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Jeremy Hunter caught the bug for theater arts in high school, learning that theater was a welcoming place where he was free to be himself.

CSM Fine Arts Schedule:JanuaryCause Theater will stage “The Empty Chair: The Effect of Suicide” at 8 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Prince Frederick campus, Jan. 31-Feb. 2 at the Leonardtown campus and Feb. 7-9 at the La Plata campus. FebruaryChildren’s Theater will stage “Unleashed! The Secret Lives of White House Pets” at 7 p.m. Feb 1 and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at the La Plata campus. Ward Virts Concert Series presents the Misto Di Voi Ensemble at 3 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Prince Frederick campus.Gallery Talk with Jonathan Garn will be at noon Feb. 12 at the La Plata campus. The exhibit runs Jan 28-March 28. “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” will be at 8 p.m. Feb 14-16 and 21-23 at the La Plata campus.The Faculty Music Showcase will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at the La Plata campus.March“Snow White Goes West” will be at 7 p.m. March 1 and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. M.arch 2 at the La Plata campus Ward Virts Concert Series presents Theresa Bickham, soprano, and Rachel Roulet, piano, at 3 p.m. March 10 at the Prince Frederick campus.Cause Theater will stage “Stop Kiss: Homophobia” at 8 p.m. March 14-16 at the La Plata campus, 8 pm. April 5 at the Prince Frederick campus and 8 p.m. April 11-13 at the Leonardtown campus. AprilThere will be a Jazz Festival at the La Plata campus at 8 p.m. April 5-6. Ward Virts Concert Series presents Marian Murphy Powell, soprano, at 3 p.m. April 7 at the Prince Frederick campus. Co’Motion Dance Theater, a professional dance company, will perform at 8 p.m. April 12 at the La Plata campus. The annual Student Juried Show will be exhibited April 8-May 8 with a gallery talk at noon April 16 at the La Plata campus. Renfest, a festival with renaissance-period plays, music and more will be 9 a.m.-9 p.m. April 19-20 with a choral concert at 8 p.m. April 18 at the La Plata campus. The Latin Music Festival will be at 8 p.m. April 26-27 at the La Plata campus. A dance performance will be at 8 p.m. April 29 at the La Plata campus.MayThe Southern Maryland Concert Band will perform at 8 p.m. May 3 at the La Plata campus. A Barbershop Extravaganza will be at 4 p.m. May 4 at the La Plata campus. Ward Virts Concert Series presents Brian Ganz on piano at 3 p.m. May 5 at the Prince Frederick campus.The U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters will perform at 7:30 p.m. May 10 at the La Plata campus.For information or tickets for the upcoming shows at the CSM, call 301-934-7828.

After a few years outside the theater world, Hunter, 24, jumped back in with both feet and now entertains audiences on stage at the College of Southern Maryland, where he is a theater student.

Like many of his classmates, Hunter is up for national recognitions.

He is currently competing for a Kennedy Center American College Theater Festivals Irene Ryan scholarship.

Keith Hight, associate professor and coordinator for theater and dance at CSM, said several theater students have had a lot of national exposure and colleges look for them to perform for their schools.

He said that is a good sign of the quality of work students put into the program.

Hunter said the arts department deserves some recognition if nothing else, just by having more people come out to enjoy the shows and galleries.

He said the department works hard to provide audiences “the next closest thing to a professional show.”

The department puts on 14 to 16 shows a year, Hight said, and each one is rehearsed and performed with the highest of expectations.

Hunter said when one comes to a performance at CSM, whether it’s a concert or a play, “the music is going to be sharp, the show is going to be everything you expect and more.”

The shows at CSM, Hight said, provide high-quality entertainment with a cast that has the same work ethic as those in professional theater.

“We have just as high of standards as they do,” he said.

An example of a high-quality show coming up is “Unleashed! The Secret Lives of White House Pets,” a children’s theater show coming in February.

This show, Hight said, was commissioned by the Kennedy Center, and CSM’s performance will be the first time it’s shown outside of the center.

“I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” Hight said, is a Cause Theater show dealing with the Holocaust.

In addition to the show, the lobby of the theater will be transformed into a mini-Holocaust museum with thousands of hand-decorated butterflies representing the 150,000 children who died during the Holocaust.

“Snow White Goes West,” coming in March, is a western take on the classic Snow White story, Hight said.

Hight would like to see more people stop by the school for a show, rather than going past their stage and up to places like Washington, D.C., to see the very same show.

“We have some wonderful artists come in and perform. The frustrating thing is that people don’t come in,” he said.

Upcoming performers include Pennsylvania-based soprano Marian Murphy Powell, coming in April as part of the Ward Virts Concert Series.

Hight said those who come out for a show at CSM will get a professional experience, more bang for their buck and a quality show.

gphillips@somdnews.com