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Alumni and Friends

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Read articles, view photos and watch films about alumni, friends, and members of the Department of Theater here.

May 2015: Contents

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Remarks from the Chair

Hello friends!

We have made it to the end of another long and busy semester. The New England winter tried to stop us— so much so that the semester was extended by a day!— but we carried on bravely and ended the semester with three great mainstage productions and many independent and class-related works mounted all over the department. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof brought us the spectacular first-ever onstage collaboration of Professors Julie Nelson and Milan Dragicevich. UMass New Play Lab brought us two incredible new plays that addressed important social issues and carried the Play Lab torch forward in fine style from last year's inaugural season. And Dead Man's Cell Phone was a gorgeous production marked by the fact that it was Miguel Romero's last.

I am happy that Miguel has an opportunity to pursue some new projects and interests and so grateful for all he's given us — but I know that the department has big shoes to fill! Miguel inspired students and pushed his theatrical and academic collaborators to new creative heights for over two decades at UMass. Some of them reflected on his time with us and you can read their thoughts below.

Meanwhile, we have another changing of the guard happening. After three semester of capable and inspiring costume design mentorship and teaching, New York-based costume designer Andrea Lauer will be leaving us. We will miss her, but the good news is that we have successfully concluded a search for a new costume designer. We are thrilled that come fall, we'll be joined by Jessica Ford. She's an up-and-coming designer who's worked in New York and regional theater, and she is familiar with the valley after several years as a guest artist and instructor at Mount Holyoke College. We'll introduce you to her once she's had some time to settle in, but in the meantime, please join me in wishing her well and welcoming her to the department.

As for the current crew, well, check out the updates below to learn about dramaturgy's banner semester!

Then there's women whose names start with M — we've got stories about three of them (Marcy, Melanie and Madeleine), each of them pursuing their art and passions in inspiring ways. (With all these things going on, it's no wonder we landed on this list!)

Finally, I want to draw your attention to a group of current students: Slava Tchoul, John McPhee and Alex Salazar-Greenstein, who are looking for a little help from the UMass Theater community to achieve a dreamof studying in Oxford, England, this summer. When alumnus Stephen Driscoll '73 acted in The Merchant of Venice with us this fall, he talked up the British American Drama Academy's summer program. As alumnus and board member of the program, he announced a scholarship to help a UMass student attend. The talented Marielle O'Malley, a senior who played Portia in that production, snagged the scholarship and is looking forward to studying in England in 2 months' time. However, the three students named above also impressed the judges and were also invited to attend the program, so we've set up a MinuteFund, which is the UMass version of a Go Fund Me, to help them attend.

If you're in a giving mood, we'd appreciate any gift you can make on their behalf!

See you soon!
Kisses!

Penny, Casey and Scout

penny casey and scout

Happy Trails to Professor Miguel Romero: Dick Trousdell, Troy Hourie, David Korins, Madeleine Maggio

On the occasion of Professor Miguel Romero's retirement, we asked a few of his colleagues and students to reflect. Below, their thoughts.

BRAVO MIGUEL! 

Congratulations and thanks to Miguel Romero, a brilliant designer-teacher and fine colleague we were lucky enough to have with us all these years.  Miguel and his work often reminded me of an artist he admires and knows, Ming Cho Lee.  Like Ming, Miguel’s work is elegant, intelligent, and filled with meaning.  And like Ming again, Miguel knows how to share his work with students as fellow designers.  He takes them and their potential seriously.  No wonder, then, that so many of them are now successful scenic artists in New York and regional theater. 

My favorite memory of working with Miguel was on The Tempest that we did together. It was a long time ago now, but here is what I remember of its spirit.  Miguel’s design transformed the Curtain Theater into a magic space like one of those snow globes where even the air seemed to come alive. Ropes, sails, and sailors spun down from above, a huge wave of silk wave swept up to fill the entire floor, and at the center, a mound curled up and around itself like a nautilus shell.  The space suggested ship, island, and ocean all in one until finally, just as Prospero predicted; it vanished into thin air, like a dream.  It was so beautiful, easy to work with, and integral to the play. 

How did we do it?  Who knows?  It took lots of input and hard work from everyone.  But what I remember most is how we began:  we decided not to talk about a concept for the play,  but just to talk about magic.  Prospero’s magic, but also ours.  What was magic for us, and what gave us that feeling?  So many images came from that talk: the magic of falling in love, magic in Judy Garland/ Marlene Dietrich/ Carmen Miranda, magic of carnival time, magic in being alive.  Best of all was Miguel’s memory of the magic that came from the way his grandmother told him stories when he was a boy in Cuba.  Imagine what that memory felt like and gave us:  the magic of storytelling, the magic of childhood, the magic of a loving family and what it is to lose it. We tried to bring those feelings alive in Shakespeare’s play and I think we did.  That’s a bit of what it was like to work with Miguel, a very fine designer and a wonderful man.    

—Dick Trousdell, professor emeritus

Sometimes in life the stars align and you meet a person with the tools to set you on a path you didn’t know existed. Before I met Miguel I had no idea how to approach building a career as a set designer. He showed me both the practical skills I needed to develop and gave me the concrete steps I needed to take to become one. He afforded me every opportunity at his disposal, challenged me in all the right ways, and remains supportive today - I would not be where I am today without his wisdom and guidance in the early steps of my career.

—David Korins '99

I was the first masters student that Miguel admitted to UMASS back in 1994.

It is hard to believe that that is now twenty-one years ago...

I am eternally grateful to Miguel for his mentorship, and our continued friendship has brought me a great sense of contentment. This past summer I achieved a long-time goal in collaborating with Francesca Zambello, and it was wonderful to have Miguel and Paul in the opening night audience.

When I entered the program, I pretty much knew absolutely nothing about theatre. I had completed training in interior design and spent a summer at New York Stage and Film, but he had the insight to know that I could become what I am today. He saw a diamond in the rough, and I recall him telling me my lack of theatre experience allowed me to see the work I was doing with unencumbered eyes. There were no preconceptions of how a play should be designed but instilled in me the importance of dramaturgy and research in finding a creative design approach to each show I design.

I credit Miguel for my sense of confidence, determination and passion to be as creative as I can be. He instilled that in me at UMASS. We did have our fair share of disagreement—sometimes ending in tears—but I quickly learned that the competitive nature of our discipline meant it was necessary to build a thick skin.

Through his encouragement, I also found my affinity for teaching. I learned how to learn from Miguel. I observed and drew from many of his teaching methods in building my own teaching style. I am an excellent teacher because I learned how to listen. Over the years he has written me several letters of recommendation, each of them filled with personal sentiments that have made great impressions on their readers. They were undeniably a central factor in my success as I built an academic component to my career. I am a performance designer, a scenic painter, a draftsman, a model builder, a collage artist, a teacher and a storyteller. All these things began with my mentorship with Miguel.

Congratulations on your retirement! You deserve to rest on your laurels.

—Troy Hourie '97G

I wish I could be there to celebrate with you all. Miguel had such a positive influence on my UMass experience, and what I learned with Miguel has guided me through everything I've been doing since.

—Madeleine Maggio '12

 

Marcy Braidman helps homeless men and women find their voices

The voices of homeless men and women are not among those traditionally heard in theater, but there’s a theater company in Boston, called Stories Without Roofs, dedicated to making sure they are. They’ve put on two works now in which actors conveyed the words written by homeless men in a sobriety program, and more recently, homeless and low-income women at a day program. The Department of Theater can proudly claim one of the two women who head the company: Marcy Braidman ’08, associate director and head writing coach, for whom this work is the sort of thing she’s dreamed about forever.

Braidman was hanging out with her friend Misch Whitaker when the latter started describing a page-to-stage project she’d started with homeless men. “My eyes lit up because this kind of theater has always been my dream,” Braidman said, animated even in the retelling. “I want to be in a covered wagon putting on inspirational theater that brings really important issues to light, where people can sit and be entertained but walk out learning something.”

It’s a dream that was part of her life as an undergraduate theater major, and it’s one she hopes will be well-served by her new MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. Already, she is immersed in the world of non-profit work — her full-time job and several side gigs have Braidman working to help disenfranchised populations find a voice and/or access resources to improve their situations.

Marcy Braidman

Telling Stories

Whitaker, who is a Boston-based comedian and a UMass School of Nursing alumna, started the project in response to her experiences at Healthcare for the Homeless. Whitaker encouraged clients to write down the stories they told her but quickly realized that most did not have the training or resources to do so. “And she was like ‘Got it!’ and she went and started up the program,” Braidman said.

Whitaker organized a writing class in a Salvation Army in Cambridge for men in a sobriety program, and at Braidman’s enthusiastic reaction to her undertaking, the two had a lightbulb moment. Braidman joined Whitaker as a writing coach and has since become the associate director. Stories Without Roofs has raised money to fund its projects on Kickstarter, and has now achieved 501©3 non-profit status.

The duo now has others helping out, but in the beginning, “It was just the two of us in a room with large tattooed men in a sobriety program!” Braidman said. The group formed a close creative relationship, with Whitaker and Braidman coaching the men as they wrote their stories. Then, actors— mostly comedian friends of Whitaker who also does improv — met with the men to capture their energy and the intent behind the storytelling for the stage.

“It was such a labor of love,” Braidman said. The stage manager quit at one point, so she ran lights and sound. “I took the basic classes here (at UMass), but I had never considered myself someone who would run lights and sound for a show!” Braidman laughed.

The piece was performed in a small Cambridge studio, with many of the writers on hand for a post-show talkback that was, for Braidman, one of the highlights of the whole experience.  The effect of the program was far-reaching — after a radio story aired in France, a woman there wrote a poem inspired by one of the men’s stories, which Braidman then shared, in translation, with the man who’d inspired it.

Flush with success, Braidman and Whitaker decided to tackle a new project. “Since we worked with men first, we really wanted to work with women — so we went to this really great day space called On the Rise,” Braidman said. The space is intended to help low-income and homeless women with a range of services. Their stories formed the basis of Writing Home, which was performed in Cambridge in December 2014.

Finding a Roof

Noteable about this story is that it nearly didn’t happen. When she graduated from UMass, Braidman worked at a summer camp for inner-city kids as a drama instructor. Then, she “took a couple years where I wasn’t really sure what I was doing,” she said, nannying and working retail. “One day where I said, ‘OK this is enough!’”

She’d always loved to write, for all that she’d kept that passion close to the vest, so she decided to apply for Emerson’s creative writing program.

“I didn’t get in,” she said, and when she contacted Emerson to ask for feedback, the word was that she didn’t have a deep enough portfolio. She beefed up her online writing presence with a blog and by writing articles for the Examiner. Emerson had put her on an automatic re-apply list, “but I forgot about it, so I started making plans to move to California. I started sending my stuff over there… and a week before we were going, I got my acceptance letter. I thought it was a joke — it was literally the night of my going-away party.”
 
Conflicted, she called her parents for advice. “And I think my dad was like, ‘When you get into Emerson, you go to Emerson!’”

The program was hard, particularly because she’d never gone through anything like the workshop process before, but she has found immense benefits in it. She uses some of the same techniques she learned during her MFA program with the writers she coaches, whether it’s the high school fiction writers or the adult beginning playwrights. She’s able to help them to cut the wheat from the chaff, and has found that they appreciate that she doesn’t talk down to them.

Stories Without Roofs is not Braidman’s only gig. In fact, it’s not even her only non-profit writing gig. On Saturdays, she teaches a flash-fiction course to inner-city high school students. Braidman ‘s full-time job, meanwhile, is through Commonwealth Corps (something like AmeriCorps), with More Than Words, a brick-space and online bookseller than employs “system-involved” youth and offers them job skills and resources to succeed. Braidman finds herself calling on her theater training as a teacher to these youth, who need to learn the basics of public speaking so they can advocate for themselves and the organization to businesses and potential donors.

Her ideal job, she said, is to find or found a non-profit that works with youth as More Than Words does, but brings in more theater. “My goal is to have a non-profit where we’re working with system-involved youth and we’re helping them get on track,” said Braidman. “And we’re also teaching them how to write their story. I think writing your story’s really powerful, but I think for this community that I’m involved with, what’s even more powerful is being able to see people when you tell your story — the impact of having an actor portray your story and seeing the audience responding.”

Marcy Braidman with author and actor

Marcy Braidman with an author and an actor from the first Stories Without Roofs production.

Melanie Armer and Nerve Tank: incubating new work

It seems like every time Melanie Armer posts to facebook, she’s got an intriguing project or news to share. When we told her that, she laughed. “I guess I’m doing facebook right,” she said. Chief among the posts that caught our eye were allusions to various projects she’s done with The Nerve Tank, the company she co-founded with Chance Muehleck.

Melanie Armer

Melanie Armer (photo by Jendra Jarnigan)

The company develops devised theater pieces, often with multimedia, immersive, interactive, or site-specific elements, and now teaches willing theater artists how to create works in the same style. Among their productions was a piece called The Attendants, in which audience members communicated via text message with performers in a clear plexiglass box, and another, The Maiden, was a modern retelling of the Persephone myth from her perspective, with live music.

Each piece starts, she said, with a question. After years of figuring out how to come up with responses those questions, they've started teaching other artists how to do it, too. Artists interested in learning The Nerve Tank's approach to theater-making have the opportunity to take classes. (Interested artists should check the website, where new classes are set to be announced soon.)

“We’ve codified the method… we know it well enough that we can communicate it to young people. I’m starting to feel like a grown-up or something!” Armer said. "Every time I teach the work, it grows in me a little stronger."

Several Nerve Tank pieces have been supported and/or commissioned by Arts Brookfield, and its recent piece, The Maiden, was presented at La Mama’s The Club.

Armer’s work with Nerve Tank is not the only theatrical iron she’s got in the fire. In her day job, she’s director of production for Queen of the Night, one of New York City’s most popular immersive theater experiences. The show runs six nights a week out of the Diamond Horseshoe at the Paramount Hotel. On the off night, the space recently premiered a Wednesday-night event called Get Lucky at the Diamond Horseshoe, which is essentially karaoke with a live band.

“Everyone is made to be a total rockstar!” she said, and the series is a hit — celebs have shown up, including Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat Pray Love fame.

It’s a dream job, she enthused — not least because “it gives me time to continue to run my company!”

Evolving the Nerve Tank

This is not Armer and Muehleck’s first theater company together. The pair, who are married, have collaborated for years; although the lines blur depending on the piece, he is a writer, and she directs.

For years they were involved in the now-defunct play-reading series, Circle East, which was run by Circle Rep Theatre company. In 2001, “to fill a void” after that series’ demise, they formed Live Theater Company, which did more fully-produced versions of new work.

“And then,” she said, “Chance lost his mind!” He handed her a new piece, something he’d decided to call an “assembly,” a piece of abstract text that didn’t fit the conventional dialogue-stage directions format. He said to her, “I don’t know what to do with this.”

She was challenged and intrigued. “I had an inkling of what this work was,” she said, and realized that to bring it to performance, she’d have to call on the her skills as a director and her background with a variety of movement training, which included LeCoq, some Butoh work, some Linklater training, and others.

They set up an audition, a 90-minute session that netted them five movement-savvy actors who were game “to translate this written text.” The piece was originally called "In The Heart of a Chinese Curse,"and was later remounted as LIVE/FEED?.

In hindsight, she said, they now know that what they were doing was creating their take on the current leading edge — devised theater.

The video of The Atttendants, presented in association with ArtsBrookfield, in which audience members communicated with the actors in a plexiglass box via text.

 

 “We’ve been doing this for 9 years now,” Armer said. “Chance writes it and brings it to me, I bring it to the designers, and then we take it to the performing company.”

Armer gets excited talking about their most recent piece, a radical revisionist take on the myth of Persephone, kidnapped away to the underworld by Hades. Muehleck was interested in doing a riff on the myth of Sisyphus, cursed to push a rock uphill for all eternity while Persephone watched over him. Armer, meanwhile, was intrigued by Persephone because, she pointed out, you never hear from Persephone how she feels, either about being carried away to the underworld or about this gatekeeper position her husband has given her.

The Maiden was an opportunity to give Persephone a voice,” she said.

She and Muehleck pitched it to La Mama Artistic director Mia Yoo? ?"on a hunch."

"We'd been following Admiral Grey's band, Glass Lamborghini, ?for a while.“We’d been stalking her on facebook for three years,” Armer admitted with a laugh. "We knew we'd love working together so we pitched the idea for The Maiden without asking her. After the meeting we reached out to introduce ourselves to Admiral Grey and by the time Mia accepted the project, we'd gotten to know the Admiral and she was looking forward to doing it!"

They went on retreat. Muehleck wrote the script (and lyrics), Admiral Grey wrote the music, and Armer directed it and created the scenic elements including the quadracycle.

Right now, the couple is excited about a new piece they've proposed to Arts Brookfield, Remoria, in hopes of having it presented in 2016. Remoria examines institutional and cultural memory, the idea that even worse than dying is being forgotten, and how that impulse expresses itself in everything from the Pyramids of Egypt to “pics or it didn’t happen” attachment to Instagram. Its design will center around a pyramid and incorporate photos uploaded by the audience.

Armer describes the set-up of The Nerve Tank as a “benevolent monarchy,” with herself and Muehleck at the head as the people bearing the artistic and financial risks, but with the company members and designers actively involved in shaping the final form of the pieces. The company members, in fact, have all taken the classes they offer, which are now being taught by company member Mark Lindberg and incorporate a mix of movement training with text and collaboration techniques.

Armer said her UMass Theater education set her up to be able to do this — “Nobody has a dramaturgical education like me!” She recalled one project in particular with the late Professor David Knauf, a tough but inspiring teacher who handed his undergrads Georg Buchner’s unfinished play, Woyzeck, and told them to assemble its fragments into a finished, performable piece.

“Twenty years later, I’ve now built the company that can do it for real,” she said.

Madeleine Maggio's UMass inspiration takes her to Paris to study Lecoq

When she heard about Miguel Romero’s retirement, alumna Madeleine Maggio expressed regret that she couldn’t wish him well in person, but she had a good excuse. Maggio is currently in Paris because she was inspired by another UMass Theater mentor, Julie Nelson, to study clown at the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. Obviously, we wanted to know more and fired off a bunch of questions via email. In spite of the fact that she’s heading into the end of her two-year program, she graciously wrote back with answers.

Stages: Tell me about your course of study at Lecoq?
Maggio
: I'm a part of the two-year professional course at Lecoq. The school teaches the pedagogy devised by Jacques Lecoq to find a language of theater through movement. The first year, we come back to the very basics of movement and learn the vocabulary of the school. In the second year, we go through styles of theater and begin to perform for the public. Our classes are set up so we have one movement class—acrobatics, technique in mime, etc.— and an improv class, and then each week we have an autocours. In autocours we divide into smaller groups and work on devising a short piece based on the theme of the week. In these groups, we collaborate. Then we perform our piece on Friday and receive critique from the teachers. It can be quite a stressful day… 

Stages: You said you got inspired by a class you took with Julie Nelson. What was it about her class that spoke to you and spurred you to seek further training?
Maggio
: I took a clown class with Julie Nelson in 2011, my junior year at UMass. I loved it so much that next year I begged Julie to let me take it again. I can't really put into words why I loved it so much. I think at the base of it I really love to laugh and to make people laugh. Clown is a universal language of laughter. It goes to the very basic level of what it means to be human, that's why people from all cultures can laugh at a clown. There's no inside joke; the thing we're all laughing at is the simplicity of life. Julie's class is where I first realized just how simple it can be to laugh and be present. We had so much fun in those classes, literally clowning around. 
Then, as an assignment we watched a documentary on the Lecoq school, and I decided that was what I wanted to do. I graduated from UMass in 2012, worked for a year to raise money, and then applied and got in for the 2013-14 season. 

Madeleine Maggio performs mystere style

Madeleine Maggio performs in a mystere piece.

Stages: What are some of the classes you've especially enjoyed?
Maggio
: The first year we cover a lot of ground. From neutral mask, to character work to studying how to move like and egg on a frying pan. The year ends with a month-long research project and the 20 movements. (Twenty movements are kind of our final exam, up in front of the entire school by ourselves.) Getting into the second year is not guaranteed. Out of about 70 first-years, 34 of us were taken into the second year. 
We're doing clown right now in our final trimester. In the pedagogy, clown comes at the very end of school, which is why a lot of people think that its a clown school, since it seems that everything we've worked on has led us to this. It's really not a clown school though. Of course everything we've learned helps with what we're doing now, but each section is a lesson unto itself. The first semester of second year we worked on transposing cinema onto the stage using just our bodies and movement to tell the story. We worked on melodrama and commedia dell'arte. In the second trimester, we entered into the mysterious and tragic worlds of bouffon, greek tragedy, chorus, and mystère. A beautiful world was created for our soirée that touched heaven and hell. Now our final trimester we work on the self: clown, burlesque, cabaret, and the absurd. 

Stages: Can you explain the soirée a bit more?
Maggio
: To clarify on the soirée, throughout the trimester we do autocours as I mentioned before, then on the Friday before our final week of trimester, we propose all of the work that we want to put into the show. This is usually work from autocours but we can propose things the teachers haven't seen yet. They will give us yes, no, and maybe on what we've proposed, and we have the weekend to take their notes and improve upon what we have. Then we re-propose on Monday, and we get notes and cuts again. Then Tuesday we have tech, and Wednesday is our first performance for the other students (from first year and the other programs they teach) and then Thursday is the real public. 
So this last soiree was the culmination of the semester where we learned tragedy, bouffon, chorus, and mystere. Our soiree was a series of scenes from all these different worlds. There is a reason these subjects are all taught together, which I believe is the dialogue they have between heaven and hell and the relationship to the unknown. So we linked these scenes together with sound and light and edited a little our endings and beginnings so that they were no longer just scenes but moved as a whole. 
For this next soiree I have yet to see how we're going to construct our final show.

Madeleine Maggio acts in a bouffon piece

Madeleine Maggio performs a bouffon piece in which she plays a 5 year old girl who gets an iPhone and does naughty things on the internet. "Bouffon can make an audience cringe a little. Steve Jobs and Mama Google as well as some internet perverts are part of the clan behind me..." Maggio said.

Stages: Have you performed with your classmates or elsewhere in Paris? Can you talk about that experience if yes?
Maggio
: I have not performed outside of school here in Paris. The teachers try to encourage us not to because the school is really time consuming and they want us to keep our energy invested in the work we're doing here. Of course, lots of people do stuff anyway. Some friends of mine put together a devised piece about smoking and brought it to London for a weekend. (Roxanne Browne, a former UMass exchange student ,was a big part of that, she's here with me at Lecoq!) I've stuck with what the teachers have advised us. Between school, work and life, it’s a pretty busy schedule. 

Stages: Have you had an opportunity to get to know the theater/performance scene in Paris? Any memorable experiences or performances you've witnessed?
Maggio
: Performances I've seen in Paris…. I've seen some fun clown shows. Some of the ones that I've really loved have been at Peter Brook's theater here. We students have been invited to a lot of the previews for pieces that he has been directing. One of our professors and one of the founders of the theater company, Complicité, Jos Houben, has collaborated and performed in a couple of those pieces. It's great to see our teacher perform on Friday night and then come into class with him on Monday afternoon. 

Stages: You're close to finishing up — do you plan to return to the states or will you stay in Paris — or go someplace completely different?
Maggio
: I am coming back to Brooklyn for the summer. I'm not sure what I will do as of yet. I'm trying to keep my energy present in clown, so I haven't thought too much about my next move. I know I want to perform and direct and collaborate and I would love to find a way to do that with my classmates here, most of whom will be in London next year. Of course there are issues with visas, etc., but I'm not going to let that stop me. I've also being thinking about devising a one-woman show using bouffon. So we'll see where that takes me. 

Updates

Updates! No preamble! We’re very busy!

First up, Professor Emerita June Gaeke. Although she’s retired, she continues to be a faithful attendee of the annual USITT conference, and always uses the opportunity to connect with alumni and friends.  She reported the following:

The United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) held its annual conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, from March 18-21, 2015.  I was delighted to see many UMass alumni in attendance and was fortunate to spend time with Brian Ruggaber and his 10 month old son, Nate, and Gail Brassard.  We held a UMass alumni gathering with Elaine Bergeron, Lara Dubin, Kathy Devault, and Brian Ruggaber.  Seen in passing in airports, or on Cincinnati streets and the Expo floor were Chris Darland, Devon Drohan, John Forbes, and Dan Gray

USITT UMass alumni gathering

Please contact me if you will be at the 2016 USITT convention in Salt Lake City and would like to be included in our informal alumni gatherings.  Hope to see you next year!

June Gaeke
Professor Emerita
jgaeke@theater.umass.edu

A timely note: Student Erin Mabee will be the student speaker at today’s commencement ceremonies!

This has been a particularly good semester for a number of people in the dramaturgy area. To wit:

Our favorite South African, professor Megan Lewis, won the UMass Distinguished Teaching Award, given out to only a handful of faculty every year. Lewis and fellow faculty member Judyie Al-Bilali received the Student Choice Award from the  Residential First-Year Experience (RFYE).

Professor Harley Erdman will be spending next spring in Sri Lanka as a Fulbright US Scholar, teaching courses in documentary theater and adaptation to students at the University of Perideniya. The aim is to give students there the tools to create their own works, specific to their experiences.

About-to-graduate MFA student Paul Adolphsen is heading to South Africa on a Fulbright Student Grant to work with students and faculty at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in South Africa. He plans to develop theater courses that will offer students an opportunity to use theater to explore the unique issues young South Africans face.

The rest of the Department’s not doing too shabbily either!

In performance, professor Milan Dragicevich got news that he has received a 2015 Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation Fellowship. This fellowship supports Milan’s participation at the International Shakespeare Theater Festival in Serbia, where he has been invited to lead Shakespeare performance workshops.

Fellow performance faculty member Gina Kaufmann opened her production of The Last Five Years at the Majestic to good reviews: http://www.masslive.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2015/04/majestic_theater_ends_season_o.html

Scenic construction director Brandon Hall and soon–to-graduate MFA costume designer Elizabeth Pangburn announced the birth of Edythe Pangburn-Hall, born March 27 and weighing in at 8lbs 13oz.

Costume shop manager Kristin Jensen informed us about the Department of Theater’s involvement with Opera On The Air, a Music Department Opera Workshop that was directed by Sheila Siragusa ‘03G with work by student costumers Bethany Eddy, Stacie St. Louis and Megan Fusco; lighting and props by Michael Seavey, and stage management and props by Peter Vaiknoris.

Check out the nifty poster announcing same:

Opera on the Air poster

And of course, we had some alumni checking in.

Connie Gilman Wones ’54 emailed us:
“I did leave Amherst before the Department of Theater was established, but I do fondly remember Professor Rand. I won't be able to come to see The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but wish you all well.  When I was in Amherst I enjoyed all of the theater productions and worked backstage on a couple of them. I still love theater and regularly go to productions at Arena Stage and The Shakespeare Theater in Washington, DC.  Thank you for helping me get the theater bug.
Best wishes to all!”

From Tony Award-land: Ben Stanton '99 has been nominated for a Tony Award for his work on the musical, Fun Home!

In other award news (gosh, that's fun to type!) Bill Pullman '80G racked up Lucille Lortel Award AND DRama Desk nominations for his performance in this winter's Sticks and Bones.

And finally, eagle-eyed professor Julie Nelson sent notice of a video posted by Dolph Paulsen ‘06 currently in the MA/Education program at Harvard of a presentation about his rhetoric-based literacy program, with specific reference to the inspiration provided by Milan Dragicevich and his course in Detonated Language

'A Sound Bridge to the Text'

“Very impressive presentation. If you are pressed for time, he starts talking about his theater background at the 4 minute mark,” Nelson added.

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