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“Vicky Bussert is both a superb director and a transformational educator. We have been working together for 17 years on a shared vision of creating theater companies capable of producing Shakespeare and musicals, in repertory, at the highest level. She has created one of the most powerful musical theater training programs in the country, and her students and alumni are central to the success and growth of our companies.” – Charles Fee, producing aristic director, Idaho Shakespeare Festival/ Great Lakes Theater/Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival

Cleveland Heights before assuming her current post at Baldwin Wallace University, along with facilitating a partnership with BW and the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood. For the past eight years, Beck Center’s annual production schedule includes one musical infused with BW’s young talent under Bussert’s direction. “This partnership gives us a greater opportunity to seek out those shows that have appeal to younger audiences and require a cast of younger actors,” says the theater’s artistic director, Scott Spence. “The 20-minute drive from Berea to Lakewood gives my students’ brains time to shift into ‘I’m leaving as a student and arriving as a professional,’” Bussert says. “And their experience at Beck – the shorter rehearsal time on stage and the longer production schedule, the working with profession-

Courtesy of Vicky Bussert Vicky Bussert at a Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival rehearsal. als who do not operate the same way their teachers do, the audiences who are paying customers and not just supportive colleagues – offers valuable insight into the life of a working professional actor.” And professionals they will become. BW’s program, which auditions approximately 800 students each year and accepts 20, has been consistently recognized as one of the top musical theater programs in the country. And, for the past several years running, every senior showcase ends with every graduating student receiving professional agent or manager representation. Many have gone on to perform in Broadway shows such as “Aladdin,” “Anastasia,” “Les Misérables,” “Kinky Boots” and “Book of Mormon.” Just one month after graduating from BW this past May, Warren Egypt Franklin was cast to take over as Lafayette/Jefferson in the “Hamilton” national tour.

As director, educator and difference maker, Bussert firmly believes “in the transformative power of the four-year college experience.” It has most certainly worked for her students. And, it seems it has worked for her. Bussert was awarded $10,000 as a recipient of this year’s Cleveland Arts Prize, which is given by the Women’s City Club for artistic excellence and in recognition of those who help regional arts flourish.

ON STAGE VICKY BUSSERT

• Bussert will direct “The Music Man” from Sept. 27 to Nov. 3 at Great Lakes Theater, 2067 E. 14th St., Cleveland. • She will direct the academic premiere of “Kinky Boots,” Nov. 12-24 at Baldwin Wallace University’s Kleist Center for Art & Drama, 95 E. Bagley Road, Berea.

RENAISSANCE MAN MARTÍN CÉSPEDES • CHOREOGRAPHER

T

he conductor has his score, the director his script. The choreographer? Nothing but an inten-

30 | Canvas | Fall 2019

tion, hopefully an inspiration and a room full of bodies.” That, according to Martín Céspedes, is the tabula rasa that is musical theater choreography. He should know, having spent the last 15 years in Cleveland engaging in that enterprise at nearly every professional theater in town af-

ter a career touring the nation in celebrity-studded productions of Broadway shows that include “The King and I,” “South Pacific” and “Man of La Mancha.” When he takes on a new project, Céspedes, of Westlake, finds the intention behind the dance-to-be by listening to the

musical’s cast album, which he does repeatedly in the isolation of his studio. “The potential for dance arrangements,” he confides, “resides in the recording. I stand in front of the mirrors, set up my phone camera, and I riff, notating the length of the dance break, the time signatures – slow, 3/4, 4/4 – and envisioning

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