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Milligan production invited to Kennedy Center Festival

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, TN (Dec. 5, 2006) — Christmas arrived a few weeks early this year for Milligan professors Richard Major and Rick Simerly. They received official notification yesterday that the college’s recent original musical, The Gospel According to Jazz, has been invited to perform at the 39 th annual regional Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Americus, Ga., on Feb. 10.

KCACTF is a year round national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide which has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States.

Milligan was notified in mid-November that their production was one of 30 productions being recommended and reviewed for the annual festival. Yesterday seven of the 30 were invited to the regional festival, to be held at Southwestern Georgia University Feb. 6-11. Milligan will perform at 12 noon on  Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Rylander Theatre (http://www.rylander.org).

“This is a significant achievement,” said Major, Milligan’s professor and director of theatre. “We were competing with colleges and universities of all different sizes, including Florida State, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Central Florida.”

Major said a special encore presentation of The Gospel According to Jazz would be presented at Milligan in early February to help defray the costs of attending the festival.

“The Gospel According to Jazz is indeed a celebration of jazz music and the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Dr. Dennis R. Elkins, professor of performing arts at Savannah College of Art & Design, who saw the production during its premier at Milligan’s Homecoming Weekend in October.

“Reinterpreted through the backdrop of a devastated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Jesus becomes a social worker bringing relief to the ravaged Louisiana metropolis with his disciples, a rag-tag group of volunteers,” said Elkins. “I’m glad this show will have a longer life and a wider audience. It is an ingenious and inspiring theatre experience.”

Set in what appears to be the washed out remains of a post-Katrina French market section of New Orleans , The Gospel According to Jazz is loosely based on the gospel of John. Its ultimate message is one of hope. Fueled by the vibrant, joyous tones of jazz music, the production showcased the talents of a cast of 18 members and a musical ensemble of 26 directed by Milligan professor and local jazz talent Rick Simerly. Broadway vocalist and local gospel and jazz talent Loretta Bower s of Elizabethton, Tenn., joined the ensemble as guest vocalist.

“I could not be happier for our students and the entire company who labored so unselfishly this past fall on this remarkable production,” said Simerly, associate professor of music. “This is truly one gift that will make this holiday season even brighter for all of us.”

More details about the upcoming festival and encore presentation at Milligan will be available at www.milligan.edu/theatre.


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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