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February 13, 2020

SVSU theatre production about 1918 train disaster explores love, loss, and hope

A cheerful eulogy exploring the nature of performance, self and tragedy will be the focus of the upcoming Saginaw Valley State University production of “Roustabout: The Great Circus Train Wreck!”
Performances will run Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 19-22, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 23, at 3 p.m. in the Malcolm Field Theatre for Performing Arts.
“Roustabout” tells the story of the 1918 crash that injured and killed members of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, at the time one of the largest circuses in the country. The show combines historical events and fiction to resurrect the stories of circus performers who met their fate when an American military train plowed through a circus train outside of Chicago in 1918.
David Rzeszutek, associate professor of theatre, will direct the play. He most recently served in the same role in the SVSU productions of "Proof" last year and "The Servant of Two Masters" in 2018.
Rzeszutek said audiences at "Roustabout" should expect a show they have not seen the likes of at SVSU.
“It is a dark, jarring comedy that is essentially about love, loss, and hope,” he said. “There will be times that the audience will not know what is going on, but if they play along and go for the ride, it all comes together in the end.”
Along with Rzeszutek's direction, the production received inspiration from another industry professional. In January, 38 SVSU students engaged in a “movement workshop” with Jay Torrence, the playwright of “Roustabout.” Movement workshops are designed to help actors explore physical methods such as stage blocking, weight and space to communicate character to the audience. 
“One of Jay's main points about this show is to honor the performers and for the actors to be vulnerable,” Rzeszutek said of the lessons learned during Torrence's visit.
The SVSU production’s lighting design was created by Jaden O'Berry, a theatre major from Flint who won a lighting design competition at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival in January.
Tickets for “Roustabout: The Great Circus Train Wreck!” are available to purchase online for $15 at