U actors reflect on Showboat experience

University theatre students may have their last Showboat play this summer.

University student Kendall Kent applies makeup before the matinee show, Under the Gaslight, at the Minnesota Centennial Show Boat at Harriet Island on Thursday.

Kelsey Christensen

University student Kendall Kent applies makeup before the matinee show, “Under the Gaslight,” at the Minnesota Centennial Show Boat at Harriet Island on Thursday.

by Jessica Hart

As this summer comes to an end, so too may the University of Minnesota’s historic Centennial Showboat performances.

The showboat has been a part of the University’s theatre program since 1958, but the school’s contract on the boat will end this summer. Still, University Theatre Arts and Dance Chair Marcus Dilliard said he thinks the University could continue its involvement with the showboat’s new owners — a decision expected to be made before Thanksgiving.

Billed as the farewell season, this summer’s show is “Under the Gaslight,” which was also the first production performed on the boat.

Since his first experience with the showboat in 2009, Dilliard has enjoyed the growth he’s seen in students as they take on the professional performance experience not available from the school during the academic year. In case the school can’t work with the showboat in future years, Dilliard said, he is exploring other professional opportunities for students.

The cast of “Under the Gaslight” learned the show’s acts in four weeks and has a total of 60 performances this season, said senior Ryan Maltz, who plays Captain Ray Trafford.

“It’s 60 performances, and that’s something they otherwise don’t get to do. When we do a show here at Rarig … you’re looking at eight or ten at the very most public performances. … So it’s totally a different sense of muscles that actors have to develop,” Dilliard said.

Maltz said the interactive nature of the show — an audience that is encouraged to boo and cheer — helped him grow as an actor.

“The audience can really feel the moment. … When you’re rehearsing so long without a crowd who’s not responding, and once you get that after four weeks of silence … there’s a greater need to justify what you’re saying,” Maltz said. “The show really came alive once the audience was there.”

For sophomore Damion Rosa, the showboat was a chance to connect with the theatre community.

“Everyone here who has come to see the show has built some attachment to it because it’s something that is a tradition up here.” Rosa said. “I didn’t realize how significant of a tradition it was for Minnesotans up here.”

Rosa said that being part of a professional show has helped him grow as an actor, and taught him how to balance summer classes, working at a coffee shop and performances.

The same multitasking skills apply on stage — the small cast of 12 main performers does all the set changes between their scenes, said senior Kendall Kent, who plays the character Peach Blossom.

“I think it’s been a fantastic opportunity to have, and I hope future University students get to experience the same thing that we did because it’s truly valuable,” Maltz said.