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Theatre and Dance students score roles with A-list stars


The filming of a major motion picture in Austin has presented eight musical theatre students from the Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance with a special opportunity to showcase their talents on the big screen with some of the top names in the industry.

“Bernie,” a film in progress directed by Richard Linklater and staring Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine, is a story inspired by a 1998 “Texas Monthly” article about the east Texas town of Carthage and its bizarre tale of a local undertaker and his 1997 confession to murdering his wealthy companion.

Casting for the film sought actors and dancers to fill the roles of townspeople and students in a fictional Carthage Community College production of “The Music Man” performing the popular tune “76 Trombones.” The dance segment will be choreographed by Texas State’s Robin Lewis, head of the musical theatre dance program and veteran Broadway performer.

Kaitlin Hopkins, head of musical theatre at Texas State, said the opportunity to participate in a major motion picture production is a good career start and learning experience for young performers.

“It’s very different learning in the classroom than when you have to go out in the world and do it,” Hopkins said. “I think it’s a very important aspect of the learning process that they both have the opportunity to audition and to work professionally.”

Likewise, the students will be personally working alongside A-list actors, an experience Hopkins said prepares them for the realities of the professional world. She is confident the students will be well-prepared for the demands of a professional film set and ready for anything the business sends their way.

“I think it also demystifies the business. It makes it accessible. Being around a big celebrity for the first time—that’s always exciting and makes it very real,” she said. “I’m not sure anything will surprise them. They know what to expect. They’ll just be happy to be there.”

The sequence will shoot Oct. 29 in Lubbock. From about 250 people who showed up for the open casting call in Austin, only 23 were chosen, eight of them Texas State theatre students.

Those chosen include Jennifer Foster of Thousand Oaks, Calif; Madelyn Shaffer of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Colin Bevis of Clarksville, Tenn.; Ian Saunders of Walled Lake, Mich.; Tim Heller of Libertyville, Ill.; Rachel Hull-Ryde of Grapevine; Jacqueline Bloom of Granite Bay, Calif.; Trevor McGinnis of San Antonio.

For information, please contact the Texas State Department of Theatre and Dance at (512) 245-2147.