UCM’s ‘Step Forward’ set to be performed at Region V. Kennedy Center American Festival

Photo submitted by Kayla Helms. Spring 2018 cast of “Step Forward” performs the “Climate Change Dance.” Carly Othic, with outstretched arms, represents Earth and cast members surrounding her represent humanity.

The University of Central Missouri’s Theatre and Dance production “Step Forward” has been selected as one of five productions to be performed at the Region V Kennedy Center American Festival.

The department has performed at the festival before, most recently in 2013 for “Blue Window.” This year’s festival starts on Sunday and goes through Saturday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In order to keep out-of-pocket travel expenses as low as possible, the department is hosting a benefit performance of “Step Forward” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Highlander Theater.

The show was originally produced in spring 2018.

“Step Forward” was written by the student cast under co-direction of UCM professors Ashley Miller-Scully and Julie Rae Mollenkamp, according to a news release.

Miller-Scully said the show was inspired by an internet meme she found with social justice phrases on it including, “Immigrants make America great, Love is Love and Black Lives Matter.”

She and Mollenkamp presented the idea to the students who then began the writing process.

Miller-Scully said they are one of two devised works, out of the 50 enterants, which means the entire production is original work.

“It combines dance, acting, dialogue, music and poetry,” according to the press release.

John Wilson, theatre department chair and professor, said it’s more of a movement piece than a traditional dance piece.

“It has original music and it was staged in the round and it has some spoken word in it and a lot of projections. We have like three different video screens,” Wilson said.

Staged in the round means that the audience surrounds the stage, so the chairs are placed in a circle around the central staged area.

“‘Step Forward’ will perform for nearly 1,500 students/professors and professionals at the festival,” Miller-Scully said.

The department’s professors said they are excited for the opportunity and proud of the students’ hard work.

“We are honored and overjoyed to be one of only five productions selected to perform at the Kennedy Center American College Region V Festival,” Mollenkamp said via the press release. “The combination of dance, singing, spoken word and images connects our humanitarianism with our patriotism and promotes the notion of radical empathy, love in the face of hate. The faculty are so proud and inspired by our students.”

Ashton Bennett, sophomore musical theatre major and choreographer/performer in the show, said it’s an honor to be chosen to perform at the festival.

“We have very strong work to show this region and our peers,” Bennett said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am so excited to be a part of it.”

Admission to the show is free. However, donations wil be accepted to raise funds for the trip. If you cannot make it to the performance on Saturday, you can donate by visiting their GoFundMe page at https://bit.ly/2SVrjMj.

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