School of Music, Theatre and Dance

Gala to celebrate 50 years of performances inside OU’s historic Varner Hall

Varner: Act II Gala will take place Nov. 9-12, Nov. 16-19

Varner Act II Gala rehearsal

OU students rehearse for the Varner: Act II Gala. (Photos courtesy Crystal Orser)

Varner Act II Gala rehearsal

OU students rehearse for the Varner: Act II Gala.

Varner Act II Gala rehearsal

OU students rehearse for the Varner: Act II Gala.

Varner Act II Gala rehearsal

OU students rehearse for the Varner: Act II Gala.

Varner Act II Gala rehearsal

OU students rehearse for the Varner: Act II Gala.

icon of a calendarOctober 20, 2023

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Gala to celebrate 50 years of performances inside OU’s historic Varner Hall
Varner: Act II Gala
The Varner Act II Gala will celebrate 50 years of performances inside OU's historic Varner Hall (Photo courtesy Crystal Orser)

As renovations to Oakland University’s Varner Hall wrap up, the School of Music, Theatre and Dance is celebrating 50 years of performances inside the historic building, which is named for the university’s first president, D.B. Woody Varner.

“The Varner: Act II Gala is about celebrating the end of the renovations, but it’s also about celebrating our students and the history of the musical theatre productions at Varner,” said Teri Hansen, visiting assistant professor of musical theatre and director of the Varner Act II Gala. “It’s about acknowledging our present and looking toward the future.”

Taking place on Nov. 9-12 and Nov. 16-19, the Varner: Act II Gala will feature songs from shows that have been performed inside Varner Hall over that last 50 years, including The Who’s Tommy, Marvin Hamlisch’s A Chorus Line, Stephen Sondheim’s Company, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, and many more; as well as contemporary musicals including A New Brain and Legally Blonde.

“It’s really just wildly entertaining and fun,” Hansen said. “There will be some knee-slapping, and maybe a few tears will be shed because it’s so beautiful and heartfelt.”

Tickets for the Varner: Act II Gala can be purchased online at etix.com and are $45 for VIP, $25 for adults, $15 for students, and $20 for seniors. OU students and faculty receive complimentary admission.

Throughout the Gala, there will also be special events hosted by the School of Music Theatre and Dance, including Donor Night (Nov. 10), College Day (Nov. 12), Pride Night (Nov. 17), and Alum Night (Nov. 18). A sensory friendly performance, which will be shadow-signed for the Deaf, will also take place on Nov. 18.

OU students participating in the Gala will also be raising funds for The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth.

“We have also reached out to some wonderful, distinguished alum from the Theatre Department and they will be providing virtual guest appearances, which is going to be exciting,” Hansen said. “Who it will be will be a surprise, but we’re very excited about that and grateful for their participation and for their continued enthusiasm about the Theatre Department for years beyond their graduation.”

The Varner: Act II Gala will also help to raise funds that will create opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

“We are still in the midst of the Varner: Act II fundraising drive and we are also seeking to enhance the Student Opportunity Fund with additional giving that will be occurring during the nine performances that we have from Nov. 9 – Nov. 19,” Hansen said.

The Student Opportunity Fund is a special fund that will provide student enrichment experiences beyond the classroom. These enrichment experiences are a critical component to success, especially in the competitive field of the performing arts, and also allow students to develop important skills such as collaboration and teamwork, creative authorship, design, global learning, civic engagement, critical thinking and the ability to learn from constructive criticism.

“In addition to the wonderful renovations that took place, we still have a few little things on our ‘to do’ list that have to be done, and so those monies will enable us to do that, and also to continue to provide the students with wonderful opportunities,” Hansen said. “For example, right now we’re working on taking them to The Wiz in Chicago, and taking them to New York for a showcase where they will be exposed to casting directors and agents so we can ‘push them out of the nest’ and watch them soar.”

Hansen, who has received international recognition for her crossover abilities as an actor from Broadway to film/TV and concert stages around the world, knows firsthand how important supporting the performing arts can be.

“I look at any opportunity I have to perform or participate in the arts as preparing a meal to be served,” Hansen said. “When that plate arrives in front of them, you want the person receiving it to receive it as a gift. That’s what the arts means to me. It’s a gift; it is something that I am giving with all of my heart and soul and 100 percent of my being. It is the way I communicate best, whether it’s on stage or as a director leading others. It is, aside from teaching or maybe cooking, the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

To learn more about Varner: Act II and how you can help support the performing arts at Oakland University, visit is.jingye0769.com/smtd/give/varner-act-ii.

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