‘The Living Room Project’ helps to raise nearly $10,000 for School of Theatre

Penn State Centre Stage Virtual presentations of “The Living Room Project,” a two-part series of online episodes to benefit the School of Theatre Fund, helped to raise nearly $10,000 for students affected by the pandemic. The taped performances can be viewed at sites.psu.edu/pscsvirtual.

After watching “The Living Room Project” presentations, an anonymous donor committed a $3,000 gift to the School of Theatre Fund. The fund, created to offer financial assistance to help offset the needs of students in the School of Theatre, has raised $9,790 to date.

“We were enormously grateful when an anonymous donor who had been watching our Penn State Centre Stage Virtual productions over the summer stepped forward to offer a $3,000 gift for the School of Theatre Fund,” said Rick Lombardo, director of the School of Theatre. “This donor recognized it is likely that this year, due to the impact of the pandemic, we will have more students with serious economic need than in previous years. The power of this anonymous gift was felt immediately, when we learned that a student was in need and we were able to help them stay enrolled this semester.”

“The Living Room Project” was part of a collaboration between directors Wes Drummond and Rob Schneider, both alumni, and the School of Theatre Affiliate Program Group. Lombardo, who is also artistic director of Penn State Centre Stage, hosted the presentations.

With almost all live entertainment in America in shutdown, so many of our alumni were at home and were waiting to be able to resume their careers. We wanted to create a way where we could tell some of their stories and connect our alumni and our current students in meaningful ways.”
-Rick Lombardo

The first episode featured performances by and interviews with Penn State Theatre students and alumni, including Terry Withers (Baltimore Improv Group); Stephen Brotebeck (director/choreographer, Okoboji Summer Theatre); Kat West (stage manager/life coach); television actors Sam Freed (“Kate & Allie”) and Jonathan Frakes (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”); B.F.A. Musical Theatre alumni Amina Faye (“Spamalot,” “Love in Hate Nation”), Addi McDaniel (singer/songwriter), Tommy Lock, and Murphy Taylor Smith; and Penn State Centre Stage “Spamalot” cast members Timmy Lewis, Noah Silverman, Daniel Teixeira, Nick Davis, Will Jewett, Noah Ruebeck, Mathew Fedorek, Jimin Moon, Darron Hayes, Jack Maloney, John El-Jor, and Marshall Joun.

Allison Lee, president of the board of the School of Theatre Affiliate Program Group, produced episode two. Lee is an alumna of the B.F.A. Stage Management program. Her Broadway career includes “Disney’s Tarzan,” “Spamalot,” and “The Addams Family,” among others.

“’The Living Room Project’ connected alumni with one another by sharing their crafts and their missions for the benefit of the students of the School of Theatre. As the school prepares to continue the education of its students under circumstances we never could have imagined, the second episode fostered connections with all who viewed it through our shared experiences with Penn State,” said Lee.

The second episode also featured alumni and students, including Gillian Albinski (properties master/production designer); Ed Baierlein (president/director, Germinal Stage Denver); Steve H. Broadnax III (playwright/director, “20/20 Vision”); Cynthia Henderson (actor/director/teacher and founder, Performing Arts for Social Change); Adrienne Crane-Ross (partner, Harmony Artists, Inc); Liam Fennecken (national tours of “School of Rock,” “Once,” “American Idiot”); Jim Hogan (national tours of “Waitress,” “Phantom of the Opera”); Nathan Lucrezio (Broadway’s “Aladdin,” “Diana,” “Cinderella”); Elle Milewski (playwright, “It’s Been Two Years”); current B.F.A. Musical Theatre student Becca Suskauer (PSCS’s “Legally Blonde,” “A Little Night Music”); and special guests John McGinty (Broadway’s “Children of a Lesser God”) and Brendan Jacob Smith (Broadway’s “Hadestown,” ”Jekyll and Hyde”).

Visit sites.psu.edu/pscsvirtual to see all Penn State Centre Stage Virtual presentations or to make a donation to the School of Theatre Fund. Donations may also be made directly at School of Theatre Fund.

Gifts to the fund will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.