The Department of Theatre raised money through a cabaret featuring Broadway actress, Jasmin Richardson.
The cabaret, a change from last year’s fundraiser, raised money in connection with the Lights Up! program, which was started by alumni about 10 years ago. The Lights Up! program is structured to give students an opportunity to dream bigger and offer them new resources, said Dawne Meeks, Chair of the Theatre Department.
Because of this program and the annual fundraising, the Theatre department is able to bring in guest directors, such as Jesse Galvan, to direct shows. Galvan, a Broadway director celebrated for his Tony Award nomination, currently resides and works in New York. Galvan uses Skype to consult with the cast of the ACU homecoming show, Man of La Mancha.
“We know we’re out in the middle of west Texas,” said Meeks. “But it’s pretty awesome for them to get a taste of Broadway right here at home on our campus.”
In addition to blessing students on campus, the fundraiser was able to reach out to students around Abilene before the cabaret last Saturday morning. The students were invited privately as a follow up component to a camp called Summer Blaze that was coordinated by Dr. Jerry Taylor’s church.
“A part that a lot of folks don’t even know about is that earlier in the day, starting at 10, the ACU Theater department is partnering with Dr. Jerry Taylor from the Bible program,” Meeks said.
Students attended a workshop taught by Alisha Taylor, senior musical theatre major from Abilene. She choreographed and directed the group of 25 in an African style dance.
“I was inspired, because African dance is somewhat of the root of other forms of dance. It is also a strong part of my heritage, and where I come from,” Taylor said.
After, the students headed downstairs to Fulks Theater to hear Jasmin Richardson speak about her journey with God on Broadway.
Richardson, a 2007 Theatre Department graduate, has played the lead role in Dreamgirls around the world. In addition, she is now the new face of Clinique cosmetics.
“Beyond the fact that she has an enormous talent, she has a beautiful capacity for truth telling on the stage,” Meeks said. “We are so incredibly proud to have her come back and join us for this evening of song and celebration.”
Richards discussed her journey with the students and got emotional while talking about her beginnings at ACU.
“God grew me through my ability to be open and learn and fail,” Richardson said. “If he can do it for me, you can do anything.”
She also encouraged the group to appreciate the present. “The stories that God put in your heart, you have to tell them,” Richardson said. “Somebody needs to hear your voice and your perspective.”
Saturday evening, Richardson sang and gave her testimony to a group of 130 attendees. She talked about her tours around the world in addition to how she was formed by her training and professors at ACU.
Braden Clark, a junior acting major from Olathe, Kansas, attended the performance on Saturday evening to support the ACU Theatre Department alumni and the Lights Up! program.
“Beside her astounding talent, she is genuinely one of the most radiant and delightful people I have seen perform. She personifies warmth on and off the stage, and I find that to be an important part of the business of performing,” Clark said.
After the performance, Richardson expressed thanks not only to the faculty of the Theatre Department, but also to ACU in general. She spoke of how each of the staff members grew her as a person and as an actress.
“They were very encouraging and supportive,” Richardson said. “I want to make sure I say thank you to ACU for having me come back. It was an honor.”
The cabaret, according to Meeks, was successful. Although she expressed thanks for the attendance and collaboration, Meeks said, “I realized this year during our fundraising process that the most important thing wasn’t about raising money; it was about community and connection.”