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Alumni and Friends


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

April 2010 issue — Contents

Click on the title to go directly to the story


Marta the Divine in El Paso

On March 4, a group of UMass Theater students, staff and faculty flew to El Paso, TX, where they had a unique opportunity to restage last semester's world-premiere production, Marta the Divine, before an international and bilingual audience at Chamizal Memorial, a park that sits on the border between the US and Mexico.

Visit our Marta the Divine page for recollections, photos, and more.

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Celebrating Denise Wagner in person and in e-print!

Denise is still retired. We still miss her. We're sure you do, too!

If you do, here's a reminder that if you'd like to contribute to our all-Denise issue of Stages coming out next month time is ticking. Please send us any and all Denise anecdotes, gentle roasts, photos, and other tributes you'd like us to include: amgoossens@verizon.net.

Our deadline was April 10, but since that's a Saturday and we won't be editing anything until the following Monday, we won't turn down any contributions we receive by the end of the day on April 12.

In the meantime, if you'd like to raise a glass to Denise in person, please make plans to attend this year's Play-In-A-Day on May 8. The show is at 8 p.m. in the Rand (see related story below below). After the performance, our traditional post-show party will be held on the Rand stage in honor of Denise. There will be a cake and a cash bar, and we'll raise our glasses in honor of our favorite secretary-singer-actress!

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Writing by the Seat of Our Pants

We’re loading up on coffee. We’re stocking up on brain food.  We’re practicing the divine art of the 10-minute catnap.  In short, we’re preparing to stay up all night writing plays for Play-In-A-Day 2010. 

This May, UMass students and faculty, in collaboration with special guest writers like Rob Corddry '93 (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Heartbreak Kid, Hot Tub Time Machine), Julia Brownell (Smart Cookie, Show and Spell), Meryl Cohn, aka the hilarious Ms. Behavior, will spend exactly 24 hours writing and rehearsing six brand-new plays for your enjoyment!  The writers will spend the night creating brand-new works, and, come morning, they’ll hand the pages off to the directors, actors, and stagehands who will have until 8 p.m. to figure out a way to bring those works to life on the stage.

Come join us at the Rand Theater at 8:00 p.m. on May 8th to see the results of their mad scramble.  There’s certain to be excitement, laughter, and a gaffe or two. The evening will also honor long-time department secretary Denise Wagner (see accompanying article above), and we'll raffle off a number of special prizes (bring cash!). 

You don’t want to miss it!

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Welcome, de-lurkers!
To those alumni and friends still hiding in the proverbial shadows of the internet: Come out, come out, wherever you are!
We love when people we haven't heard from in a while check in with us to let us know how they're doing, and it seems that a number of you have been persuaded to do so.
So: Welcome! Don't be a stranger! Stay in touch!

And now, on to the news (and be sure to check out the links where we've included them — one of your college classmates could be doing something really interesting right where you live!):

Joél Avilés '06 sent word of his latest project, directing Laughing All Along, A Rom Com by Michael Marceline '06. The piece will be performed this June at The Director's Company Studio in New York City
311 West 43rd St, New York, NY.

Rachel Braidman (née Cummings) '07, and fellow alumni Scott Braidman '07, Sheila Siragusa '05G, and have started The August Company in the Pioneer Valley with a few non-UMass friends. Other Department of Theater alums working with the company are Mark Teffer '08, Eliza Green-Smith '08, Claire Kavanah '08, Cate McLaughlin '09, and Anna Norcross '09. The company kicked off its first season this past September with The Taming of the Shrew in Look Park's Pines Theatre. In February, the company performed a well-received 5-minute version of The Sound of Music as a part of Northampton Art's Council's Really Big Show. This May, the company is producing its first OnWord production (a show made up entirely of pieces of literature and songs not originally written for the stage, all centered around one theme word). And this summer 2010, the company plans to do two full productions (one show TBA at the end of July and Shakespeare's As You Like It at the end of August).

Jeremy Browne '07 will be in Boston this summer. "Just a quick update," he writes, "to let you know I'll be playing Montano in this summer's production of Othello produced by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (free Shakespeare on the Commons) and directed by Steven Maler. … I'm sure you remember Jeff Donovan's Hamlet; while Montano may be a small part, I'm pleased as pie to be asked to return for my second season!"

Rachel Cardillo '07 emailed us in the nick of time to make this issue of Stages with her update. After training and working as a House Manager at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, MA, during the company's 2009 summer/fall season, she began to pursue work in House/Company Management. She worked with fellow alum Shawn LaCount's ‘09 theater company, Company One, as a House Manager for its production of The Overwhelming. That led to a job at the American Repertory Theater as the Company/Front of House Management Associate. She adds, "I've been working at A.R.T. since November and am loving every minute of it! :) "

Alumna Lisa Channer wrote with the exciting news that she is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship. She and her family are planning to head to Russia in spring 2011. In the meantime, you can visit her theater company website.

Jacob Hellman '09 sent us a list his activities over the past few months: He spent 6 months in Israel as a dramaturg, serving as production dramaturg for the Israeli premiere of the Jason Robert Brown musical 13 as well as the world premiere of the play Silence Not: A Love Story by Cynthia L. Cooper. He also went to Cyprus and met many members of the theater community in Nicosia and Limassol.
Click for more information about 13 and Silence Not.

While two of his latest plays are out circulating, Professor emeritus Julian Olf is keeping very busy. This spring he directed two UMass Theater alumni, Eliza Greene-Smith '08 and Steve Pierce '06, in a short play by the Los Angeles-based playwright, Rose Martula. Also this spring he joins The August Company as an actor in its OnWord Project.  There he will perform a monologue based on a piece of fiction by Dennis Quinn.

Robin Reed '97 wrote and shot a pilot last year called Carroll Gardens (set in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn) — alumnus Skid Maher co-stars alongside Robin and alumna Carrie Haugh makes a classic cameo in the opening credits.  They just finished editing and it's being pitched by The Gersh Agency. Robin joined the cast of Radio Happy Hour at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC and performed alongside Norah Jones, Michael Showalter, Andrew WK, Tunde Adebimpe, Kumail Nanjiani, Chuck Klosterman, The Hold Steady, Jolie Holland and Jessi Klein. They're doing a mini tour in April to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and Minneapolis (venue TBA).  You can also hear Robin nationally as the voice of Campbell's Soup, GE Appliances, Wheat Thins, On-Star and Publix.

Charlotte Lettis Richardson '76 got in touch after many years to update us on her life so far: "I am a filmmaker and track and field coach!  My most recent film is a documentary about three generations of women runners, before and after Title IV. It is called Run Like A Girl.  I am currently living in Portland Oregon with my husband, Kirk Richardson. I am the Head Track and Field Coach for men and women at Lincoln High School in downtown Portland." She's been married to Kirk for 27 years and the couple has two sons, 25 and 21. She recalled performing in Canterbury Tales and going on to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. "This was an amazing cast!" she writes.

Lucas Maloney '04 writes that his company, Molotov Theatre Group, "just wrapped up a very successful run of Mondo Andronicus. The play was a special-effects-filled, goretastic reduction of Titus Andronicus that focused on the most violent parts of the play. One critic described it, 'like seeing Sir Patrick Stewart, as Henry II, make an appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse.' We received the script from San Francisco's Thrillpeddlers, the country's oldest Grand Guignol company. Pictures of the show, which I directed and did lighting design, will be on our website soon. We also recently received our 501 c3 non-profit status to help us to continue to cut tongues and arms off and splatter innocent audience members with various bodily fluids. If anyone is in the Washington DC area in July, I will be acting and lighting designing for our world-premiere production of The Horrors of Online Dating. The play is about a schizophrenic serial killer who finds her victims online and then ritualistically tortures and kills them. Oh, it's a musical comedy. In less violent endeavors, I will soon be acting and writing with a team in DC's 48 Hour Film Festival in April and playing Lancelot Gobbo in a radio production of The Merchant of Venice with Lean & Hungry Theater in June." See pictures of Mondo Andronicus on the Molotov Theatre Groups website.

Aaron Schmookler '09G has moved to the Tacoma, WA area, where his theater company, Gold from Straw, recently got a warm welcome from a local arts blogger, One Foot on Shore. An excerpt from the post:
"…I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had with other frustrated Tacoma theatre folks who have to commute 40-60 minutes north or south to find paying gigs, the opportunity to do new works, or even the opportunity to be taken seriously for what we do.
Now, Gold From Straw is looking to add something new to the Tacoma theatre scene….
It’s clear that Aaron knows exactly the kinds of plays he wants to produce with Gold From Straw. As the company’s current mission says, 'With a commitment to the highest artistic standards, we stage an eclectic array of new works and classics that are raw, substantial and sophisticated while simultaneously sincere, and optimistic.'
I like the last part: Optimistic."

Horror film fans: Michael Walton '01 has a movie coming out nationwide on April 9th called The Black Waters of Echo's Pond. He plays one of nine leads. He's also looking forward to launching another project: He has raised the proper funds for Topdog/Underdog, which he will be launching this year in Hollywood.

David Zucker '70, shared what he's been up to, as well as a Richard Gere story (the two were friends when they were here). First, what he's been doing: He is a nationally-recognized and award-winning actor, director, mime, and producer of Children's Theatre productions, participating in over 300 performances a year all over the USA since 1977, for Young Audiences, Inc. In addition, he is a T'ai Chi and Chi Kung teacher for 30 years and a senior consultant with The Ariel Group, conducting communications workshops for corporate executives all over the world. He and his partner, Elizabeth Bunker, have two kids, Sam and Michaela. And, asked to share a memory of his time in the department, he offered the following: "Browbeating Richard Gere into riding with me to our first professional auditions for the 1969 P-Town Playhouse summer season. He wasn't going to go. He got hired, I didn't :)  He still owes me."

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We ask you for a donation

We value the many alumni and friends who offer us their support in so many ways, from the 'attaboys' we get for our shows to the valuable advice and artistic expertise they share. As ever, though, we are in need of your financial support. Please visit our donation page for details about the project we are working on this year. Many of you have already given and we are very grateful. We're not quite at our goal yet, though, so we'd much appreciate any 'pennies for drama nerds' you might have to spare. Thank you!

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Online Format

As of this fall, we've switched exclusively to an emailed/online format of Stages, which will save paper and money, as well as allowing us to share more interactive features and lots more photos. If you'd like to receive email notices whenever a new issue of Stages has been posted and you're not sure we have your email, please click on Send Us Updates in the sidebar. You can also use the update form to send us your news.


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