River Campus Announces Summer Arts Festival Dates and Shows


Southeast Missouri State University announces its fifth annual community River Campus Summer Arts Festival to be held June 16.

In addition to the festival date, the summer season will offer an ambitious production of three shows. The mainstage musical will be the smash hit “Little Shop of Horrors,” about a hapless florist shop worker who raises a plant that feeds on humans. The summer lineup also includes the comedy “The 39 Steps,” based on Alfred Hitchcock’s movie; and children and families will delight in seeing “Legally Blonde Jr.” All three productions have been made into hit movies.

Last year’s festival received rave reviews, according to festival organizers. More than 3,500 attended the one-day Saturday festival and audiences enjoyed three full-scale productions. Events scheduled for this year’s June 16 festival include live music, dance, theatrical performances, magic, visual arts displays, hands-on family-friendly art expression activities, museum exhibitions, musical instruments and animal petting zoos, creative writing workshops, an art walk, and other hands-on activities throughout the River Campus.

The festival offers hands-on art activities for children.

The community festival is free and open to all ages from the entire region. The event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is sponsored by Drury Hotels, the Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, US Bank, the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts, Southeast Missouri State University, City of Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation, Rust Communications, Ameren Missouri, KRCU, the Rosemary Berkel and Harry L. Crisp II Museum, and the University’s departments of Art and Music and The Conservatory of Theatre and Dance. Partners include the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, Old Town Cape and the United Way.

Each year the festival guest numbers grow and exceed their goals, said Rhonda Weller-Stilson, director of the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts and associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. The first year, around 1,000 people attended the Saturday River Campus Summer Arts Festival and “Nunsense” sold out.  Last year’s number swelled to more than 3,500 for the one-day festival that included the production of three shows.

Southeast President Carlos Vargas enjoyed the spirit of the Summer Arts Festival in 2017.

“The community has continued to embrace the River Campus Summer Arts Festival and our summer productions, and we continue to have people ask each year what we are doing next,” Weller-Stilson said. “Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, this year we will again offer two free admission performances of the musical ‘Legally Blonde Jr.’ There will be a morning and an afternoon performance of this production on June 16. It’s truly an all-day celebration of the arts – visual and performing.

“There is something for everyone of all ages,” she continued. “We encourage families and art lovers to make a day of it. Food by Chartwells is available for purchase, and people may bring a picnic. The festival represents our commitment to community outreach, showcases the work of professional artists from our region, and gives the community an opportunity to see what occurs at the River Campus. We are excited to reach out to a diverse population and kids of all ages.”

“Legally Blonde Jr.” the musical, with music and lyrics by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin and book by Heather Hack, will run on the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall stage at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Both performances will be open to the public and not require ticket purchases. Based on the award-winning Broadway musical and movie, the musical follows the transformation of Elle Woods as she tackles stereotypes, snobbery and scandal in pursuit of her dreams.

The festival offers craft activities for all ages, in addition to T-shirt print making, bookmark making, painting, chalk drawing and the opportunity to participate in the creation of an interactive coloring mural.

“The cast will be 10- to 15-year-old children performing for children playing the parts of sorority sisters, law school students, hairdressers and more,” Weller-Stilson said. “We’ve had great success with our kids performing for kids during the festival. We can’t wait to see what they do this year. There is so much young talent in the area.”

“Legally Blonde Jr.” will also have Friday, June 15, and Sunday, June 17, performances requiring tickets.

Capping the day’s events will be a performance of “The 39 Steps” at 7:30 p.m. in the Wendy Kurka Rust Flexible Theatre. This farce by Patrick Barlow will open Friday, June 15, and will have multiple performances through Sunday, June 24.

“This play has been described as a mix of a Hitchcock masterpiece with a juicy spy novel and a dash of Monty Python,” Weller-Stilson said. “It is a very fast-paced whodunit.”

Running alongside “The 39 Steps” is the musical “Little Shop of Horrors,” with book and lyrics by Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. Opening night for “Little Shop of Horrors” is Thursday, June 14, and will close June 27.

Tickets are on sale now and may be purchased by contacting the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., by calling (573) 651-2265 or online at RiverCampus.org.

“Numerous performances sell out every summer,” Weller-Stilson said. “We anticipate these three summer shows selling out as well, so I encourage everyone to get their tickets sooner rather than later. This is a summer of comedy with ties to the movies. There is something for all ages.”