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Revue relocates to Stepan

Kristen Durbin | Friday, February 11, 2011

The students behind the 2011 edition of the Keenan Revue boast that this year’s variety show is “Too Big for Saint Mary’s,” as the event’s move to Stepan Center means the venue and production will be larger than ever.

After the O’Laughlin Auditorium at Saint Mary’s College chose not to renew Keenan Hall’s contract last spring, Revue director Grayson Duren and producer Chase Riddle, both juniors, began their search for a new venue for the envelope-pushing production.

“We and the previous director and producer looked at alternate spots, including Washington Hall and the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend,” Duren said. “But we didn’t want to take it off campus to a place that was more professional than our show.”

Riddle said keeping the production free for students was also a factor in choosing a new location for the show.

“At the ticket distribution for the Revue, people always pull out their credit cards or ask how much it is, but we wanted to keep the event free for students,” Riddle said. “We needed a venue that could make the show free for nearly 4,000 people.”

With convenience, capacity and cost in mind, Duren and Riddle looked into using Stepan Center for the Revue. Duren said the building was especially appealing because of its location.

“Since our main focus was making the show free for students, Stepan was a great option because it’s on campus, so students wouldn’t have to pay for tickets or for transportation to get to an off-campus venue,” Duren said.

Once Keenan secured Stepan Center as its venue, Duren and Riddle knew the larger arena would require expanded lighting and sound technology than the standard equipment provided in previously used venues.

Riddle said that because he and Duren are amateurs at their jobs, they enlisted the help of the Student Activities Office for the production.

“We don’t have any experience with shows, so we had to go out of our element in a big way to make decisions about stuff we don’t really know about,” Riddle said. “Peggy Hnatusko [director of student activities programming for Student Activities] got us in contact with the right people to help us with the show’s production.”

Hnatusko helped Duren and Riddle get in touch with Shannon Stewart, an independent production manager and live sound engineer and consultant at Stewart Independent Production LLC who has worked on several productions at Notre Dame over the past 17 years.

Stewart, whose previous projects at Notre Dame include a Billy Joel concert, a Vince Vaughn comedy show and the B1 Block Party, agreed to provide sound and lighting technology for the Keenan Revue at a reasonable price, Riddle said.

“The lights and sound will be much better quality than they were at Saint Mary’s for about the same price,” Riddle said. “[Stewart’s] workers are practically working for free and paying for their hotels out of pocket so the public doesn’t have to pay for tickets to the Revue.”

Duren and Riddle said Stewart made it a point to come to Notre Dame because of his long history of producing events at the University.

“[Stewart] wants it to be good because it has his name and Notre Dame’s name on it,” Riddle said. “He’s like a saint because we’re paying for technology and service that would be four to five times as much otherwise.”

Stewart said he views his job as much more than just providing basic lighting and sound.

“Our goal is to create a hybrid between a concert and a theatrical event using professional sound reinforcement and lighting,” Stewart said. “We’ve created a theatrical production with a punch.”

Stewart said working with Notre Dame has always been a positive experience, especially with events in Stepan Center.

“We’re here to provide the client with the tools they need to bring their hard work and vision to life,” Stewart said. “It’s been a pleasure working with the Keenan guys and Fr. Dan [Nolan, Keenan Hall rector], and we always enjoy coming down here to do shows because it’s a great place.”

The Keenan Revue will be performed Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. in Stepan Center.