Milligan’s musical theatre program launched in the fall of 2018 under the guidance of Dr. Carrie Klofach, a veteran musical theatre teacher and stage actress with over 20 years of professional experience.

This spring, the program presented its inaugural production and Klofach’s directorial debut at Milligan. Comprised of a 23-member ensemble cast, an on-stage choir, and a pit orchestra, The Hunchback of Notre Dame was performed in the McGlothlin-Street Theatre over four days to multiple sold-out crowds.

“For my first show, I knew I wanted to involve as many people as possible,” said Klofach. “Our production included students from many different backgrounds, and they came together to work hard towards one common goal. That alone made me proud.”

Based on the 1996 Disney film and Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, this classic story follows Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre Dame, as he seeks to become a part of the outside world.

“This musical exposes the beauty and the hardships that everyone encounters in the real world,” said Klofach. “Quasimodo’s need to feel love propels him out of his only refuge, the church. Upon entering the world, he experiences both darkness and light. I felt audiences would be uplifted by Quasimodo’s ability to forge a path towards the light.”

In creating the show, Klofach was amazed by the talent and the variety of skills she found in her students.

“For some of our lead performers, this was their first time on stage and they performed remarkably. With a large cast, our students’ many gifts were on full display,” praised Klofach.

The cast was led by recent graduate Derek Jeffers, of Greeneville, Tennessee, as Quasimodo; senior Maggie Booher, Elizabethton, Tennessee, played Esmeralda; Dr. Shannon Hogan, assistant professor of business administration, was cast as Dom Claude Frollo; graduate Jonathan Russell, Kingsport, Tennessee, performed as Phoebus De Martin; and junior Kevin Odom, Kingsport, Tennessee, played Clopin.

“Working on this show was one of the most incredible experiences during my time at Milligan, and I felt so blessed to be a part of it,” shared Jeffers.


Klofach, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, came to Milligan with extensive experience playing lead theatrical roles, singing in operatic productions, and helping manage productions behind the scenes. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music from Grand Canyon University, along with a master’s degree in musical theatre performance and a doctorate in vocal performance from Arizona State University. She previously taught at Arizona State University, Estrella Mountain Community College, and New Mexico State University.

Her stage credits include appearing in the first national tour of Veggie Tales Live! as Marcy the Stage Manager, and she also served as the tour’s assistant stage manager when not on stage. She has premiered several musicals including the world premiere of The Quiltmaker’s Gift, playing the Quiltmaker at Arizona’s Phoenix Theatre, under the direction of Michael Barnard.

While Milligan was a long way from home, Klofach felt called to prepare students for a career in theatre in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee.

“When I began the job search after my doctorate, Milligan stood out to me as a Christian college,” recounted Klofach. “I completed my undergraduate degree at a Christian university, and that experience shaped me into who I am as a person and as an artist. My education assured me that I could uphold my moral and religious beliefs and survive as a professional artist.”

More importantly, when Klofach visited campus and met with Milligan’s faculty and students, she felt at home.

“I was welcomed with such kindness, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of the Milligan family,” reflected Klofach. “I was beyond excited to come to Milligan to build a successful musical theatre program.”


A few weeks after the performance, people all over the world were shocked to discover that the roof of Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire during renovations. In the aftermath, Milligan hosted a panel to reflect and discuss the significance of sacred spaces.

The panel included Klofach, as well as Dr. Lee Blackburn, associate professor of history and humanities, and junior Amanda Lorch, of Johnson City, Tennessee. For Klofach, she shared how she processed the fire after investing months into the show.

“I felt like Notre Dame had become my home away from home. As director, my task was to help the cast understand the importance of Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as its greater meaning as a sanctuary for all people,” recounted Klofach. “Upon learning of the fire, I felt a sense of helplessness knowing that this place of sanctuary was in danger. With the fire occurring during Holy Week, I hoped it could represent that new life can be reborn from the ashes.”