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Life Without Parole is coming to LA with your help

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Dear Theatre Patrons,

Life Without Parole, a play inspired by the work and research of the late Dr. Elizabeth Dermody Leonard, will be professionally produced at the Edgemar Theater in Santa Monica for three weeks in October and November 2016 by American Coast Theater Company. Written by Professor Warren Doody, Life Without Parole tells the story of Helen Broker, a woman serving fifteen years to life for the second-degree murder of her abusive husband, and who is seeking parole for the first time. This Los Angeles premiere will be directed by VU Theatre Arts Chair Susan K. Berkompas.

The Global Center for Women and Justice is serving as a producer for this show, and we are asking for your help in meeting the various costs associated with this production. The theater itself has already been rented and reserved, but the production still needs to raise the $15,000.00 necessary to pay the professional cast and crew. The Elizabeth Dermody Leonard Memorial Fund, designed specifically for those projects that continue and extend her research, represents a means for you to contribute to this project, one intended to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence.

Robert Leonard, her surviving husband, has written of the play and the memorial fund,

“Nothing would have pleased Elizabeth more than to know that the work that meant so much to her continues, thanks to the continued efforts of those who share her desire for justice for all women who have suffered from an abusive relationship or who have been denied justice by our legal system.”

 If you are willing to help raise the funds necessary to produce this work, please send your tax-deductible donation to the Elizabeth Dermody Leonard Memorial Fund at the address below. Please make checks payable to Vanguard University—GCWJ in Memo. If you would like to make an online donation, please visit https://connect.vanguard.edu/leonard.

Vanguard University
Attn: Global Center for Women and Justice
55 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Yours in peace and grace,

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Sandra Morgan, PhD, RN
Director, Global Center for Women and Justice
Vanguard University

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KCACTF – Hawaii Bound!

This morning 10 of our VU Theatre Majors boarded a plane and set off to Honolulu, Hawaii to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival!  This is the 48th Annual Region VIII Festival and includes Universities from Arizona, Central and Southern California, Guam, Hawaii, Southern Nevada, and Utah.

Thanks to our patron’s generous donations through our Pass-the-Hat initiative we were able to raise over $8,000 and use that money to pay for the student’s registration fees, hotel accommodations, and our five performer’s plane tickets.

This year Austin Nunn, Brock Joseph, and Hannah DeBoer were nominated to participate in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions. They will be performing in three rounds of auditions with their partners Pierre Ekladios and Nahtori Johnson for a chance to receive an incredible educational scholarship. These scholarships provide recognition, honor, and financial assistance to outstanding student performers wishing to pursue further education. The Irene Ryan Foundation awards 8 regional awards and two national scholarships annually. There are two scholarships of $3,500 each for the winners at the national festival in Washington, D.C.

Brock Joseph and Nahtori Johnson were also invited to perform a scene from our production of Life Without Parole for KCACTF’s Evening of Invited Scenes. Their scene will be one of only 15 performing in this special event.

Throughout the week our students will participate in a wide variety workshops ranging from performance to design and directing. Special guest lectures are held and College productions from throughout the region are performed.

We couldn’t be happier for our students attending and ask you to join us as we pray for safe travels and a sound return.

For more information on the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival click Here.


Theatre Arts Alumna Bretlyn Schmitt `15 Named Woman of the Year

by Tom Titus

There exists, right here in our own backyard, a wealth of theatrical talent. This newspaper has celebrated it for the past four decades, honoring, at the close of each year, two individuals who have excelled in their specialties, beginning with David Emmes and Doris Allen in 1974.

On this, the 42nd such occasion, the spotlight falls on a writer/actor who’s also a magician and a recent college graduate who has created some exceptional choreography during her time at a local university.

They are two people who charmed audiences at the Huntington Beach Playhouse and Vanguard University, respectively, during the past year — Scott Ratner and Bretlyn Schmitt, the Daily Pilot’s man and woman of the year in theater for 2015.

Read full article here


Curtain Call


After ten years of serving you as Theatre Manager here at Vanguard University, it is now time for me to take the final bow.

It has been my great joy to work with all of you over the years. After all of this time and all of our many interactions, I feel like we are good old friends. And I can assure you that one of the best parts of my job was developing and deepening these long-term relationships with all of you as we enjoyed season after season of wonderful theatre shows here at VU.

But now, please welcome your new VU Theatre Manager, Nick Lazaris.


Nick is a graduate of the Vanguard University Theatre program, and you probably have already worked with him because he covered for me during the summers of 2011 and 2013. And, you have also seen him plenty of times performing in roles on the Lyceum Theater stage during his time here as an undergraduate student.

We will, of course, do everything we can to make this transition as streamlined as possible, and would greatly appreciate your patience as things evolve into Nick’s way of operating. I am confident that he will bring a lot of great improvements to the process, and that you will really enjoy getting to know him as he serves in this capacity.

So, please be prepared to hear a different voice at the other end of the phone line. And also be assured that you will continue to be well cared for in all of the ways that the Vanguard University Theatre Department has served you in the past.

“What am I going to do now?” you may ask. Well, I don’t exactly know, but I do have a few irons in the fire, so we’ll just have to see which one gets hot enough to light up the path in front of me.

I do extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you for making my job so enjoyable over the years. You have been great to work with, and I know that you will continue to enjoy the VU Theatre Department productions for many years to come.

Your friend,
Bill Hughes


Director Savell has done an outstanding job of tempering these two literary lions into creatures of genuine warmth and humanity.

Amick Byram, who has directed several productions at Vanguard, delivers a superbly layered performance as Lewis, the confirmed intellectual bachelor whose views on the Almighty are challenged by his personal developments. His gradual affection for the visiting American is finely tuned and splendidly accomplished.

Taking on the task of Joy, the self-described Jewish-Communist-Christian, is Susan K. Berkompas, producing artistic director at Vanguard. It’s a marriage made in theatrical heaven as Berkompas (with a fine New York accent) penetrates the snobbish world of English intelligentsia in a bravura performance.

Paul Eggington’s unit setting allows for swift alterations, aided by James Mulligan’s artwork, David Pecoraro’s lighting effects and Lia Hansen’s 1950s period costumes.

“Shadowlands” is one of those rare plays that touches the head and the heart with equal pressure. The production at Vanguard explores its myriad subtleties beautifully.

Vanda Eggington named OC Theatre “Woman of the Year” 2009 by Daily Pilot

Vanguard University has shared the talents of Eggington with the Lamb’s Players Theater in San Diego, where she has amassed a prodigious number of credits.

More recently, she has been especially active with the Costa Mesa college, mounting productions of “Godspell,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Guys and Dolls,” “The Fantasticks” and her original show, “Boomers.”

The latter production, staged this summer for Vanguard’s professional stock operation, American Cost Theater Company, was a reprise of a revue she created and directed for the San Diego theater in the early 1990s.

“Vanda’s skills as a musical director and arranger are top-notch, and she is able to tell great stories through the way she visualizes music and lyrics,” said Vanguard’s producing artistic director Susan Berkompas. “‘Boomers’ should have had a great run in an off-Broadway house in New York. It just doesn’t get any better than that when it comes to a musical revue.”

Equally at home with nonmusical productions, Eggington also directed Vanguard’s renditions of “Oklahoma Rigs,” “Cleopatra’s Wake” and “You Can’t Take It With You.”

Keeney and Eggington have distinguished themselves in local theater for many years, but particularly during this season. Their selection as the Daily Pilot’s man and woman of the year in theater is long overdue.

Vanguard Tops in College

“Vanguard Tops in College… For the third consecutive year, a Vanguard production has topped the list of local college theatre shows.”

-Tom Titus, LA Times, Daily Pilot


The cast of every show is also faced with responsibility, too, and a recent audience of “Twelve Angry Jurors” handed down a unanimous verdict: a much deserved standing ovation for the play smartly directed by Susan K. Berkompas… When you add up all the facts, there is no argument. Missing “Twelve Angry Jurors” at the Lyceum Theater in Costa Mesa would be a crime.

– Jill Fales, Village Voice, November 3, 2009

Twelve Angry Jurors

“Director Susan Berkompas’ superior Vanguard production crackles with the immediacy of today. “12 Angry Jurors” is first and foremost an ensemble piece, and Vanguard’s dedicated dozen do their utmost to gradually — and repeatedly — raise the tension level to the boiling point. Fifty-five years after television audiences first witnesses it, and no matter how familiar the characters have become, “12 Angry Jurors” is a gripping emotional experience, splendidly reenacted at Vanguard University.”

-Daily Pilot, October 29, 2009