Shreveport, LA-Laura Beeman Nugent, LSUS' Director of Alumni Affairs, will direct Children of Eden The Musical at Shreveport Little Theatre (SLT). This will be the theater's first live production in 15 months and kicks off SLT's 100th birthday. Beeman Nugent, who has directed and choreographed 16 shows for SLT Mainstage, many of which were sold out, is most looking forward to creatively telling the beautiful story of family and faith in front of a live audience.
An LSUS alumna, Nugent's direction of Children of Eden was influenced by her studies.
"When completing my Master of Arts at LSUS, my thesis focused on Ancient Greek theatrical techniques and their influence on the modern musical," Nugent said. "I spent a lot of time examining Aristotle's elements of drama, and when we began to envision Children of Eden creatively, I found it intriguing to look at it from an Aristotelian point of view."
"We have stripped away all sets, theatrical lighting-any element of the spectacle really, and have focused on the story and song. It truly has been a challenge creatively to pare down a production after years of full-scale productions. Still, the heart of this story is about the human connection and experience, and we felt it best told simplistically."
Nugent is no stranger to SLT, as it has been her "home away from home" since 1997. In 2007, she helped co-found SLT Academy, which focuses on theatre education for K-12. She's served as choreographer since then and became Academy Administrator and Director/Choreographer in 2011 and Academy Artistic Director in 2013. She has directed and choreographed 13 Senior Academy (8th to 12th grade) productions and 17 Junior Academy (Kindergarten to 8th grade) productions.
"My mother will tell you I've always been dramatic," Nugent said. "I made my stage debut as a stepsister in Cinderella in 2nd grade and haven't stopped since. I fell in love with being on stage."
"My father used to show me his favorite musicals when I was a child, and I remember watching the dancing and singing, thinking, ‘that's what I want to do when I grow up.' To this day, every time I watch White Christmas (the movie musical) or West Side Story, I am immediately transported back to the young girl who wanted to dance and act and sing for the rest of her life."
Building community is one of many reasons Nugent loves productions.
"I consider myself lucky that I get to help instill and foster a love and respect for the arts for so many people in our community," Nugent says. "You have so many people come together from so many different walks of life and experiences, but you all have one goal in mind: to tell a beautiful story. We get to leave all inhibitions at the door and have a safe space to create and explore and tap into our imaginations, and being able to facilitate that is so wonderful. To know that we can build a little "family" and experience collaboration in its truest form is fantastic."
Children of Eden will also feature Nugent's colleague, Brittany Gay, as part of the storyteller cast. Gay, LSUS' Alumni Affairs Assistant, joined SLT two years ago in its 2019 summer show, Mamma Mia. The after-hours work together has been special for Gay as she has grown to love theater.
"It's such a great experience getting to work with Laura in my full-time job and theater," Gay said. "She is a great director and so creative that it makes the process so much fun, and I always look forward to rehearsals. I have also started helping her more at the theater, such as stage managing, instead of just performing. Because of this, I appreciate and respect her process as a director even more than I used to because I see all of the hard work that goes into every show. I get a more behind-the-scenes look at the process, and it helps make me a better performer."
Tickets can be purchased online, at the SLT Box Office, or by phone at 318-424-4439 for the July 23 and 24 shows. Click here for more information about the production.
About Children of Eden
Children of Eden's book is by John Caird (Les Misérables and Jane Eyre), and score is by Academy Award winning writer Stephen Schwartz (stage: Wicked, Godspell, Pippin -- film: Enchanted, The Prince of Egypt, Pocahontas). The musical is based on a concept by Charles Lisanbyl and the story of Genesis, centering around the age-old conflict of parents and children in this epic, heartfelt Stephen Schwartz musical.
The musical can be described as a joyous and inspirational story about parents, children, and faith. Adam, Eve, Noah, and the "Father" who created them, deal with the headstrong and cataclysmic actions of their respective children. The show ultimately delivers a bittersweet, but inspiring message--that the hardest part of love is letting go.
The large cast is led by Matt Rawle as Father, Cordara Newson as Adam, LisaAnn Kemper as Eve, Luke Digilormo as Cain, Saige Williams as Abel, Asher Walsworth as Young Cain and Resaiah Harris as Young Abel. The large cast also includes Ron Walsworth as Noah, D'Nissa Hester as Mama Noah, Jeremy Yang as Japeth, Cecilia Shahrdar as Yonah, Ty Nelson as Shem, Susan Kurian as Aphra, Josh Hires as Ham, and Kezia Pigford as Aysha.
The storytellers of the piece are Tianna Andrews, Amanda Ericson, Sarah Franklin, Brittany Gay, Karyn Rimmer, LaTonya Carter, Madalyn Eagles, Morgan Goldsberry, Sachiri Henderson, Serena Lee, Gabby McFerren, Joy Rester, Tierra Williams, and River Young.
Founded in 1967, Louisiana State University Shreveport offers a wide array of nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a doctoral degree. The university's mission is to educate a diverse population of graduate and undergraduate students; engage in regional and global thought leadership through community collaboration and service; and innovate to enhance the application of knowledge and intellectual discovery through faculty and student research and creative endeavors.