After working with The Neil Simon Festival as an actor for the past few years, Peter Sham, associate professor of theatre arts, took over the role of artistic director. Sham has worked as an artistic director in the past, but working at NSF gave him a stage full of new opportunities.
“The biggest reason why I took this job was … I really wanted a mid-range professional theatre for the graduates,” Sham said.
He explained that while SUU has a successful theatre program, students have difficulty finding major roles to perform in outside of school. Hiring SUU graduates not only gave them needed experience, but also showed them that their professor was not lying when he said they had talent.
“It’s easier for you to go to a job interview and feel confident if you’re coming off of a job,” he said.
“Everybody is going out after a great summer of playing lead roles and getting wonderful reviews and the audience really responding to their work. Now I’m hearing that they’re all getting jobs and it’s fueling them.”
This opportunity has also given him the chance to write a new musical. While Sham has written plays in the past including the successful “Lend Me a Tenor,” he was intrigued and excited to write a new story about construction workers entitled “Under Construction: A Blue Collar Musical.”
“What if an audience came to a theatre and there was nothing scheduled that night and literally there was a hole in the stage and (the construction workers) were working on the theatre and they had to actually put on something for an audience that showed up?” he said.
At first, Sham was going to write the book for the play and choose popular songs to turn it into a musical, but when he couldn’t find songs that properly reflected his characters, he decided to start writing music. He then passed the melodies on to Brandon Grayson, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from Las Vegas, who wrote the pieces for the piano. Those pieces were then turned over to Keith Bradshaw, associate dean of music, who orchestrated them with the help of his wife.
“I would orchestrate the piece,” Bradshaw said. “I would take the piano part and split it up into whatever instruments we wanted, and then she would make it look good and copy it all out so that we could give it to the band to learn the music.”
The team worked quickly to move the music from an idea to the actors’ hands. When the production came together, it was something everyone involved could be proud of.
“Seeing something actually come to life, it makes you smile in the right places and be sad in the right places,” Bradshaw said. “Music is effective in creating that kind of emotion. It’s a great thing. That’s why (I) do what (I) do”
“Under Construction: A Blue Collar Musical” is no longer performing, but the soundtrack will soon be available for purchase at simonfest.org as well as iTunes and Amazon. Sham is also working on a sequel to “A Christmas Carol on the Air.” This radio inspired show will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the writing of “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley.
“Frankenstein on the Air” is set to portray the original story by Shelley. The show will be performed on Oct. 27, 28 and 30 in the Heritage Center Theater.