"Hear Our Voice:" Exploring Broadway's Diversity with Winthrop's Department of Theatre and Dance
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"Hear Our Voice:" Exploring Broadway's Diversity with Winthrop's Department of Theatre and Dance

February 15, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS

  • “Hear Our Voice: Shining a Light on Diversity on Broadway” opens Thursday, Feb. 18, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 21.
  • This virtual production will be live-streamed from the Johnson Theatre and will feature songs from musicals like “Dear Evan Hansen,” “The Color Purple,” “Kinky Boots” and more. 

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA - Creating live performances during the pandemic has forced artists to stretch their creativity. Each year, Winthrop University’s Department of Theatre and Dance produces a spring musical that is almost certain to sell out Johnson Theatre.  

This year, however, things will look a bit different. 

“Hear Our Voice: Shining a Light on Diversity on Broadway” opens Thursday, Feb. 18, and runs through Sunday, Feb. 21. This virtual production will be live-streamed from the Johnson Theatre and will feature songs from musicals like “Dear Evan Hansen,” “The Color Purple,” “Kinky Boots” and more. 

Sidney Horton, director and veteran of the greater Charlotte theatre scene, worked with Department Chair Daniel Gordon to create the production last summer after they were unable to secure the rights for their original choice for the spring musical. These circumstances gave them the opportunity to explore how they could translate current events to the stage with an original production.  

“During this time, the Black Lives Matter movement, women’s issues and LGBTQ+ issues were at the forefront of conversation, so it felt important to pull something together to reflect that,” Horton said. 

Though his original script was about 18 pages, Horton cut it down significantly once he watched the students audition and saw the talent they possessed. The message of inclusivity is woven throughout the performance. 

“Hands down, hearing the students’ voices has been the most exciting part,” Horton said. “I have been so blown away by their level of professionalism and how disciplined they are. From the experienced upperclassmen to the freshmen, I wanted to make sure this highlighted them first and foremost.” 

Audiences are likely to recognize songs from Broadway heavy-hitters like “Hairspray” and “Rent,” but the production also features songs from lesser-known musicals such as “Memphis,” “Aida” and “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” It was important to Horton that these musicals be featured because of their subject matter and impact on Broadway’s history of addressing relevant social issues. 

“It would have been easy to pull songs that highlight African Americans like ‘Dreamgirls’ because it’s so well-known,” Horton said. “There has been a wide range of representation throughout the years of Broadway, everything from ‘Ragtime’ to ‘Follies’ representing African Americans to ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ and ‘Kinky Boots’ addressing LGBTQ+ issues. Even Rodgers and Hammerstein hit audiences in the jugular with ‘Carefully Taught’ in ‘South Pacific.’” 

With more than 30 years in the industry, Horton is used to traditional stage productions; however, this is his first time working with a fully virtual performance. The Department of Theatre and Dance has been producing virtual theatre since fall 2020. Precautions are in place for performers and crew members, including physical distancing, face masks on stage when not singing and limiting the number of performers for each song.  

“Hear Our Voice” will run from Thursday, Feb. 18 to Sunday, Feb. 21. Each performance begins at 7:30 p.m., with Sunday’s matinee beginning at 2 p.m. Tickets for the virtual production range in price from $3-10 and are available by visiting www.winthrop.edu/arts.  

For more information, please contact Whitney Hough, director of communications and community engagement for the College of Visual and Performing Arts, at houghw@winthrop.edu.  

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Last Updated: 2/15/21