WKU Fund recognizes visual theatre presentation by Hadley Rouse (’17)

WKU Fund recognizes visual theatre presentation by Hadley Rouse (’17) 
By Laryn Hildebrandt

Thanks to the WKU Fund, Hadley Rouse (’17) of Owensboro, Ky., and her mentor were able to transform traditional theatre in Bowling Green after traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland, this past spring.

Rouse, who graduated from WKU with a B.A. in Vocal Studies, and Dr. Liza Kelly, Assistant Professor of Music at WKU, first applied for a F.U.S.E. grant to attend Manipulate, a visual theatre festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, with the goal of curating and creating a show incorporating layered elements.

“This genre of visual theatre was new to the both of us, so we were eager to learn all that we could,” Rouse said. “I was fascinated about how different it is from the theatre that we experience in Kentucky.”

The grant they received—the Faculty-Undergraduate Student Engagement (F.U.S.E.) Grant—supports undergraduate intellectual development through active involvement in research, creative and scholarly activities and/or artistic performances.

“I am passionate about finding innovative ways to create art and tell stories,” Rouse said. “In a world that undervalues art, it is crucial to evolve as storytellers in order to meet the needs of the ever-changing society in which we live.”

Rouse and Dr. Kelly stayed in Edinburgh, Scotland, for two weeks attending the shows at Manipulate as well as two master classes hosted by the festival, each lasting three days.

In the first master class, participants experienced object theatre, which uses everyday items to aid in storytelling. Rouse and Dr. Kelly engaged in activities using objects as vehicles for symbolism and metaphors.

“We talked about what themes were most prevalent within the text of the song, and the symbolism that seemed to be present with items or ideas mentioned in the text,” Rouse said.

The second master class covered the topic of microcinema, which uses video cameras and live projection to explore items to discover details normally lost in traditional theatre.

After returning to WKU, they submitted an abstract to be a part of WKU’s 2017 REACH Week, which concluded with the 47th Annual Student Research Conference, sponsored by the WKU Fund. The abstract, titled “Tears Breaking on Glass,” summarized the plan to present a song in two forms: one in the traditional, theatre form and a second with the visual theatre added to showcase the effect of layered elements to enhance themes.

“During the visual theatre performance of the song, Dr. Kelly operated all of the items and video cameras,” Rouse said. “I sang the piece and was the performer acting out the ideas that we had created. The song I performed was not my own, but the theatrical performance aspect of it was something that Dr. Kelly and I co-created.”

After the presentation at the conference, the two received the feedback they hoped for from the audience: better understanding and more room for interpretation.

“I could not have done it without her,” Rouse said about Dr. Kelly. “She went above and beyond to help me and spent many hours outside of the workday devoted to this project.”

Rouse plans to make performance a part of her future, whether in childrens’ theatre, a professional choir, opera or working for Disney. 

“This project has given me confidence,” Rouse said. “I had never considered being on the other side of ‘making’ theatre before, but now that I have experienced writing, directing and producing, I am interested in learning more.”

The WKU Fund, part of the WKU Foundation, sponsored the Student Research Conference and provided an award to Rouse and the other award recipients. The WKU Fund attracts unrestricted private donations that support WKU innovative initiatives to help students persist, achieve and graduate.