“Carrie” musical premieres at Hoyt Sherman Theater in Des Moine

Drake University’s “Carrie” is performed at the Hoyt Sherman Theater

Drake’s production of Carrie last October proved a resounding success, not only selling out shows but also being nominated and subsequently accepted into the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.

A great honor as “Carrie” was the only musical selected from eight regions to perform at the festival.

Adam Yankowy, assistant professor of theater arts at Drake University and director of “Carrie,” spoke highly of the cast’s dedication to the show.

“I loved the production,” Yankowy said. “I was very proud of the students and the work they did. I felt like it was a community effort. A really good team, student loyalty. I felt that the students were connected. It felt like family and it was sad to close so I’m really glad we get the opportunity to do it again.”

Student Laura Breyen, who played the title role of Carrie White, also shared how happy she was with her triumph.

“It was a huge production. So I was very happy with the end product,” said Breyen. “I thought we had a really good show. I was kind of nervous about how we were going to handle everything, but I thought the way we figured out how to do all the blood and magic and it all ended up being very, very cool.”

Her performance, which premiered last Wednesday at the Hoyt Sherman Theater in Des Moines, showed the actors in their element as they re-enacted the entire show.

Breyen raved about the tremendous shift in space and energy from the cast and audience.

“We’ve never performed in front of 1,200 people, which was a lot more than the 80 we had,” Breyen said. “The energy from them was really great. And they were all theater people, so they all appreciated everything and understood how much work goes into it.”

The cast’s winter break was shortened as they took the time to practice the musical, with the understanding that they would be performing in a very different setting than originally.

“The William SE Coleman Theater is a small, 90-seat black box moving to the 1,200-seat Hoyt Sherman. It’s top-notch theatre, so it’s less intimate,” Yankowy said. “We had to do some decent restaging and rework how people enter and leave the stage and all this intricate work.”

There were some changes with the move from the William SE Coleman Theater to the Hoyt Sherman Theatre.

“There were a lot of hiccups, like moving the set and putting the lights up and everything, and we ended up having to hang the lights up by the time we were supposed to start the performance,” Breyen said. “So it was quite a process, but once we actually got it and were in the middle of the show, it was so cool to just have that [Broadway-like theater] full of people.”

Along with nods of approval for the show as a whole, Chloe Fox, Byrnn Kelly and Laura Breyen were nominated for the prestigious Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, with Breyen advancing to the semifinals.

“I’m definitely a singer first. That’s where I’m most confident,” said Breyen. “And I’ve never entered any kind of acting competition before. So I was very nervous. But for the first round, we only submitted video entries. That got you into the semi-finals. And I was pleasantly surprised when I progressed.”

Beyond the overwhelming success of the “Carrie” cast, there’s more to come. The New York composer and lyricist for a new musical entitled Wings will come to Des Moines as part of the William SE Coleman Guest Artists series. Select cast members will attend a workshop to uncover the new musical’s raw footage and provide glimpses of an unreleased show ahead of a full production of Wings arriving at The Drake in autumn 2023.

“Not many schools have the opportunity to make new musicals and have them in this workshop for an early pre-production process,” Yankowy said. “They can continue to network and collaborate with New York City professionals, and it’s an opportunity for them to create a character that no one else has really done.”

Although “Carrie” has shown tremendous popularity, Yankowy still acknowledges that he longs to promote theatrical arts in student publications and the Drake community.

“I feel like sometimes we don’t always get love in the papers,” Yankowy said. “It’s always great to know we’re on the other side of campus.”

The best way for Drake students to show their support for the performing arts is to show up for performances.

At the end of February there are many student productions, then at the beginning of April the Greek tragedy “The Bacchae” and the last musical of the spring semester “Theory of Relativity”.

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