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ETBU enters the big, bright, beautiful world of Shrek: The Musical

April 21, 2021

The widely-recognizable green ogre Shrek and his quest for the fiery red-headed princess Fiona was brought to life by East Texas Baptist University in four performances on April 15 - 18. Staged at the historic Memorial City Hall in Downtown Marshall, the performance was the first open to the public since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic following last year’s production of The Addams Family. The show was directed by ETBU Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Joshua Scott, marking his third directorial effort at the University.

“I stand amazed at the faithfulness of God and His goodness to our musical theatre family,” Director Scott said. “Amidst all the challenges over the last year, God has blessed our program with His presence and undeniable grace. I read Shrek and was immediately captured by Kingdom principles that resonated in my heart. They include: friendship is always rooted in community; isolation is a byproduct of judgment; and love has a way of shining light on hypocrisy and lies. Friendship within community wins out over isolation when love is practiced over hypocrisy.”

The stage version of Shrek, based on the popular children’s book and hit series of animated films of the same name, ran on Broadway from 2008 to 2010, earning eight Tony nominations. The musical includes many of the beloved characters audiences know and love while also expanding the story with catchy tunes, large-scale dance numbers, and dazzling technical effects. The production was made possible by the entire ETBU School of Communication and Performing Arts, whose steady growth over the last few years has been matched by the growing ambition of the shows the department has produced.

“This production is very unique because of its grandeur,” junior theatre education major Elaina Berry, who played Princess Fiona said. “The set is big, the list of characters is big, and the story has a big message. Musicals involve so many people, departments, and skillsets, so every single person who contributed to the show is so important. Even though there were many long hours, the camaraderie and teamwork shared by the cast and crew always shined through.”

Shrek: The Musical follows the titular ogre (played by senior Codi Arndt) who makes a deal with Lord Farquaad (played by ETBU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Thomas Sanders) to rescue Princess Fiona (Berry) in order to regain ownership of his swamp. Along the way, he begrudgingly teams up with Donkey (played by senior Ashlyn Gorden) and encounters a host of fairytale creatures displaced by Farquaad’s maniacal demands for perfection. Together, they beat the odds and learn to embrace what makes them different.

Shrek has always been about breaking stereotypes that were given to us as children when it comes to fairytales and happy endings,” Gorden said. “We are doing that same stereotype-breaking in our production when it comes to the cast, acting choices, and choreography. I hope the audience learns that pushing past standards is a beautiful way to create community no matter what society says. Your differences are what make you the individual that you are and a good community can always bring out the best in you.”

This performance wraps up a production season quite unlike any other ETBU has experienced. Safety protocols put into place due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant that rehearsals and performances looked different this year, but the talented faculty, staff, and students in the Department of Music and Theatre Arts pushed through with innovation and creativity to consistently present quality productions.

“I am extremely grateful to our University administration for leading ETBU through these challenging days and for prioritizing our arts programs,” Dean of ETBU’s School of Communication and Performing Dr. Thomas Webster said. “Our department is growing and expanding, and I am honored to work with the supportive administration, committed faculty, and talented students that lead and serve our programs.”

Performances from the ETBU 2020-21 Theatre Arts Season included the Broadway thriller Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott, and student-directed productions of Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph Kesselring, and Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson. For more information about the School of Communication and Performing Arts, visit www.ETBU.edu/scpa.