Musical Theater Endowment announced at Theater Department awards ceremony
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Raucous applause, lots of laughter, and a few tears were the order of the day at the Department of Theater’s year-end celebration. Honoring seniors and graduating MFA students is the longtime cornerstone of this annual affair, as is handing out awards and scholarships. This year, the department also found plenty to applaud in the announcement that alumnus Stephen Driscoll ’73 has made a generous bequest to fund the production of musical theater at UMass.
Department Chair Gina Kaufmann announced the Stephen P. Driscoll Musical Theater Endowment, created to fund “musical theater or incorporation of music and/or dance into theater produced by the Department of Theater.” The endowment prioritizes collaborative productions with the Department of Music and Dance (chair Roberta Marvin was on hand for the announcement) or the Department of Art.
The news was greeted with a standing ovation from students, faculty and staff.
When Driscoll addressed the crowd, he explained that this came out of his own experiences at UMass.
“I hardly ever went to class; I went to rehearsal!” he said. Driscoll preferred plays when he joined the department but became enamored of musical theater. He remembered music, dance, and theater students coming together to put on shows, and recalled art students sitting in the audience, sketching the performers. The endowment, he hoped, would enable such cross-disciplinary work.
Then, Driscoll announced the recipient of another gift he has made to the Department of Theater, the Stephen P. Driscoll BADA Scholarship, which covers half the tuition and airfare to bring a student to the British American Drama Academy’s Summer in Oxford intensive. He announced Tanya Avedaño Stockler as this year’s scholarship recipient.
“Tanya, you’re going to Hogwarts!” Driscoll said, giving her a scarf with the logo of Magdalen College, where the course is based.
Stockler was among a number of award recipients, all loudly cheered by classmates. Abuzar Farrukh received the Ed Golden Acting Scholarship, established this year by alumni Rob Corddry, Jeff Donovan, and Bill and Tamara Pullman to honor their beloved acting instructor.
The Department gave out the Susan M. and Larry G. Benedict Scholarship, which supports undergrads in the areas of theater design, production, and management, to Zach Molin, Afrika Smith, and Gustavo Torres. In addition, Alison Kerr, Billy Luce, Tatiana Rodriguez, and Garrett Sager received the Frank Prentice Rand Scholarship in Drama for their work in directing, producing, playwriting, and dramaturgy.
Retired department secretary Denise Wagner couldn’t resist a bit of advocacy before she gave out the Denise Lessard Wagner Community Spirit Award to Crystal Johnson, Matt Morin, Miguel Angel Paredes, Jordan Reed, and Mike Smith.
“The arts are so important!” she said, noting that the opportunity to enjoy art had pulled her and family members through difficult times.
Things got a bit teary when the time came to honor the graduates. Priscilla Page recognized students receiving the Department’s Multicultural Theater Certificate with a moving quote from Sandra Cisneros. Graduate Program Director Megan Lewis and graduate mentors paid homage to the students about to receive their MFAs.
Undergraduate Program Director Gilbert McCauley read the names of seniors, and each one received an Alumni Lifetime Pass, entitling them to two tickets anytime they return to campus to see a show.
After a suitably dramatic photo session the evening concluded with a reception where graduates, awardees, and benefactors mingled and toasted each other.