Another great year for the River Campus?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hello, everyone. Long time no see, huh?

Those of you who've read this magazine since its creation will recognize me as SE Live's first editor, the Southeast Missourian's former arts and entertainment editor. For the past several months I've been a bit out of the entertainment loop, since I'm now helping to oversee the Southeast Missourian's operation of its website,

But since Chris Harris was out of town earlier this week, she asked me to fill in as editor, and I'm honored.

As I wondered what to write about in this guest column, the first thing that came to mind was last year's big entertainment story, Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus. Last year the River Campus had a great inaugural season with sold-out shows — touring and locally produced — one after another. Musicals, symphony concerts, dance concerts — all of them brought in more people than Southeast's productions ever had before, thanks in large part to the 1,800-seat capacity of the Bedell Performance Hall.

This year plenty of big productions are on the schedule. The university already debuted its theater season with the musical "The 1940s Radio Hour." As I write this column Monday night, the university is getting ready to host the sensational touring production "Stomp." Coming soon is the touring production of "Sweeney Todd." If it's anywhere near as good as the movie starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter, the stage version will be amazing. "Hairspray," "Footloose" and the Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker" will help round out the touring season.

Year one was big. Can year two be as big?

We're still early in the season, so the answer is still unclear. Last year I pondered whether the outstanding ticket sales at the River Campus had to do with the novelty of the new venue or the quality of its programming. This year, year two, is the year that will reveal that answer. At this point, pretty much anyone who's interested in going to a show at the River Campus and who can afford a ticket has gone. Will they keep coming back?

In a few months we'll know the answer. Let's hope they do, because having a vibrant performing arts center can only benefit the city now that the River Campus is open.

Of course, it's also safe to say many people might have less money for tickets this year (especially season tickets), what with the bad economy and all. But surely Wall Street isn't powerful enough to ruin the River Campus season. Is it?

A guest column by former SE Live editor Matt Sanders.

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