John Hassig to direct Heartland Festival in new role

October 29, 2003

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2003_10_29_a.jpgPLATTEVILLE - The University of Wisconsin-Platteville's Heartland Festival has provided quality entertainment in southwest Wisconsin the past three summers, and John Hassig looks to continue that success as he directs the festival in his new role at the university.

Hassig has been named director of performing and visual arts, programs and facilities at UWP, and will direct the festival in addition to continuing to coordinate the Performing Arts Series and other events at the Harry and Laura Nohr Art Gallery and the Center for the Arts. The Heartland Festival is a series of plays, musicals, concerts and other events at the UWP Center For the Arts over the summer.

Hassig looks forward to the chance to direct an entire year's worth of programming at the CFA. He said he doesn't see any wholesale changes for the Heartland Festival, but "there's always room for improvement."

One thing Hassig wants to do is increase community and business support for the festival, and also maximize the number of professional performers appearing in the festival.

"We're looking to tap into a whole bracket of actors looking to get experience, excited young talent eager to do one or two shows a summer," Hassig said. "We want to recruit the best possible people we can to spend the summer with us."

An influx of outside actors can benefit community actors and local audiences, who will be exposed to new styles and techniques.

An integral part of the Heartland Festival has been the children's theater workshop, and Hassig said he wants to make this more affordable and even more fun for children and their families.

"Giving kids an experience on stage is such an important part of what we do," Hassig said.

Hassig has been involved with the festival in the past, as marketing director and as manager of the CFA building, so his role as director is "just a new level of involvement."

UWP music instructor and director of choral activities Bob Demeree had served as producer of the festival the last three years. As Hassig puts it, Demeree was "the driving force" behind the festival and was "instrumental at getting it where it is now." Demeree has stepped down from his position as producer of the festival.

"John has a good deal more expertise in programming," Demeree said. "I'm very pleased that he's been tabbed to take this responsibility."

Demeree said he had always viewed his role as one to help get the festival off the ground, and then get out of the way.

"For the future success of the festival it needed some new direction, new ideas and new energy," Demeree said. "I've had the pleasure to watch John work with not only the Heartland Festival but also assembling the Performing Arts Series during the year and I just think he's done an amazing job.

"The revitalization of the series over the last two years is nothing short of astounding," Demeree said.

Hassig believes the success of the Performing Arts Series will parlay into his work with the Heartland Festival. He said the series is becoming more recognized around the state for its quality. When a national touring company performed "Singin' in the Rain" earlier this month, the company manager was impressed with UWP's hospitality. After a dinner provided to the touring troupe, the manager said, as Hassig tells it, "'You know you're in a good place when you get apple dumplings for dessert.'"

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