Theater and Dance introduce Academic Underground on WSIE

The fictitious college of Aurum University is not just a place where education happens, but where secrets are uncovered, where drama unfolds and the lives of some become unhinged. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville is now broadcasting its first radio soap opera drama on WSIE 88.7 FM, The Sound. “Academia Underground,” an original soap opera drama, is performed, directed, produced and written by SIUE students and staff. The first installment aired on Wednesday, Nov. 8.
The idea of the student-involved project had been, for several years, on each of the minds of Peter Cocuzza, professor in the Department of Theater and Dance, and Steve Jankowski, WSIE director. “I was talking to Steve one day, and he said he had this idea for a radio soap opera drama,” said Cocuzza, who began writing the script in the fall of 2016.

“When I was a student at SIUE in the early 1970’s, I was part of a radio repertory theater group,” said Jankowski. “I thought a radio soap opera drama would be a good way to involve students across different disciplines.”

Academic Underground; Steve Jankowski, Peter Cocuzza and Clara Parker

This program will be a collaborative effort for College of Arts and Sciences students across different majors. Students from the Department of Theater and Dance will help with the performance of the drama. Students from the Department of Music will work on the sound track, instrumentation and other sounds, while Mass Communications students will help produce the show.

During the first season, the main four characters, all freshmen, will tackle issues such as drinking, plagiarism and character development.

“This project will not only bring creative satisfaction, but will also serve the University by setting us apart from other schools and theater departments our size,” said Cocuzza. “In the future, students may also be able to get course credit for working on the radio drama.”
“This is unique programming that is not being offered anywhere else,” Jankowski added. “I don’t know of any other universities, schools or radio stations in the region that are producing an original radio drama.”

Cocuzza explained a little more about the fictitious university: “We are Aurum University, where knowledge is gold and secrets are the currency of education. We turn our students into gold. Aurum, (which is Latin for gold) sits on top of an old abandoned gold mine.”

“I hope the drama will be something our listeners can enjoy,” Jankowski added.

A lot of work has gone into writing, rehearsing and producing “Academia Underground,” according to the assistant director, Hannah Warntjes, a junior majoring in theater performance. “It has been a fun and rewarding experience,” Warntjes said. “While we have worked to make the soap opera entertaining, we have also tried to center it on things that will be relevant to college listeners.”

“Academia Underground” is also expected to be performed in front of live audiences, according Cocuzza and Jankowski.

To date, there are 12 CAS students involved. The first season will consist of eight, 30-minute episodes, scheduled to run Wednesdays from Nov. 8-Dec. 27.

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