By Glen Vaughn-Petersen
Avila University is closing out its theatre season with the alumnus-directed musical classic She Loves Me. In She Loves Me, a pair of pen pals fall anonymously in love on paper. When they meet in person, it’s not just romantic sparks that fly. In this story, which inspired two films, “The Shop Around the Corner” and “You’ve Got Mail,” our pen pals come to realize that animosity they feel in person is nothing less than love in disguise.
The director of this show is Avila alumnus Zeke Bocklage. Having graduated in 2017, Bocklage went on to get his Masters from Western Illinois University. He has since traveled the country in varying roles as actor, director, educator and choreographer. He currently serves on the Avila faculty.
Bocklage says he is happy to return to his alma mater. “It’s really wonderful to be back in the same area and have a moment to not only relish how things have changed and grown, but also be able to bring what I’ve learned from the industry back and share that with current students,” he says.
Bocklage did not start out planning to work in theatre. “I was planning to go to college for history, but, actually, one of the admission reps reached out to say ‘Hey, come out to Avila, we’d love to see if you want to be a part of the program’, and I did. I made a last-minute gut decision to turn on a dime career-wise, and here we are.”
Bocklage was ecstatic to have been asked to direct She Loves Me. “I’m a big fan of Golden Age musical theatre. This show comes right at the tail end of the Golden Age, before what the world knows as the Sondheim Age.” The Golden Age was
hallmarked by the laying of the foundations of the modern musical. The Sondheim Age, however, is noted by the musical genre becoming more complex, the music becoming often polyphonic and intricate, as was brought about by theatrical pioneer Stephen Sondheim, who wrote Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George.
“One of the really big things I love about theatre is that it has a way of bringing people together, and it has a way of creating empathetic relationships that we sometimes forget about in our day-to-day lives,” says Bocklage. “I think the arts and theatre can really help bridge the gaps that divide us and make it so we can see the humanity in each other. We need to look past our differences to find our similarities and then realize that we’ve got a lot more in common than we may think we do.”
Avila University’s production of She Loves Me is running from Thursday, April 27th to Sunday, April 30th at the Goppert Performing Arts Center. Visit Avila’s theatre website for further details.