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Alumni and Friends

Stages

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

April 2011: Contents

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Remarks from the Chair — New equipment for the Rand stage

We've got new stuff!

Thanks to our former Dean, now Vice Provost for Academic Personnel, Joel Martin, we received the funds to upgrade the Rand's rigging system.

That's right — the old motorized system, which hasn't worked for years, is gone. In March, a crew from Sapsis, the country's premier rigger, worked with a small crew of our students and staff to disassemble and remove the old system. Once it was gone, the Sapsis crew installed a state-of-the-art J. R. Clancy PowerLift, Columbus-McKinnon Lode Star half-ton chain hoists, and a Sure Target motorized rigging control system.

(You can see the works for yourself in the slideshow below.)

This new state-of-the-art motorized winch replaces the original 35 year old automated system long in disrepair. This new winch and aluminum truss, which we installed on lineset #4 in support of our first electric, along with our two new 1/2 ton chain hoists, offer the students the very same technology they will find in the professional world.

The constant updating and repairing/replacing of our theater technology keeps our facilities operating with safety and function as our primary concerns. Within the last 6 years, we have been able to install some new technology into both of our theaters. This reinforces our commitment to our students to provide them with a professional training ground, as well as a safe place in which to explore, experience, and understand the function and creative applications of technology in today's world.

This is a tremendously exciting development for us — upgrades to the Rand stage are sorely needed and long-overdue, and we are looking forward to the more sophisticated rigging ability this new system will give us!

— Penny Remsen, Chair

Slideshow: Our New Rigging System

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Two stage management alumnae work at New Haven's Long Wharf Theatre

We know about UMass Theater communities in New York, Chicago, LA. About 90 minutes south of Amherst, two alumnae of the department have set up another outpost, this one in New Haven,CT, at the Long Wharf Theatre.

 

They are Meghan Kane '05 (at right), who is in her fourth season with the theater and is currently the theater's acting production manager, and Katrina Frances (Lewonczyk) '10 (at left), who is wrapping up a season-long residency working in the properties department. Both of them view production manager Julie Fife as a mentor and concentrated on stage management during their time at UMass.

When Kane graduated, she free-lanced, mostly as a stage manager, for Berkshire Theatre Festival (long a summer employer for her), Trinity Repertory Theatre, and other New England companies, although she occasionally went as far afield as Ohio.

Eventually, she said, "I wanted something more permanent."

She found out about the residency program at Long Wharf, which offered experience in a number of areas, including production management.

"It really was Julie Fife who got me into production management. When she had to go on bedrest (during her pregnancy) it gave me an opportunity to get my feet wet. It was a great learning experience I otherwise wouldn't have gotten," Kane explained.

Her original time at Long Wharf wasn't quite what she was looking for — she ended up on the company management side of things, and so she left the position. Long Wharf had apparently recognized her value, though, because shortly thereafter, she was asked back as a production assistant, and she has remained in production. Even though her title is Assistant Production Manager, she has essentially served as the theater's acting production manager since her boss's departure several months ago.

Last schoolyear, Meghan received a call from a fellow Fife acolyte about the Long Wharf residency program.

"I got a call from Katrina," Kane said.

"Yeah, Penny called me into her office, said, 'Here, call her!" and made me call and walked away," Frances took up the story, laughing.

The conversation established their common ground of stage management training, and although Frances originally was interested in the scenic residency (she designed the set of Spring Awakening last year), Kane recommended Frances to the props department.

"I had no props experience before coming here. But Julie trained me in a way that wasn't just about stage management, but how to work with people," Frances said.

She and Kane both find themselves thinking about Fife's mentorship and applying what they've learned. Frances noted with a grin that she's occasionally heard Kane say things that sounds like they came direct from Fife. Kane doesn't deny it.

In addition to enjoying Fife's mentorship, Kane said she appreciated that at UMass, she learned not only the specifics of her craft, but the importance of a professional approach to the task at hand.

"The most terrifying class I ever took was Theater 342 with (then-adjunct professor) Alec Wild," said Kane, by way of example. "I was awful! But I showed up, I was prepared." In the end, on the merits of her attitude, she scored a good grade in the class.

Frances is equally vocal about the benefits of another aspect of the department's training.

"People complain about Theater 160 like it was their job," Frances said, "but in the prop shop two weeks ago, I was asked, 'change the front on this pillow,' and I was able to do it only because of 160!"

Frances' residency wraps up soon, and while she jokingly pestered Kane about giving her a permanent job at the theater (Kane's response is that if she could, she would), She already has a summer position secured at the TriArts Sharon Playhouse in Connecticut.

Kane anticipates that she'll be at Long Wharf for a while yet.

"I'm phenomenally lucky to be an assistant production manager," she said, adding that she enjoys her co-workers. "They're a great group of people to work with."

 


The set for The Old Masters, a production both women worked on.
(Photo courtesy of Long Wharf Theater)

Duncan Putney '83 Combines Charity and Creativity to create a One of its Kind Competition

Studying both theater and economics, Duncan Putney '83 was not sure which career he wanted to pursue. During his senior year, legendary actor Vincent Price visited the University campus with a one-man show called “The Beast Within Me,” and he spoke to theater students. In his speech, Price encouraged the young future actors to look at the career of acting not in the short term, but as a lifetime.

That was the moment when Putney decided that he did not want a regular “9 to 5 job” at an office. He pursued a career in acting and has since branched out into other creative pursuits, including screenwriting. Most recently he has gained attention for his newest endeavor, the creation of a film festival focused solely on Public Service Announcements, the 7DAYPSA festival. There are now several iterations of the festival, including one in Rhode Island which just concluded.

Since graduating, Putney has worked on numerous films and television projects including Mystic River and The Town, as well as corporate videos and commercials for such clients as Budweiser, Gillette, and Papa Gino. Even though Putney decided to follow his life path as an actor and a multifaceted professional in the creative field, his accounting knowledge, proved to be very useful as well, especially when writing grants.

Putney enjoys working not only as an actor, but also as a writer and an historic consultant. In September 2010, Icarus of Normandy, a short film script written by Putney, received the top honors at the Going Green Film Festival (GGFF) in Los Angeles, CA. Icarus of Normandy is a Putney’s take on European film. The GGFF festival is the first one of its kind and it promotes environmental awareness and best practices in filmmaking.
Right now he is working together with Beth Raisner Glass, a well-known children’s book author in New England, on turning the script into a children’s book.

Besides Icarus of Normandy, Putney’s numerous other writings were winners in screenwriting competitions such as the Woods Hole Film Festival and the International Family Film Festival. The year of 2009 proved to be especially fruitful for Putney. That year he wrote a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign, Canisters, for the Rhode Island International Film Festival, which won a New England Emmy Award. That same year, Putney also co-wrote a documentary Partnership Runs Deep, produced by David Beeline for NOAA and the Smithsonian’s Ocean Hall, which won two Gold Screen Awards.

That was when Putney had an idea to dedicate some of his time, talent and aspirations to aiding human service non-profit organizations to get better media exposure. It all started with the Big Sisters of Rhode Island, a statewide mentoring organization with the mission to positively impact the lives of at-risk girls and boys. Being acquainted with one of the members of that organization, Putney learned that the Big Sisters were wedged in a “catch-22” situation. The organization did not have enough funding for getting their message out to the public, which resulted in a decline of donations, which in return further restrained their funding allocation.

Putney, along with Andre Stark, decided to create the 7DAYPSA competition, in which filmmakers compete to create the best PSAs for worthy organizations. The festival operates under the umbrella of Flickers Creative Impulse Award and has expanded to Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
The “Agency” teams, who are competing, are assigned to a single deserving non-for-profit organization, called “Clients”, which were randomly picked at the beginning of the competition. Then, the “Agency” teams have 7 days to produce three broadcast quality versions (20, 30, and 60 seconds) of a public service announcement. Several “Agencies” produce PSA’s for the same “Client” organization. At the end of the 7 days, the “Client” organization chooses the public services announcement they would like to use, which determines the winner.

7DAYPSA provides an opportunity for the non-for-profit organizations to receive a gift of a public service announcement that is publicly exhibited for five years, helping them to get the word out about their services. In return, the winners of the 7DAYPSA competition get professional credit on the resume, and after broadcast, the winning PSA’s will be eligible for submission by the 7DAYPSA for nomination for regional Emmy Awards, Telly Awards, Hatch Awards, as well as other industry awards.

The competing teams at the 7DAYPSA range from professionals to high school students. The winner of the Boston 7DAYPSA 2010 was a team of Boston University graduate students. However, the team of Weston High School students was not far off either. They took the third place. Putney explained that 7 DAYPSA is a great way for professionals to try something new, as it is for young students and actors to obtain an outstanding professional experience.

As the Rhode Island 7DAYPSA 2011 competition was about to launch in late March, Putney was also working on an independent film in Boston. He plays a father of a family, who are the innocent bystanders in a hostage situation. “It’s a neat role and it’s a nice film,” says Putney.

Thinking back to his college years, Putney advises the students not to get discouraged if they were cast in a film, but were cut out. By gaining different experiences, “you build more muscles which you are able to use in different ways”. He also encourages current and future students to “take advantage of everything that’s offered by the University. You’re there for the education, as well as the degree!”

Details about the local award-winners for the Rhode Island, Boston and Rhode Island 7DayPSA festivals, as well as links toyoutube versions the PSAs themselves, can be found on the 7DayPSA site here.

(Photo of Duncan Putney courtesy of Duncan Putney)

Justin McClintock: Shop time leads to a flourishing career

Over the 2010-2011 schoolyear, we've used our Stages newsletter to introduce you to some people who are supporters of the Department of Theater, who remember their time here when they think about the charitable giving they want to do. For this, our last profile of the 2010-2011 schoolyear, we connected with a young alumnus who credits his career in theater to the job he had in the electrics shop

Graduating Year: 2001

Major: Theater

Favorite UMass Theater memory: “I came in with a plan to be an actor, and I shifted to a plan to be a director, but the last two years, I worked in the electrics shop.” McClintock remembers his disbelief at his good luck when he was hired for a job in the department, which would allow him to work in the building where he had the majority of his classes. “I get $6 an hour?! They’ll pay me?!”

Why do you donate to the UMass Amherst Department of Theater? Because it is valuable to me — the only thing I have ever done for a living is theater. After the second year in New York City, when I had disposable income, I gave. I give so I can tell other UMass people I did it. If you think this is important, if you had a good experience, you should give. And, I had a telemarketing job (in Memorial Hall). That job sucked, so I will help them out any way I can; that factors into it a little bit.

Arranging a time to talk with Justin McClintock '01 was a bit of a challenge. A member of the electrics crew working on the soon-to-open Broadway version of Sister Act, his time is often not his own at the moment. He's been with the production since shortly before Christmas and anticipates that he'll be there until at least mid-June, but probably well into the fall.

McClintock has been living and working in New York since he got there shortly after graduation in 2001. With the exception of the time shortly after 9/11 when so many others struggled too, he has happily supported himself working as a free-lance electrician in corporate and fashion shows, and theaters from the big Broadway houses to the tiniest arts spaces. He credits his career to the Department of Theater and specifically, to his time spent in the electrics shop.

Justin came to UMass intending to be an actor, but he eventually shifted his focus to directing — in his junior year, he and a group of theater students mounted a production of The Revenger's Tragedy in the Curtain Theater. It was an experience he remembers fondly, recalling long hours in the theater and frantic scrambles to assemble the production.
During his last two years in the department, McClintock worked in the electrics shop under the guidance of department electrician Michael Dubin. At the time, the benefits of his job were the fact that he was being paid and that he was working in the building were all his classes were held.

Still, he moved to New York with every intention of being a director. He and a roommate agreed to share an apartment that would cost each of them $1,100 a month in rent, . "I burned through my savings in the first two weeks," he said, ruefully.

Desperate, he called a fellow UMass alumna Mary Barrett, who was working as an electrician, to see if she might be able to help him out.

"She said, 'I can get you one day of work at Juilliard'," he recalled. She followed through, and it was the start of his career as an electrician. He showed up, proved he knew what he was doing, and one of the people he met that day hired him for another electrician gig. His career blossomed from there, as every job he took seemed to yield a new contact that helped him to another one.

"I was fully prepared to have a 'day job'," he said, when he came to New York, but he's never had to take one.

Many of the job contacts he made were UMass alumni or knew of the program by its reputation.

"'Oh, he's UMass' will pass muster in a lot of circles. I have yet to send a resumé — the UMass network has been extremely valuable to me," McClintock said. "I can trace every job I've ever had to UMass."

He's been hired by, worked alongside, or otherwise crossed paths with technical theater and design alumni including Kevin Barry, Melissa Mizell, Ben Stanton, Traci Klainer, David Korins, Sarah Jakubasz, Sarah Phykitt and Jeremy Wahlers. The latter, in fact, is part of the Sister Act team, where McClintock is the lead follow spot operator.

He attributes the reputation of UMass alumni to the liberal-arts approach the department takes — "Being a fully-rounded theater major helped me get here," he noted — and to Dubin in particular.

"He is an undervalued resource," McClintock said, explaining that Dubin is good at imparting not only the technical skills required of a good electrician, but the professional values and work ethic as well.

Now that he's comfortably ensconced in the industry, he's often in a position to return the favor for newer alumni, and the UMass mafia's newest members are doing their bit to uphold the reputation. "I've never had anyone trained by Michael Dubin (working with me) who didn't shine. The work ethic and quality is exceptional," McClintock said.

UMass alumni like him work at all levels of the industry in New York. McClintock has, for years, worked the New York spring and fall fashion shows, lucrative work that, for only two or three weeks' work, brings in a significant chunk of his annual income. Corporate events also pay well, and together, these sorts of jobs allow him the financial freedom to pursue smaller, lower-paying passion projects for the sheer love of the field — he cites Play Dead, a project featuring Long Island sideshow performer Todd Robbins and directed by Teller of Penn and… as a recent example. "It was dark, terrifying and weird — and they didn't have much money," he said, but as a sometime magician and a fan of Teller, he found it a dream project even at long hours for low pay.

McClinotck said he hasn't seriously considered acting in 7 or 8 years now, but that he's happy where he is, even if it wasn't originally where he thought he'd be in the theater world. He has lots of friends in the community — and even credits the job for meeting his girlfriend, now an OB/GYN resident but a former theater tech.

Given the considerable praise he heaps on the department for its hand in his career, he is matter-of-fact about his donations.

Ever since he's had disposable income of any kind, he's made it a point to give, a way of signaling his thanks to the place that helped him on his way to a career. There's also a measure of paying it forward, since McClintock received a scholarship while he was at UMass. Last and not least, he once worked in Memorial Hall as one of the student solicitors, asking alumni for donations. It was a terrible job, he said, so he feels some camaraderie for the students who get him on the line. He recalls that often, to lighten the task the first person to get a donation from, say, a particular area or in a particular amount, would receive a prize. When he gets a call, he's been known to ask, "'Hey, is there a game?' That factors into it a little bit," he admitted with a laugh.

(Photos of Penny Remsen and Justin McClintock by Jon Crispin.)

Updates

Calling allcostume shop alumni and friends! We are marking the retirement of our long-time costume shop manager Cecilia Precciozzi-Chalfin in the year-end issue of Stages. If you have an anecdote to share, something you want to say about Cecilia's work, or even just good wishes you'd like to extend, you can send them to Public Relations Director Anna-Maria Goossens.

Naomi Bennett '01 performed her original piece, Toilet Bowl Love, intriguingly referred to in the tag-line as "a solo toilet-clown performance," at Atlantis Playmakers earlier this month.

MFA dramaturgy candidate Sarah Brew let us know that together, she and Josephine Hardman (an English graduate student) are translating—for the first time ever in English—Tirso de Molina's play El Amor Medico (c. 1620-1). The play is about a strong (and teasingly deceptive!) woman who defies the gender roles of her time by studying Latin and becoming—in disguise—a physician. They held staged readings of their translation at the Renaissance Center on April 8 and 9. In addition, Sarah's summer plans include participating in a panel at the ATHE conference, to be held in Chicago this August.

Lisa Channer '89 is spending the spring in St. Petersburg, Russia, with her husband and two boys. She'll be teaching directing at the Academy of Theatre Arts, doing research for a new play and taking advanced Biomechanics training with teacher Alexei Levinsky. 

Rob Corddry '93 was among those on the list of presenters and attendees at the inaugural Comedy Awards, aired on Comedy Central and several other channels.

Technical director Michael Cottom has helped BDIC student Emma Sanderson secure an internship with set designer Chris Stone in New York City. Her summer will include an opportunity to work on a Philip Glass piece as well as the possibility of attending an event with Ming Cho Lee.

Alumna Jane Cox got great reviews for her work in Bathsheba Doran's Kin, which ran at Playwrights Horizons earlier this spring. She also spent time with the Houston Grand Opera to light Lucia di Lammermoor for the British director John Doyle, "which I am rather excited about," she noted.  The opera went on to La Fenice in Venice and Sydney Opera House. She spent spring break with us, when we hosted dancer/choreographer Monica Bill Barnes, who used the Rand Theater as a rehearsal space for a new piece, which Jane is lighting.

Robert Davis '99 checked in to tell us he recently completed the lighting design for a production of Copenhagen at The Attic Theatre as well as Parade running at the Westchester Playhouse, both in the Los Angeles area.

Jeffrey Donovan '91 has been cast as Robert F. Kennedy in Clint Eastwood's latest oeuvre, J. Edgar. He's got a busy spring so far: He just directed Bruce Campbell in Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe, a prequel to his successful show Burn Notice, on USA, and he started production on the fifth season of the USA Network series in March.

Professor Harley Erdman's translation of Marta the Divine will be published by Aris & Phillips sometime in late 2011 or early 2012.  They are also publishing his translation of Jealous of Herself by the same author (Tirso de Molina). Harley is also working on a new opera, Garden of Martyrs, with composer Eric Sawyer, based upon the true story of Halligan and Daley: two Irish immigrants who were executed in Northampton in 1806 for a murder they probably didn't commit.

Mary Fegreus '09 wants you to watch Body of Proof, the new medical examiner show starring Dana Delaney. She has a co-starring role in an upcoming episode, and her fellow '09 alum Alex Martin worked on the episode as a location assistant. Mary will also be on an upcoming episode of HBO's Hung.

Professor June Gaeke wrote us a quick report about her time at the annual USITT conference:
"Many UMass alumni attended the 51st USITT national convention that was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, from March 1st to March 5th. It was wonderful catching up with the careers and lives of Ron Keller, Dan Gray, Gail Brassard, Kathy DeVault, and Brian Ruggaber and exchanging greetings in passing with John Forbes and Mary Tarantino. I attended with Erin Amelia White, MFA costume design candidate. The conference had many informative panels and presentations besides having the added benefits of the out-door experience of flowering trees and pansies in full bloom with no snow in sight. (Yes, it has been a long winter in Amherst.) During the next convention in Long Beach (in 2012), I am excited by the prospect of having our very own UMass alumni party on Thursday night! Please keep in touch if you will be in Long Beach!"

Erin Greene '02's Greene Room Productions is presenting The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at the Academy of Music in Northampton in May.

Assistant Technical Director Jon Iverson was the Major General in the production of Pirates of Penzance at Smith Collegethsi month. He is also preparing to test for his fourth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

Alumna Traci Klainer Polimeni designed The 39 Steps at Hartford Stage. MFA lighting design candidate Jessica Greenberg assisted her.

David Korins '99 was featured in the New York Post talking about his designs for Pee Wee Herman's Play House. He got great reviews for his work on Little Miss Sunshine at La Jolla Playhouse. He was supposed to come visit the department in April, but that was pre-empted because he was just asked to design for Kanye West's new tour.

MFA dramaturgy candidate Jason Lites received the "Residential First-Year Experience Student Choice Award" via the nomination of a Theater 120 student from the Fall semester. 

Tim Matos '00 writes in that he is married to Nicole Matos.  She got her Ph.D. from the UMass English Dept. in 2008—"the same year I finished my Ph.D. in the English dept.  We have one child, Alexander Owen Matos, who is now 2 years old," he wrote. "I have so many memories from UMass since I was both an undergrad and a graduate student there.  I was in Amherst from 1995-2004 and a student of the college until 2008.  One of my favorite memories was of Miguel Romero's first puppet show at UMass, Zomo.  I played Zomo and although I haven't done any puppetry in many years, I often forget that Miguel and I worked together for something like seven years." As for what he's doing now: "The last couple of years have been interesting.  I am now a tenured professor at the City Colleges of Chicago where I teach writing and literature.  In December my short play Leap Frog had a staged reading at Lincoln Square Theatre as a part of the Courier 12 Collective's Winter Shorts Festival.  Later this spring, my full-length play Frost Heaves Melinda will have a staged reading also at Lincoln Square Theatre here in Chicago.  Unrelated to playwriting, my first book of poems A School for Fishermen came out in March of 2010 from BrickHouse Books. I will be reading from it again in April as a part of the College of DuPage's Writers at Work Festival."

Mark O'Maley '07 let us know that in addition to teaching lighting design for dance at West Chester University outside of Philadelphia and freelance designing, he just finished up an appointment teaching at Arcadia University.  He is currently designing Heaven and Hell, a Divine Comedy, directed by Jeannie Marie Brown '06G, at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS. "This is our second collaboration here at Millsaps and it's so great working with JMB," he writes. Up next are two shows in Massachusetts: designing set and lights for Flux, an original piece looking at the Fluxus artist movement, and Alice Underground, a dance piece setting Alice in Wonderland in Andy Warhol's Factory with The Velvet Underground playing.

Professor Julie Nelson helped student Madeleine Maggio set up an internship this summer with the Lecoq School, and also lined up another internship for student Amanda Wilson at Circle in the Square.

Bill Pullman '80G will be part of the cast in the next season of British sci-fi hit Torchwood: Miracle Day.

Ben Stanton '99 designed Dream of the Burning Boy for the Roundabout Theatre Company, which received an extended run through May 15.

Alumnus Glenn Sturgis '03, once a stage manager and now a baker, was a competitor on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars several months ago.

Justin Townsend '97 lit The Other Place at the Lucille Lortel Theatre.

MFA directing candidate Dawn Monique Williams has been offered a place in the New York Fall Directing Program of the New York Drama League. The Fall Director's Project is a directing fellowship. Between May 17 and Dec. 14, Dawn will spend a week in New York, participate in a retreat with a master director, and then complete two assistant-director assignments at a Regional Theater. The fellowship culminates with the Fall Director's Fest, where she will direct a one-act at off-Broadway Theater in December. Only 4 people were accepted this year out of over 100 applicants. (Gil McCauley is a director's project alumnus.) In addition, she will be directing Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale for Hampshire Shakespeare Company this summer. The production will run for 3 weeks in July at the Renaissance Center in Amherst.

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