Department of Theatre and Dance kicks off virtual company to engage remote audiences

The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance kicked off its Virtual Theatre and Dance Company, an initiative that includes videos from the department's students, faculty and staff, dedicated to sharing creative content with children and other remote audience members. The daily content will include stories, short performances and other creative mechanisms to engage audiences while many are learning or working remotely.

"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary creative responses," said Associate Department Chair Mary Anderson, Ph.D. "Theatre and dance artists thrive in the live setting. We know that any performance is co-created in the moment with the audience. Faced with the cancellation of all of our shows and events, we asked ourselves how we could create that connection across the physical distance."

"Our response is a whole season of work that will be shared freely across multiple platforms over the coming weeks," Anderson explained. "It will also include activities and experiences for our audiences to share to keep the dialogue going."

The inaugural virtual event took place on March 18 with a reading by Assistant Professor Billicia Hines, director of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance's Black Theatre and Dance Collective. Hines read Christine's Big Hair Adventures: Christine Goes to Grandma's by Christine Gibson, a book series about a 5-year-old who is questioned for the first time on her outward appearance and discovers her unique characteristics.

Theatre and Dance faculty members have volunteered for weekly slots, with Hines slated for Wednesdays and Assistant Professor RAS Mikey Courtney on Fridays.

Upcoming guests include:

  • Mary Anderson, Ph.D., associate department chair, reading Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  • RAS Mikey Courtney, Ph.D., assistant professor, reading Mommy, I Want to Dance! by Tasha Fuller (Dr. Courtney's sister)
  • Meg Paul, director of dance, will share a mashup of classical composers, performed by her son - a professional double-bass player - while she introduces the audience to fundamental ballet barre work
  • Doug Risner, Ph.D., professor of dance, and Jon Anderson, associate professor (Department of Music) will perform Broadway tunes
  • Michael Barnes, associate professor, and Cheryl Turski, associate professor, will perform parody songs
  • Viewers can tune in to the virtual events daily at 1 p.m. on the Theatre and Dance Facebook page.

    "This will be our document of the times we are living through. Our artifact: filled with the questions and tensions of the moment, but also projecting hope for the future," said Anderson.

    For more information about the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, visit or follow the department on Facebook, Instagram ad TikTok.

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