so having a unified goal goes a long way to forging relationships.”

Luther’s vision is based on encouraging collaboration and empowering directors to create their individual artistic vision. She and her successor, Dean Rice, want 2nd Studio to be bold and exciting, and for people to feel able to produce work in a safe space to experiment. So far, their vision has unfurled through the creativity that is continuing to paint the stage through the mediums of different performances. 

The 2023-24 2nd Studio Board consists of Hannah Luther as Artistic Director with Dean Rice as Co-Artistic Director, Ro Christiansen and Izzy Packham as Co-Production Managers, Tessa Cheshire as Managing Director, Grace Powers as Outreach Director, Shay Wilkey and Davey Clark as Co-Marketing Managers, Bria Hansen and Austin Fronk as Archival Specialists, Abbie Cochrane as Showcase Director and Spencer Smith as Showcase Manager. 

Izzy Packham, Co-Production Manager, offered her comments about their experience with 2nd Studio: 

“Being a part of the team that helps make theatrical ideas come to life is so rewarding. Shows are a lot of work, being able to contribute to that and see people be passionate about art is a fantastic experience. 2nd Studio provides students with the ability to think critically about art, create, and show it to others in a work-related environment rather than a classroom setting, which allows for a more focused approach to spotlighting people’s work.”

The 2023-24 2nd Studio season is as follows: “Puffs” and “Cyrano de Bergerac” for the Fall semester, and “Solve-It Squad” and “A Monster Calls” for the Spring semester. Tickets can be found at bard.org. All these shows are directed, designed and performed by students. 

“This show has been a long time coming for me,” said Student Director of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Kolton Nielsen. “It’s been hard, but I’ve learned a lot from this experience and I’m super excited for how it’s all coming together.” 

2nd Studio shows are always captured in photography by the Archival team on the board. 

“Having these moments captured is not just beneficial to students’ professional portfolios, but beneficial to their memory,” said Bria Hansen, Co-Archival Director. “Creating theater is a tender process and I want actors, crew, and directors to be able to look back on all these moments and see the memories weaved into the art.”  

There are also opportunities for students to get involved with 2nd Studio, regardless of their major. 2nd Studio hosts monthly showcases lovingly deemed “SUU Live,” where students can perform dance, poetry, song, or any fun talent. These themed performances take place on a Saturday, with a sign-up for previews being sent out the week before and a preview being held for all the acts the Monday before the performance. Every act that attends the preview and wants to be in the show is instantly a part of it. 

“SUU Live is a melting pot of creativity,” said Showcase Director, Abbie Cochrane. “It gives people the space to create and perform, without the stress of auditioning and having an extensive rehearsal process. It’s a safe space for students to come together and see what their peers create while having lots of fun.” 

Additionally, students of any major can participate in the bi-annual 24-Hour Theater, held at the beginning of every semester. Students can sign up to write, direct, act, or choreograph based on a theme for that particular performance. In the space of 24 hours, students put together a show and perform it for an audience. The next 24 Hour Theater will be held in January. 

“SUU Live events and 24 Hour Theater give people the opportunity to create and perform simply for the joy of it,” said Showcase Manager, Spencer Smith. “There isn’t any stress about being “right for the role” – if you sign up, you are given the space and tools to create art. Everyone and anyone is welcome to showcase themselves. That’s why I love being a part of Showcase; because we are able to showcase all the amazing students that step on that stage.”

The most wonderful thing about 2nd Studio is that participation and leadership positions are available to all majors. If students want to try their hand at something, 2nd Studio is the place to do it.

“2nd Studio is such a student-focused organization, and is for everyone, not just theater students,” said Tessa Cheshire, Managing Director for 2nd Studio. “I’m a Communications major with a theater minor and I’ve so appreciated what I’ve learned as part of the board. 2nd Studio gives students a place to be seen, and I love how it works as a learning tool. I’ve learned so much through 2nd Studio, both outside my capacity as a board member and as part of the board.”  

2nd Studio is in an era of expansion. The aftermath of a pandemic can be difficult for any college organization to overcome, but 2nd Studio is bouncing back with more ideas than ever. 

“The thing that drew me into the position of Outreach Director was the collaboration aspect,” said Grace Powers, Outreach Director for 2nd Studio. “I wanted to build bridges between different departments and organizations on campus and help build 2nd Studio’s reputation as an artistic community for all majors. And so far, we’ve been super successful in building those kinds of relationships and I can’t wait to see how we continue to branch out across campus and create a larger community.” 

Additionally, the promotion of events taking place at 2nd Studio is key to culminating an audience. Co-Marketing Directors Shay Wilkey and Davey Clark are the visionaries behind all the promotional content put out by 2nd Studio, whether on posters or social media. 

“I love being able to take concepts from a director’s vision and use those words to induce images and create graphics that capture the essence of the show and the director’s concept,” said Wilkey. “Directors are literally physicalizing ideas and thematic concepts–being a part of the creative process where I get to create the silhouette of their vision through images that will entice audiences is so incredible.” 

From plays, musicals and showcases, 2nd Studio is a great place for students of all majors to stretch their creative muscles and try their hand at something new. Tickets for upcoming 2nd Studio productions are available on bard.org/tdaa/, with a select amount of additional tickets being sold at the door. Stay up to date with upcoming 2nd Studio projects by following the Instagram page, @2ndstudio.

Tags: Theater Blog Music Art Student Life Dance Theatre Arts and Dance Community Shakespeare College of Performing and Visual Arts Campus Student Utah Shakespeare Festival Arts Administration

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