'My Generation' writer adds personal touch to theater


Emily Aasand

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'My Generation' writer adds personal touch to theater

Emily Cherry has always been drawn to theater.

Her theatrical career started when she was 6 and continued to flourish through the years, bringing her to the faculty of UND.

"My parents always say that I participated in a church musical when I was 6 and I told them that I had to 'audition' for it," Cherry said. "My parents looked at each other like, 'Does she even know what 'auditioning' is? What's going on? Who is this child?'"

Cherry, a native of Dallas, Texas, continued auditioning and took theater classes, learning to act and direct. With her outgoing and bubbly personality, she fit right in.

"I always thought theater was something I would 'get over' and then I'd get a real job," she observed. "I soon found that I was passionate about it and I didn't want to do anything else with my life."

Cherry graduated from Texas-Wesleyan University with a degree in musical theater and from Western Illinois University with a Master of Fine Arts in directing.

Cherry was hired to be head of musical theater and the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre program at UND. It was her job to create the curriculum that had to be approved by the University, different committees and the State Legislature to qualify for accreditation.

A directing teacher, she also supervises undergraduate projects and graduate student acting theses.

"She's a positive force and brings in positive energy to the theater program," said Kathleen McLennan, chair of UND's Department of Theatre Arts.

"This job is perfect for my areas," Cherry said. "I get to work with directing students and I get to direct theatrical programs."

"Urinetown," which was performed Nov. 8-10 and Nov. 15-17, was Cherry's fifth production at UND.

Cherry won't direct just any production. Her productions need to have a theme that she's passionate about.

"I like to switch it up, but I really like contemporary plays," Cherry said. "I like something I can sink my teeth into, something that has a deeper, darker underlying message."

Whether it is another theater production, a concert or a work of art, Cherry can find inspiration.

"I'm inspired by other works of art," Cherry said. "When it makes me leave the venue and I have to have a discussion about it with someone, it's a good production."

Cherry credits her drive to her "Type A" personality.

"I like to challenge myself and set high standards. I'm not satisfied until I achieve my goals," Cherry said. "A mentor of mine once said that if a production is successful, no one notices the director, and if a production is unsuccessful, everyone blames the director."

"She's very bright and very informed about theater," McLennan said. "Her ability to manage several things at once is incredible."

Last spring's UND production of "My Generation" was written by Cherry.

"My Generation" was the first production of its kind on campus. The audience was able to live tweet and post on Facebook about the show while it was taking place. The production also incorporated popular songs the audience would recognize.

"We formed 'My Generation' to involve the UND campus," Cherry said. "The students wrote any dialog that happened throughout the production. We all got really invested in it.

"My hope for my productions is that someone will walk away thinking about it or have a discussion about it beyond the auditorium."

Cherry's "My Generation" is being held for consideration for a regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival set for Lincoln, Neb., in January. The aim of this national theater education program is to identify and promote quality in college-level theater productions.

"The quality of productions at the festival is always excellent and we would be honored to be a part of it," Cherry said.

Cherry is currently working on a book chapter with two other UND faculty members, Carolyn Ozaki, assistant professor of teaching and learning, and Deborah Worley, assistant professor of educational leadership. The article will be about assessment in the fine arts, specifically within bachelor of musical theatre programs. The scholars are using UND's program as a case study, but also are planning several other studies around the country.

Emily AasandUniversity Relations student writer

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