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Arts Academy students combine art and activism in collaboration with Parallel 45 Theatre and heal.be.live.

Award-winning actor and playwright Morgan Breon led students in The Prōcess, an original performance piece that encouraged connection and community.

Interlochen Arts Academy theatre students perform their original work, The Prōcess.

Interlochen Arts Academy theatre students perform their original work, The Prōcess.

Morgan Breon

Actor and playwright Morgan Breon, founder of heal.be.live.

An Interlochen Arts Academy theatre student performs in The Prōcess.

An Interlochen Arts Academy theatre student performs in The Prōcess.

An Interlochen Arts Academy theatre student performs in The Prōcess.

An Interlochen Arts Academy theatre student performs in The Prōcess.

Interlochen Arts Academy theatre students perform their original work, The Prōcess.

Interlochen Arts Academy theatre students perform their original work, The Prōcess.

In March, Interlochen Arts Academy, Parallel 45 Theatre, and Morgan Breon presented an original theatre work, The Prōcess. Breon and Arts Academy theatre students devised the performance piece during Breon’s eight-week residency at Interlochen, engaging in self-reflection activities to combine art and activism.

“We’re thrilled to bring Morgan to campus to work with our theatre students,” said Interlochen Director of Theatre Bill Church. “Her unique background in social work and theatre performance gives her a profound ability to help our students bring their personal narratives to the stage. This journey of discovery bolsters their work as performers and helps them bring even more of themselves to their acting work."

An actor, playwright, and 2018 Kresge Live Arts Fellow, Breon founded heal.be.live., a company that uses theatre and art to engage communities in conversations that are not always easy, and are often taboo. Interlochen and Parallel 45 Theatre co-sponsored her residency, continuing an ongoing partnership between the two artistic powerhouses that began in September 2019. Through the partnership, the two organizations established a dedicated residency in which directors and theatre-makers create and workshop new material at Interlochen Arts Academy.

“I’ve seen firsthand how hard it is to look at oneself, ask hard questions, and be willing to grow. So to watch my young students not only reflect deeply about themselves day in and day out, but also translate these reflections into thoughtful theatre,” Breon said. “I truly hope audiences understand the high level of emotional, mental, artistic, and professional commitment it took to set this work before them. But more than this, I hope this experience lasts with my students for the long run—and that it plays a small role in how they evolve as performers and people."

Breon’s prize-winning stage plays Portrait of a Wise Woman and Waking Up Alive have been featured at Two Muses Women’s Playwriting Festival and Detroit Fringe Festival. In 2017, Breon and Interlochen Arts Academy theatre students staged a reading of Waking Up Alive as part of the MITTEN Lab residency.

“The goal of The Prōcess is to help our students articulate their personal process,” Church said in an interview with 9&10 News. “I think this production is a great example of helping them identify who they are and what can make them a special performer.”

Each student had the opportunity to create a short piece about their personal journey, which was then incorporated into the overarching performance. Senior Grace Jun Walton, for example, drew on her experience growing up in the Traverse City theatre community. “It’s about the isolation and rejection I felt growing up as an Asian American in a small, predominantly white town, and how I learned to embrace myself and love myself for who I am,” Walton said.

“In my piece, I tried to encapsulate how I felt when I began the acting journey,” said junior theatre major Christian Roose. “I began as a person who was very involved in sports, and I envisioned my life in sports. But then theatre caught my eye and I was fighting with, ‘which one do I pick?’”

The partnership between Interlochen and Parallel 45 Theatre also encompasses opportunities for Arts Academy theatre students and alumni to serve as apprentices with Parallel 45 during the company’s summer performance season; 2021 Arts Academy graduate JT Langlas (IAC 19, IAA 19-21) will apprentice with the company during their summer 2022 season.

Langlas joins a robust group of fellow Interlochen alumni and current/former faculty and staff on Parallel 45’s professional artistic team, including actors Noah Durham Fried (IAC 97-98, IAA 98-01, IAC St 01, 08-13, 15-18, IAC Fac 07-14, ICA St 19-), Dan Lendzian (IAC Fac 13-14), Katherine Mangold (IAC 01, IAA 01-04, IAC St 16, 19), Paris Manzanares (IAC 19, IAA 20-), and Moses Princien (IAA 15-17); director Michael Norton (IAC 99-00, IAA 01-04); choreographer Jennifer Lott (IAC Fac 13-16); and costume intern Joiya Fishburn (IAA 20-).

Founded in 2010 by Interlochen alumni Kit McKay (IAC 94-95, IAA 95-97, IAC Fac 03-05, 07-12) and Erin Anderson Whiting (IAA 93-96, ICA St 09-14, 20), Parallel 45 Theatre produces cutting-edge interpretations of plays and musicals, giving familiar stories new life—and fresh relevance—for northwest Michigan audiences. Since its inception, Parallel 45 has brought more than 150 theatre artists from around the globe to northern Michigan to create and present groundbreaking shows. Each summer, Parallel 45 produces a festival of plays at Traverse City’s Civic Center Park. During the shoulder seasons, Parallel 45 operates a theatre education program and produces a free-to-the-public contemporary play reading series. Recent performances include The Sound of Music, Hair, and the Wilde Award-nominated production of Andre Gregory’s Alice in Wonderland.