River Campus collaboration displays essence of the arts
Eight months of collaborative planning and rehearsal by River Campus faculty members culminated with “In Essence,” a multimedia presentation that combined all disciplines of Southeast arts Thursday night.
The audience was comprised mostly of River Campus students who filled a performance hall in the Seminary Building to see some of their educators perform.
The presentation was the brainchild of Christopher Goeke, professor of music, in an effort to integrate the arts in ways an audience is not used to seeing.
“We wanted to combine all disciplines of the arts,” he said. “I love the collaboration. When you put your minds together some really cool things can happen.”
The show combined both lighthearted pieces and serious pieces through song, dance, acting and visual art to celebrate the arts as an integral aspect of human nature.
“Humans have expressed themselves artistically throughout all of history,” Goeke said.
Notable performances included a rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” which Goeke connected to caring for a loved one with dementia.
There was also an accelerated version of the play Cabaret, a love story set in 1930’s Germany performed by Goeke and his wife Lori Shaffer, instructor of voice.
“We wanted to show the progression of that older couple in 1930s Germany,” Goeke said. “We picked this piece in April way before the Neo-Nazi party started receiving publicity after Charlottesville. Maybe artistic expression can bring some of those human behaviors to focus and help break the cycle.”
Jenna Lee Moore, a new faculty member for the Conservatory of Theater and Dance, performed two songs by Jake Heggie from the perspective of a piece of visual art.
Roxanne Wellington, assistant professor of theatre, Michelle Contrino, instructor of dance, Moore and Shaffer closed out the show with “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” from “Show Boat,” a lighthearted look at the grisliness of show business.
Brittany Moleski, a senior vocal music education and performance major, said the performance meant a lot to everyone in the room.
“It was really cool to see professors from all the departments sharing,” she said. “There were a lot of messages about the importance of the arts and this community.”
Goeke said performing for an audience of mostly students was a unique experience.
“I think about all the things I've told them that they're supposed to do,” Goeke said. “When we get a chance to perform for them there’s added pressure to do it right, but that’s the nature of live performance: you do the best you can in the moment you have.”
Goeke said the performance was a challenge for all of the collaborating faculty members.
“It was a fun but demanding project. It took us out of our comfort zones, pushing us to reach a little and explore creative activity outside of the normal which is how we grow as artists,” he said.
Jeremy Bates, a senior vocal education major, said the university’s River Campus is highly unique.
“To have a campus dedicated to the arts, I don't know of any others like it,” Bates said. “We come here and work in our own disciplines but we come together too. Everybody here is an artist in their own way.”
Goeke said although “In Essence” was a challenge, and he hopes to do similar collaborative projects soon.
“I'm a combination of everything I've ever encountered artistically,” he said. “I’ve thrown a little more into my experience base and grown as an artist.”