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Stages: December 2013
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Click on the title to go directly to the story
- Remarks from the Chair: Marking our spot
- Donor profile: James Stockman '67G
- Jonathan Curelop '87immortalizes the Rand Theater in his debut novel
- Play Lab — imagining a forum for new works
- Detail-oriented: Laura Bailey '03 works as a script supervisor on independent films
Hello all —
I hope that the holiday season is treating you kindly wherever you are.
As you’ll see above, we in the Department of Theater have not gone for the traditional holiday colors, opting for our purple-and-orange look instead!
The pooches and I are dressed all fancy in celebration of Mark Your Spot, which is the next phase in our efforts to upgrade the Rand Lobby. We’re offering you, our friends and alumni, the chance to buy one of those cushy new purple chairs, either for yourselves or in honor of a loved one. $400 gets you an orchestra seat, and $200 one in the loge or balcony, to be paid in sum or in installments.
You can find details here.
Join the generous folks who’ve already picked their spot and please consider a donation to ring in the new year.
I’ll make sure we get the dog hair off the seat before you come by!
The end of 2013 brings our anniversary year to an official close, and in a way it’s fitting, therefore, that costume design professor June Gaeke will be retiring at the end of the semester.
We wish her godspeed and good luck — the poor woman has plans to travel to Hawaii, can you imagine?
We will be celebrating her in an upcoming issue of Stages, and we’d love to include the voices of her former students and colleagues. If you have an anecdote or a tribute to share, please send it to us.
We certainly don’t expect anyone to fill June’s perfectly-designed shoes, but this spring we are lucky to be joined by costume designer Andrea Lauer, whose resume is chock full of interesting Broadway and regional theater and opera credits.
We had a successful fall, with supportive audiences being incredibly receptive of our two shows, and giving us the best possible feedback. Now, we’re looking forward to spring, which will bring us the first fully-staged opera the department has done since 2004's The Captivation of Eunice Williams, and only the second since 1977’s The Mother of Us All (we checked with June). It’s a co-production with Five College Opera.
Also on tap for spring is the UMass New Play Lab, which will bring a pair of playwrights to campus to work on two new pieces. (Read on below for an introduction to these two women and an account of the process so far from one of our fearless dramaturgs, Amy Brooks.)
If you’re a fan of author Jonathan Curelop ‘87, you can come see him do a reading of his debut novel AND catch my act the weekend of April 12 (Read below and stay tuned for details!)
As for me, I’ll be flying around the stage, as I’ve taken the lead role of Peter Pan!
I am kidding? You’ll have to come see to find out, won’t you?
Kiss kiss, bye bye!
Over this past year, we have been blown away by the generosity of our donors. They make it possible for us to turn ideas into reality, and we couldn’t be more grateful. As we have for several years now, we will be profiling some of these folks throughout the year, because they’re not only generous, they’re all truly interesting people. We began the school year with a conversation with Mathew Sgan '56, and continue in this issue by talking with James Stockman, whose gratitude to UMass includes a reason far beyond his education.
Graduating year: 1967
Degree: MFA in technical theater and design
A favorite UMass Theater memory: Stockman credits UMass with giving him his late first wife, Maxine (Forward) Stockman. The two met in 1964 while working on a production of Streets of New York in Bowker — he had a rare acting gig, and she was on the crew.
“The catalyst to the action had to go into a burning building and rescue a receipt, a cursed receipt. And we had real fire, actually fake fire, that we would set this house on fire every night and the scene was for the actor to be seen draped over the windowsill after breaking the glass to go into this burning building to get the receipt. And he’s on fire and the curtain closes and all sorts of wonderful things. And the young lady who the technical director got to set that fire every night, I married!”
Why do you donate to the Department of Theater: “If you ask me what I owe to this university: I got married!” Stockman said. He also feels loyal to a program that gave him a chance, and feels it’s important to give back. “You ask, ‘Why give?’ Well, number one, I’m able to. I think that’s the bottom line. I wish I could do more.”
James Stockman nurtures a life-long passion for light in all its forms
Forestry’s loss is lighting’s gain. When James Stockman ‘67G first went to college, he enrolled in a forestry program. By the end of the first semester, though, he knew it wasn’t a good fit. He continued on in liberal arts and then in art while getting involved in theater programs and summer stock.
His love for theater led him to UMass’ Speech department, where he became only the second student to receive an MFA in theater in a newly-minted graduate program. (The university was still a few years shy of founding a discrete Department of Theater.)
“I have the first MFA ever given by the university in technical theater and design and the second MFA ever given in the Department with the emphasis in theater, because the first one was given to a friend of mine who I met here, who has it in acting and directing,” said Stockman. “You’re talking to an original!”
Stockman was here contemporaneously with the late Bruce MacCombie, the composer, and Lawrence Wilker, famed Broadway producer of Urinetown and Matilda, among other shows.
He recalls his cohort fondly, as well as the sometimes challenging performance conditions in the pre-Fine Arts Center days.
Productions were generally done in Bartlett Hall, which was primarily intended as a lecture classroom and had what Stockman describes as “a postage-stamp of a stage if I ever saw one…. We couldn’t put a nail; we couldn’t do anything in Bartlett. Absolutely, no question, so it all had to be self-contained, including the act drape and everything. It had to go back to the lecture hall at the end of the season.”
During the summer, theater students put on summer stock, including, one year, a version of The Fantasticks that was such a hit they revived it for the main season. “In the 1960s when I started, it was summer theater — that’s where kids went for experience,” he recalled.
Stockman met his late wife, Maxine Forward, at UMass, when she worked on the technical crew for a production that had him taking a rare acting role.
After he received his MFA from UMass Stockman worked in academia, traveling from New London, NH, to Buffalo to Miami to California.
His professorial career spanned the late 1960s and much of the 1970s, and he was witness to tremendous changes.
“My first job, women had curfews at 7 o’clock. When I dated my wife-to-be, here, they had to be in the dorm at 7 o’clock or something. It was a very different age, and in the next ten years I taught, each year there was a monumental difference in terms of going from curfews for the young ladies to boy-girl dorms, I mean, it just changed rapidly. …This was the time of women’s lib, this was the time of the pill, the time of civil rights,” Stockman said.
At the same time, he was somewhat outside of it, because he was married and had a young family and was focused on getting the productions he worked on up on their feet.
After ten years, however, he decided to “retire” from academia.
“I bought a hardware store on the coast of Maine and became a manufacturer’s rep in lighting and a consultant, and eventually became a full-time lighting designer. And I have been doing that for 37 years,” he said. Stockman is “not in the performance end of the business;” he designs lighting for private homes and public spaces, including setting up theaters in performance venues and schools.
Stockman has 5 children and 4 grandchildren, who keep him and his wife busy (he married his second wife several years after Maxine's passing); when he’s not working or doting on grandkids, he’s active with the Kennebunkport Fire Department, for which he’s a safety officer. “I still drive fire trucks,” he noted.
Stockman’s passion for light is self-evident. He describes himself as still being a “student of light,” remaining fascinated by both the technology of his business and the effects and perceptions he can manipulate with light.
The projects he works on are considerable in scope — one recent project actually stretched over 6 years, for example.
“One here in Massachusetts was a project called Market Street. It’s in Lynnfield MA, and I think it’s called an R-40 zone, which I think is a tax exempt zone for development which I got in on to help write the lighting regulations that this project would be designed under. And the difficulty was that the neighbors really were not thrilled that the 18-hole golf course that was currently there… 9 holes were going to be turned into a large shopping center. … That was the challenge, and then after we wrote the ordinance, I had the opportunity to actually design it.” He explained. “It had to be very stringent in terms of where the light could go so that the neighbors were not affected by it. And I have been working on that for close to six years, from when we got the permitting, because the project was stopped because of the economy. And then, Boom, it came alive and so now it’s up and running.”
Other recent projects include New Hampshire rest stops, large residences and a restaurant property.
Even though he’s not the one designing shows anymore, he still thinks fondly on the creativity of young artists on a shoestring budget. “When I go in and do an interview before I do a project at a local school, usually there might be some boosters, faculty — they all tell me what a GREAT job the kids do in the cafeteria theater. ‘They do these wonderful things with nothing’, and I say ‘yes, because that’s what theater is! It teaches problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, this is what I used to teach, this is what I believe in. This is what’s important!”
On page 209 of Jonathan Curelop ‘87’s book, Tanker 10, there’s a description theater alumni will find immediately familiar.
“The lobby was carpeted entirely in an ugly red-orange and gave way to two sets of staircases going up and down, deeper into the lobby, out of sight.”
Yes, that’s the Rand Theater lobby he’s describing, all right, in its vintage, pre-renovation state.
Tanker 10 is Curelop’s debut novel, and aside from Curelop’s alumnus status, we were drawn in by the fact that the last quarter of the book takes place at UMass, and that the Department of Theater features significantly.
Tanker 10, which was released in October, tracks the story of Jimmy from his time as an overweight pre-adolescent living in Brockton to his stay at UMass Amherst, where he’s come into his own as a baseball player and a young man. Complicating his journey is an incident with his brother in which he’s grievously injured in a way that strains their relationship almost to breaking for years, and that renders the already-fraught years of puberty even more so. Jimmy’s voice is matter-of-fact and relatable as he deals with the obstacles in his path and navigates the sexual and social crises of teenager-hood.
From actor to writer
Curelop left UMass intent on making acting his career. After graduating, he and his now-wife, then-girlfriend, Pam, loaded their possessions and their cat into a U-Haul and moved to a studio apartment in Chicago. (Their story started in Ed Golden’s period acting class — they met doing classwork, then began a relationship after the closing night party for a production of All’s Well That Ends Well.)
While in Chicago, he auditioned for anything and everything, but busy as he was, he missed his friends out east and wrote them frequent letters. As the correspondence inevitably dwindled over time, Curelop found he missed it because he liked the discipline of writing. Thus, he started writing a story that, while not autobiographical, draws on some experiences in his own life and takes his hometown Brockton as its opening setting.
“I did not have the best relationship with my brother so I wrote about that …
I spent some time in the hospital as a kid, figured maybe I’d write about that… and a buddy of mine had a terrible accident when we were kids, so I figured I’d write about that, … so then I started thinking maybe I can intertwine all these things,” he said. “That ended up being the first draft of Tanker 10.”
He queried agents about the book when he finished it, but none were interested at the time. “So I just shelved it, not knowing what was going to become of it, not knowing I was going to be a writer,” he said.
He was still acting at that point, first in Chicago, then in Boston, and eventually in New York. It was in New York that his acting career “fizzled” in the face of his concerns about having steady work. He found himself moving away from acting, which he candidly admits he still misses.
Seeking a creative outlet, he began taking writing workshops. “I just felt good about it. It felt right in a way,” he said.
His approach to writing flowed naturally from the work he did as an actor, when trying to understand a character he wanted to play.
“I was still sort of thinking about acting when I was writing because, you know, the approach is such an internal process. It’s an internal monologue. When I was in (writing) workshops, I would talk about a character’s objectives and through-lines,” he said, laughing, “And then I would look up and people would be looking at me like I was crazy, ‘What are you talking about?’… Even to this day when I’m in workshops, and talking to other writers, I still talk in those terms. I think it’s a pretty interesting marriage, really.”
Although he maps out an outline of the plot, being true to the character trumps loyalty to the outline.
“If I’m in the head of a character, writing from the viewpoint of a character, and it takes me in a different direction than the outline, then I know deep down that I have to ignore that plot lines, that I have to follow that character,” Curelop said.
He eventually attended City College of New York’s Creative Writing Program.
Making Tanker 10
It was about five years ago that, in casting about for a new project, he came upon his old Tanker 10 manuscript.
“Rereading it, it was just a big mess. I wasn’t really a creative writer when I graduated college,” he said. Still, he recognized that there was something there and put the decades of knowledge and experience he’d gained in the meantime to use. “I went page by page, eliminated what had to be eliminated — sort of reimagined the whole thing.”
Included in that revision was extensive research. Curelop consulted with a pediatric endocrinologist to make sure he correctly portrayed his character’s injury and its after-effects on his physical and sexual development; what he learned helped shape the character’s psychological development as well.
Curelop immersed himself in the world of baseball, which is Jimmy’s passion and solace through much of the book. “There’s a lot of baseball in the book, you know, and I didn’t know much about baseball,” he said. He turned to his alma mater for help. “The whole (UMass Amherst) baseball organization was very welcoming, so I spent a couple of days there talking to the head coach, Mike Stone, and I sat in on a couple of practices.”
He also snuck a peek into the theater department — then still orange — and consulted one of his best friends, Chris Darland ’87, to make sure the theater section read right.
“I had to talk to Chris about the lighting stuff, because he (Jimmy) works for a light crew. … I wanted to get that right,” he said.
The end of the book brings Jimmy to the department, where he meets a young woman who helps him come to terms with some elements of his past. “I wanted him to fall in love, and I wanted him to fall in love with someone less traditional than himself,” Curelop said.
Once the book was finished, in 2009, he got an agent, but after not getting any bites from publishers for some years, he parted ways with her and continued on his own. He eventually struck gold during a chance meeting at a bookstore.
“I bumped into this publisher, an independent publisher. He was looking for something with a young protagonist,” he said. Tanker 10 proved to fit the bill, and Bookcase Engine signed on. Curelop and his publisher then went back and forth over the course of several months making further edits to the book to have it ready for publication.
The publisher operates on a new model. “It’s a print-on-demand book, meaning you’re not going to see it in any bookstore because they’re only going to print it when a customer orders it,” Curelop explained. “So, a bookstore will order it for you, and you’ll have it in a few days, or you could order it online, either as an ebook or a hardcopy paperback book.” It’s a model that allows the publisher to take a chance on unproven or risky works.
While Curelop continues to spread the word about this book, the fact is, he finished writing it some time ago, and so he has already moved on to other projects. On the docket are a young adult horror novel, some short stories he’s hoping to bundle into a collection, and a novella trilogy tackling three points in an out-of-work actor’s life that he’s calling An Actor’s Life for Me.
Curelop may not be living an actor’s life himself, but he has found a compelling way to bring characters to life.
COMING UP: Curelop has planned an April 11 and 12 visit to UMass for a reading and talk — stay tuned for details if you’d like to attend, because we’re making a weekend of it for alumni and friends, including a reading with Jonathan and as a bonus, the show that will be up at the time, Peter Pan.
The first annual UMASS NEW PLAY LAB premieres in the Curtain Theater in March 2014. Play Lab, the brainchild of MFA ’15 graduate students Paul Adolphsen, Amy Brooks, and Jared Culverhouse, will be the culmination of a year’s worth of planning, imagining, and exhaustive script reading. It will also mark a return to one of UMass Amherst Department of Theater’s most cherished traditions: the ongoing development of new plays by the boldest, most inspiring writers in our field. Amy Brooks kindly agreed to write about the progress so far.
Problem: How do you fill a slot in the UMass theater season with a show that puts a minimal strain on budgetary and technical resources while delivering maximum entertainment and innovation?
Solution: Don’t fill it with a single show—fill it with a new play festival.
When the faculty asked us to program the slot, we knew right away that we wanted to do something unusual — maybe even a little dangerous. And we knew the model had to be reproducible, because Jared, Paul and I wanted to permanently shake up the way we structure our seasons. If it was going to work anywhere, it was UMass. The department has always had a commitment to new play development, from our groundbreaking thirty-year work with New WORLD Theater to our recent collaborations with artists like Will Power, Marcus Gardley, and Constance Congdon.
So we spent two weeks in feverish planning and debate. Then we shined our shoes and pitched the faculty a ten-minute PowerPoint presentation of our plan for a national new play festival. And they bought it. The enthusiasm in the room was immediate and overwhelming—so overwhelming, in fact, that we walked out a little shellshocked. The three of us stood in the hallway afterwards, looked at each other, and realized all at once that we were actually going to build this thing.
The New Play Lab is a UMass Department of Theater mainstage production, running from March 27 – April 5, 2014. Two playwrights, Liz Duffy Adams and Tira Palmquist, were chosen for concurrent week-long residencies during this period, with the authors’ workshops structured around a series of public staged readings directed by Jared, dramaturged by Paul and me, and performed by undergraduate actors. Play Lab’s mission is to develop two exceptional new plays per year in cooperation with visionary playwrights. It was conceived as a writer's playground: a stimulating and constructive artistic environment founded on three guiding principles of engagement, collaboration, and discovery.
Finding the Works
That discovery began on the morning of Play Lab’s submission deadline, when we learned that we’d be selecting two winning plays from over 670 entries.
“The three of us were blown away by the volume, quality, and diversity of the submissions we received for Play Lab 2014,” says Paul. “We read plays from both emerging and established writers. We read plays that had been through five or six developmental readings, and others where the electronic ink was still drying. We read plays that were experimental and subversive, and we read plays that were tightly focused, telling carefully wrought stories of human longing and belonging. We read plays set in fantastic worlds of imagination and whimsy, and we read plays that trained their laser-sharp focus on the inequalities and possibilities of the world in which we live today.”
Has our 3-D world lost interest in the power of simple storytelling in live performance? Paul is certain that it hasn’t. “If our submission inbox is any indication, American playwriting is alive and well. The process of reading through submissions this summer showed me just how expansive the field is. Playwrights of vision and imagination are working in communities across the United States to enlighten, entertain, and inspire.”
Liz Duffy Adams, the playwright selected for the first residency slot, personifies that spirit of inspiration. Adams is best known as the author of Or, which premiered Off Broadway at Women’s Project. Her recent work A Discourse on the Wonders of the Invisible World premiered at the Contemporary American Theater Festival in July, 2013. Adams is a New Dramatists alumna and has received a Women of Achievement Award, Lillian Hellman Award, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Will Glickman Award, and MacDowell Colony residencies.
Her credentials may sound cosmopolitan, but Adams is no stranger to the Western Massachusetts theater scene. The author is a Greenfield resident, and her piece selected for Play Lab (mischievously titled Variations of F***ed ) is set in a fictionalized version of Turners Falls. Adams anticipates that the close-to-home UMass residency will prove “particularly helpful and wonderful.”
“I'm calling [Variations] an ‘interstitial’ play,” Adams writes. “[A] work that folds together disparate genres. In this case a story of an estranged (from each other) family is told through time travel and fantasy novel tropes that also serve as an exploration of American labor history, the characters identified by the work they do. And I'm experimenting with a suitably dislocated structure.“
Filling Play Lab’s second slot (as well as rounding out its national scope) is West Coast playwright, dramaturg and director Tira Palmquist. Palmquist teaches writing at the University of California, Irvine and at the Orange County School of the Arts. She is a member of the Playwright’s Unit at EST-LA, and a Co-Executive Producer of Fell Swoop Playwrights. In September 2012, an excerpt of her play Fortune and Pain (At the Edge of the World) was presented by Inkwell Theatre at the Kennedy Center Page to Stage Festival. Her plays have been developed by 9Thirty Theater, Theatre of Note, EST-LA, Seven Devils, and Inkwell Theatre. Palmquist’s short plays have recently been produced in Conneticut, Chicago, Colorado, Australia, LA, Virginia and Florida.
And Then They Fell, Palmquist’s Play Lab entry, recently had a reading at The Road Theatre in Burbank, CA. It is a gritty and ominous snapshot of broken family relationships, transgressive (and sometimes destructive) sexual taboo, and the tiny redemptive moments that abandoned humans can discover through love.
Those themes—working-class people seeking redemption in various forms of love—are the common thread connecting the stories chosen for the inaugural year of the New Play Lab. Love and labor produced these two remarkable plays; love—of discovering and developing new drama for UMass audiences--and a great deal of labor will bring them to the Curtain stage this spring.
“I'm excited that UMass is making a commitment to the continued life of the new American play,” Paul says, “and am so looking forward to introducing the Pioneer Valley to the exciting work of two remarkable playwrights.”
Check back in the next issue of Stages for a progress report!
If you are a long-out-of-touch alumna and you stop by the department on a whim, you should be prepared to plunk yourself down in the Public Relations Director’s office and tell us everything you’ve been doing for the last 10 years.
This is a lesson Laura Bailey ’03 learned when she stopped by recently. Bailey’s a script supervisor, and she had just hours previously wrapped a project shot in the Berkshires. On a whim, she drove through Amherst on her way home. (She works all over New England and New York, and makes her home in Connecticut). We admitted we had no idea what a script supervisor does, so she started talking.
On task as script supervisor
“I’m the eyes and ears for every department,” Bailey explained. “I keep track of continuity… I make sure everything is going to edit together seamlessly.”
As most people know, a film is usually shot out of order. It’s Bailey’s job to make sure that when the whole thing is assembled, costumes, props, fight sequences, and entrances and exits make sense, and that a character who was eating a croissant in one shot is not seen devouring pancakes in the next (that’s a famous continuity gaffe from Pretty Woman, she noted).
“When you go see a movie, you want to see a story unfold,” she said. Little errors can add up to take you out of the story. “They’re jarring.”
It’s a job that has her involved with a project in pre-production, during filming, and post-production. Before filming starts, she familiarizes herself with all aspects of the design and analyzes the script so she knows the film “through and through.”
During the film, she’s on set to keep track from shot to shot. If changes happen to the script mid-shoot, she’s charged with making sure the new material is seamlessly integrated. While tracking the visual details is the most immediately noticeable part of her job, Bailey’s also got her eye on subtler matters the script’s underpinnings. While she has no ambitions to replace the director, Bailey occasionally finds herself called upon to help actors keep track of the arc of their character, helping them with the continuity of their performance. She also records information about each take so that the director knows exactly where to find the one he or she decides to use.
Finally, when the shoot’s over, she spends time in post-production to help make sure scenes are edited together logically.
The road to film-making
Bailey’s been in the script supervisor business for about five years (you can see her credits in IMDB). While she admits it wasn’t a job she had her eye on initially, it’s one her education has prepared her well for.
Bailey studied Theater and English at UMass. Although she was interested in performing, she is one of those alumni who found that the department’s philosophy of giving students a broad education worked for her.
When asked what piece of advice she’d give current students, in fact, she immediately offers, “be open to learning anything and everything. You never know what door something you (know) will open.”
After graduating, she pursued acting but eventually decided to turn her attention to behind the scenes work. At Boston University, she got an interdisciplinary degree with a focus in film and found herself interested in the development side of things.
She had internships in California with famed B-movie maker Roger Corman and blockbuster producer Richard Donner. She read scripts and analyzed whether they’d make good projects for the respective production companies. Although both were valuable internships, she found that Corman, in particular, lived up to his reputation as a mentor.
“The more I wanted to do, the more they let me do,” she said — she worked on Dinoshark while she was there.
She was interested in pursuing that career but like many, her line of work was hit hard by the economic troubles of 2008, and she came back to the east coast.
She got some free-lance work as an assistant director, but then she discovered script supervising.
“I almost fell into it,” she admitted. She’s become proficient partly teaching herself on the job, and through workshops. “I’m always honing my skills, learning different things,” she said.
She’s back and forth between Connecticut and New York City, now, although she’s been in the Berkshires shooting films several times — in fact a shoot in western Massachusetts had just wrapped the day she stopped by the department.
She works free-lance and has gotten jobs through a combination of networking and sending out resumes cold.
She’s pretty thrilled about the film that’s making the festival rounds to good notices, Isn’t it Delicious, which features Kathleen Chalfant and Keir Dullea.
A mystery thriller, The Secret Village, was released in October, and she’s especially thrilled to have been involved with Cigarette Soup, a film about soldiers in Afghanistan that uses the found-footage trope to tell its story. “It was,” Bailey said, “one of the more emotionally difficult projects. It was an interesting story that needed to be told.” And just done filming is Then There Was, adrama/ thriller about a global black-out that uses dystopian sci-fi themes as a launchpad to explore “the darkness of human nature.”
She speaks affectionately about all the projects she’s done, whether it’s a serious story or a pulpy horror flick.
“You learn something, and you take that to your next project,” she said.
In our bid for artistic world domination, we've got a few places you can find us online. We'd love to have you follow, like, comment, whatever — just click onone of the icons to visit us elsewhere:
We have two lovely babies to add to our theater family this issue!
New acting faculty member Lena Cuomo sent us this lovely photo of Amalia Floria, born Nov. 11.
And Assistant Costume Shop Manager and alumna Felicia Malachite shared a photo of her Lydia Nova, born October 28.
Both new families are doing well, and we await the babies’ theatrical debuts with bated breath!
Student Emma Ayres recently had an article published on the freedom of gender expression and the stage. “I am a professional musician in a local folk band called June & the Bee- this is one of my many creative labors of love,” she said. The article was widely shared over facebook and other social media: http://socialistworker.org/2013/10/24/a-note-on-freedom-of-expression
Current dramaturgy MFA student Alison Bowie has published an article entitled “Identity and Collective Memory: Theatre's Role in Memorializing War” in The International Journal of Social, Political, and Community Agendas in the Arts.
Andrew Cappelli ’00 checked in to let us know that he’s currently the technical director at Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. He’s held similar positions with Blue Man Group, Bard Summerscape (opera), and NETworks, for which he worked on national and international tours.
Rob Corddry ‘93 is busy as usual. Since the last issue of Stages, reports have had him at Tufts University shooting a movie referred to variously as Sex Tape and Basic Math, working on his Emmy-winning Adult Swim comedy Children’s Hospital, and guesting on TV shows Trophy Wife and Community.
Professor Harley Erdman is having a busy school year so far: he has a book contract from Tamesis Press (UK) for an anthology of essays on Spanish Golden Age theater, focusing on the way these plays have been adapted for performance. He is co-editing it with Susan Paun de Garcia, and it will appear sometime in 2014. He also traveled to Bath, UK to give a presentation at a special symposium on Spanish Golden Age theater. Harley also wrote the libretto for an opera that was performed at the Noho Academy of Music in September, The Garden of Martyrs. Finally, he is working on a new play—a screwball comedy—based upon the history of the Academy of Music in the early 1940s. Will be presented there in October of 2014.
Sarah Brew ‘09G has move up the alphabet a bit — she recently became Sarah Brew Grunnah. In professional news, her version of Love The Doctor was produced at UNC-Charlotte.
David Korins ’99 is designing sets for the LA production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which he also designed in New York.
Dramaturgy professor Megan Lewis is on her research-intensive semester right now, and she has been busy! “This past summer, I had the incredible honor to work on this series of audio lectures (available on Amazon) on my favorite subject: THEATER! I'm also proud to announce that I have a book contract from the University of Iowa Press for my manuscript, Afrikaners in the Spotlight: Performing Whiteness in South African Theatrical and Public Life (which I'm on research leave this semester to complete). Also, I was just nominated for the Distinguished Teaching Award. At the recent American Society for Theatre Research (ASTR) conference in Dallas this November, I co-convened a session called Performance In/From the Global South (that also featured visiting professor Ryan Hartigan's work on indigenous performance in Aotearoa/New Zealand). And last but not least: I’m tickled pink that the Grahamstown Festival Course will be piloted this summer -- with the fabulous Judyie Al-Bilali ‘00G as my partner and co-pilot. Website: theatreinafrica.weebly.com
Professor of acting Julie Nelson has been away in Portland ME, playing one of the two leads in Morris Panych’s Vigil:
Julie also tipped us off that department friend David Hanbury, one of her students, had a show at ART in October, Mrs. Smith Live.
Professor Emeritus Julian Olf kindly shared with us an update about a student: “Just saw a superb production of Windowmen by Steven Barkhimer at the Boston Playwrights' Theater. A very engaging coming-of-age comedy set in NYC's late, great Fulton Fish Market. Captured the idiom perfectly! (I grew up in the shadow of the Market.) Kudos to director Brett Marks and his cast, especially UMass graduate Brandon Whitehead, who turns in a positively brilliant performance. The play runs through November 24th. If you're in the Boston area it's a must-see, even if you don't like fish.”
Mark O’Maley ‘07 is currently instigating a performance installation based on the shorter works of Samuel Beckett and the music of Radiohead at Franklin Pierce University where he is an Assistant Professor of Theater & Dance. In addition to working with his Pierce students on the live performances and design of the piece, Mark is working with 14 professional theater and dance artists on from such companies as Blue Man Group, Doug Elkins Dance, Martha Graham Dance Company for filmed sections of this work, entitled "What's That You Tried To Say?" Jeannie-Marie Brown ‘06G is collaborating and performing.
Bill Pullman ‘80G has been spending time in New York City, where he’s appearing in Beth Henley’s The Jacksonian, a show he premiered in LA. There’s also news of an Independence Day sequel, which is set to include him.
MFA dramaturgy alumna Lauryn Sasso, who’s now at Asolo Repertory Theatre, wrote in with an update she apologetically referred to as “shameless self-promotion” — but we think it’s well-deserved: “Asolo Rep is paired with a conservatory program, and every fall we co-present an educational theatre tour with the conservatory that goes to middle and high schools all over FL. The last three seasons, we've done condensed 45-50 minute adaptations of Shakespeare (Hamlet, Macbeth, and this year R&J) that are performed by two different teams of 5 or 6 actors each. This year, for the first time, I got to co-adapt the script with the director as well as dramaturg the piece, and it was a blast. The reception has been very positive, and if you’d like a little more info about it, a review was done here: http://arts.heraldtribune.com/2013-10-04/featured/theater-review-romeo-juliet-gets-a-modern-twist-for-students/ And not to toot my own horn too much, but the reviewer who wrote that piece also did a separate story about my work here at Asolo Rep: http://arts.heraldtribune.com/2013-09-28/featured/the-drama-connection/ .
MFA directing student Brianna Sloane let us know what’s going on for her this semester outside her class work: “I was part of an immersive, testimonial based political performance in Northampton for Veteran's day weekend, which was directed by Talya Kingston (MFA Alum) and Hampshire Professor, Troy David Mercier ( Theatre Dept Alum) and Robyn Spateholts (MH alum). The cast consisted of five women, including myself, and (alumnae) Tiahna Harris ‘12 and Heather "Hala" Lord. The play was The Lonely Soldier Project by Helen Bendict, and staged verbatim testimonials from female veterans. “
Ben Stanton ‘99 is designing the musical The Black Suits at the Center Theatre Group.
Michelle Wade, who isn't an alumna of our in the strictest sense but who passes the "hung out in the purple lobby a lot" test, sent us a photo of a professional triumph:
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