Dragon and the Night Queen

By Larissa Cohoe

Ancient Ireland – a land of mystery, adventure, and legend. The perfect setting for Ballet Fantastique’s groundbreaking world premiere The Dragon and the Night Queen. In an innovative collaboration with the faculty of New Hope Christian College’s Creative Arts Department, Ballet Fantastique has created an ancient Celtic world for the 21st century that is fraught with mystery, action, and romance that will amaze audiences with its artistic sensibility and technical prowess. 

Rehearsal at the Hult Center, Eugene, OR

Rehearsal at the Hult Center, Eugene, OR

Donna Marisa and Hannah Bontrager, choreographer-producers, creative masterminds, and founders of Ballet Fantastique, have reimagined the ancient Celtic epic tale. The story centers on the hero Cian, who begins a quest to find a Golden Apple for his love, Annora. Cian’s objective shifts focus as he is called into service to save the kingdom from the evil tyranny of the dragon Stoorwyrm.

This newly-forged Celtic myth employs an eclectic musical score played by a stellar cast of Eugene performers. Musically, The Dragon and the Night Queen brings together arrangements of the German folk ensemble Faun, original music from Gerry Rempel (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bouzouki), original compositions from world-renowned Irish musician and NHCC Creative Arts Director Dr. Eliot Grasso (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle, fiddle), rock elements, world music, and traditional Irish melodies. 
In an interview, Dr. Grasso remarked “This is one of the most exciting projects of the year, and one conceptualized at a very high level of creativity and skill. We have been working intensively since June 2015 on these arrangements, and they have been quite engaging for us in the band. We hope that audiences will be moved by this unique partnering of music and dance.”

Merlin Showalter (drums), Eliot Grasso (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle, fiddle), Cindy Kenny (voice)

Merlin Showalter (drums), Eliot Grasso (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle, fiddle), Cindy Kenny (voice)

The Creative Arts Department is well represented in the band for The Dragon and the Night Queen. NHCC Chair of Dance and Drama, Cindy Kenny (accomplished vocalist, stage performer, director, teacher, and creative arts pastor) will be soloing, while Creative Arts percussion instructor, Merlin Showalter, will provide a highly diversified rhythmic backdrop. Creative Arts faculty have teamed up with Gerry Rempel and an all-star team including John Polese on keyboard, accordion, and recorder; Rick Carter on bass; and Alyse Jamieson on vocals. 

This collaboration between NHCC faculty and Ballet Fantastique is a testament to the Creative Arts Department’s exceptional faculty, dedication to excellence, and commitment to high-level artistic collaboration with organizations in the city. Dr. Grasso, Cindy, and Merlin are integral members of the professional music and theater communities, both in Eugene and world-wide, and are invaluable instructors, mentors, and guides for the students at NHCC. 

The Dragon and the Night Queen opens February 26 at Eugene’s Hult Center. With its talent, creativity, vivid design, unique story-telling, and stunning quality, this new ballet is an event unthinkable to miss. Captivating for adult and young audiences alike, come support our faculty and enjoy a wondrous journey of dancing and music through ancient Ireland. Tickets are available at:Balletfantastique.org

Big Hair, Huge Talent: New Hope Christian College presents Broadway’s Hairspray

By Creative Arts Director, Eliot Grasso, Ph.D.

Mounting a musical like Hairspray takes an artistic task force of beehive proportions. From the minds that brought Eugene the acclaimed production of Disney’s Tarzan in 2013, producer Stephen Kenny and director Cindy Kenny are bringing to life a blast from Baltimore’s imagined past for April 2015 that is overflowing with popping tunes, humor, and wild characters.

January auditions brought a horde of Eugene’s finest singers, actors, actresses, and dancers to the New Hope Eugene Auditorium to tryout for New Hope Christian College’s latest creative endeavor. Among the outstanding performers selected for this production are NHCC Creative Arts senior Natalie Pruett as Tracy Turnblad, NHCC Creative Arts junior Jacob Thiessen as Corny Collins, NHCC Creative Arts senior Zach Ropp as Link Larkin, Floyd & Price (Seli Thomas, Jonelwlyn Thomas, Sarada Thomas) as the Dynamites, and UO’s Gospel Choir champion Andiel Brown as Seaweed.

NHCC is once again breaking the musical theatre mold by casting Edna Turnblad—typically a drag role—with a female artist, rather than with a male artist. The fabulous female in that role is native Seattleite and Eugene transplant Erica Jean, who holds a bachelor’s in Dramatic Music from Cornish College of the Arts. A mainstay in the Eugene scene, you may have seen her playing Mdme. Thenardier in Les Misérables, or singing at the Jazz Station’s Halloween show Haunted Heart. Jean’s favorite roles in Eugene have been the roles of Countess Malcolm in A Little Night Music, Evita in Evita, and Gertrude McFuzz in Suesical the Musical. Erica teaches ninth-grade Language Arts, and is developing a lecture/concert about Ethel Merman’s contributions to the art of Broadway singing: “To Broadway, from Ethel: A Love Letter in Brass.”


Rehearsals have been intensely fun thanks to choreographer Lindsey Salfran. Salfran arrived recently in Eugene to pursue graduate studies in Dance at the UO, bringing with her a wealth of professional performing experience and the original choreography from the Broadway production of Hairspray. With Stephen Kenny serving as music director, “Good Morning Baltimore” is becoming a finely-tuned choral presentation bursting with vim and verve.

The intimate setting of the New Hope Auditorium belies the massive scope of the production process. To build the set for Hairspray, NHCC has rented a warehouse on the outskirts of Eugene and engaged a world-class production crew who, by day, serve the Matthew Knight Arena, Hult Center, and Lane Community College with their extraordinary skills.

In addition to the high entertainment value that this show will bring to the community, NHCC’s purpose is to create a forum for discussing racial inequalities in Eugene. It may surprise some readers to learn that within open-minded Eugene there are some corners that are less open-minded about race equality, even in the 21st century. NHCC’s desire is to draw together artists from all walks of life to initiate a dialogue among diverse community groups about the place and importance of every one of Eugene’s citizens.

The tickets are going fast, and opening night is Friday, April 10, 2015. Investors from all over the state have thrown in with Hairspray 2015 to see this incredible vision appear at New Hope Auditorium. Join us in April 2015 for a fun, energetic, hilarious, and thought-provoking presentation of one of Broadway’s finest musicals.

NHCC CD Release and After Party

Written by Winston Arblaster
Photos by Ryan Bluebaugh and Erika Sataraka

Rewind eight months to the beginning of the 2014-15 school year and you would find the Creative Arts students gearing up for a songwriting workshop, taught by an individual they would perhaps not know by name, but who has crafted the sounds of many of the hits that occupy the airwaves of today’s Christian radio.  Dave Hanley (Founder and CEO of DREAM Records) flew in for a few short days in September - one of two trips he would make to Oregon this year from his Los Angeles studios - to teach an exclusive workshop in Stewart Chapel, wherein the students would learn the art of songwriting and a few insider “tricks of the trade.”  It was in this workshop that the students would write (in a semi-chaotic group fashion) the single that would go on our record, and more importantly, catch the songwriting bug that has now spread across the NHCC campus. We had about forty original songs that were submitted by our student body and staff and had the difficult job of narrowing the list to eleven. The amazing thing is that we had about twenty-five students/staff contribute to the album…some wrote songs, while others sand, or played piano, drums, or guitar.

Fast forward to 7am on the morning of April 28th, and a short message hits the screens of over 77,000 Facebook and Twitter users simultaneously: “The debut worship album from New Hope Christian College is now available for purchase.”  With a little help from this “crowd speaking” social media campaign, the digital world was made aware that there is a new worship album on the “shelves” of iTunes, Spotify, and over 200 other platforms.  Orders flood in, CDs are packed and mailed right from the NHCC Reception desk, and digital orders are placed thanks to a featured spot in the iTunes Store. A week later, we get news that New Hope Christian College has peaked at #19 in the national Billboard Charts for the Praise and Worship category. 


With an initial success that is almost mind boggling, one has to credit God for such favor for seeing our “little college” propelled so suddenly to receive national, and in fact global, recognition. It’s only Him who has the power to exalt the humble and offer grace to those who would not presume to deserve it. 

Such is the case with our Creative Arts students, who during Dave Hanley’s 2nd visit, spent ten whirlwind days recording their voices and instruments to create an album they could expect to be little more than another new learning experience punctuating a week of classes, rehearsals, and chapel.  The makeshift studio we put together at New Hope Eugene didn’t reflect the state-of-the-art rooms where most chart-toppers are made.  These musicians were largely new to the process; in fact, most were in a studio for the first time.  But God is in the business of doing great things in our weakness.  He takes our offerings and turns them into an abundance.

Being in the Top 20 of the Billboard Charts is a badge of honor few can wear; fewer still are Bible colleges.  Indeed, we may be the first.  But more importantly, God has set us apart.  He’s written His word on our hearts and given us voices with which we can worship Him.  This is what people hear when they listen to our album and this is what we are celebrating.

Creative Arts Faculty Tim Savage Makes Filmic History

By Eliot Grasso, Ph.D., Creative Arts Director

The continental premiere of a new faculty film brought world-renowned film-makers, producers, and authors to the NHCC campus on October 9 and 10, 2014. The masterminds behind the film, director Tim Savage, producers Mardi Savage and Dana Hankins, and author Graham Salisbury, have invested a decade of collaboration to transform Salisbury’s award-winning book, Under the Blood Red Sun, into a full-length motion picture. Salisbury’s novel, a compelling story of a Japanese teenager faced with the disintegration of his family and world after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, has won dozens of awards, and stands as part of the schooling curriculum across the United States. The faculty at New Hope had the honor of seeing these figures mentor our students.

As a long-standing member of the Creative Arts faculty, Tim Savage brings a wealth of knowledge to the College. Since the beginning, he has been speaking into the creative development and maturation of Creative Arts majors who come from all over the world to refine their skills in film, music, dance, drama and technology. On Thursday, October 9, Tim met with two classes to share his knowledge and expertise. One of the critical morsels that Tim offered to New Hope students was that artists need to persevere, and to strive for excellence (reminding undergraduates that, as Pastor Wayne Cordeiro would say, “Life will give you what you settle for”). Students were astonished to find out that the finished film came together only after two attempts to raise millions to fund the project, in addition to an extended search for the right Japanese 13-year-old boy to play the lead role.

Tim also spoke to the critical role that new technologies have played in the completion and distribution of the film. According to this director, it would have cost $1,000 an hour a decade ago to edit the film. Thanks to advances in technology and to the developments of new applications, those same kinds of editing processes can be done more cost effectively.

Mardi Savage, Tim’s wife and casting director, explained to New Hope acting students that it is important to bring one’s best to any audition. Her comforting words that the casting director is there to get the best from auditions were balanced with the logistical reality that a director is going to decide in mere seconds whether or not an actor or actress is well-suited to the part.

The key insight to Mardi’s discussion is that making a good first impression is critical for any artist. She explained that even if an actor or actress walks away from an audition without a call back, casting directors keep candidates in mind for viable future roles and opportunities. The perfect role may be just around the corner.

Over one hundred enthusiastic faculty, students, and community members flooded in for the premiere of Under the Blood Red Sun on October 10. Thanks to Churchill High School’s generous loan of the space, and Anderson Group International’s loan of superior sound and video equipment, guests were treated to two hours of filmic art and artist insight.

The film is exquisitely crafted, with a beautifully nuanced approach to the combination of soundtrack and imagetrack. One poignant instance of this came as the film’s protagonist, Tomi, swims across the harbor under cover of darkness to visit his father in one of the Japanese concentration camps. In this instance, the soundtrack by Chris Sanders amplifies the intensity of this powerful moment as a young boy, who has just left his home with his mother unaware, struggles to confirm that his father is surviving. A concluding cascade of applause confirmed the film’s success.

Tim Savage and Graham Salisbury indulged the audience in a lively Q&A afterward, during which the audience learned that the film is to be released on DVD and Blu-ray for the Christmas season in concert with an energetic marketing campaign. 
The film is available for download here:http://www.underthebloodredsun.com/

As if the staggering achievements of our faculty and guests were not enough, their humble, teacher’s hearts reminded our community that process and character are just as important as outcomes. It is not merely the product that makes an event of artistic and historic significance—it is the manner in which it is offered that does so.

Under the Blood Red Sun Review

by Fay DeMeyer


Some events are easier to promote than others.  As a radio talk show host (The FayDay Show 1430KYKN) for the past two years it has been my pleasure to promote many worthy causes, films, plays, transitional housing for people leaving prison, medical clinics like Dove and Hope that love men and women who are struggling with hard choices, politics and current events. The FayDay Show has promoted people who have overcome addictions of all kinds, child abductions, human trafficking and much more.


And on October 10th I was privileged to preview a film, “Under the Blood Red Sun.” Based on a true story written by Graham Salisbury; Graham (Sandy) wrote the screenplay as well and was present at the preview, as were Tim and Mardi Savage assistant producer and director of “Under the Blood Red Sun” a film produced by Dana Hankins. I found the viewing of this film entertaining, engaging and enlightening. For example, many films have been attempted that chronical the events of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but to date none have come from the perspective of a 12 year old Japanese-American living in the Territory of Hawaii on December 7, 1941.

Under the Blood Red Sun captures the heart of America, its acceptance of cultures and its struggle to continue that heart when tragedy strikes such as the day the Japanese Air force struck ships docked in Oahu, Hawaii. Most would agree that the war was declared by the Japanese; few would argue that America had to respond; yet, our response though rapid, sure and concise left many American-Japanese families disillusioned by both Japan and the United States of America. For this you see our response needed to be asking the question: “Who is the enemy?”

Under the Blood Red Sun, put a spotlight on this dichotomy that ripped families, neighbors and countries apart. The internment camps unlike other films were not the focus of this film. The focus is the impact on the people you come to care about like Billy, the Caucasian boy who refused to buy the lie that the Japanese he knew were enemies, the Japanese boy who held to his loyalty as an American regardless of family heritage and the grandfather who struggled with being humiliated by his own country which he so proudly championed his entire life.

Author, Graham Salisbury, and Director, Tim Savage

Author, Graham Salisbury, and Director, Tim Savage

This film brings family entertainment back to the screen; offering dinner table, car travel, and activity talk opportunities for parents and youth to grapple with substance. For example: what is the response that we as Americans ought to have toward our current “enemy” the Middle Easterners referred to as ‘ISIS’? In the same way the characters are impacted with torn loyalties so also are many Middle Eastern peoples loyal to the USA, while desiring to hold to traditions and symbols of the culture they know.  This same statement could be made about the current Russian citizens who fled a country riddled with poverty and oppression to the USA where food is plentiful and freedom still abounds. With Putin on the march to gain territory it could be perceived this population is our enemy.

If you haven’t seen Under the Blood Red Sun, you are missing a diamond with its multifaceted themes (e.g., bullying, torn loyalties, family pride, obedience, courage, integrity, perseverance and love) and its ingratiating characters. I firmly believe you will be won over by Tomi, Billy, Grandpa and Tomi’s Mom. You will remark at the courageousness of Mrs. Wilson and the turnaround of Keet, who plays a bully.

In addition to enjoying the film, the subsequent interview with Graham and Tim was delightful. The Podcast of this interview and comments can be found on http://www.1430kykn.com click podcast, then the FayDay show on 10. 11.14. Look for more family friendly entertainment in both books and movies in the future. Graham is a bestselling author of 19 books. He writes for children 4th grade and up. To purchase the film you can log onto:www.underthebloodredsun.com.


Further, New Hope Christian College drew this talent to its campus and made this movie available to its students. Another feature of the film is that all actors except one were residents of Hawaii.  One of the features of New Hope Christian College is that it has many Japanese, American and Hawaiians in its student body, so this film was a huge hit.

What was revealed in the radio interview was the incredible effort made by many in Hawaii to make this movie as realistic as possible. The remarkable detail toward the period of 1941 was amazing. For me, as a journalist, psychologist and educator I was so pleased to be part of this venture.

New Hope Christian College 

2155 Bailey Hill Road  •  Eugene, OR 97405  •  541.485.1780