Theater Department Launching ‘Crash House’ Project

Do not protest too much, William Shakespeare, but one of your theatrical works is about to be upstaged.

EMU’s theater department has announced the creation of a stimulating new program – the "Crash House Collaborative Theater Project."

Heidi Vogel Winters, associate professor of theater at EMU
Heidi Vogel Winters, associate professor of theater

According to Heidi Vogel Winters, associate professor of theater at EMU, its purpose is "to aid a diverse group of high school students in finding original, collaborative voices that will serve to bridge the gap between disparate subcultures and bring them together in a reconciling way.

In addition, she said, "Students will learn to draw upon important voices of the past and present while discovering how to mold these voices into a new instrument of peace."

Five Participating Schools

Crash House will select three student applicants from each of the five local high schools – Harrisonburg, Eastern Mennonite, Broadway, Turner Ashby and Spotswood – to take part in this theater experiment. The group will read and discuss Shakespeare’s "Othello" and then dissect and reshape the play in collaboration with director Heidi Winters Vogel, recent EMU theater graduate and playwright Pam Mandigo and others.

Following this process, Mandigo will take the generated material and synthesize it into an original text. While her work is in progress, students will reconvene and present the work-in-progress to family, friends, and community members in the EMU Mainstage Theater.

"We hope to then stage the play and tour the participating high schools during the 2008-2009 school year, Winters Vogel said.

Shakespeare’s tragedy, "Othello, The Moor of Venice," is believed to have been written around 1603. As a testament to its popularity, the play appeared in seven editions between 1622 and 1705. With its varied themes of racism, love, jealousy and betrayal, the work remains relevant today.

All Students Welcome

Participation in Crash House is not limited to those with theater experience. Students with broad interests, including communication, visual arts, writing, music, languages and storytelling, are welcome to apply. All student participation is free.

Group meetings will be held 3-5 p.m. on June 3, 5, 10, and 12 and from noon to 4 p.m. on June 16-20 and 23-27 in the EMU Studio Theater. Transportation will be arranged for students who need it.

"This four-week collaboration needs students willing to dig deep," Winters Vogel said. "It needs students who speak different languages, who come from different places and represent diverse cultures. It needs students who can come together and wrestle with their differences and create something that belongs to all of us.

"In essence, we’ll be shaking up Shakespeare to empower local high school students find their voice," she added.

The collaborative project is being funded in part by the Arts Council of the Valley and Teatro Chirmol, a bilingual theater workshop for area youth.

For more information, contact Winters Vogel at 540-432-4452; email: