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REVIEW: Alumni delight in anniversary production of “Rumors”

This year, the theater department gets to celebrate a couple important birthdays.

Both the Troutt Theater and the bachelor of fine arts degree turn 10 years old. To celebrate, Troutt Theater, a long-time stage for many of Belmont’s productions, served as the set for “Rumors” from Sept. 9 to Sept. 18.

There was something special about this performance, though – the cast was made up entirely of alumni.

With graduation dates ranging from 2011 to just this past May, every person onstage graduated from Belmont with a bachelor of fine arts. There was even an appearance from a former Belmont theater professor. The casting decision came from the combined minds of director Shawn Knight, who was excited to see the alumni come together, and the alumni themselves.

“The alumni who had an idea to do the show were particularly attracted to that title, and it’s a show I’ve always wanted to direct because I think it’s just ridiculously silly and fun,” Knight said. “It was a fun opportunity to see them bring skills that they have developed since graduation on top of skills I know they already had.”

The skills were evident in the performances. “Rumors” is a comedy that, truthfully, doesn’t seem to have a plot. However, the entertainment comes with the interactions of the characters.

The wealthy and highly-privileged men and women are thrown into chaos when their friend, Charlie Brock, attempts suicide while at his 10th anniversary party. Having never dealt with that kind of situation, it ends up giving the audience a lot to laugh about.

“If these were normal people, they would probably handle this situation better than they do,” Knight said. “For heaven’s sake, they don’t even know how to cook things.”

The setup of the night was great. It was as if someone had taken a magazine-worthy living room and dropped it right in Troutt Theater. The attention to detail also deserves mention – everything from the books on the side table to being able to see the brick walls and trees “outside” the house just increased the audience immersion.

It wasn’t just the audience enjoying the Belmont performance. The cast enjoyed the opportunity to come back to Belmont and perform. Some didn’t have to wait very long to return, however.

Kyle Odum, who portrayed Lenny Ganz, only graduated last May and never really left Belmont. He’s been working with the school over the summer,

“I did work here all summer. I worked on this show, so it’s as if I haven’t left,” he said. “I didn’t have to go to class anymore. That’s been about the only difference. I’m a directing major and I do a lot of sound design, so I haven’t performed in a while. It was fun doing that.”

Christy Berryessa, who played Lenny’s wife Claire Ganz, shared the same opinion as several members of the cast – returning to a Belmont stage and seeing the current students was one of the best parts about the whole production.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to work with different classes. I graduated in 2011, so I’ve gotten to work with classes who’ve graduated after me. That’s just been really cool,” Berryessa said. “Getting to work with Shawn Knight has been really, really fun. He’s awesome, and he’s like a farce unto himself. He’s so funny.”

If you missed the chance to see this fantastic play, the theater department has a great semester planned, including performances of “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Our Town.” Knight also recommends planning to see the department’s partnership with Campus Ministries in the spring with “The Amish Play.”

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