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New theatre group of University of Toledo faculty, alumni perform unique works

On August 8, 2012

A new theatre group of University of Toledo faculty and alumni want to make a positive impact on Toledo’s theater scene.

The Catalyst Theatre Network was co-founded by Jennifer Rockwood, Matthew Gretzinger, Kate Abu-Absi, Jennifer Nagy Lake, Timothy Lake and John Paul Welch. The group came together after working with one another on a production during the fall of 2011.

The group hopes to attract new audiences to theater who will develop an appreciation for theater as art. They also plan to recruit new members, especially students interested in theatre.

The founders are a relaxed bunch who stress that Catalyst is meant to be nonexclusive.

According to Abu-Absi, director of the university’s Arts Living Learning Community, the group is hoping to draw in new people to the Toledo theater scene. The group is passionate about theater, and they want people in the area to appreciate it as both entertainment and art.

Assistant Dean of First Year Experience Rockwood said she wants Catalyst’s work to get people talking about important topics.

Many theater groups typically have to perform works that will appeal to their specific audience, however Catalyst is planning to focus on works that are personally interesting.

The group recently performed “Macbeth,” but they hope to perform unusual and new scripts in the future. “We all have very different styles and tastes, and that will probably show in our productions,” said Gretzinger, a part-time theater instructor for the university.

Abu-Absi said the group’s goal is to perform at least two productions each year.

The group is not restricted to any particular genres but according to some of the founders, the group will try to attract new and younger audiences. Rockwood explained the group is interested in working with new playwrights as well as new actors.

“We want to grow something new and have diversity,” she said.

Catalyst hopes their group will bring more opportunities for theater enthusiasts in the Toledo area.

Rockwood said the group is full of people who can multi-task. People in the group can easily change roles and try out new positions. The ability to switch roles or to take on more than one task will help the members of the group to gain new talents that may have otherwise gone undiscovered, she said.

The group is allowing people to appreciate every aspect of theatre, not just the acting. The group is also looking forward to expanding to include the University of Toledo community.

University students will not be excluded from Catalyst. Some of the founders have already expressed interest in including students as well as other people from the Toledo area.

“I would love to get my students involved with any aspect of the productions,” Abu-Absi said.

With their first production completed, the group will work on new ways to appeal to students as well as other Toledo community members.

Currently, the group has a Facebook page which is public to anyone, but Gretzinger said he wants to develop a website to receive feedback and connect with people who are interested in getting involved.

Catalyst has big dreams and hopes to change the world through their work, according to Rockwood.

“The sky is the limit,” she said.

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