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the arts ACT I: Vpstart Crow is willing to take a chance S ticking your neck out for what you love can be a grueling endeavor. But never doing so is even worse. That’s the lesson learned by Travis Morris ’10 who, along with Julie Wolfson ’08 and his brother Tristan ’08, founded a student-run, independent theater company called Vpstart Crow (Pronounced “upstart crow”). They focused on a kind of on-location acting, known as “found” theater. It is an innovative type of theater that can take place anywhere – not just a performance hall. The group was enthralled with the idea, Wolfson even sunk her own money into it. “We were still naïve enough to say we’ll pay to do this,” Tristan Morris said. It wasn’t that they didn’t like performing in the theater department’s shows – quite the contrary. They just wanted more theater, especially during the down times on campus. So they stuck their neck out. And Vpstart Crow was born. They didn’t know what to expect. 18 PLU SCENE SPRING 2009 > THE ARTS Their first effort was the one-woman show “Search for Signs of Intelligent Life,” with Wolfson acting, Tristan Morris directing, and a few other students, including Travis Morris, helping out. “Give people the tools to make what they’re passionate about, and inspire others to be part of the world” “Give people the tools to make what they’re passionate about, and inspire others to be part of the world,” Wolfson said she learned from her professors. “That really stuck with me and I think it’s what is taught here.” The chance they took inspired other students, like Zoe Mandels, to do the same. Mandels applied for a grant called the Carol Sheffels Quigg Award for Excellence and Innovation in 2008. The award seeks to recognize PLU students, faculty and staff who are creative in advancing the university’s mis- sion. Every year, those with great ideas take advantage of the award. The recognition was great. The $2,000 was even better. The group used the money to purchase lighting that can be easily transported and set up, so that they could mount performances virtually anywhere – key to advancing the notion of “found” theater. Mandels efforts made sure the theater group would have funds to keep providing innovative, low-cost theater for years to come. Although Julie and Tristan have since graduated, the group they founded continues. Travis Morris said this year has been a learning process as well, as the club has established what it’s going to be for years to come. “It’s going to be defined each year,” he said. “So much of it was conceived by the shows that were performed.” So, year by year Vpstart Crow could be different and really depends on the chances students are willing to take, he said. Or, in what ways they are willing to stick out their necks. S — Chris Albert

Scene Magazine - Spring 2009

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