Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

May 1, 2000

Whitworth Students and On Stage! Actors Partner to Hone Skills, Build Friendships

Lions and tigers and bears will soon make their theatrical debut at Whitworth College, thanks to the efforts of nine Whitworth students and a group of performers with On Stage!, a theatre-based program affiliated with The Washington Institute for Mental Illness, Research and Training. The Whitworth students, who are studying the basics of mime in Theatre Professor Rick Hornor's Mime and Movement class, have partnered with members of On Stage! to create mime performances with a circus theme.

The group will perform in Mime and Dance On Stage! Saturday, May 6, at 7 p.m. in Stage II of Cowles Auditorium. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted to support On Stage!. Whitworth's Jazz and Modern Dance class will also perform numbers reflecting dance styles of famous choreographers such as Twyla Tharp and Bob Fosse.

The On Stage! program conducts theatre classes and provides performance opportunities to people who are coping with mental illness. Its goal is to help students build skills to prepare them for entry into vocational training, supported employment, school or the workplace. The group, led by Program Director Donna Douglass, rehearses musical numbers and performs several times each year in Spokane. The Mime and Movement class teamed up with On Stage! through Whitworth's Service-Learning Program, which provides students with community service opportunities that directly relate to their in-class studies.

In preparation for Saturday's performance, the two groups have been practicing Monday afternoons in the basement of Westminster Congregational Church. Each Whitworth student is paired with two or three On Stage! performers, and they have worked together to hone their mime scenes.

For freshman Andrew Seely, working with On Stage! has given him the opportunity to improve his acting and communication skills by teaching others what he has learned in class. "Being able to work with On Stage! has helped me learn more about my craft and how to use my body and skills to give a message," Seely says. "I'll know if I'm doing it effectively by how successful Saturday's performance is."

In addition to strengthening their performance skills by partnering with On Stage!, Whitworth students have grown in other ways from working with those coping with mental illness, Hornor says. "I am seeing significant personal growth - confidence and compassion - in my students who were pretty anxious, even fearful, only a few weeks ago," he says.

Not only have the Whitworth students been changed by this experience, but Seely has seen positive changes in the On Stage! performers as well. "They are enthusiastic and are happy to be part of the program," he says. "It's great when you see a giant smile on someone's face because you told them they did a terrific job performing as a lion in the circus. It's a rewarding feeling to be there and see these people grow."

Whitworth Students and On Stage! performers will hold a final rehearsal Monday, May 1, in the basement of Westminster Congregational Church, located at 411 S. Washington St. Rehearsal times are 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m.


Rick Hornor, professor of theatre, Whitworth College, (509) 777-4430 or rhornor@whitworth.edu.

Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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