Theatre, opera combine to form Simpson Productions


Photo by Zoe Seiler

by Zoe Seiler, News Editor

The Simpson College Opera and Theatre Simpson will merge next year to create the collaborative program, Simpson Productions, according a press release associate professor of music Bernard McDonald sent to students Wednesday.  

The merger of the two departments means the theatre department will be able to retain a staff position in the costume department which the college had previously eliminated.

“We did have a position that was cut this year. We were able to retain the position through the creative thinking of so many people,” professor of theatre Jennifer Nostrala said.

Last semester, assistant professor of theatre Heather Lesieur was one of 13 faculty members cut, but students are glad she was able to retain her position.

Lesieur does costumes, hair and makeup for both theatre and opera productions.

“There are so many technical aspects that the performing arts encompass, and I was scared for my education and the livelihood of both departments with the additional cuts in the technical faculty,” sophomore theatre major Maslin Boten said. “We are truly lucky to have had and will continue to have the opportunity to work with Heather – strengthening our departments internally as well as externally within the relationship between Simpson and DMMO.”

Senior theatre major Audrey Kaus is also thrilled Lesieur will continue to be a part of Simpson’s productions.

“Even though I’m graduating, I’m so happy for my department and the music department,” Kaus said. “Heather is a phenomenal asset to Simpson. Keeping her means keeping amazing costume, hair, and makeup design opportunities for students. I wouldn’t trade my experience that I’ve had with Heather for anything.”

Professor of music John Benoit explained the college was able to retain Lesieur’s position, “by combining and redesigning the departmental recruiting operations of the Music and Theatre Departments.”

For example, he said professor of theatre Ann Woldt will take over the role of Coordinator of Recruitment and Outreach while continuing to teach classes and directing theatre shows.

Simpson Productions is intended to enhance and expand opportunities in theatre, opera and musical theatre at Simpson, according to McDonald.

“What we are aiming towards is an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, genre-breaking academic company that means we will build on our current strengths by combining the expertise of our faculty and the gifts of our students then this is a big moment in the history of opera at Simpson and theatre at Simpson. The intent is to get away from the opera, theatre label and do theatre in multiple genres,” McDonald said.

Simpson Productions is a unique opportunity for the college. It has been in the works for a while and had a good trial run with the production of “Kiss Me, Kate” in early March, which was a collaboration between Simpson Theatre and Opera.

The performing arts faculty are excited about the upcoming season and for the future of the programs.

“This is something that you will not find at other institutions, so Simpson Productions is now a combining of Simpson College Opera and Theatre Simpson into something that it can be that neither could be on their own,” Nostrala said.

Students are also looking forward to the collaboration of Theatre Simpson and Simpson College Opera.

“I think it’s a great idea for us all to come together as one big performing arts community,” Boten said. “The birth of Simpson Productions will be a chance for the performing arts community to strengthen within the individual and group aspects, furthering all of our experiences here.”