Thursday, August 07, 2014

GCSC summer program reworks ‘Miracle’


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PANAMA CITY — Summer has found Gulf Coast State College students molding something new out of a “miracle” story.

The GCSC 2014 Summer Theatre Project, taught by Associate Professor of Music Scott Kirkman and Associate Professor of Theatre Jason Hedden, is called “From Page to Stage, the Making of a Musical.”

In the six-week course, students formed an artistic team to adapt the novel, “Miracle of the White Leaves,” by Dr. Stephen Dunnivant, dean of GCSC’s Advanced Technology Center, and his daughter, Gina Dunnivant, with art by Gina Ricci. Students were tasked to produce a play script, create original music and design concepts for costumes, sets and props with a goal of preparing a workshop production at GCSC in the autumn semester, as well as a “world premiere” in 2015 at the Marina Civic Center.

“We've been trying for years to have them perform a free show for our elementary grades at the Marina Civic Center,” said Jennifer Jones of Bay Arts Alliance, who has been sitting in on workshop presentations this summer. “I’m a big advocate for adding the ‘A’ for ‘Arts’ into the STEM curriculum.”

“Miracle of the White Leaves” is the tale of a monk, two children, and the youngest daughter of Europe’s greatest king, destined to bond with unexpected allies no larger than your finger. Together, these unlikely heroes plant the seeds to unite a continent and save civilization in its darkest hour. Originally a screenplay, the elder Dunnivant refashioned the tale into a novel.

“It’s really fantasy-oriented, set in the time of King Charlemagne, so it also has the historical element,” Jones said of the work.


The summer program was open to GCSC students and community members with interest and skills in writing, storytelling, singing, songwriting, instrumental music, acting, dance, choreography, design, photography, costuming, videography, sound recording and visual art. The entire process was documented on video.


“We had 18 students registered in the class and two community collaborators,” Hedden said. “We will do a workshop production for fourth- and fifth-grade ESE students from Bay District Schools, and then the world premiere for 2,000 third-graders in April 2015.”

The show at the Civic Center will be part of the Very Special Arts Festival, an annual enrichment activity for students with learning challenges, Jones said. The Civic Center will also host a finished, full-scale musical production for the general public.

“The 2014 Summer Theatre Project has been, by far, the most fascinating, exciting, memorable college experience I’ve ever had,” said participant Jenny Hammond, who received her associate of arts degree in Liberal Arts at GCSC this year, graduating Magna Cum Laude. “I am so happy to be a part of something that will touch so many others if only for 50 minutes of their lifetime. It will be something that stays with me for years to come.”

Jacob Walsingham, a Mosley High School student dual-enrolled at GCSC this summer, said the class taught him that it can take “a lot of trial and error to make your ideas come to life.”

The Dunnivant family lives in Panama City Beach. Before joining GCSC, Stephen Dunnivant taught middle school grades in Bay County, where he has lived for more than 35 years. He has worked at Gulf Coast for more than 17 years.

The son of a musician, his early years were spent traveling from the mountains of upstate New York to the cotton fields of Arkansas. He credits his mother, Evelyn Audrey Beardsley, with instilling in him the joy of reading.

“Like so many sons, he grew up listening to stories from his mother,” Stephen Dunnivant’s Amazon biography states. “One day, an uncle in Arkansas sat in awe watching Audrey read to her children. He told her later that he had never seen anyone do that before. While this was the 1960s, sadly, many parents still do not read to their kids.

“As it was in the 8th and 9th century so long ago, education is the only enduring escape from poverty and ignorance.”


Peace

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