The city of Bomont might ban dancing, but this summer at LPC, there will be singing, dancing and a huge set built out in the outdoor amphitheater.
This summer’s hit musical will showcase theater arts students and a few surprises, including some faculty members who are getting the opportunity to perform with them.
LPC’s theater arts department will present “Footloose” from July 21 to 29 in the amphitheater. Based on the 1984 hit movie, “Footloose” is about a teenage boy named Ren McCormack who makes his way to Bomont, a small town near Chicago, where no one can dance or play music.
The show is guaranteed to include hit songs like “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” and, of course, “Footloose.”
“Footloose” is raring to be a fun time this summer at LPC and will turn the clocks back with audiences. While each musical at LPC has a specific rotation of shows, this musical has its own unique connection with the department, showcasing the talents of two LPC faculty members.
According to theater arts department coordinator Titian Lish, an LPC employee heard the song “Footloose” on Spotify and suggested the production.
“This show was actually recommended by our audience services specialist (Jackie Hill),” Lish said. “She was driving and listening to it (“Footloose”) on Spotify and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, you should do “Footloose.’” I thought it was just one that I had not listened to for a long time. It’s just a good time.”
Communication studies professor Jim Dobson is coming home again and performing with theater students. Dobson is cslated to be Reverend Shaw Moore in the show. Dobson is no stranger to being part of theater as he last performed at LPC in 2001.
“I think the last production I was in at LPC was ‘Picasso at the Lapin Agile’ in 2001,” Dobson said. “It was a while ago, and that was my first year working here. I was like, ‘Oh, cool.’ I was still young, and I didn’t have kids at the time. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I can do a show.’”
Dobson’s performance is especially significant because his wife and his son are also acting in the play, performing on the same stage (for the first time as a family). According to Dobson, what holds a special place in his heart is getting to see him spend quality time with his son Zac (who plays Chuck) and with his wife (who plays Ethel McCormack).
“The treasured time spent with family and the important people in my life are two of the things I am going to away the most from this experience. To do something that is uplifting, motivating and positive for everyone and then doing it for my family,” Dobson said.
Another faculty member, English professor Jim Ott joins him as Wes Warnicker (Ren’s uncle). Known as a fervent supporter of the arts, Ott could not say no to this opportunity to perform in this summer’s musical.
According to Ott, he was not asked to audition but rather asked to play the role of Wes.
“I never actually auditioned for the part. I was only recently contacted by the director (Lish) to step in for an actor who had to attend to a family issue,” Ott said.
Ott is looking forward to working with Dobson on the stage and to continue his working relationship with Lish.
“I have known Titian and Jim as colleagues for more than a decade. It is wonderful to interact in a new way with Jim as a fellow actor and with Titian as our director. The two of them are so dedicated and talented,” Ott said.
Dobson said that working with both Lish and Ott is very special to him because they have worked together on non-theater projects at LPC.
“I have worked with Titian a little bit in the past where I have had some students who were on the speech team. If something isn’t right or I need new eyes on it, I might ask her for help. With Jim, we have been working together for the last year and a half as a cohort for the Veterans First program. We’re doing good stuff. So I enjoy working with Jim on that,” Dobson said.
With both faculty members, just being part of “Footloose” has been a joyful experience, and it also came with mixed emotions.
Dobson was excited to hear he would be in the musical, but it came with some jittery feelings as well.
“I was elated and excited,” Dobson said. “There were elements of that. But then all of a sudden, I got kind of scared like ‘Oh, OK, I’m gonna really have to do that.’ Fortunately, I didn’t let it get in my head too much because from the communication, discipline and public speaking and speech team that I co-direct with my colleagues, we learn anything by doing that. It’s preparation.”
Likewise, Ott had thoughts of curiosity and excitement preparing for “Footloose.”
Ott has always wondered what it is like to step on stage and perform in front of an audience at LPC.
“I was excited to be invited to perform in the musical,” Ott said. “I had always wondered what it might be like to perform in a production at our college.”
Having two seasoned faculty members join the cast of “Footloose” is a thrill for Lish, since it meant both instructors were able to become creative and performance-minded for the musical.
“It’s been great having them there,” Lish said. “What’s really wonderful about it is that you get the opportunity to see these people who you work with in this other way. They get to be creative and performance-minded in a way that I don’t necessarily see them in my professional work environment.”
Theater arts students are seeing the benefits of having faculty members work alongside them in the show and having older professionals take part in it as well. Students like Kaila Bimemiller (who plays Urleen) see the positives to having Ott and Dobson help young college theater students pave their way in the thespian world.
Bimemiller said having mature actors in the show provides a supportive environment for the younger crowd, especially after learning they are actually instructors on campus.
“It feels like a supportive and professional environment,” Bimemiller said. “Which is interesting because I think this is the first show I’ve done where there’s a lot of kids my age. Having older people was interesting at first, but even cooler that they work here as teachers.”
This is not the first time faculty members have taken center stage in a musical at LPC, according to Lish. She said former theater arts instructors have performed in past musicals in previous years.
“I know Ken Ross (former theater faculty member) performed in our production of ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,’ and Dyan McBride performed in ‘High Fidelity.’ I feel like it has happened a few times, but not outside of our department as far as I know,” Lish said.
While the show “Footloose” is fun and entertaining for audiences, Lish said the cost of the show creates some financial challenges. Each show that is produced and performed at LPC has a specific budget set before moving forward.
“We have a budget that we operate on for each production and musical (even for our outdoor theater generally speaking). It costs close to around $30,000 to put on, which we could consider theater on a shoestring budget. It is a weird way to think of it because it feels like a lot of money to other people. But in terms of putting on a production of that scale, it is really considered operating theater on a shoestring budget. It’s a weird thing for people to think about.,” Lish said
Ticket prices range from $15 to $20 per person and can be purchased here. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door. Limited seating is available, so audiences are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets to get closer to the stage.
Peter Zimmer is a freelance writer for The Express. Follow him @PeterJZimmer. Featured photo (top): The cast of “Footloose” will perform the play in the LPC amphitheater this summer. / Photos by Lindsey McIntire