Jump Start Sets the Stage for Success

audience at a play
Rebecca A. Eckland

This semester, Reno High School (RHS) students are taking college classes without leaving campus. As one of TMCC’s newest partners in the Jump Start Program, RHS students have the opportunity to take English 101, Theater 105 and Theater 209 (acting and practicum courses, respectively), taught by TMCC faculty. 

“This is a true community collaboration,” said Carolyn Wray, TMCC Theater Professor Emeritus who is assisting in the practicum class with costumes, props and other technical details of a theatrical production. Wray is joined by Dave Anderson, who teaches the acting and practicum classes, and who is the Director of the Fall performance, and TMCC Technical Director Ty Hagar, who is helping to renovate Reno High’s production spaces while also assisting students with the technical aspects of theater. 

“Usually it takes an army of instructors to put on a production—we’re very lucky to have an RHS full-time instructor [Kirstin Ryan] and our TMCC staff all focused on this performance,” said Wray. 

The collaboration is a win-win for all involved: RHS needed additional instructors to run a drama program,  while TMCC’s Performing Art programs are in need of physical spaces in which to practice and perform before a new building can be constructed on the Dandini Campus.  As a result, RHS students will earn credit toward their high school graduations while receiving college-level instruction (and credit, too). TMCC gains a production space that, next year, will offer a venue for its performances during the evening hours, thereby bringing TMCC performances closer to the community. 

Why Take Jump Start Classes? 

The Jump Start Dual Credit Program, which began in 2015, enables high school students to apply credits earned in Jump Start classes toward their high school diplomas and their college degrees. Aside from the obvious benefit of enabling students to truly “jump-start” their journey in higher education, the program also offers eligible high school students tuition discounts and access to TMCC student support services (which could include tutoring.) 

“The TMCC Jump Start program is thrilled to expand their program into Reno High School,” said Jump Start Academic and Community Liaison Karen Rubio. “Reno High is an excellent partner, and we are extremely excited about this Fall 2019 semester with them.”  

Reno High joins several community partners that currently offer 1,163 students across 50 cohort classes opportunities to gain college experience while simultaneously working toward a high school diploma. 

Setting the Stage for Success

Jump Start students, under the direction of Dave Anderson, are working on this semester’s production, Oscar Wilde’s comedy of manners "The Importance of Being Earnest". “It’s generally recognized as one of the best plays ever written,” said Anderson, who plans on instructing students not only on methods of memorizing lines but about the time and place in which the play was written. “The social milieu is as important to me as the plot and character. And, given the nature of these classes, we have the ability to spend time on these areas that you might not get to do in other theater venues.”
The students, Anderson says, are very enthusiastic—40 students participated in an audition for a play with nine speaking roles. “The history of theater at Reno High has been disrupted, and so the students are all for it,” said Anderson, who knows a little about the history of theater at Reno High. As an alumnus himself, he remembers playing the part of the butler in "The Importance of Being Earnest" when he was a freshman. Bringing theater back, and returning full circle with the same production that launched his interest in the performing arts,  is as serendipitous as it is fitting.

Jump Start theater classes will include rehearsal time and will host several guest speakers who are working professionals in the industry. “We will spend two periods back-to-back running lines, and staging the show.  On other days of the week, we will work on technical aspects of the show...  By November, the students will know the play like they know nothing else in their lives.” 

The biggest challenge? “I wasn't sure if students would embrace a 100-year old play,” Anderson admits. “So, I told them right off the bat that these characters are the Kardashians.” That, he said, did the trick... and enabled his students to study what Anderson says is one of the most important parts of theater today. 

“Recently, there’s been this decline in ‘style’. It’s been replaced by glitz, by technical feats, but the actual style of people—how they walk, carry themselves—is disappearing.” Students in Anderson’s class will focus on these details, elevating Wilde’s comedy by juxtaposing the pleasing appearance of the characters with their clumsy movements.

“In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing,” wrote Wilde. Thanks to an exciting collaboration between TMCC Theater, the Jump Start program, and Reno High School, students will learn that lesson (and that line) this semester. 

Performance dates and times for "The Importance of Being Earnest" are:

  • Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. 
  • Saturday, Nov. 16  7 p.m.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 22 at 7 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 23 (matinee time TBA)

All performances will be held at Reno High School. 

For more information about TMCC Visual and Performing Arts, contact the department at 775-674-7610.

For more information about TMCC’s Jump Start Program, contact the department at 775-673-8236.