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- Remarks from the Chair: Shedding the Shag
- Penny presents: Own a piece of the Rand Theater
- Donor Profile: Chris Darland '87
- UMass makes a summer home in the Berkshires
Hello everyone —
Check me out! Isn't my suit SPECTACULAR?!
This is what happens when you get a bunch of UMass Theater folks in a room to talk about how we might best go about raising money to fund the renovation of the Rand Theater and its lobby.
We started out so simply, with: "Hey, maybe we should get t-shirts!"
Somehow, that became: "Hey, costume shop! Can you make Penny a suit made of carpeting and seat covers?"
And so here I am, dressed in a 1970s-style pimp suit to encourage you all to help us SHED THE SHAG.
As you may have heard, the Rand Theater is actually in good shape. Thanks to our Goddess-dean Julie Hayes and Provost James Staros going to bat for us, we got $750,000 to strip the place of its orange shag, dress it up in beautiful new carpeting and seating, and create an accessible seating area that is both functional and gorgeous. You'll have to wait until the next issue for the full reveal, but for now, check out this cool panoramic shot of what the place looked like mid-summer without any carpet or chairs at all! (click and drag your cursor left or right to rotate the view.)
However, that doesn't quite finish the job, and that's where you come in. We need your help to install accessible bathrooms, energy-efficient lighting, and a functional box office in the lobby. (Seriously: Our bathrooms are DOWN THE STAIRS. Not cool.)
Please, if you have the means to give even a little, we would love to have your help. It's simple, and very much appreciated! We're willing to make it worth your while — please watch this video to see the amazing gifts we have available to thank you for your generosity.
Heart-shaped orange carpet swatches, people. How can you resist? I hope you can't. Click through here to donate right now!
Furthermore, I hope you have the opportunity to join us for our 40th anniversary season. Our students, faculty and staff — with the help of some talented guest artists — have already started the hard work of bringing these productions to life onstage. (Check out our People page to see who's joining us on the faculty and staff, as well as who our guests will be this year.)
I hope you'll join me. I promise to dress up fancy for you!
Over the past few years, 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. To open the 2012-2013 school year, we'd like to introduce you to Chris Darland, a loyal alumnus who has donated financially and shared his talents with us on several renovation projects.
Graduating Year: 1987
A Favorite UMass Theater memory: In his sophomore year Chris was cast in his first (and, as it turned out, his last) major lead role in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. On the night his parents and their friends came to the show, an audience member took flash photos, and Chris railed angrily about the rudeness — until he realized the culprits were his parents' friends. "I have the photos. I look like a startled possum in Renaissance garb, with a cape, arms akimbo, about to be run over by a car."
Why do you donate to the Department of Theater? In a very broad, social, human way, those of us who are doing well are bound to share with others — including your alma mater. I really enjoyed going to UMass. Theater was my outlet; it let me grow up. You have an obligation to support the place that supported you. Most of us get support, and that's really what the giving back is about.
Theater: A ticket to the world
In the past few years, UMass Theater alumnus Chris Darland '87 has been to Hong Kong, South Korea, China, Ukraine, Iceland, and Hungary, among others. It's easy to drop a "how far you've come" comment here, but it happens to be accurate. It's quite a distance from being a kid who found theater in high school and planned to become an actor at UMass, to Darland's current position as associate partner at Artec, one of the world's pre-eminent companies "in the design and planning of innovative performing arts facilities," as it says on their website.
In his 15 years with the company, Darland has been all over the world to help plan, design, build and renovate performing arts spaces, from the brand-new showpiece that is HARPA: Reykjavick Concert and Conference Center in Iceland to the 39-year-old Chapel on Fir Hill in Akron, OH, which needed a thorough acoustical overhaul.
Darland, who now lives and works in New York City when he's not traveling, thinks back with fondness and gratitude on Amherst, MA, where his high school and university experiences combined to give him the base in theater that's led him where he is today. That's why he supports the Department of Theater through donations and by helping out on projects, like turning a disused stretch of lobby into the Upper Rand Studio.
"I really enjoyed going to UMass," he said, and donating, whether financially or with his skills, is a "pay it forward sort of thing" for him. A lot of students nowadays, he feels, approach higher education "like it's a service they're buying. I don't think that's what college is. You're there to become a useful member of society."
Darland discovered theater at Amherst Regional High School, where teacher John Warthen created a drama club. As a way of making sure people helped out backstage, Warthen's rule was that anyone in the club who wanted to audition had to be on the crew for two shows first.
"I started doing technical theater that way," Darland said. That experience led him to the late, great summer theatre at Mount Holyoke, where he interned in technical theater and had racked up some impressive skills by the time he got to UMass.
More than the skill set, though, he valued the summer theatre experience for the less tangible good it brought him as a teenager.
"Theater was really my outlet. Summer theatre helped me grow up," he said. "They placed a lot of responsibility on me."
At UMass, he got in deeper with theater, to his continuing benefit.
"Theater made me a more confident person," he said. Additionally, "some of my strongest friendships are with people I met at UMass." (Read Darland's piece below for one funny memory he shares with an alumnus who is among his closest friends to this day.)
In addition to his thoughts of being an actor, Darland liked lighting design, and pursued it seriously enough to be in Penny Remsen's graduate-level class, but also tried his hand at painting, welding, and scene design, among others.
"You can't be passive about (your education). You do have to go after it at UMass. If you just take the syllabus as prescribed, you will not get as much out of it," he said, noting that the most successful and satisfied students were those who took what they learned to create additional opportunities for themselves. "Four years in liberal arts should be about discovering things and trying things."
From UMass Darland moved on to the late StageWest in Springfield for three and half years, "all the time trying to do acting on the side."
At his father's urging, Darland began thinking about graduate school. Out in Oakland, CA for a year to take some time to think things over and doing rigging and carpentry work, Darland came to a realization: "I'm not an actor — I'm a technical guy."
Thanks in part to a "golden recommendation from Penny" he said, he was accepted to Yale School of Drama, where he received his MFA in Technical Design and Production in 1995.
At the time, Yale encouraged its graduates to move into regional theaters, but Darland looked askance at this as a strategy for building a strong career (not to mention tackling the debt he had acquired by attending school), casting his eyes instead toward New York. For two years he worked for Broadway scene shops, and became an IATSE member.
Eventually, a friend tipped him off that he would be a good fit with Artec as a consultant. The company works with architects and builders to create spaces that meet the clients' needs, including customized auditorium design and performance systems design (including lighting, acoustics, and communication systems, rigging and more). Darland's friend was right, as he's now heading into his 15th year there, time he's spent engaged on projects creating state-of-the-art performance spaces as close to home as Jazz at Lincoln Center's new home in the Frederick P. Rose Hall, as well as the 1050-seat Sang Nam Hall, LG Arts Center, in Seoul, South Korea.
"One of the great things about this job is the traveling," he said. "I've gone to places I probably would not have gotten to otherwise." It's a necessity as well as a perk; in order to design effectively, "it behooves us to know something about the culture."
He likes that his company's employees "have to be strongly self-motivated. You know what your work is, and you've got to get it done. You're treated like an adult."
Not surprising, really, for someone who relished the way UMass encouraged students to take the initiative.
Editor's note: When I met Chris Darland '87 to interview him for this issue of Stages, I asked him to share a favorite anecdote. He thought about it for a few days, then emailed me this:
In my sophomore year (1985) I was cast in my first (and, as it turned out, my last) major lead role. Clark Bowlen*, then a Graduate student in the Directing program, had chosen Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead for his final thesis production. I was cast as Guildenstern, and Jonathan Curelop, a fellow class of 1987 theater major, was cast as Rosencrantz.
If you have read the play, or have seen a full production of it, then you know that there is a lot of talking between Messrs. R. and G. And so, there are a lot of lines to be learned, and a lot of scenes to be rehearsed, and not really that much time to do so when you are a full time student who has class work in other subjects to attend to.
Before every performance I lived in dread anticipation of the opening moments on stage. The relaxation exercises that actors perfunctorily go through to "loosen up" never worked for me – in fact, they made my anxiety worse. I would pace and pace and pace over the Greenroom floor, endlessly going over my lines. By the time Jon and I would have to leave the security of the Greenroom to enter into the black void of the Rand stage to await the first cue, I was a jittering wreck.
And Jon would torture me about it.
We started the top of the show in full lights-up reveal on the downstage thrust. To get there, we had to get onto the stage in total blackness and hit our glow-taped marks. Before we entered onto the stage proper, we had to await our cue from a small, enclosed doorway at upstage right. The SM would give us the places call, and we crept into place – me first, Jon behind. We waited for the red cue light to come on for standby, and then, finally, awaited the wink out which signaled that the time had come to take our positions on stage.
In the darkness, Jon would stand right behind me and whisper innocent little queries into my ear, such as: "Did you pee?"
And suddenly I had to urinate. "Hmm, do I have time to run back to the dressing room and... No, cue light's come on".
The next night's question would be: "Got your coins?"
Crap, where are my coins? "Wait, wait, where are my COINS? Do I have time to run back to the Greenroom and... No, cue light's come on. Oh, look, here are my coins..."
Every night was like this.
The worst was saved for the last performance.
"Hey, what's your first line?"
My first line. My first line? You mean, the first line spoken by me which starts the next 2+ hours of this damned play?
"Oh, hell, what IS my first line? – wait, wait – do I have time to run back to the Greenroom and... No, cue light's come on..."
Frankly, I had no idea what my first line was. I had totally and utterly forgotten it. And I was seized with fear – I instantly flashed ahead to the lights coming up on me, the audience waiting through a long pause, shifting restlessly as the pause became longer, and then the twittering as they slowly realized that one of the two leads had forgotten his opening lines...
And then... "Heads...heads....heads..." It all came back the instant the lights came up.
I am proud to say that I never dropped a line, despite Jon's nefarious pre-show sadism.
And I am glad to say that he is one of my best friends.
*Sadly, I must note that Clark Bowlen passed away on January 8, 2012.
After a vibrant spring of theater performed on our main stages and in every available corner of the building, the sudden quiet of summer can leave a UMass Theater fan feeling a bit bereft. This year, those hankering for a dose of our best just had to drive down the road a stretch to the bucolic grounds of the world-renowned Shakespeare & Company. There, no less than eight current students and recent graduates, as well as one of our faculty members, have set up camp for the summer.
Among their number: recent undergraduate students Erica Simpson and Kim Feener participated in the Summer Training Institute, and current student Devon Drohan worked in the scene shop. On stage, you could find current and past undergrads Greg Boover, Monica Giordano, and Sam Perry onstage in the company's production of The Tempest, directed by Artistic Director — and erstwhile UMass Theater guest artist — Tony Simotes. And just down the hill in the Bankside Festival, they also appeared in faculty member Gina Kaufmann's production of Tartuffe: The Impostor, a musical version taken from Connie Congdon '82G's adaptation of the piece. Recent graduate Luke Reed was both a cast member and the composer of the piece's music, and current grad student Brianna Sloane was in the cast as well as serving as Kaufmann's assistant.
Said Simotes, "the entire presence of UMass students is the highest of any University program ever to my knowledge."
Impressed yet? Wait'll you read what else Simotes had to say. In an email, he wrote:
"I am proud to have had the opportunity to work so closely with the students and faculty to bring a cadre of young talented artists to our Berkshire Campus. Shakespeare & Company is looking forward to even more professional collaborations down the road."
As for our students and alumni, Luke Reed summed up their reaction to the experiences of the summer: "I'm beyond giddy about it!"
In the room with greats
To hear Kaufmann tell it, UMass held its own from the audition process onward. "When I cast this show (Tartuffe), I invited eight students to audition," she said. All handled the difficult process capably, and Giordano and Boover were cast. Perry joined when a cast shuffle in another production lost Kaufmann one of her actors. Reed was drafted to play a servant after Kaufmann decided she wanted the character in the piece, and so was Sloane, who originally came on as Kaufmann's assistant.
"Even that audition process was eye-opening to what real-life audition processes were," explained Monica Giordano.
Once cast, the four of them threw themselves into getting the most out of the experience.
"I love being the least experienced person in the room, because you know you have nothing to do but learn," said Perry — a philosophy the others embraced, especially as they saw the lead actors in The Tempest go about their work.
They also found that the talent in the room wasn't at odds with the humanity.
"What (Tony) values in a company is that it's a company made up of real people, not just a room filled with well-trained actors," Giordano said.
Perry recalled a rehearsal when he and Boover were noodling around on guitar — and Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis, who's in The Tempest, came over to talk to them because, she said, they reminded her of her sons.
Reed, who worked in the shop as well as onstage, noticed that "people who are sky-high in talent, they see the fine details." It's an environment full of positive reinforcement.
"It feels like nobody's here just for themselves; they're here for the story," Boover said.
At the same time, it's an environment that is rigorously challenging.
"There is the constant expectation that you've done your homework," Giordano said. Actors are expected to come to the rehearsal with ideas to contribute. While Simotes and the lead actors could rattle off the answer to arcane Shakespeare questions at the drop of a hat, they could also spend 30 minutes passionately debating a fine point of the text. What all of them noticed was that, as Boover said, "I wasn't asking nearly enough questions." He expects to approach his final year at UMass with that in mind.
Tartuffe becomes a musical
Tartuffe as it ended up onstage is not how the project started. The piece is part of the Bankside Festival series, which offers plays with a shorter run time that are suitable for a family audience.
Kaufmann worked from a script by Constance Congdon '82G, trimming it aggressively to make it run under 90 minutes.
She also decided to add music — and lots of it. Reed became involved after Kaufmann and Simotes discussed his work on the 2011 UMass production of Twelfth Night. They felt "Luke's voice was something that could really blossom with the right opportunity," said Kaufmann. "I was really impressed with his work. He knows it's all about the storytelling. He is really a perfectionist; he's never satisfied — in a good way."
"We didn't know Tartuffe was going to be a musical," Perry said. "We thought there'd be an opening and a closing song," Kaufmann said. "We didn't know how integral to the whole music would be." In the end, Reed wrote nine songs, highlighting moments of heightened emotion for the actors and combining Connie Congdon's text with some original words by him and Kaufmann.
The process became similar to that of work-shopping a musical, said Reed, with the day's work yielding clues about which moments needed songs.
"The whole cast met up under that tent," Boover said, indicating the Bankside performance space. "It became a stewing, steamy, rehearsal sweat pit!"
"A pressure cooker of talent," added Reed, laughing.
Because the original plan was not for a musical, actors were cast without regard to their singing voices. Reed's talent for writing music that fit the singers paid off handsomely, according to Kaufmann. He described some nail-biters and all-nighters, getting the music just right, but the fact that he'd worked with some of the cast did make things easier.
"Greg and I play guitar," Perry noted. "Luke knew what he had." Much of the music is guitar-based and has a 1960s flavor. That fit the play, Kaufmann wrote in her director's note, because the upheaval of that period would be just the thing to make a man like Orgon cling to a religious figure like Tartuffe.
For his part, Reed is thrilled to have had the experience and relished the shift from being Kaufmann's student to her artistic collaborator.
"It was such a cool professional experience to have — it's a huge fricking honor that Gina asked me to be part of this!" he said.
Holding their own
In the rehearsal hall, "I didn't think of them as my students," Kaufmann said, but rather as actors and artists she'd worked with before. "I didn't see them as out of their element at all, and that makes me feel really good, that we're providing an environment at UMass where those who are ready have the support and training (to succeed)."
Reed spoke for the others when he described the connection between UMass and Shakespeare & Company, and the opportunities it afforded them, as "earthshattering."
"For myself, this is a big deal. I'm representing UMass, and there's a lot of pressure," Boover said, and he nodded in agreement when Reed chimed in, "It's really exciting and an honor that we get to be the lab rats."
One of the thrills of the experience has been to stand in the lobby and "to have our faces next to Olympia," said Perry, meaning the display of cast photos by the Bernstein Theatre doors.
The gratitude and appreciation the group collectively conveys about the Shakespeare & Company experience is reciprocated by Simotes, whose two-year-long association with the Department of Theater led to this summer's work. Simotes joined the department in 2010-2011 as a stage combat instructor, then returned in spring 2012 to direct A Midsummer Night's Dream.
"Penny's faith in me to be a mentor, teacher, and friend to the Department has resulted in a relationship that other programs could only dream of. I never could have known the depth of talent had I not had the opportunity to teach and direct at UMass Amherst," Simotes wrote. "(The students) have all risen to the challenge of working with a professional company with great ease. They bring life, artistic expertise, and heart to our Playhouse Stage as well as the Bankside Festival and never miss a beat."
In our bid for artistic world domination, we've got a few places you can find us online.
If you haven't yet, head on over to Twitter and facebook for updates, behind-the-scenes sneak-peeks at our productions, special event information, and opportunities to win free tickets!
Feel free to friend, follow, like, and send your friends and followers our way — as the start of our season gets closer, there'll be opportunities to win tickets to our productions!
Before we get to what the rest of you lovely folk have been up to, we want to share some excerpts of a letter alumnus John Saltonstall '79 wrote us upon reading the news of scene shop manager Ted Hodgen's retirement:
"As I crest into my 29th year of being away from the Pioneer Valley and the cement bunker known as the UMASS scenery shop, I am filled with many fond memories of Ted and what he has contributed to my career and I am sure to many others. …
If you were willing to listen and watch him you got more out of an afternoon with Ted in the shop than you could ever get out of a semester with a text book. Ted taught me about drafting scenery by teaching me how to build scenery. Ted taught me about schedules by making me stick to them. Ted taught me about managing people by managing all of us. But the greatest thing that Ted taught me was what a work ethic means in this business. Whether you are doing one show or twelve: you deliver what you promise no matter the effort or the hours required…
I now run a commercial scenery shop in Las Vegas with 150 employees. We build for Cirque, Broadway, Network Television and many Corporate Events and I suppose by anybody's set of metrics are at the upper end of our profession. I have had the good fortune to have many of the top dogs in the industry come through my shop as both employees and clients and have learned volumes from all of them. That being said not one of them can hold a candle to that very un-assuming and quiet man from Amherst MA that taught us not by talking about it but by doing it."
Thank you, John, for such a kind tribute.
Now on to the updates.
We heard a rumor that Kevin Barry '95 was working on one of the newer shows on Broadway, and when we got in touch, he confirmed it for us: "Currently I am working as the Head Electrician on the Broadway revival of Evita starring Ricky Martin and Elena Roger. I am also working on the new production of Annie on Broadway. Last year I became an ETCP certified Entertainment Electrician, and I recently joined up as the US sales and service representative for FocusTrack Lighting documentation software. I am still living in Bloomfield NJ with my two amazing boys, Owen 2yo, Joshua 8yo and Megan my beautiful wife of 14 years. I am definitely living my dreams of working on shows on Broadway and continuing to try and meet the challenge of work and family."
Meg Bashwiner '08 recently directed Aliee and Bettina's (sort of) Grown-Up Sleepover for the New York International Fringe Festival. She had a really fun time making that play and thought it was so cool to get to work at La Mama, a place she learned about in Paul Walsh's Post Modern class. Meg has written a one-act play that will premiere in NYC in October as part of the New York Neo-Futurists production On the Future. She will read tarot cards for audience members and feed them meatballs while she teaches them how to predict the future. Meg's essay, "Driver," has been published in What it means to be a Grown-Up, a book which features writings from authors around the country — including a wonderful story by fellow '08 Alum, Marcy Braidman. The book is available at commonplacebooks.com and other fine book-sellers. Meg tells her secrets to strangers as a writer, performer and, co-artistic director of the New York Neo-Futurists, known for their award winning show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind which is performed every Friday and Saturday night on New York's historic East 4th street at the Kraine Theater. More info at nynf.org
Almost exactly one year ago, Naomi Bennett '01 made the move from Cambridge, MA to L.A. to study for her MFA in TV, Film, and Theatre production at Cal State LA. Since arriving, she has directed a show for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (nominated for best in physical theatre and dance), interned at the Directors Lab West, Assistant Directed for The Government Inspector at the Theatre@Boston Court (Pasadena), and moved three times! She is excited to start the second year of her MFA program and to teach Beginning Acting at CSULA in the fall (normally taught by Professor Tanya Kane-Parry '02G, with whom she has been training all summer).
Current undergraduate Kari Collins wrote from East Haven, CT: "For my summer, we finally got some community summer theater for my town! We worked with the town arts commission to create what we hope is a permanent program. It was often difficult, with challenges finding a performance space and the town forcing us at one point to change locations, but eventually it all came together. We did a production of Xanadu, the musical, with a 13-person cast in the age range of 15-25. I was in the production and choreographed. With the town's blessing we hope to start a full-fledged program with two productions, one for young people in middle and early high school, and one for late high school and college age. It was an extremely rewarding and exciting experience!" Like Collins, student Ryan Hill also brought a little theater home: "I was in charge of the theater program at a summer camp in my hometown of Sandwich, MA. Our final production of The Little Mermaid Finds Nemo was a great success despite several cast members not present and access to costumes cut off on the day of our performance! Definitely a summer unlike any other!"
Professor Milan Dragicevich played the leading role of Mat Burke in Eugene O'Neill's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Anna Christie, with the Northern New England Repertory Theatre Company of New London, NH. This production was recognized and favorably reviewed by the Eugene O'Neill Society of America in its national newsletter (Summer 2012 issue). He also recently finished a half-day workshop on Shakespearean Rhetoric for the Los Angeles-based Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, working with their company members and Academy students.
Check out professor Harley Erdman's new book! It's his translation of Marta the Divine:
Jess Greenberg '12G waved at us from across town to let us know that this coming academic year, she will be a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Design at Hampshire. "I'm replacing the wonderful Peter Kallok who will be taking a well-deserved sabbatical. I'm looking forward to returning to my alma mater with a new perspective," she wrote.
Jay Herzog '87G has completed 17 years as the professor of lighting design at Towson University in Maryland. He serves as the resident lighting designer for the Everyman Theatre, which is moving into a magnificent new space in Baltimore with a production of August: Osage County in January 2013. He has been busy with the planning for the new theater opening and will be on sabbatical this fall semester researching how to best teach board operation and lighting design through the use of visualization software.
Jonathan Hicks '11G is beginning his second year at Huntington University as Assistant Professor of Theater Design and Technology. In October, he will be a guest artist at Westmont College for the lighting design of Much Ado About Nothing. This past summer he wrote an article about lighting design for non-conventional performance spaces for the International Museum Theater Alliance (IMTAL) magazine INSIGHTS. He is proud to announce the birth of his third child, Levi Nathan Hicks, on July 19th, 2012!
Tanya Kane-Parry '02G sent us an email from Bordeaux, France: "I am filled with gratitude for all the amazing opportunities to travel and make art this past and coming year! After last Fall's gig assisting a Spanish director, choreographer and design team on a new production of The Barber of Seville at Houston Grand Opera, I returned to LA and had an amazing year of creating and presenting new site-specific productions and performance work with my company, Opera del Espacio. Now I am in Bordeaux, assisting on the remount of The Barber of Seville at L'Opera National de Bordeaux. From here I go directly to Houston to assist this same director and team on the remount of The Italian Girl in Algers. After that I return to LA to begin rehearsals with my company on a new production that examines architecture and emotions that will be presented from January-March 2013. I'll go back to CSULA to teach some undergrad and grad acting and Viewpoints classes in January, and then in February I'll be working again with the same director and team on a remount of Cinderella at LA Opera. Then, sometime in late spring, along with my company, I'll be directing/choreographing a new site-specific opera that will premiere along the Russian River in Santa Rosa (northern CA). After that, who knows!"
Shawn LaCount '09G directed a production for Company One (the Boston theater company for which he's Artistic Director) that's gotten a lot of good press. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, by Kris Diaz, is a supremely beautiful, hilarious and dangerously physical play about race, politics and America all framed in the wacky world of professional wrestling. Read the Boston Globe Review.
Student Alissa Mesibov let us know she had two internships this summer. "First, I was a script reader at New Georges in NYC, under Kara-Lynn Vaeni. Then I interned with NBC at 30 Rock for their broadcast of the Olympics."
Incoming grad student Elizabeth Pangburn brings some interesting lines with her as she joins UMass Theater: "I designed costumes with Iceland's leading fashion icon Edda Gudmundsdottir for NYC's Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's newest installation, choreographed by Benoit-Swan Pouffer." Also accomplished this summer: styling photo and video shoots for Mary Kaye, Lebel, and Nike.
Graduate student Brianna Sloane had her hand in several theater endeavors this summer: "I traveled to Chicago to teach mask, movement and ensemble workshops for The Viola Project and The Seelie Players. I also spent a week with Piccolo Theatre, working as artistic advisor on their production of Six Dead Queens & an Inflatable Henry! which opens September 7th at Chicago's Greenhouse Theatre. More locally, I worked as Gina Kaufmann's Assistant Director on her production of Moliere's Tartuffe: the Imposter, (trans. Connie Congdon) at Shakespeare & Co. I ended up taking a role in the production and performing in several roles as understudy to the women of the cast. Finally, I will be participating in a workshop of a new play by Jeffrey Stingerstein, which will be part of the Fall Reading Series at Smith College on September 22."
Graduate student Emily Taradash designed the costumes for Willy Wonka at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH. She let us know that Erin Mabee, a TH160 student from the spring 2012 semester, has done a great job as wardrobe supervisor for the 40-show run. Emily has also been performing in the summer tour of 2010: Our Hideous Future, the Musical. This is a piece she's been performing in for the past 2 years and, she wrote, "it was a joy to bring it to Providence, RI, Salem, MA, Brooklyn, NY and Pi-Con in CT." In her free time, she helped on costumes for the reprise of The Odyssey, the Double Edge Theatre's summer spectacle. "And, on July 29th, family and friends came together to celebrate my father Bernie's 80th birthday! We were a merry crew of 160 (and planning it went off without too many hitches)," she wrote. Next weekend I will be returning to my undergraduate alma mater, University of Vermont, to celebrate the wedding of my Set Design Professor Jeff Modereger to his partner. UVM is also doing an all female playrights' season, which UMass graduate alum and current UVM professor John Forbes will be designing the lights for.
Alumni-spotter-at-large and retired secretary Denise Wagner let us know that she caught Burn Notice star Jeffrey Donovan '91 as a guest star on The Chew. He made Steak Michelle.
Dawn Monique Williams '11G, recently relocated back to the San Francisco Bay Area where she is a lecturer at Cal State East Bay with fellow UMass Alum, Ulises Alcala '94G. She directed Shakespeare's As You Like It for the CSUEB summer theatre program and is teaching performance theory. In the fall, also at CSUEB, she will direct the English language premiere of the contemporary Spanish play NN12 by Gracia Morales translated by Della Peretti and Beverly Bevis. Williams let us know that Alcala just completed costume designs for Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera for the San Francisco Opera's Summer 2012 Merola Program. He continues to teach costume history, design, and make up as well as manage the costume shop at CSUEB.
David Zucker '70 wrote us a newsy email this summer: "OK, I was inspired by your encouraging 'older' alum to write long updates of their lives since UMass....... I was a UMass Theater/Speech major when you had to have a double major, couldn't just be a theater major. This was the era of Doris Abramson, Richard Gere (just 'Dick' to us), Vince Brann, Wather Volbach, Liz Weitz, Harry Mahnken, Jim Young, and Gary Stewart. A vibrant time for theatre when we did all our 'mainstage' shows in Bartlett Hall (English Dept) and Roister Doister shows in Bowker.
I was Richard's acting partner in Doris' class and acted with him in Madwoman of Chaillot, and The Changeling. I am the person credited by him in multiple interviews and biographies as taking him to his first professional audition. I had to practically drag him to it, bullying him into my car for the 2 hour silent (he was never much for social conversation) drive to the Wellesley College theatre to audition for Paul Barstow of the Provincetown Playhouse. He got the job, I didn't (another story).
Still, we both have made an ongoing life in the theatre. I got an MFA in Acting from Brandeis; founded the Boston Rep Theatre in the early 70s; built, along with my fellow reppies, the first new theatre in downtown Boston in over 25 years; won a drama desk award for directing The Little Prince (with David Morse) in LA; toured all over the USA; wrote, produced, and acted in five Young Audiences productions which I still perform (over 4,000 shows of Poetry in Motion during the past 23 years).
My YA shows made me enough money to buy a house in Concord, MA, raise two children there and send them through college. Now (and for the past 10 years along with my acting) I travel all over the world as a consultant for The Ariel Group which uses theatre-based techniques (including Storytelling), to teach Leadership Presence to executives from major global companies (and I still perform over 200 shows a year). I have worked at Harvard Business School, Columbia, Duke, Queens College in Ontario, IMD in Switzerland, and Darden Biz School in VA.
I began studying both Mime and T'ai Chi in 1972, teach them now, and both arts have added immeasurably to my acting and directing skills. In 2008 I fulfilled a lifelong dream of playing T'ai Chi in a public garden in China, having traveled there for the Ariel Group to teach a class for American Express. For the past 18 years I have been fortunate enough to travel to the Greek island of Skyros every summer to teach mime, theatre improv, clowning, and T'ai Chi. Last year my acting partner, Richard McElvain, and I rolled out the world premiere of MathsAmazing which we wrote, directed, produced, and acted in. We are also the authors of MythMasters (Greek Mythology) and The Shakespeare Guyz.
Currently I live only 40 minutes away from Amherst and am putting the finishing touches on another life-long dream - my own T'ai Chi studio built as an addition to my house. I will share the space with my wife, Elizabeth who teaches yoga. It is a yoga, T'ai chi, rehearsal, dance, PLAY space.
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