Theater students at Moraine Valley Community College had an opportunity to meet and talk with two former Moraine Valley students who are now touring with an award-winning national Broadway tour.
Ronnie Malley and Joel Bulthuis visited the college while they were in Chicago with “The Band’s Visit,” presented at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Malley, an actor and musician, plays the role of Camal. Bulthuis is in charge of lighting and video. “The Band’s Visit” is the winner of 10 Tony Awards and the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
“It was wonderful to have them here so our students can make connections with real, working professionals,” said Jenni Lamb-Hetherington, theater outreach liaison at the college. “It was very inspiring for everyone, including me.”
The two spoke to students in a theater appreciation class and to theater students in a panel discussion. “The students really enjoyed talking with them. When you’re a young person looking at taking a risk and going the route of making this your profession, it’s very good to see someone who was in your shoes and is now a success,” Lamb-Hetherington said. “Like many theater professionals, they didn’t grow up surrounded by actors and lighting designers, so it’s good to see that the people doing your dream job are real people.”
“I was really happy to spend some time with the students. We wanted them to know they could go to a small school in the south suburbs and go on to find yourself a great career,” he said. Prior to his role with “The Band’s Visit,” Bulthuis was head of lighting for “Jersey Boys” national tour and in charge of lighting for “School of Rock: The Musical” and “Riverdance: The Musical.”
Bulthuis, who graduated from Moraine Valley in 2009 and earned a bachelor’s degree in Technical Theater and Design from Illinois State University, chose Moraine Valley because of its theater department. “I was willing to pay out-of-district tuition because I heard it was a very good program,” said Bulthuis, who graduated from Lincoln Way High School.
Malley, too, was excited to come back to Moraine Valley to talk with students, something he has done in the past. “This school has so many resources, and it overjoys me, Malley said. “We have a theater outreach at a community college who is brilliant. She’s somebody who has been in the craft, and she’s passionate about what she’s doing. Everybody I’ve met here has been passionate about what they do.”
In addition, Malley is a playwright who co-wrote “American Griot,” which debuted at Moraine Valley as part of the Mosaics Muslim Voices in America project. He has written other original plays and has performed in numerous productions as well as served as an educator and consultant for many cultural music projects in film and theater. He continues to play multiple instruments with his family band and for other music groups.
Calling his time at Moraine Valley his formative years, Malley said he was thankful for attending the college. “These are the years that made me who I am,” he said. “They gave me an opportunity to envision something for the future.”