by Natalie Rand
College of Charleston adjunct professor Rodney Lee Rogers shares his passion for theater not only in the classroom, but he also brings his expertise in screenwriting, acting, and directing to the Charleston community as the co-founder of PURE Theatre.
Since its debut in 2003, PURE has established a reputation for providing audiences with contemporary theatre and evocative performances featuring seasoned actors. Rogers directs, produces and stars in shows professionally at PURE, so switching gears to the collegiate stage at CofC requires him to adjust his creative process.
“When I direct professionally, I’ve generally done smaller cast shows, so I haven’t had all the toys,” he says.
Recently, Rogers has been fine tuning all of these elements for the College’s upcoming production of Enron , a dramatic look at the notorious Wall Street scandal. Originally written by British playwright Lucy Prebble, the play shines a spotlight on Jeffrey Skilling, the former CEO of the now defunct corporation. Starting Nov. 2, 2017, Enron is open to the public at the Emmett Robinson Theatre at 54 St. Philip St. Tickets are $12 for CofC students, $15 for senior citizens and CofC employees and $20 for the general public. Since beginning work on Enron nearly a year ago, Rogers has adjusted from the intimate setting and small cast of the PURE stage to the more elaborate, large-scale productions put on by the College’s Department of Theatre and Dance. With some 27 student actors, which is nearly double the core ensemble at PURE, and many more set and costume designers, Enron is a change of pace for Rogers, who is accustomed to the cozy family dynamic. “Enron is a big show with elaborate design, and technical elements,” he says.
The stripped-down production process at PURE encourages a kind of shorthand with the actors that can take more time to develop with younger student actors, Rogers explains. But despite the student performers having less experience on stage than his PURE colleagues, Rogers says he does not prefer one age group over another. “Students have a natural exuberance that is quite infectious,” Rogers says. “It is always a joy to be around that kind of sheer excitement and passion. This particular group is also extremely hard working and quick on their feet. The experience has been exceptional so far.” With more artistic elements to consider on the bigger stage, the CofC theatre program brings students and faculty together to create a theatrical narrative, which Rogers believes has been the most rewarding part of working with students. Although his professional and amateur endeavors often remain separate, Rogers finds that his two worlds collide when former CofC students end up in PURE productions. He sees significant crossover within the CofC theatre and PURE communities with not only actors, but also those involved in arts management and set design. RELATED: See the full 2017-18 schedule of CofC dance and theatre productions.
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