Regis University professor leads major effort to reach out to high school students through theatre; several students and alumni participating

Hannah BreeceOctober 02, 2013

(DENVER) -- “Theatre is an art form intended to move and engage,” Regis University professor Janna Goodwin believes. It is how she is hoping to reach an audience of high school students across Colorado and neighboring states through the creation and collaborative production of a new musical play and interactive program that deals with the modern high school experience.

High school, after all, has never been an easy place; bullying and cyberbullying, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide are among the many challenging issues that today’s students face.  This play, Face: online live & immediat theatr 4 teens n a wirelss wrld (NOTE – This is the correct spelling of the play title.), and its follow-up workshops will confront those issues and facilitate thoughtful dialogue with students. With help from past and present Regis University students, The Institute on the Common Good, Modern Muse Theatre Company and the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, the play and program are set to tour Colorado and surrounding high school in the fall 2014.

“The play tells the intersecting stories of seven high school seniors from different walks of life,” according to Goodwin, who earned a doctorate in Communication/Performance Studies from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2004.  “Communicating via spoken word, dance, comedy, music, projections and even circus-inspired feats of breathtaking virtuosity—Face focuses on identity, relationship, danger, loss, literacy, self-awareness and on the ways our creativity can save us”

Gabriella Cavallero of the Modern Muse Theatre Company approached Goodwin with the idea of the play several years ago, and the theme and program have grown and taken shape over the years. Goodwin, a playwright, performer and active community member in addition to her position as a faculty member in the Communication Department, took on the project, engaging some of her past and present students along the way. 

Kimber Kirwin, a 2010 Regis University alumnae and a current student in the University’s Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions, has played a key role, working closely with Goodwin and Cavallero throughout the process—as an outreach coordinator, actor, stage manager and blog writer. Other Regis students have also assisted in the development of “Face” cards (playing cards with prompts for dialogue that focus on status, stigma, the loss of face, and how we “perform” our selves) for the workshop discussions, which take place in the day following the performance, and they have assisted in the creation of promotional videos for it. OutRegis, the student improvisational and sketch comedy club, has also helped with readings and will collaborate in developing some of the improvisational activities for the workshop.

One recent alumna, Jennie Babcock, is even helping arrange and notate the music in addition to helping with fundraising efforts, which now include a Kickstarter campaign and will expand to connect with foundations interested in supporting youth-focused arts and dialogue.

One of the most encouraging moments, according to Goodwin, was an early performance and discussion with students in Jason Perry’s class at the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy. The Academy is designed to help local youth succeed in school and it includes an annual summer program at Regis University. The students were receptive of the play’s relevant themes, engaged in the play, and eager in responding to the workshop discussions. The student response helped the developers to know they were on the right track and asking the right questions.

Face will have a premiere for invited audiences in 2014 prior to its high school tour in the fall. 


Donnie Veasey
Director of Media Relations
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Twitter: @RUmedia