Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

SDSU Partners with La Jolla Playhouse to Offer MFA Fellowships

MFA Theater students served as Audience Engagement Fellows for the production of Fly

SDSU Partners with La Jolla Playhouse to Offer MFA Fellowships

by Devon Hunt

March 4, 2020

As part of a new partnership between the SDSU MFA Musical Theatre program and La Jolla Playhouse, MFA graduate students Eden Hildebrand, Phaul Fishman, Devon Hunt and Lauren Haughton Gillis had the opportunity to serve as Audience Engagement Fellows for the Playhouse’s production of the musical Fly. The students teamed up in pairs to give two pre-show presentations collectively called the Foreword Series.

Hunt and Haughton gave attendees an overview of director Jeffrey Seller’s storied Broadway career, and Hildebrand and Fishman shared the history of different iterations of the Peter Pan story onstage. This most recent adaptation of the J.M. Barrie novel, with book by Rajiv Joseph, lyrics by Kirsten Childs and Rajiv Joseph, and score by Bill Sherman, brings new life and a new perspective to the timeless story of Peter Pan with a percussion-driven score and a lot of flying.

The students attended the first company meeting of Fly and met producer-turned-director Seller (Broadway producing: Rent, In The Heights, Avenue Q, Hamilton), and listened to an early read/sing-through of the show. They later had an opportunity to sit down with Joseph, Childs, and Sherman to talk about the process of creating a new musical and the experience of working with Jeffrey Seller, a Tony Award-winning producer who now steps into the director’s chair on Fly.

The creatives shared their stories of meeting Seller and getting involved with the Fly project, which has been in development for roughly a decade. Armed with the insights from the creative team and additional materials from the Playhouse archives, the students crafted their presentations for the Foreword series.

In addition to recounting the trajectory of Sellers’ career, Hunt and Haughton also spotlighted the creative team and their achievements.

Fishman and Hildebrand connected Fly to its predecessors, beginning with the 1904 play Peter Pan and following the story’s narrative evolutions in the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy, the 2002 production of the same name, two different productions of Peter and the Starcatchers (2004 and 2009), and finally the current adaptation of Fly. After each Foreword lecture, the floor was opened for the audience to engage through question and answer before going into the theatre to experience the magic of the show for themselves.

“The fellowship with La Jolla Playhouse and this Foreword series puts our students at the center of the action, working with pre-eminent artists in the field, creating a culminating experience unlike no other.” said associate professor and head of musical theater Robert Meffe.

The partnership between SDSU and the La Jolla Playhouse is the brainchild of Meffe and Julia Cuppy, Education Director for the Playhouse and an alumna of the MFA Musical Theatre program.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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