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Fitting Tribute

Two friends of the former BSC Children’s Theater honored

Story Series
News Feature

A wall in the Rondileau Campus Center’s green room has been refashioned into a tribute to two men who played integral roles in the school’s theatrical past. Steven H. Dennis (1951-2017) and Andrew F. Callahan (1951-2004) collaborated on several productions of what was then known as the Bridgewater State College Children’s Theater.

The posters from the eight shows that the two men were both involved in are now framed and hanging in the green room. (A green room is a space set aside, usually backstage, at a theater or concert hall where the performers can relax before and after a show or when they’re not onstage.) The posters are from productions staged between the years 1995 to 2001 (the Children’s Theater ran until 2008).

Theater Professor James Quinn had recently looked at the wall and noticed it was covered with artwork that had little to nothing to do with Bridgewater State or the theater department. He saw an opportunity to salute two gifted artists who gave so much to the institution.

“I thought it would be a fitting tribute,” Professor Quinn said.

All but one of the posters are from the original run. They were designed by Mr. Callahan, who was a skilled graphic designer, painter, and award-winning cartoonist. In his career, he travelled to every state in the nation drawing caricatures, primarily at colleges and universities. He studied theater and art at Bridgewater State, graduating in 1974. 

“He never took a dime for any of his work,” Mr. Quinn recalled. That work included not only the original poster designs, but set and costume design – subjects Mr. Callahan studied during his time at Bridgewater.

Mr. Dennis graduated in 1997. He was a teacher in the Attleboro school district (he was once a finalist for the state’s Teacher of the Year Award), but his passion was composing music and lyrics. He provided both for many Children’s Theater productions.

“He was a very talented musician,” Professor Quinn said. “His songs, honestly, they were really good, as good as Sesame Street.”

Sometimes Mr. Dennis would have to knock out two songs in a single day as a production’s deadline loomed. On several occasions he played roles in productions, once as a puppet mariachi musician.

The hanging of the posters brought back memories for Professor Quinn and Matthew Greene, an adjunct faculty member in the Theater Department, who starred in several of the shows whose posters now adorn the green room wall. The productions were notable for being original creations, written by Professor Quinn and playwright David Frieze, and directed by Professor Quinn. Most began with an idea and an outline that would be fleshed out once the cast was in place. In order to attract classes of school children, each musical had to include elements of the state’s frameworks.

The shows represented by the newly hung posters are: The Bird Room, based on the novel Jack and Jill by Louisa May Alcott; Wonderland: The World of Lewis Carroll; Johnny B or the Roller Blades, based on the story Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates; 3001: The Odyssey in Space, which takes Homer’s epic to new heights; Beyond the Wizard, based on the famous story set in Oz; In the Shadow of Menlo Park, about an inventor creating in the shadow of Thomas Edison; A Kipling Kala-Radana, based on the work of the famed poet; and Radio Roundup, a comical musical replete with cowboy songs. (Story and photo by John Winters, G’11, University News; scans of posters courtesy of Matthew Greene)

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