Northern Michigan University professor David Pierce and student Jill Vermeulen of Marquette are gaining valuable experience this summer working behind the scenes at the Adirondack Theatre Festival in Glens Falls, N.Y. They were part of the best-selling show in ATF history, Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat. This musical depiction of the misunderstood genius and his battle with mentor-turned-rival Thomas Edison is described as “Hamilton meets Tesla.” Given the subject matter, it is no surprise that the production required electrifying technical elements. Pierce was immersed in that aspect through his role of technical director and production manager.
“There was an extensive amount of work required to enhance the audience experience,” he said. “It ranged from LED lighting to moving lights to pixel mapping 130 individual LED lights in order to use them as a video wall. Everything came together seamlessly. The show generated a lot of buzz, not only in the region, but the entire theater community. Multiple Broadway producers made the trip upstate to see it. The production was even featured in Live Design, one of the more popular industry magazines. Audiences were energized and awestruck.
“You always hope the show you’re working on becomes a smash hit. In this case, that became reality. Being part of that invigorates me to keep pushing the boundaries of my own capabilities and pushing students at Northern to achieve greater things they feel they are capable of.”
Pierce has helped several students secure internships with the Adirondack Theatre Festival since he started working there in 2010. Vermeulen, a double major in theater and communications, is the latest. She is a marketing and social media intern, helping to promote this season's lineup of eight shows presented over eight weeks.
“I’m being handed so much responsibility here and the amount of faith the staff has in the interns is truly empowering,” Vermeulen said. “It’s a lot of work, like all summer stock, but being able to help market an eight-show season of new and contemporary works with Broadway-level talent is the best kind of busy and very rewarding. Nikola Tesla Drops the Beat was an exciting start to the season. I love it here. I appreciate all the things I’m learning and the opportunities I’m being granted.”
Vermeulen will shift from behind-the-scenes ATF duty this summer to a starring role in NMU's Forest Roberts Theatre season opener, the classic farce Noises Off. Performance dates are Sept. 29-Oct 7.