Above: University of Delaware’s Chamber REP production of Suite Blackness: Black Dance in Cinema. Photo courtesy UD REP.

By Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

This spring, the University of Delaware celebrates all genres of artistic expression in a new endeavor: its inaugural State of the Arts Festival on May 5-6.

The festival is the result of collaboration among several UD departments — The Resident Ensemble Players (the REP, UD’s resident professional theatre company), the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Theatre and Dance. Its aim is intended to showcase exceptional student work across disciplines and bring together the greater student body to discover and celebrate the talent of their peers.

The festival’s creative brain trust are The REP’s own artistic director Steve Tague and Company actor/director/playwright Michael Gotch. Each has been instrumental in the event’s launch, and both are passionate about providing this opportunity to UD students.

“The REP and the Department of Theatre and Dance are making an effort to be more inclusive of the student population, to open the doors, if you will, and become a clearer, bigger part of the UD student experience,” says Tague. “This festival is one example of that effort.”

They encourage all students — especially those interested in a professional life in the arts — to participate. The intention is to showcase all manner of artistic talent — actors, dancers, fashion designers, graphic artists, musicians, painters, photographers, spoken-word poets, stand-up comedians, and sculptors. The festival is meant for all UD students, and submission was open to any currently enrolled student on any UD campus or affiliate.

“Ultimately, we want to encourage [UD] students to get their work out into the world, enjoy exposure to the wider university community, their peers, and exposure to the REP’s loyal audiences,” says Gotch. 

“The festival itself will really be shaped by the individual student artists and their talents,” says Amanda McGinty, program coordinator, marketing and public relations of The REP.

All activities will be held at UD’s Roselle Center for the Arts. The schedule includes a weekend of exhibits that culminate in a public performance on Saturday, May 6, 7:30pm in the Thompson Theatre. The Studio Theatre Gallery will feature visual artwork on display on Friday, May 5, from noon-4pm and again on Saturday, May 6, beginning at noon.

Both Tague and Gotch are excited about just getting this first year up and running, but also seeing so many students submitting their work.

“It is heartening to see young people doing something that may not be part of their major, but that gives them a chance to show off [a talent] that is important to them, that gives them joy,” says Tague. He says it’s about giving students the opportunity to share their work and communicate with others through it. 

They hope this project will inspire more departments in the College of Arts and Sciences to increase participation and help build something lasting. 

“Hopefully, it grows into something the full College of Arts and Sciences can participate in . . .  perhaps toward credits or for individual study project options,” says Gotch. “It can be a bridge between the classroom setting and the real world, where work needs to live and deserves to be seen, heard, experienced and felt.”

“We have had some crazy visions of this thing becoming a three-day weekend with buy-in from the university and the community, food trucks, outdoor displays of art, performances all day long in a Firefly sort of way, until it becomes a sort of thing that no one wants to miss,” says Tague. “It may take us a while to get there, but this is what we imagine.” 

— Audiences can purchase tickets to the State of the Arts Festival on The REP website Rep.UDel.edu, through the box office in the Roselle Center for the Arts at 110 Orchard Road, or by calling 302-831-2204. Tickets are $15 for the general public and $10 for students.

Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald
Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald is the owner of arts publicity company Arts in Media and manager of the blog Delaware Arts Info. She is a self-described "cheerleader" for the arts and animal rescue, a die-hard Penn Stater and a doting dog mom. She's a big fan of The Beatles, Bon Jovi, strong java and red blends, and in a parallel universe, she's pretty sure she's a writer for Rolling Stone. She and hubby Scott Fitzgerald share their Wilmington home with lovable mutt Eli.