Stages: December 2016
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Thursday, December 1, 2016
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- Remarks from the Chair: Honoring and building connections
- The Department of Theater celebrates the new Ed Golden Scholarship
- Alumni reflect on Ed Golden's lasting influence
- Ed Golden Scholarship winner Jordan Reed sends a thank you
This month, I have been thinking a lot about connection. Over the past two months, our community has experienced some truly remarkable opportunities to connect across generations, across communities, and across borders.
I want to start by telling you about our Ed Golden Scholarship events, which built a beautiful bridge between the department now, and the department of the past. As I mentioned in my previous letter, Rob Corddry ’93, Jeffrey Donovan ’91, and Bill ‘80G and Tamara ’81 Pullman have generously established a scholarship in their mentor’s name – the first acting scholarship our department has ever had! On October 20 and 21, Rob, Jeffrey, and Tamara joined Ed on campus for a series of celebratory events (Bill was on set, alas) in which they handed out the scholarship to two extremely deserving students, spoke to a pre-show audience about their time in our program, and offered some valuable career advice to our students. There are stories, movies, and photos of all those events in this issue, and I hope you’ll check them out below.
What remains present in my heart, as I think about these events, is how deeply Rob, Jeffrey, Bill and Tamara love this department, their time here, and their mentor, Ed Golden. It was obvious in their enthusiasm and in the specifics that they spoke about. For example, all completely ignored the break time we had scheduled for them on Friday in favor of spending more time reminiscing with fellow alumni and former teachers, and more time offering encouragement to current students and sharing thoughts on how to go forward as theater makers. And that’s just one small example of their generosity, which extended far beyond their incredible financial gift.
It was moving to hear about the impact Ed had on our guests and, during the reception after the ceremony, it was wonderful to hear the remarks from other alumni who offered their own reflections on him — Marissa Matrone '95 spoke emotionally of how much she valued his guidance, and one of our current faculty members, Judyie Al-Bilali '00G, was able to tell him that she’d dedicated a chapter of her book to him.
In a conversation with me after the events on October 20, Jeffrey said it felt to him that, although the particulars of what is taught and produced in our department may have changed over the years, the core of the department, what makes it a meaningful community, is still here. It’s still a place that welcomes students as they figure out who they are as artists and human beings.
I so appreciated connecting with the department’s rich past, and I want to keep that going. Please, alumni and friends, stop by! Come see a show or drop by and say hello to me and, even more importantly, to our students! The department is still here for you and we’d love to welcome you back.
We’d also like to make you part of the legacy that Rob, Jeffrey, and the Pullmans have established. They have given the scholarship an excellent foundation, and they would love to be joined by fellow alumni in growing the Ed Golden Acting Scholarship. If you feel moved to donate, you can do so by clicking here.
In addition to connecting with our past, we have forged new links within our valley. We have changed the term we use for our interactions with our community to “engagement” instead of outreach. It may seem like a technicality, but we want to emphasize that we aren’t just here to present TO the community, but to interact with and hear from the people we live among. We’ve got students working with elementary school classes in Amherst to give kids their first taste of theater. Last month, middle schoolers attended a matinee preceded by a workshop that wasn’t just about understanding The Misanthrope, which they were here to see, but to get them thinking and talking about the place theater has in everyone’s lives, regardless of whether or not they ever major in it or step onstage.
I also recently had an opportunity to sit in on a reading of the script being developed for the final show of our season, Ta’zieh. Graduate directing student Nikoo Mamdoohi reached out to her community and brought in six expatriate Iranians to read. Of the group, five had never performed in their lives, but were drawn to the project because they valued the opportunity to illuminate a valued Iranian tradition that most of us here have never experienced. It was a moment of not only international connection, but of reaching beyond our arts community to find commonality with people who usually don’t set foot on this side of campus.
We have reached into the past and into the future; we have reached people who don’t think of themselves as being in the arts at all. In a time when the division in our country feel painful and corrosive, these moments have strengthened in me the conviction that I want this department to be a place where everyone’s stories are heard.
We hope you join us and, until then, I hope you have a wonderful winter and a happy New Year.
UMass photographer John Solem and student photographer Kyle Hartmann documented the weekend's events. We compiled their work into the slideshow above.
We want to hear from people who haven't checked in with us in years — that was one of the things we enjoyed most about the Ed Golden events! We like to learn about the many intriguing ways you've made theater a continuing presence in your lives, whether as a profession or as a hobby, and we love to hear about the unusual places you've brought your theater talents to bear.
So please, send us your updates; include photos and video if you have them!
Sound design professor Amy Altadonna designed the premiere of Don't You F**cking Say a Word by Andy Bragen at 59E59 in NYC. Lee Sunday Evans of Collaborationtown directed.
Mike Haley '65 is Ebenezer in the Christmas Carol being mounted around the area this month. Silverthorne, the company mounting the production, is run by Lucinda Kidder '03G.
David Korins '99 continues to have a banner year. He's designing sets for Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars, including the one featured in Mars' American Music Awards performance last month:
He's also featured on the cover and in the newly redesigned digital version of the UMass Magazine.
It's a little out of season now, but we enjoyed getting creeped out by this video from student Alyssa Labrie around Halloween time:
Students Finn Lefevre (dramaturgy MFA), Matt Morin, and Mallory Kassoy, as well as theater chair Gina Kaufmann, were featured in an external affairs video about UMass' Edinburgh Fringe Festival Course.
A foursome of accomplished professors gathered at Amherst Books for a celebration and reading of the works they have pulished recently. From their poster about the event:
Megan Lewis has two books out this Fall: Performing Whitely in the Postcolony: Afrikaners in South African Theatrical and Public Life (University of Iowa Press) about whiteness, performance, and masculinity in South Africa and, with Dr. Anton Krueger at Rhodes University, Magnet Theatre: Three Decades of Making Space, a collection of essays and interviews about Cape Town-based Magnet Theatre (Intellect Books/Unisa Press).
Harley Erdman and Nieves Romero-Diaz published Women Playwrights of Early Modern Spain (ACMRS Publications) featuring Harley’s (UMass Amherst, Department of Theater) news translations of plays by Feliciana Enrîquez de Guzmán, Ana Caro Mallén, and Sor Marcela de San Félix.
Priscilla Page has two recent pieces that blend storytelling, poetry, and oral history to describe the powerful work of Chicago-based Latinx theater artists. Page creates portraits of people who have founded their own
theater companies; artists who write, act, and direct their own work in neighborhoods and communities. She aims to set the record straight about the depths and the breadth of the Latinx experience in performance.
Judyie Al-Bilali is the author of a memoir titled For the Feeling: Love & Transformation from New York to Cape Town about her experiences creating applied theater in South Africa with her company, Brown Paper Studio. She is also a contributor to a new collection edited by Sharrell Luckett and Tia M. Shaffe called Black Acting Methods: Critical Approaches (Routledge, 2017).
Leslie Miller '04 contacted us just before we went to press: "Wanted to send an update that I am happy to be working as an actress and audiobook narrator since graduating UMass. My most recent book that I voiced, Veronica's Grave by Barbara Bracht Donsky is a WINNER OF SILVER AWARD FOR BEST MEMOIR 2016 READERS' FAVORITE and 2016 BEVERLY HILLS BOOK AWARDS FINALIST FOR MEMOIR. You can buy the audio book Leslie narrated on Amazon. And you can visit Leslie online as well.
Priscilla Page '00G was a guest on-air speaker during a showing of the Hamilton's America documentary shown on PBS. Additionally, as part of her research on Latinx Theater in Chicago, she interviewed dramaturg Liza Ann Acosta about Puerto Rican theater and her work with Urban Theater Company. The piece ran in Howlround.