Alumna Returns to Direct Tony Award-Winning Play

Published: November 03, 2014 | Author: Olyvia Myer | Category: Arts

The play, Dancing at Lughnasa, main characters. From the collegiate spotlight to the stages of New York City and back again, Melinda Pfundstein's career has come full circle. Pfundstein, a Southern Utah University alumnae and Utah Shakespeare Festival favorite, has returned to Cedar City after a successful decade performing in regional theatres across the country.

An accomplished actress, Pfundstein has been coming back to perform in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s summer season for over ten years, and finally she’s here to stay.

Since arrival, Pfundstein has been sharing her talents with her alma mater, helping this semester as a director in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.

For months Pfundstein has been working with eight student actors and nine student designers and technicians in preparation for their upcoming performance of Dancing at Lughnasa, a play set in 1930s rural Ireland around the story of a family of five sisters and their brother, who is returning home after years of being in Uganda.

 “It’s really a family drama, but there is certainly a lot of humor in it as you would have to have if you were living in rural Ireland in 1930,” said Pfundstein, “It’s a beautiful story about family and holding on to what is constant in the midst of change and grasping onto the things they hold dear and the things that are important to them.”

Like the eldest brother in the play, Pfundstein is also recently returned home after years away. After living and working in Cedar City as a student for four years, Pfundstein spent the next decade of her life rising to the top of her trade, performing at theatres across the country and landing star roles in productions with major repertory theatres.

Though her journey took her to all reaches of the country, four years ago it brought her back home to the place where it all started – Southern Utah University. When Pfundstein first entered SUU as a freshman, she was a psychology major and had no plans to ever be on stage. Then one day she wandered over to the theatre arts building and auditioned for The Secret Garden with very little experience under her belt.

“The play’s director Fred Adams, was so nurturing and supportive, he really just took a chance on this psychology major who had never set foot in the theatre department. I wouldn’t have been pulled into it if he hadn’t been so great to me,” said Pfundstein.

That semester the course of Pfundstein’s life changed for good when she was hired as last minute replacement for a Utah Shakespeare actress only months after her first appearance in a collegiate level play.

"I spent that summer with the Festival, learning from professional performers, asking a lot of questions, and then when I came back to school for my sophomore year, I changed my major and the rest is history. It was the perfect fit for me. There was no question. After I spent that first summer with the Festival, I knew that was the career path for me,” said Pfundstein.

Pfundstein spent the next few years on SUU and Festival stages, finding what she calls her “artistic home’” amongst its students, faculty and staff. Upon graduation, after having earned countless awards for her performances as a student, Pfundstein left Cedar City and moved to New York City. The following years would bring many occupational and personal successes before Pfundstein would return home.

And much like the characters in Dancing at Lughnasa, Pfundstein's journey is about the journey of one family’s life, the time apart from each other and the dramas of coming back together. All can relate to the themes in this production.

“I hope people will come and experience this play with us,” said Pfundstein.

This rich family drama will be performed on November 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee performance on Saturday, November 8 at 2 p.m. All performances will take place in the Randall L. Jones Theatre.

Ticket prices are: $10 adult general admission, $5 youth and free for faculty/staff and SUU students with a valid ID. Faculty and staff are entitled to bring one guest. For tickets call the SUU Ticket Office at (435) 586-7872, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., or purchase in person at the Centrum Arena box office. Single tickets may be purchased online at

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