Each semester, Belmont Theatre and Dance instructor Shawn Knight gives his Acting III class a project nearing the end of the course. In the fall, he received a call from Andrea Shelton, parent of a Belmont student and Executive Director and founder of HeartBound Ministries, a non-profit organization providing programs and resources to meet the needs of the prison community.
A member of Heartbound’s prison ministry population presented Shelton with a play that he had written titled From This Day Forward, a story of hope. It was his dream that one day the play could be presented in a public forum and be recorded to be shown in prisons and shelters to inspire others and spread domestic violence awareness.
To prepare for the production, students spent the back end of fall semester rehearsing. They started with a table-read of the show for an ideation of the story and let Professor Knight know of any specific roles they wanted consideration for. After casting, they held blocking rehearsals — working on the show twice a week leading up to the performance.
“My class spent a lot of time examining and understanding the weight of telling the stories of domestic violence victims. Professor Knight also walked us through how theatre activities can help lower retention rates in correctional facilities, which helped put our mission into perspective,” said Dani Kucera, junior musical theatre major. “This felt extremely meaningful to know we could help play a part in fulfilling the mission of Heartbound Ministries — to promote hope and restoration.”
Having spent time getting to know Belmont over the course of her daughter’s time as a student, Shelton had built relationships and gotten to know many members of the campus community, so she reached out to faculty members with the opportunity and was most impressed that even in such a busy time in the semester, she received a response from Professor Knight within a few days — immediately followed by action.
“I can’t think of another University that would take such a request to heart,” Shelton said. “Our constituency isn’t a group of people that the public is typically thrilled about — so the fact that Belmont would act on something like this means a great deal to so many people. It’s obvious that Belmont is a school committed to putting words into action – especially when they speak of flourishing for all people.”