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Three UMFK professors create original musical 125 years in the making

March 19, 2004


For three University of Maine at Fort Kent faculty members the coming weeks will be defined by more than just the end of another academic year on the campus. A countless number of hours will be spent staging a humorous script and a remarkable musical score, both original pieces that will bring to life some of the most memorable moments in the 125-year history of the St. John Valley University.

A cast of students and community members have been working with the UMFK Campus/Community Chorus to bring "UMFK 125: The Musical" to life on April 22, 23, and 24 at 7:30 p.m. each evening in the Fox Auditorium on the UMFK campus. A variety of musical genres will be featured including a square dance, ballads and a rap.

What sounds eclectic in nature is a woven piece of work that will feature a cast made up of UMFK students and local adult performers. The musical numbers trace the events, issues and legacies of nine UMFK presidents.

Actively involved in the fabric of their specializations is Scott Brickman, UMFK's associate professor of music who composed the musical composition and score for the original production.

In addition to original and some long forgotten musical numbers, the production features book and dialogue by Charles "Chuck" Closser, professor of oral communications and performing arts.

Pre-production for "The Musical" began over a year ago after a hallway conversation between Closser and Brickman and an inspiring suggestion of tying in the musical production to the University's year-long 125th anniversary celebration.

Joseph Zubrick, associate professor of theatre and oral communications was brought on board and has designed the set and continues to work closely with the cast.

The musical is a collaborative effort of these three UMFK faculty members. Most of the musical pieces and script challenged the creators to be fluent in popular culture trends of each era. It is original and creative, but it is the work of these educators that make "The Musical" a stepping-stone into the future of the University.

"I began writing the book and lyrics for "UMFK 125: The Musical" last summer. I used the Roger Grindle book A Century of Progress as the beginning point. I asked as many people as I could to tell me stories they knew about UMFK down through the years," said Closser.

The production takes a "noteworthy" look at some of the most memorable moments in the 125-year history of the University of Maine at Fort Kent. From the school's founding as the Madawaska Training School in 1878 to the inauguration of current president Richard Cost.

"The target audience is every adult who likes music and theatre. Of course, those who have inside knowledge of UMFK lore might get a bit more charge out of some of the innuendos, but I hope that everyone will find enjoyment in our production," said Brickman.

Finding time to stage the upcoming musical has been especially challenging for Brickman and Closser. In addition to their heavy teaching load and active involvement in campus and community life, the two were instrumental in staging the opening and closing ceremonies for the recent 2004 Biathlon World Cup in Fort Kent.

The UMFK faculty members worked alongside Suzie Paradis of Fort Kent to plan both events and are again working with Paradis on this project as she is choreographing several dance routines in the musical.

"This project is a good rejuvenating experience coming off the Biathlon," said Brickman. "I told that to Chuck the other day, I said something along the lines of "You know we're both exhausted now, but sometime during the middle of rehearsal we'll feel that energy which is the result of being enamored with our disciplines!" And, I believe we all have felt that marvelous uplifting feeling since rehearsals have resumed."

Ticket prices are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Tickets can be purchased in the UMFK university relations office and at any of the ten local Key Bank branches that span Northern Maine from Lincoln to Fort Kent.

For more information, contact the university relations office at 834-7557.