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Stages: July 2016
Friday, July 1, 2016
Friday, July 1, 2016
Click on the title to go directly to the story
- Remarks from the Chair: The last word from Penny Remsen
- UMass Theater reaches out to the next generation of students
- Ilana Ransom Toeplitz wins a coveted Drama League Fellow spot
Remarks from the Chair: The last word from Penny Remsen
This is it: my last note from the chair to you, our extended theater family! (Brace yourselves — I have a lot I want to tell you about!)
I leave with mixed feelings. On the one hand, being chair means being a tireless advocate for all we do — and that can get tiring. I am ready to go back to “just” teaching for a while and am looking forward to doing some lighting design again.
On the other hand, all that hard work was for a really good cause. After all, I’ve ALWAYS been a proud advocate for all we achieve here. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to use the voice I had as chair to tackle a number of pressing issues and dream projects.
I’m pleased that on my watch, we were able to renovate the Curtain Theater as well as the house and lobby of the Rand Theater. Both projects improved the learning experience of our students and the theater experience of our audience members. We also upgraded the Upper Rand Lobby into the Upper Rand Studio, which was a big help to performance classes.
In my time as chair I was fortunate to meet a number of our generous donors, and I loved getting to know them and finding out what drives their generosity. I’m forever grateful to the wonderful Susan and Larry Benedict for the scholarship they established to honor outstanding design and technical students, and I can’t say thank you enough to Stephen Driscoll for the BADA Scholarship, which covers tuition and airfare to enable UMass students to attend the British American Drama Academy’s Midsummer in Oxford program. Kisses to these wonderful folks and to every single one of you who funded the MinuteFunds, bought the seats, and otherwise supported us in a million ways.
The past seven years have seen a stunning variety of mainstage shows, the creation of a new Play Lab, collaborations with internationally-renowned artists, and hundreds of presentations of student work. It was my honor and privilege to serve a talented, hard-working, dedicated group of students, faculty, and staff and to help them get what they needed to succeed.
Taking over for me will be Gina Kaufmann. She’ll tell you a little bit about her plans in the next issue of Stages, but in the meantime I hope you’ll join me in extending a warm welcome to her as she starts this new position!
If you’re not quite ready to move on from the year that was, I want to alert you to an interesting document we’ve uploaded to our website, the department’s 2015-2016 Year In Review. You’ll find information about our past season; what faculty, staff, and students were up to; and details about projects we took on. The PDF is available for download — as are the past years’ issues — and we invite you to take a look.
Mentioned in those pages are a number of high-achieving alumni, and I want to single out for praise three guys who represented us beautifully on Broadway this year and were nominated for Tony Awards. David Korins ’99 received a nod for his Hamilton set, Justin Townsend ’97 for his lighting designs of The Humans and American Psycho, and Ben Stanton ’00 for his lighting design work on Spring Awakening. They got all sorts of (well-deserved) coverage, and you can read some of the stories from local media online.
Looking ahead now, I want to take this opportunity to tell you about our new season. It’s going to be an inspiring, challenging, beautiful series of shows. We’re still leaning heavily on the development and presentation of ground-breaking new work. We are also looking at older works through a contemporary lens, to see what that perspective reveals to us.
Without further ado, here are the shows; click here for details about each show!
Written by Molière, adapted by Constance Congdon ‘82G
Directed by Mary Corinne Miller
October 19, Half-Price Preview at 7:30 pm
October 21, October 22, October 27, October 28, and October 29, at 7:30 pm
October 26, Student Matinee at 10:00 am
October 29, at 2:00 pm
Written by Milan Dragicevich
With music by Tim Eriksen
Directed by Nikita Milivojevic
November 30, Half-Price Preview at 7:30 pm
December 2, December 3, December 7, December 8, December 9, and December 10 at 7:30 pm
December 10 at 2:00 pm
Written by Henrik Ibsen, adapted by Christina Pellegrini
Directed by Christina Pellegrini
February 22, Half-Price Preview at 7:30 pm
February 24, February 25, March 1, March 2, March 3, and March 4 at 7:30 pm
March 4 at 2 pm
UMass New Play Lab
Produced by Claudia Nolan and Ifa Bayeza
Directed by Ifa Bayeza
March 30, April 1, 2017 and April 6, at 7:30 pm
April 8 at 2:00 pm
The Happiest Song Plays Last
Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Directed by Jennifer Onopa
April 5, Half-Price Preview at 7:30 pm
April 7, April 8, April 12, April 13, April 14, and April 15 at 7:30 pm
Saturday, April 15 at 2 pm
Ta’zieh — Between two rivers
Conceived by Nikoo Mamdoohi and Q-Mars Haeri
Written by Q-Mars Haeri and Ifa Bayeza
Directed by Nikoo Mamdoohi
Off Site Location to be announced
April 27 and 28 at 7:30 pm
April 29 at 2 pm
We hope you’ll join us for a show!
A message from Penny
We were saddened this spring to learn that Miguel Romero’s husband, Paul Sheren, passed away suddenly. Miguel and Paul had been partnered for many years when Massachusetts ruled in favor marriage equality. Nonetheless, they got married the very day Massachusetts made it legal, and remained devoted to each other until the day of Paul’s passing. After making a life together in western Massachusetts for many years, they and their dog Hershey moved back to New York City after Miguel’s retirement and enjoyed the return to life in the city.
Paul was always a vocal supporter of Miguel’s work and of the efforts of the Department of Theater in general, and I always enjoyed seeing him at department functions. Paul was a warm, caring, generous person, and he will be sorely missed as a member of our extended UMass Theater community. My heartfelt condolences to Miguel on Paul’s passing.
Naomi Bennett '01 caught us up on a whole bunch of stuff going on in her life: "A lot has happened since I sent an update: In 2011 I left New England to get my M.F.A. in Television, Film and Theatre production (graduated June 2015) at CSULA. While I was in L.A. I had the chance to study with alumna Tanya Kane-Parry (who is a professor at CSULA), directed for the Hollywood Fringe Festival (nominated two years in a row for Best in Dance and Physical Theatre), and dabbled in projection design. In 2015 I drove cross-county to move to Baton Rouge, and have now finished my first year at LSU for my PhD in Communication Studies with a focus in Performance Studies. This fall I will be directing for our black box season, exploring long distance intimacy and performance via social media. My show will be devised and performed through long distance, computer-mediated social media platforms."
Pioneer Valley theater folks can see fellow alumna Toby Bercovici's directing work this summer, alongside a number of alumnae actors. She co-adapts and directs The Life and Death of Queen Margaret featuring the work of UMASS undergraduate alumni Linda Tardif, Kate Hare, and Annelise Nielsen. It performs at Smith College July 29-31 and August 5-6. In the Fall, the production will tour to Colby College, where Bercovici is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater.
We heard from California-based alumnus Greg Hoyt that he appeared in the world premiere of a play called The Engine of Our Ruin by Jason Wells and at the Victory Theatre Center in Burbank.
Emily Courville '99 checked in with a run down of what she's been doing: "After a few years at Hartford Stage Company as their production electrician and moonlighting with local 84 as a light board programmer, I moved on to work for an analysis/software company supporting non profits. 12 years later, i now work directly for a non profit, The Humane Society of the United States, as a Senior Director of Analytics and Research. Random skills gained from my theater degree have made me a much more well rounded project, process and product manager than many of my peers. And I was able to redesign the layout of the offices and cubicles to maximize available work spaces and the flow between departments. No one has asked me to sew anything yet, though I did offer."
Graduate student Claudia Nolan let us know that a member of our extended theater family, MJ Kaufman, just had their play Eat and You Belong to Us put on the Kilroys List, which, as Claudia points out, "is such an awesome recognition and honor."
What are you doing this summer? Send us your updates so we can include them in the next Stages issue! Cool projects, babies, new jobs, awesome honors — we'd love to brag about all you amazing people are accomplishing. Send Us Updates!