Otterbein University's already well-respected theater program received another boost in confidence last weekend when the school was chosen as the site for auditions for the international hit musical "Hamilton."
The musical's casting team was at the university April 29, hosting auditions for singers and rappers "of all ethnicities" for roles in the show's productions on Broadway, in Chicago and on the West Coast.
The casting call was no fluke, and comes as confirmation of a thriving internship program, according to Christina Kirk, theater and dance chairwoman.
Kirk said that while the department was "thrilled" to have such a high-profile casting team in town, opportunities such as "Hamilton" are a result of a well-established pipeline of talent.
Otterbein senior Asel Swango is working as an assistant with a regional "Hamilton" casting director, while former student Jordan Donica joined the musical's national tour in San Francisco to play Thomas Jefferson.
Kirk said yet another student is an assistant to the musical's choreographer, while another is working with the company manager for Chicago production for "Hamilton."
"These types of opportunities aren't new for us," she said. "One of the flagships of our programs is the internship program, and we send our students to the major casting agencies in New York. So we've had longstanding relationships."
Kirk credits former theater chairman Chuck Dodrill with creating the program more than three decades ago, and said it's not uncommon for students to be so prepared for their professional careers that they reach them before graduation.
"It sometimes creates dilemmas for us," she said. "We've had to make some difficult choices for students where we've released them before they've graduated because they've gotten great opportunities. We always want to give them those opportunities when we can."
For Kirk and others affiliated with the department, the auditions are yet another sign of a growing and successful program.
She said touring artists, directors and others in the theater world often request to teach a class or hold auditions on campus, which elevates the school's profile beyond Ohio.
"We have a commitment to bringing in guest artists, whether they're alumni or others," she said.
"We're always trying to bring in professionals to work with our students and keep them connected. Even though we may be in (central) Ohio, we feel very connected to the thriving theater scene."