WMC senior gives outlet to campus artists, audiences


Everything Shannan "Sierra" Hurtt does should be preceded by a drum roll.

But she should have been called a magician when she spearheaded the effort that transformed her nine-member creative and performing arts support group into the second largest non-Greek group on the Western Maryland College campus.

"I knew I'd be involved in groups like this, but I never thought I'd start one myself," said Ms. Hurtt, president and founder of the Society for Creative and Performing Arts (SCAPA). "Now I have these visions about making it bigger, and spreading it to other places."

The original group consisted of nine performing arts students -- musicians, singers, actors and artists -- living in one of the special-interest housing suites on campus during the 1990-1991 academic year.

As part of their living arrangements, the students had to perform programs related to the arts -- two for the residence hall and one for the entire campus.

By spring 1992, there were 72 members and three advisers -- the heads of the music and theater departments and a professor from the art department.

Only the College Activities Programming Board, which is involved in campus-wide and public events, has more members.

"A lot of people didn't take this responsibility seriously, but we did," said Ms. Hurtt, 21, a senior theater and Spanish major. "We showed various creative films like 'Labyrinth,' with David Bowie, and set up a coffee house at the campus pub where we held open mike for musicians and singers."

The campus-wide program that the group sponsored was a dress formal where one of SCAPA's "music people" showcased various disc jockeying skills.

"We figured the fraternities and sororities always had formals and the independents never got to dress up and go anywhere," Ms. Hurtt said. "We decided everyone else needed an outlet, too."

The group's purpose is to give people an outlet, a connection, a place to showcase and explore their talent and creativity, Ms. Hurtt said.

"We decided that people in the arts needed a group, a place to expand and share their talents. We are expanding the scope of the group to include creative writers, of which we have many members."

The group is searching for an adviser from the English department to help the writers, Ms. Hurtt said.

With her background in assorted art forms, Ms. Hurtt seems qualified to help most of the members in her group.

During her childhood in Philadelphia, she was surrounded by music. Her father, Phil Hurtt, is a composer, arranger and producer who worked with such rhythm and blues greats as The Spinners; Sister Sledge, the pop diva of the late 70s; and cult pop favorite The Village People.

Ms. Hurtt said she is a self-taught guitarist and pianist, and sings backup for the local band Kevin Benjamin, which will be performing for the first time at Champs restaurant on East Main Street Oct. 20.

Ms. Hurtt has a solid theater background, having performed in various Western Maryland productions, including the college's spring performance of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest," where she portrayed the presumptuous Lady Bracknell and garnered lavish praise from newspaper critics for her hilarious portrayal.

She is a former manager of the campus radio station and a member of the jazz ensemble, choir and Spanish Club.

It seems that if "all the world's a stage," as William Shakespeare wrote, Ms. Hurtt has been putting on the performance of her life every day of her college career.

"I just do what I like and I do it . . . a lot, I guess," she said.

But she said her goals are higher than being known for her involvement in Western Maryland's creative arts world. She wants to see her vision spread to other colleges in the region.

"My goal is to have 20 schools on our roster by the time I graduate, before June 1993," said Ms. Hurtt. "Right now, I have my sister starting a chapter at her school, the Center for Creative and Performing Arts in Pennsylvania."

Mr. Hurtt also has sent letters to such other area colleges as Hood, Mount St. Mary's and York College to see if they are interested in setting up similar programs.

But for now, she and the current members of the group just want to put on a production of "Shakespeare in the Round," scenes from the playwright's greatest plays performed on the newly paved amphitheater in front of Hoover Library.

Opposition from the campus drama department could make this goal difficult to achieve, but Ms. Hurtt isn't discouraged.

She figures, like a good magician, that she can make the opposition disappear through lots of persistence.

"The drama department seems afraid of what we'll do, like students without a director can't put on a performance of Shakespeare," she said.

"I know we can do it," Ms. Hurtt said of the members of her group.

"If we can grow the way we did in such a short time, I am confident we can put on the production with responsibility and creativity."

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