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DSU students volunteer with traveling Broadway production

April 17, 2019

Thanks to a connection with a 1997 Dakota State University graduate, 16 current DSU students were introduced to the world of traveling Broadway shows during a recent trip to Kansas.

The Dakota State Drama Club sponsored the trip to Pittsburg State University to work as volunteers on the one-night production of Broadway’s “The Sound of Music” at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at Pittsburg State University.

Bicknell Center Director Joe Firman graduated from Dakota State 22 years ago with a degree in fine arts administration.

“Bringing the current generation of DSU Theatre students down to take part in the setup and running of one of the nation’s premier Broadway touring shows, “The Sound of Music” in one of the nation’s best university theatre facilities was incredible for me as an alumnus,” Firman said.

Firman’s sister, Emily Firman Pieper, is the DSU director of theater productions; she came up with the idea of having the DSU students assist with the Broadway production.

Over a 21-hour day with the show, DSU students joined Pittsburg State University students and volunteers in unloading four 52 ft. semi-truck trailers, installing the set, welcoming attendees to the show, assisting with costume changes, re-loading the semi-truck trailers, and preparing the stage for the next day’s events.

Firman Pieper was excited for the students to see the ins and outs of a major Broadway production. “I wanted students to see that professional theater and theater in general has needs that go beyond acting,” she said.

The group also stopped at the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, S.D. and The Lamb Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa on the way to Kansas. Firman Pieper arranged the stops to show students the different types of theaters and how support can vary based on whether the organization can afford full-time employees or are mainly staffed by volunteers.

“You can make a lot of things happen with very little and you can make a lot of things happen with a lot, but the one, most important factor was the people involved,” Firman Pieper said.

Firman Pieper hopes the trip helped students start considering how theater may fit in their futures, -- either as a career or as a hobby.

Mason Wieman, a sophomore digital sound design major from Crooks, S.D., attended the trip and was able to become part of the audio crew for the production of “The Sound of Music.” Wieman enjoyed working in the busy atmosphere and is even considering theater as a future career path.

“I had always thought I would end up doing live concerts, studio recordings, or sound design,” Wieman said. “I will look more into the theater world and maybe even end up living in it.”

“Laramie Project”

A student directed production of “The Laramie Project” will take place at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse April 28 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. The play is about the reaction to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student.

The script notes for “The Laramie Project” describe the play as “a breathtaking collage that explores the depths to which humanity can sink and the heights of compassion of which we are capable.”

Tickets for the “The Laramie Project” are $10 for the general public and free for DSU students with ID. Tickets are available at eventbrite.com. The play contains mature themes and is not intended for children.

Dakota State students and Pittsburg State students

Dakota State students and Pittsburg State students pose for a photo after assisting with the traveling Broadway production of “The Sound of Music.”