July 1, 2012

July 2012: Contents

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Remarks from the Chair — Looking back at year's end

Hello everyone —

The 2011-2012 season is no more, but before we turn our thoughts to what lies ahead, I want to take just a few moments to reflect — and take a deep breath, because holy cow, we got a lot done.

We produced 6 shows, hosted a touring production, mounted Cabaret 204 shows and a host of independently-produced student shows, entertained a staggering variety of guests and welcomed more audience members than last year. We don't sacrifice quality for quantity — the professionalism, technical mastery and artistry of the work that gets produced here is just mind-blowing to me. I am forever grateful to everyone for the hard work and dedication that went into making this a great year.

We accomplished all that while in the midst of a number of significant transitions: We have a new business manager, a new department administrative assistant, a new scenic construction director, a new costume shop manager, and a new dramaturgy faculty member. We also searched, for the first time ever, the position of a sound designer in our department, and found a wonderful candidate who will be starting with us in the fall. We said goodbye to one familiar face, as Ted Hodgen took his leave of the scene shop after 35 years with us. We wish him the best in his future endeavors.

We were joined, throughout the year, by an array of guests who each contributed their talents and efforts toward making this an extraordinary season. Notable among them was Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Washington DC's Arena Stage. I've talked about her before (See our February issue) but even these many months later, I find that her lecture, with its intensity and truthfulness, continues to play in my head. What an honor to host her, and how moving to watch her reach out to our students.

Another amazing opportunity for our students came with the visit of Urinetown creator Mark Hollmann. Director Gina Kaufmann drew on her previous work with him to prevail on him for a visit, and he spent time in discussions with Five College students, as well as offering his insights to the team of students, faculty, staff and guest artists rehearsing our own production of the musical.

It was also an honor to have Tony Simotes direct an extremely successful production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. His presence on our faculty enhances our relationship with Shakespeare & Co., which pays off this summer for the students who are performing right alongside Olympia Dukakis in The Tempest and being directed by Gina Kaufmann in Tartuffe. We are thrilled to have him as part of our extended theater family.

Last summer there was dust billowing out of the Curtain Theater. This summer there are carpet fibers everywhere. Don't call CSI yet, though — they're coming from the Rand Theater. With the incredibly generous support of Provost James Staros and Goddess-Dean Julie Hayes (this IS her official title, as far as we're concerned) we are finally shedding the shag. We're going to get new seats and beautiful carpet, tear down the barriers, and spruce up the house in a number of ways.

We're also working on our Rand Lobby. Alumnus Doug Kraner, who works as a production designer in film, was kind enough to come to campus in March to redesign the lobby. I am very excited about how he is developing a design that works with the Brutalistic architecture of the building while adding new, warm touches.

We will be raising money to help make Doug's ideas a reality, so that we can finish the space properly. You will have an opportunity to buy your own piece of the Rand to support our efforts — stay tuned for our fall issue.

Finally, on a personal note, I am sorry to say that on May 22, my dear Mimi, our Associate Chair and longtime four-legged ambassador for the Department of Theater, passed away peacefully in my arms at home. For those of you who knew and loved my girl, I thank you for welcoming her into our theater family, and for your support as I said goodbye to her.

— Penny Remsen, Chair

Spoleto's shops are a UMass Stronghold

Perhaps you've heard of the Spoleto Festival. This two-weeks-plus arts festival happens annually in Charleston, SC, and presents a slate of international theater, music, dance, and visual art events. Naturally, it takes a crack crew to keep all these events — spread out among dedicated performing arts spaces, churches, outdoor venues and more — running smoothly, since some spaces play host to multiple events daily, each with their own technical requirements.

For years, Department of Theater Master Electrician Michael Dubin worked on those crews. He doesn't anymore, but thanks to his connections, UMass Theater students and alumni have long been making the shops and backstage areas of the festival their summer homes.

This year was no different; witness the line up of UMass personnel at the festival:
Student Jared Beaulieu- Apprentice Electrician, Special Projects 
Student Dana DeLise- Apprentice Electrician, Dock Street Theater
Alumnus William Nallett- Master Electrician, Dock Street Theater 
Alumnus Brittany Deventer- Assistant Electrician, Dock Street Theater
Alumnus Kirt Kaminski- Assistant Electrician, Special Projects & Gaillard Municipal Auditorium 
Alumnus Jarrod Jahoda- Master Electrician, Special Projects

Spoleto assigns some people to specific venues, while others are assigned to Special Projects. As logic would imply, those who are what Will Nallett called "dedicated crew" to a venue do their work on that venue only. The Special Projects personnel, on the other hand, are "mercenaries who go out and do what needs doing," he said. "The venues are isolated islands but there's a central construction shop. There's always help." Some projects require more, or different personnel or equipment than a theater has on its dedicated staff, and Special Projects assists them as needed.

Regardless of where they worked, the UMass festival personnel were all extremely busy. So we are delighted that three crew members — Dana DeLise, Jarrod Jahoda, and Will Nallett — generously took time out to answer some questions about their Spoleto experience.

Dana DeLise

Dana DeLise made her Spoleto debut this year as an Apprentice Electrician.

She was assigned to the Dock Street Theatre, a gorgeous historic building (check out the photos in the slide show) that hosted events in repertory. "I got to work with Will (Master Electrician) and Brittany (Assistant Master Electrician) from UMass," she said.

She'd heard about Spoleto from Dubin and fellow students, she said, and she was pleased to find herself well prepared for the work.

"UMass provided me with the skills necessary to work at Spoleto. I was able to contribute more knowing that I already had a background in that field," DeLise said.

That said, she noted, "Spoleto expanded and reinforced what I had already learned. It improved my work ethic, giving me a taste of the professional theater world. I had the opportunity to meet and work with designers that came with the shows that we did. My coworkers were great to work with; they taught me a lot."

Spoleto is an intense experience of long days and nights, so it's not a surprise that when asked for a favorite memory of the event, DeLise cited an "all-skate" that took place at the Sottile and drew on the camaraderie of a group working together to get a job done. "All of the crews took part in loading out Kepler. We worked all night and finished early the next morning. I enjoyed working with everyone to get the job done."

Jarrod Jahoda

Jarrod Jahoda, who is the Special Projects Master Electrician this year, has been to Spoleto so many times he's practically an institution there by now.

"I first apprenticed in 2004, between my Junior and Senior years at UMass. I have been coming back ever since because I enjoy the people, and the environment. I have however, not always been on Special projects, I started as an Apprentice in the Robinson Theater, from there went to the Memminger, and then to Special Projects where I was for 4 years. I returned to M.E. the Robinson Last year, and then returned to Special Projects this year, as the M.E.," he explained.

He was responsible for implementing and maintaining the lighting systems for all outdoor and alternate venues, including the Cistern at the College of Charleston, The Festival Finale at Middleton Place Plantation, Opening Ceremonies, The Exhibition Hall, The Recital Hall, and The Annual Fete, which is the large donor party. In addition, he explained that he also runs the Spoleto USA Electrics Shop that is part of the Spoleto Scene Shop where he and his crew maintain, build, and repair Spoleto equipment, as well as support the main venues as needed. "We send out gear to theaters for their hangs and change overs, build custom pieces, and manage the Rental gear spares package for the festival," he said.

Jahoda has been witness to the growth of the shop to its current scope and size, a process for which he credits another alumna, Stephanie Cook, who held his position for 10 years.

Jahoda feels he's in the company of the best in his field at Spoleto.

"Spoleto in general, and Special Projects in particular, requires a very adaptable and dedicated work ethic. Creative thinking, ingenuity, and intelligence are necessary attributes," he said.

Working there is a boon to one's career. "I can honestly say that Spoleto has opened up many doors for me. I have traveled the US and the World working on Tours, Construction Projects, and Cruise ship Dry Docks all as a result of Spoleto. Living in New York, I know many other Current and Former Spoletians, whom I often work with on a regular basis."

UMass Theater, and Michael Dubin specifically, helped him give the skill set he needed to work successfully in this atmosphere.

"My work with Michael Dubin in the Electrics shop, plus my work on department shows really gave me a solid base skill set to bring with me to Spoleto. UMass really taught me how to open up my mind, how to think critically, as well as providing me with terminology, techniques, and an understanding of theatrical procedures," Jahoda said.

Up next for Jarrod is a "return to New York for a well deserved respite."

He anticipates picking up some free-lance gigs for the summer, traditionally a slower time. "Come the fall, work will become a constant thing again, with Fashion week and other events will eat up a lot of my time. I am also looking into finding a more full time position somewhere. I am looking forward to a busy year," he said.

Will Nallett

Will Nallett is also a repeat customer — he started coming to Spoleto in 2009 and has been returning ever since. This year, he was the Master Electrician at the Dock Street Theater, where he was assisted by Dana DeLise and Brittany Deventer.

"I oversaw everything involving lighting and electricity, including creating an equipment order, hanging and operating the rig for our three shows, and supervising the electrics crew of myself, my assistant, my apprentice, and the two local house crew members," he explained.

What sets Spoleto apart for him is "the speed and the intensity of the work." It's eight weeks of 13 to 16-hours days where you operate on adrenaline and don't have the luxury of time to make decisions. At the Dock Street Theatre, crews were constantly in motion setting up and taking down, because the space hosted an opera, play and chamber music series — every day. (For a sense of what that looks like, watch a video made in 2011 of a changeover between two productions. If you look closely, you'll see Will.)

"Planning was one of the biggest things Michael Dubin taught me — not just what had to be done, but the steps to make it happens," Nallett explained. Being able to fall back on that knowledge enabled him to keep everything straight. Working at Spoleto, he said, "the basic skills I learned at UMass apply in ways I hadn't expected."

Although Nallett had spent some time before college working events, mostly load-ins and construction, he credits UMass Theater with burnishing his skill set. Although he's not a designer, he credits Penny Remsen's lighting design class and other studio design classes with helping him understand the purpose of designers' decisions, which helps him troubleshoot. He also gratefully remembers Michael Cottom's technical design class, which brought together 12 to 18 students from various backgrounds to work collaboratively.

Still, he laughed, most of his memories of UMass are from "10 p.m. on a Saturday, on my hands and knees with a flashlight in my mouth and Michael Dubin on the phone."

Even as busy as they were at Spoleto, there were what Nallett calls "the usual antics and foibles." When the young son of a chamber music pair wandered about at loose ends backstage, Nallett entertained the youngster by introducing him to power tools.

And after catching flack for screwing up the protocol on some equipment return forms, Nallett drafted DeLise to fill out his next form —correctly — in an artistic, vivid crayon rendition.

Like Jahoda, Nallett will head back to the New York City to pick up a variety of work in theater, conference, hotel and corporate events. It's likely he'll be back at Spoleto next summer. Every year, he says, he picks up the contact sheet eager to see who's back, and when he gets to the theater, he picks up these summer friendships like no time has elapsed.

"Spoleto," he said, "is terrific. It compresses everything I want to do into a small amount of time. It looks great on my resume and it directly correlates with the work I want to do."

Slideshow: Photos from Spoleto

Click here to see some photos of our alumnus, Jarrod Jahoda, at work, and some photos of the Dock Street Theatre. (Courtesy Jarrod Jahoda and Will Nallett)


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! 

We also have a Youtube Channel which will get busier in the coming months, and we've recently started pinning on Pinterest. Can Tumblr be far behind? Stay tuned!

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!

Without further ado, here's what you've all been up to recently!

Toby Bercovici '11G let us know about her efforts to mount a production of Ibsen's Ghosts come September. More at indiegogo. More about Toby, from Toby: After receiving my MFA in May 2011, I spent the summer adapting and directing King Lear for Serious Play! Theatre Ensemble, scenes from which have been remounted twice at Amherst High School. I then directed Deb Margolin's O Yes I Will (I will remember the spirit and texture of this conversation) for Pauline Productions - which will be remounted June 7 at Laurel Park in Northampton and June 8 & 9 at The Majestic in West Springfield. (We also hope to tour it to San Francisco and perhaps the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.) I also spent the Fall teaching courses in Physical Theatre and Beginning Adult Acting, as well as workshops on Viewpoints, Physical Theatre, and Adult Acting. Next, I was a participant in the life-changing Shakespeare & Company Month Long Intensive. Directly after that, I travelled to NYC to assistant direct for The Talking Band at La Mama E.T.C. (I even performed in the piece one night as "Crazy Bear," a half-woman, half-bear.) Now, I'm off to Cambridge, NY, to assistant direct Amadeus at Hubbard Hall. This summer, I'll co-direct a devised piece - META/PINA - exploring the complex dynamic between a director-choreographer and her performers and utilizing the gestural life of German choreographer Pina Bausch. After that, I have a residency at Dragon's Egg Studio in CT, where I'll be working with 11 multitalented performers from around the country, as well as with choreographer Madelyne Camera, to explore Ibsen's Ghosts and generate material for adaptation.

Jane Cox will work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this summer, providing lights for The Very Merry Wives of Windsor. Jane is also lighting Geffen Playhouse's new stage version of The Exorcist.

Professor Milan Dragicevich appeared in Eugene O'Neill's Anna Christie, a production by the Northern New England Repertory Theatre Company, in residence at Colby-Sawyer College.

Professor Harley Erdman is writing the libretto for The Garden of Martyrs, an opera composed by Amherst College music professor and sometime department collaborator Eric Sawyer. In addition, he just recently got his hands on the first copies of his own new book.

Sabrina Hamilton '97G continues to helm the Ko Festival every year. This year, fellow alumna Constance Congdon's Is Sex Possible is among the featured works.

Kat Lovell is at the Castleton Festival in Virginia for the summer.

Old Deerfield Productions, headed by Linda McInerney '98G, produced Jean Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot this summer.

Toks Olagunoye let us know that ABC picked up the pilot she filmed in February! "Yep, that's right! Imma gonna be on teeevee!" she writes gleefully. It is a sitcom called The Neighbors, which will start airing in October with Modern Family as the lead in. A preview clip is on youtube (She plays Jackie Joyner-Kersee).

Toks also alerted us to a film project for which she's trying to raise money.

Professor Emeritus Julian Olf's play, Cat in a Box, appears in the 2011 anthology, Boston Theater Marathon XIII, edited by Kate Snodgras and published by Smith & Kraus. His new play, Judith, won a 2012 Julie Harris Playwright Award - sponsored by the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild. The award conveys a cash prize of $1,500.

Bill Pullman '80G was in Lola Versus and is in the upcoming sitcom 1600 Penn. He's been cast in Beyond Apollo, about the space missions of the same name.He participated in a long interview for the website I Am Rogue about these projects and others.

The Department of Theater lighting alumni will be out in force at the Williamstown Theatre Festival: Ben Stanton '99 is lighting The Importance of Being Earnest and Matthew Richards will light The Deep Blue. Ben's work was also in evidence at Berkeley Repertory Theatre's production of Pulitzer Prize nominee Dael Orlandersmith's Black n Blue Boys / Broken Men/ and Signature Theatre Company's Title and Deed.

Lynne (Crawford) Tobey '83 sent us a lovely long update. We love when you people do that. More of you should! "Married to Steve Toby for 26 years. Colin is our son and is 14 years old. Too many pets to mention. Over the years, 2 horses, 6 dogs, 5 cats and countless fish. Fish are not reliable. I graduated in 1983 as Lynne Crawford. I still have a picture that was taken outside The Curtain Theatre in 1983. I moved to So Cal after the winter of 1982/83. You really can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Local theatre is great. I just saw the touring company of Follies at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown LA last weekend. I may not be in the theatre world any longer but I get to see wonderful performances at the Hollywood Bowl, Ford Theatre, Disney Concert Hall and the Music Center. I love LA and never looked back. I remember working with Doris Abramson and Dick Trousdell and thinking I was at the feet of the masters. So many wonderful staff and guest artists that I can't remember them all. I did a lot of stage managing, remembered working very hard on my shows, and felt I learned so much in return. Of course, there are many positives and negatives in situations but overall, I took so much away from my time at UMASS. I am the Director of Audit, Collections and Contributions at the Producer-Writers Guild of America Pension Plan and the Writers' Guild-Industry Health Fund. As such, I am responsible for insuring that employers signed to a WGA Collective Bargaining Agreement are in compliance with the terms of their agreement as it relates to pension benefits and health coverage. I audit employers from the major studios to small one-time employers. In my position, I talk to writers of every variety of projects and ensure that they are getting the benefits that are due to them based on their covered employment."

Justin Townsend '97 lit Anthony Rapp's Without You, which played in Boston before traveling to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and then on to London. David Korins '99 designed the sets. Justin will also do lights for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, specifically, Henry V. Earlier in the year Justin designed for Huntington Theatre Company's The Luck of the Irish.

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