The Mississippi Bend Players have taken up summer residency at the Brunner Theatre Center on the Augustana College campus since 2017.
Each year MBP produces a three-show season and a weeklong day camp for young people. The ensemble is led by Augustana theatre faculty members Jeff Coussens ’80 and Jennifer Popple, local actor/journalist Mike Schulz ’90 and Broadway director Philip Wm. McKinley ’73, who is especially known for helming the Broadway productions of The Boy From Oz and Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark.
The Mississippi Bend Players invite both Augustana and other college students to participate in internships. The ensemble includes actors and technical staff, from professionals to regional community members, to support the three full-scale theatrical productions.
The Mississippi Bend Players is a regional theatre whose mission is to provide excellence in theatre for the Quad Cities and surrounding areas by producing both commercial, proven works as well as original musical and dramatic material.
Philip Wm. McKinley, Executive Artistic Director
Philip Wm. McKinley returns to the Mississippi Bend Players after serving as producing artistic director for the inaugural season.
He has directed record-breaking productions from Broadway to Salzburg to Tokyo. His production of Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark with the music by Bono and The Edge is one of the top 20 all-time box office grossing productions in Broadway history, while Mozart L'Opera Rock broke Tokyo's theatrical box office record.
McKinley directed West Side Story starring Cecilia Bartoli with Gustavo Dudamel conducting for the Salzburg Music Festival in 2016, the first musical ever presented in the festival's 100-year history.
His other directing accomplishments include the five-time Tony nominated Broadway musical The Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman, and the revival of The Most Happy Fella starring Paul Sorvino at the New York City Opera. McKinley's direction of the latest edition of the aqua production Le Rêve — The Dream at the Wynn Theater in Las Vegas recently won “Best Show In Las Vegas.”
His projects include a production of That Woman — Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, directing two Broadway musicals, an adaptation of Return of the Living Dead and ELLA, a bio-musical about the extraordinary life of Ella Fitzgerald, as well as a future international immersive project with the iconic pop singing group ABBA.
Mike Schulz, Producing Artistic Director
Mike Schulz is a 1990 Augustana College alumnus who writes and performs additional duties for the River Cities' Reader newspaper.
His stage opportunities this decade have included many for the QC Theatre Workshop, among them Peter & the Starcatcher and Red, several for the Prenzie Players, among them Love's Labour's Lost and Cyrano de Bergerac, and one for Augustana, 2012's How I Learned to Drive.
Jeff Coussens, Education Director
Jeff Coussens is the chair of the Department of Theatre Arts at Augustana College. He holds an M.F.A. in acting from Indiana University and taught at the School of Drama, University of Oklahoma for several years prior to joining the Augustana faculty.
During his 30-year academic career, Coussens has directed more than 60 stage productions and acted in more than 30 roles. He also has worked as a professional actor and director at the Oklahoma Shakespeare Festival, The Black Hills Playhouse, The Brown County Playhouse, Street Player’s Theatre, and Dollar Stock Summer Theatre.
As a member of the Society of American Fight Directors, he has been certified in the use of rapier and dagger, quarterstaff, broadsword, and unarmed combat. His fight choreography and has choreographed fight scenes in a variety of venues for more than 30 productions including Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story and Cyrano de Bergerac.
Jennifer Popple, Education Director
Jennifer Popple is an assistant professor in theatre and co-program director of women and gender studies at Augustana College. She received her PhD in theatre history and criticism from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Her recent directing credits include Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room or the vibrator play, Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal, Eric Bogosian's suburbia, and William Shakespeare's As You Like It at Augustana, and Nina Raines's Tribes at the QC Theatre Workshop
Popple's publishing work focuses on feminist engagement and pedagogy and she most recently presented at the Statera Conference on establishing a feminist rehearsal space.
Christina Myatt, Company Manager
Christina Myatt has worked in the Augustana College Theatre Department since March 2012. She has a wealth of experience in the performing arts from educator to performer to arts administration.
Myatt is the owner/artistic director of Center Stage performing Arts Academy. She has been a member of Les Petites, Ltd., ballet company in New Jersey, performed on regional professional stages as well as touring North America, has choreographed for professional, community, and educational venues, and has written and directed productions as the theatrical programming coordinator for the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa.
Myatt worked as membership manager for the Educational Theatre Association, served on the board of the International Museum Theatre Alliance and was inducted into the Iowa Educational Theatre Association Hall of Fame.