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Stages: May 2014
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Click on the title to go directly to the story
- Remarks from the Chair
- Virginia Scott: In the words of others
- Nissa Perrot helps people find their voice
- UMass New Play Lab — debriefing the playwrights
Dear friends —
My last note to you was a somber one, as we mourned the passing of Professor Emerita Virginia Scott, a gigantic presence in our department from its very earliest days. We continue to think about Virginia and her presence, and so do many of you, we know. On May 3, a number of her friends and family gathered to remember her. It was a moving occasion, as people's recollections combined to create a picture of a vibrant, engaged, brilliant woman who loved her work, her family, and her travels.
Two of those who spoke, her longtime student and now collaborator, Connie Congdon '82G, and her fellow Professor Emeritus in Theater Dick Trousdell, kindly shared with us the text of what they said. Two other friends of ours, Teri Parker Lewis and Arthur Kinney, sent pieces to join the loving tribute paid in the last issue of Stages by Amy Levinson '94, '97G.
Please read on below.
In other news, as you may have seen on facebook or heard mentioned in a previous issue, as the school year has come to an end, so has June Gaeke's time with the department. June was the last of our original faculty crew — she came aboard as the department was forming and has often served as our institutional memory. Last summer, she and Virginia sat down to talk about the early days and we excerpted that lively conversation for a Stages podcast. It makes makes for bittersweet listening now, but I urge you to check it out if you haven't yet. Listen here.
Our next issue will include a tribute to June Gaeke, so if you have an anecdote, ode, or photo to share, we’d love to have it. Send it off to Anna-Maria by June 15, please, so that it can be included in the July issue.
Virginia Scott, Professor Emerita of Theater at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, died at her home in South Amherst on March 1, 2014. She was 79.
Virginia Scott was an internationally recognized scholar, author and teacher in the field of Dramaturgy. (The rest of Virginia's obituary can be read in our previous issue.
From Dick Trousdell, Professor Emeritus
These remarks were delivered at Virginia Scott's memorial service on May 3.
Virginia Scott was my dear and close friend for over 35 years. She wrote to me recently about how much we enjoyed all that “talking, laughing, doing stuff together.” She ended with thanks for my “wisdom and support” and for my “good humor”--and then she added “(mostly).” There were never unqualified comments from Virginia; she always kept it real. My spouse Craig and I thought of her as not just as part of our family, but as part of our lives. I’m very grateful to Garet, Peter, and Sarah for asking me to be part of this remembrance of her today.
We all knew Virginia in her many public roles as a colleague in theater, as a founding member of the UMass Department of Theater, where she and David Knauf established its pace-setting Dramaturgy program, the first in New England, and where for almost 30 years she was a superb and challenging teacher of playwriting, dramaturgy, and theatre practice generally. She was a passionate believer in affordable public higher education, a cultural value she embodied and championed all her life. We also knew her as a working artist on many, many productions, not only as a dramaturg but also as a director and superb acting coach. And most famously, we knew her as a gifted scholar, writer, and historian whose award-winning books on commedia dell’arte, the theatrical life of Molière, and on the creative impact of actresses on the French Stage won her international recognition and major awards like the Guggenheim and the Carmargo fellowships. Her writing also brought her critical acclaim in both scholarly journals and popular ones like the New Yorker where Adam Gopnik wrote not just a review, but a whole feature article on her Moliere biography which he praised for its vivid character portraits and its “unfussy” account of Moliere’s life and craft. All that work and recognition made Virginia Scott one of the outstanding theater scholars and educators of her time. No wonder she was given the 2011 Barnard Hewitt Award for outstanding achievements in her field, by the American Society for Theater Research.
Some of us were also privileged to know Virginia as a generous, fun-loving friend--a lively presence who was always up and ready for some fun, some fête galante at a great new restaurant she’d found, or to an interesting production, a baroque opera perhaps, or maybe something quiet and intimate like tea and good conversation in her garden beside the fountain she loved. I never knew Virginia to say “no” when anything fun and interesting was afoot It never took her long to pack; she travelled light and often, she always knew the best places, the latest thing, the best price, and the surest way.
More personally still, a few of us were privileged to know Virginia in what was her core role, the one that came closest to her heart and mind, that of a mother and later grandmother who always found time in a busy and productive life for her children. She brought to that role a kind of wisdom and street-smarts that gave them the support as well as the independence they needed—and the kinds of family experiences they’d all remember, like scuba-diving at Bonaire at Christmas, or sharing adventures together in Paris. But Virginia was determined not to be what she called “a helicopter mom,” always hovering over her children. She consciously gave them all room for each to follow their own unique way and to find their own version of an engaged life. What was important, as she told Connie Congdon, was always to keep the channels open, no matter what.
As she faced her death, she said she had few regrets; she had done or accomplished most of the things she wanted. Her only regret, she said, would be in not seeing her children again and not watching her beautiful grandchildren grow up. That was the only time in that last year I saw Virginia cry.
For all her many achievements here and abroad, Virginia’s start in education began badly That was in the early 1940s at a so-called “progressive” school in Webster Groves Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Virginia Lee Peters, as she was known then, got marked down regularly in what used to be called “deportment,” how you presented yourself and related to others. Little Virginia talked too much, spoke up too often, competed too much, and worst of all: she was always trying to excel. You didn’t excel at a progressive school; it wasn’t nice to the other children. Would Mr. and Mrs. Peters please try to get Virginia to stop trying to excel all the time? Fortunately, they couldn’t, and Virginia never did stop excelling.
If we look back from what Virginia later accomplished, I think we can see what was motivating that irrepressible school girl. As Virginia later said—in a wonderful interview she gave to the French Magazine of Performance and Drama—what is most important in life is to find out what kind of mind you have, and then to learn how best and most constructively to use it. That’s what I think young Virginia Peters was trying to do. Her mind, she said, was a practical one. She loved constructing arguments about historical evidence and then taking them apart---demolishing them if necessary--but always in practical terms of how theater works and what theater artists actually do, based in her own first-hand experiences of writing plays then producing, directing or performing them. I think that’s also what she taught and fostered in her students, to discover what kinds of minds they had, what kinds of assumptions lay behind what they were seeing, doing, and thinking. Not to please or parrot her, but to become themselves in the world—as indeed so many of them have done, as artistic directors, playwrights, dramaturgs, teachers, historians, and biographers.
If you want to get a good taste of Virginia’s unique mind and dramaturgical skill in actio,n have a look at her book about the entrance of women onto the early modern French stage and how that changed everything. First of all, how it marked the moment when European women moved out from under the thumb of the church, fathers, and husbands to become independent professionals in their own right, not as courtesans, but as professional actresses who earned their own money and fame though hard work and talent. A good deal of Virginia’s own life and her fascination with her Paris lives in that history.
And secondly, Virginia showed how the arrival of actresses made a whole new kind of playwriting possible --plays not based on traditional models of high tragedy or knock-about farce, but ones based more realistically in the behavior of ordinary men and women confronting one another with differing bodies, privileges, emotions, and expectations qualified always by their differing places in the power structure of society. Therefore, the new female roles required new and subtler acting skills palpably different from those of the males roles, skills revealed not only in words but the need of female characters to play indirectly what was going on between and under and around the words. It’s a brilliant analysis of how the playing of women’s roles by professional actresses influenced the plays of Corneille and Molière. It rings true because the woman who wrote it was not only a scholar, but a playwright and actress who knew what she was talking about.
Was Virginia opinionated, as some said. You bet, but as celebrated author Alberto Manguel said in meeting Jinnie, what opinions! He meant good ones, deeply founded in solid original research and balanced by healthy skepticism, even about her own arguments. As Virginia said, skepticism gives you flexibility; while being romantic tends to make you rigid. A favorite phrase hers was “but on the other hand.” It’s so characteristic; she even makes jokes about it in her writing. If you knew Virginia, you’ll recognize that move, almost whenever you told her anything. She’d listen up to a point, but then would come that look of “yeah, but on the other hand” and you’d be off and running.
There is just one other thing I’d like to say about what made Virginia so special to us all. It wasn’t just her fabulously clear mind, her taste for hard work, or her challenging honesty. No, it was how all these qualities expressed her sheer love of life and her joy in being alive. Here’s my favorite picture of Virginia, sent to me recently by her daughter Sarah—there’s Virginia, outdoors at a concert at Tanglewood, wine bottle at the ready, good cheeses spread out, with a look on her face that seems to invite us to join the party. That’s the love of life that made Virginia so very special, characterized everything she did. She had it in abundance right from the start and kept it to the very end.
It even characterized the way she approached her death. I’ll spare you the details but leave you with what I take to be Virginia’s own thoughts about it. As you know she loved Molière and his life, even identified with it I think, and in particular she was impressed with how Molière died, in harness, just after a performance, in contact with others to the end, clear-sighted, responsible, not wasting a moment. That’s pretty much what she tried to do, even in the last few months of her life when despite the debilitating rigors of chemotherapy, she showed up to help launch Helen Chinoy’s posthumous study of the Group Theater, which Virginia helped put together, and when she appeared at Hartford Stage to lead a post-performance discussion of an 18th century French play. There she was, like Molière, up on stage doing her job superbly.
As she thought about what made a death like Molière’s possible, she found some words by the poet Jean de la Fountaine, who was one of Molière’s oldest and best friends, that seemed to capture its truth—a truth, as she tells us in the Molière biography, that moved her deeply—and I think may have guided her. Here they are: Fontaine’s thoughts about his mortality, but in Virginia’s own words, her translation of what he said:
“Since my muse, as well as my days, sense the inevitable course of their decline, and since the flame of my reason is going to be extinguished, should I use up what remains in complaining, and, prodigal of the time left me by fate, lose it in regretting what I have lost? If Heaven reserves for me still some spark of the fire that burned in me in my season of youth, I should use it, wise enough to know that the most beautiful sunset is neighbor to the night.”
— Richard Trousdell, Professor Emeritus
From Constance Congdon '82G
These remarks were delivered at Virginia Scott's memorial service on May 3.
How to make a pear tarte tatin in 25 quick steps.
1. Leave St. Louis, taking a strong work ethic, courage, lots of determination, and a love of good food, with the nagging feeling that cuisine could go beyond biscuits and white gravy.
2. Go to school, A LOT. Do well. Do very well.
3. Marry an Englishman and confirm your suspicions and discontent about cuisine.
4. Have three children and keep them from killing each other or themselves.
5. Get up at 4 a.m. to write—quietly, so as not to awaken said children.
6. Realize that you are in Maine.
7. Take job in Amherst at a large university.
8. Spend days, months, years, inside a bunker the shape of a grand piano.
9. Teach so many people about theater, theater history, and build the profession of dramaturgy.
10. Never grow tired of explaining what dramaturgy is.
12. Become fluent in French and deny that you are because you are convinced that you are not. You are convinced that you are not because you have issues meeting your own extremely high standards.
13. Write original plays. Write translations. Adapt.
14. Survive breast cancer. Adapt.
15. Write a book.
16. Get two knee replacements at the same time.
17. Write another book.
17A. Work on new verse versions of Moliere with former (no, always still present) student, Connie.
18. Become a grandmother.
19. Dote. Discipline. Brag about them.
21. Write another book. Win award.
22. Go to Paris for the umpteenth time. Continue to fall in love with it.
23. More grandchildren. (See step 19)
24. In your amazing kitchen, working on a clean surface, roll pastry dough into an 11-inch circle and chill. Melt the butter, add the sugar and cook it for 4 to 5 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to evenly caramelize the sugar. The sugar is done when it has turned into a medium golden brown hue. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Cut the pears lengthwise into 1/3-inch slices. Toss the pear slices gently, but thoroughly, with lemon zest and nutmeg because the tarte should be tart and not too sweet. Arrange the pears in a single layer in the hot caramel and honey in the skillet.
25. And final step: display with pride. Get praise from beloved son-in-law Kevin, also a talented chef. Get praise from everyone because you are deeply loved and because what you have made using all your work ethic, determination, brilliance and high standards is, in fact, the best fucking pear tarte tatin we’ve ever had.
Virginia Scott was my playwriting teacher, my friend, and a traveling companion. I saw Paris with her and Provence and the Camarge. She narrated all of our trips while we were taking them. We didn’t always get on, but she was the always there when I needed her. And she always told me the truth, and, maybe, that’s why we didn’t always get on. I was sitting at her kitchen table, with her daughter, Garet, her rock, when Virginia died. It was an honor to be there.
From Teri Parker Lewis
Virginia, you fed my love for the classics, a love I now pass on to my own students. You will live in my memory as a woman of tremendous intellect, deliciously wry wit, and unabashed opinion. I am honored to have learned from you, and I will never forget the talks you gave us in preparation for both Assassins and So Far.
— Teri Parker Lewis, class of '99
From Arthur Kinney, director of the Center for Renaissance Studies
Since the founding of the UMass Renaissance Center, Virginia Scott represented the theater department on the dean's Renaissance Center Advisory Council. She was active in Center programs, too, teaching courses in Renaissance theater at the Center for graduate students, lecturing on her research including that with Sara Sturm Maddox, and over time donating to the Center seventeenth-century books on Molière. She willed to the Center her professional library and her academic papers, which will be stored in our climate-controlled room for special collections. Along with Molière, another feature of Virginia's gift is her library on comedia dell'arte.
— Arthur Kinney, director, Center for Renaissance Studies
Nissa Perrot graduated from UMass already a strong, creative voice — she acted in a number of mainstage productions, she mounted her own piece her senior year, and she took a turn at the helm of the then-student-run Renaissance Festival at the Center for Renaissance Studies. She headed to graduate school a few years, later intent on building her skills as an actor. Along the way, she has found a new way to express herself, as a proponent and instructor of Fitzmaurice Voicework, a voicework approach created and championed by Catherine Fitzmaurice.
Perrot is now living in New York, acting, teaching and voice-coaching. Although the latter two are a direction she didn’t anticipate in 2006 as she prepared to leave UMass, Perrot sees the work she’s doing now as a natural progression of the passions she pursued at UMass.
Freeing the breath
“There are many methodologies in terms of voice work,” Perrot said as she explained the Fitzmaurice approach. “But they’re all coming at it as a way to get to the same thing, which is: How can we free ourselves from habitual tension, or tension that we have as we are speaking publicly, whether, you know, I’m a teacher, or a business professional, or a professional actor? And how do we release those tensions and then bring ourselves to a place where we can have a free, flexible, and supported voice?”
“I was introduced to this technique in grad school at the FSU(Florida State University)/Asolo Conservatory where I got my MFA in acting, and I just fell in love with it right away,” Perrot said.
She explained the Fitzmaurice technique as having two main components. “The first portion of the work is something (Catherein Fitzmaurice) calls de-structuring,” Perrot explained. “That’s the portion of the work where we’re exploring an awareness of what our current breath pattern is, and how we can unlearn some of the old habits that prevent our freedom of breath.” This destructuring work incorporates yoga positions, elements of Reikian bio-energetics, and bel canto opera techniques, Perrot said. As she became familiar with an element of the technique called Tremorwork, Perrot said, she “immediately found a great sense of freedom.”
The second element of the voicework is restructuring, which centers around the question, “how can we most efficiently manage our breath to speak?” according to Perrot.
The technique is valuable not only to actors on stage, Perrot said. “There is a breadth of people who need to use their voice publicly.” She does much of her work with business professionals. Some are members of traditionally more introverted fields such as research or product development, who use the technique to become comfortable speaking about their ideas to other professionals. For others, it’s more about shoring uptheir communication skills. Perrot has also worked with ministers, teaching them to use the voicework to lend greater spontaneity to their speaking. She finds each student is different and is helped in unique ways by the work, but the greater point is that “free breath or responsive breath isn’t just to help a performer.”
“You won’t believe how many people don’t breathe,” she said.
Finding the voice
Although Perrot had not done much voicework as a student before discovering Fitzmaurice, she was familiar with the concept and primed to see its benefits.
When Perrot left UMass, she didn’t go to grad school right away, working at Williamstown Theater Festival, at Chester Theater Company, and finally at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. “We were traveling around New Jersey, and we would perform for large audiences outside, and you really realize that you have to have a structure and a form to support your voice!” she said.
At the time that she applied to graduate schools, Perrot sought out FSU/Asolo Conservatory because of the performance faculty, which included someone who’d studied in Russia where Perrot had done an exchange. She also liked that she’d be acting on the mainstage in her third year, and that there was an opportunity to study in London. When she went to London, Perrot studied with Patsy Rodenburg, a famed British theater director, author, and voice coach.
That experience piqued her interest in voicework, and back in the US, she studied with a FSU/Asolo faculty member who had been certified in Fitzmaurice Voicework. In addition to acting, she spent her third year with the program assisting on the mainstage shows as assistant dialect coach, speech and voice coach.
“This was the first time that I was studying voice every day for a few hours every day, the first time I had the opportunity to really dive in,” Perrot said. “It opened up so much resonance in my voice.”
That said, she is quick to note that the groundwork for her current passion was laid at UMass in the Department of Theater. She took classes on Shakespeare with visiting instructor Alec Wild, and she also loved Professor Milan Dragicevich’s Detonated Language, which she called “an awakening to rhetoric and text and form and the sounds of the words that we’re using.”
“I think that I fell in love with storytelling and text and language here, and that led me to want to teach voice and dialects and text. Those worlds are part and parcel of one another,” she said.
Perrot at work
Perrot now has an MFA in acting and is midway through being certified as a Fitzmaurice Voicework instructor. She has a position in New York City, doing voicework. She also does accent modification work. (She doesn’t like to call it accent reduction work because she feels that sounds as though the goal is to erase a part of a person’s identity, when in reality the goal is to acquire an additional accent "so that we can have a sense of clarity and intelligibility.”)
She also has a manager and agent and actively auditions for anything and everything — theater, film, TV, and commercial work. Being an actor is tough work, she said, because so often getting the job depends not only on an actor's talents, but on many other factors as well.
That’s one of the reasons she loves the voicework. “I think in doing the voice work I’ve found that it’s allowed me to have some more power over my trajectory,” she said.
That she has these parallel careers she’s working on is another thing she credits to UMass. “I think if I had gone to a traditional BFA program, I would have been so narrowly focused on the performance aspects. I don’t know that I would have found myself in the same seat I am now. When you’re given a breadth of opportunities — although I felt they were explored in depth, too — it feels like there are more roads for me to walk down,” Perrot said.
It’s no surprise, then, that when she’s asked to share a piece of advice for theater artists-to-be, she encouraged them to “say yes!” and "Take advantage of every opportunity the Department of Theater has."
“My most memorable experience of my time at UMass was producing my capstone honors thesis. I was given the opportunity to devise a play through interview theater--a vision that came out of my experience working at New WORLD Theater. I wrote, produced, directed, applied for, and received grant funding, and designed the set, costumes, and sound for the show. My colleagues and friends in the department, students and teachers alike, rallied around the project, assisting me in constructing and building the set, costumes and publicity materials. The nurturing community of professors allowed me to take ownership and learn to collaborate early on. This is something I have carried with me into my professional career. Creating a network of friends and colleagues is key to success in any career, or any path you walk,” said Perrot.
The first annual UMass New Play Labpremiered in March, an event that marked the Department of Theater’s return to new play development as a highlight of its mainstage season. MFA Graduate director Jared Culverhouse, along with MFA dramaturgs Paul Adolphsen and Amy Brooks, checked in for post-workshop interviews with New Play Lab’s inaugural playwrights, Liz Duffy Adams and Tira Palmquist.
What three words would you use to describe your experience with the UMass New Play Lab?
Liz Duffy Adams: Illumination, encouragement, beer.
Tira Palmquist: 1. Supportive. Everything about the experience was about helping me to see my play in a new way, to understand what was at work in my play, and bring that to life. At no time did I feel that anyone in the process either wanted the play to be something other than I wanted, or wanted me to make changes I was uncomfortable with. 2. Open. I found everyone (dramaturg, director and actors) easy to communicate with, and the rehearsal room felt relaxed and inviting. 3. Rigorous. The process -- while still fun, mind you -- was about the work, and the director and dramaturg both set an appropriately high bar for the work. What I mean by that is that they wanted the process to be useful for everyone, and to make sure that we were all being suitably challenged. (We were.)
What did you discover about your play as a result of UMass New Play Lab?
LDA: That it has an audience, that it connects strongly with some people, that it works on its own weird terms. I discovered a new title [Liz switched the title from Variations of Fucked to Off the Clock on the last day of her residency – ed.]. I discovered ideas about potential staging and design; how it could work visually and spatially. I got to make some useful cuts and tweaks and rearrange a couple of scenes which made it work much better. I discovered that the characters have life outside of my head.
TP: Happily, I learned that much of the play is, in fact, working well. I was also happy to be encouraged to lean into the poetry of the play -- subtly, but appropriately. This was a surprise to me, because I wasn't sure that the naturalistic genre of the play would support that direction. I was surprised when Paul and Jared encouraged me to go in that direction, and that happily surprised that it worked.
What's up next for you?
LDA: I’m about to go to Paris, where my play The Reckless Ruthless Brutal Charge of It or The Train Play will be read in translation in a French/American playwright exchange festival. After that, this summer I’m rewriting and sending out a first novel; researching Hildegard of Bingen for a play I plan to write next fall while writer-in-residence at the University of Manitoba; and having a reading of Off The Clock at the Women’s Project Theater in NYC.
TP: I'm working on my new play Two Degrees, which will have two readings in May (One on May 19th at The Road Theatre in Los Angeles, and one at the Great Plains Theater Conference in Omaha, NE. Then, in June, my play Ten Mile Lake will have its World Premiere at Serenbe Playhouse just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.
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 begin this issues updates with an excerpted missive from Alison Maloof, who sent us the following newsy update/testimonial tracing her path from theater to naturopathic medicine. What, you say? Read on:
“First, a little background on what I've been up to: After I graduated I moved to Florida where I worked at Asolo Repertory Theater as the Literary Assistant and Dramaturg for almost a year an half. I then left that job for Florida Stage; I worked as the Artistic Associate and Dramaturg. Sadly, Florida Stage had to declare bankruptcy and I lost my job. This experience sent me on quite a journey: I became a certified a yoga teacher, experimented with being a trail worker in the backcountry of California, and now I am currently pursuing a doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine. Harley encouraged me to write to because I have recently had a realization about some of my studies in science and I have as he called it 'one of those 'why majoring in theater prepares you for other things' testimonials.'
My background in theater definitely stands out amongst my peers here in medical school, most of whom have Bachelor of Science in chemistry, biology, or neuroscience. For many of them its difficult to see how theater could be useful at all as a doctor, but ultimately I know my background in theater will serve me in ways yet to be determined and in ways that have already come to light.
I am currently taking biochemistry, (not sure how familiar you are with it) which involves lots of memorizing of chemical reactions and pathways in the body. This might sound crazy, I have recently realized that learning these pathways are identical to memorizing and understanding Shakespeare. (I got quite the look from my Biochem teacher when I said that theater and biochem have a lot of similarities.) As you well know, Shakespeare has to be broken down: monologues to sentences to phrases to words. Once you understand the individual words then the phrase and sentence make sense, and then the entire monologue makes sense. Biochemical pathways are exactly the same: first understand the molecule, then the single reactions, then the entire pathway, and finally all the pathways and how they are connected to each other in the body (AKA the play in its entirety). Realizing how similar they are to learn has made the class easy for me grasp, because I definitely know how to understand Shakespeare, so why not biochem? Though sometimes I wish the pathways were in iambic pentameter instead of glucose-6-phosphate ---->6-phosphogluconolactone, so they were easier to memorize :).
I know that there will be many more ways that my education and experience in theater will help me through medical school and as a doctor. My path to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor has not been straightforward by any means; I have found my way through my passions and interests, including the arts, to this new lifestyle and career. I am confident it will only make me a better doctor.
I hope this email has brought you a few smiles and maybe my story will inspire other UMass student. Theater is an amazing and powerful tool to have in my belt, no matter my career choice.
Fascinating, right? Now, on to the non-naturopathic-doctor-becoming theater folk:
Sound Design faculty member Amy Altadonna designed Take Me Back at Walkerspace in NYC in March. Also in March, she designed Sir Patient Fancy at The Wild Project with Queen's Company. Student Pam McCaddin was her excellent assistant. On a personal note, her sister got married.
Alumna Jane Cox has been nominated for a Tony Award for her work on Machinal!
Recent grads Daniel Cuff, Thomas Kelsey, Annelise Nielsen, Julia Piker, Linda Tardiff, Peter Staley and Zach Smith formed The Deer Players to perform The Brink of Us in New York City this spring. They learned about Delaney Britt Brewer’s play from guest UMass instructor Kara-Lynn Vaeni, who brought the playwright to UMass for a reading and directed this production as well.
Professor Harley Erdman is writing an original 1940s-style screwball comedy, based on a true story for the Northampton Academy of Music. The piece will premiere in the fall.
More about the production: http://www.razoo.com/story/Nobody-S-Girl
Sabrina Hamilton ‘97G reminds us that the Ko Festival is bringing its unique brand of arts events to the Valley this summer.
Lucinda Kidder ‘03G let us know she’s co-founded a summer theater company. Based on the Northfield Mount Hermon campus, Silverthorne Theater Company will present three shows this summer.
Profs Megan Lewis and Judyie Al-Bilali are thrilled to be taking 14 students (from UMass, UC Irvine, SUNY Buffalo, Yale, York University in Canada, undergrads and grads) to the 40th anniversary National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa this summer. This brand new study abroad course will introduce students to the the second largest theatre festival in the world (outside Edinburgh in Scotland) and the largest in the southern hemisphere. Students will learn how the performing arts can offer us a lens through which to examine questions of social justice, race, class and gender politics, history, language, memory, and the role of the arts in our global world. And this year's festival promises to be something phenomenal: it's the 40th anniversary of the festival and the 20th anniversary of South Africa's democracy!
"My toes are curling with excitement!" says Prof Lewis, a theatre historian and performance scholar whose research is focused on South African work. "I cannot wait to be able to share my country's rich and powerful theatrical traditions with my students this summer. And students will also benefit immensely from the talent and expertise of my fabulous colleague, Judyie Al-Bilali! Prof Al-Bilali, who teaches devising and theatre for social transformation, ran a theatre company called Brown Paper Studio in Cape Town for ten years.
In addition to our own two talented faculty members, during this course students will also meet and learn from South African artists and theatemakers like Brett Bailey, First Physical Theatre Company, Tara Notcutt, Mike van Graan, Malcolm Purkey, community groups and the team from Magnet Theatre (who visited UMass in January 2013) as well as various scholars who work on South African theatre, including Prof Ketu Katrak at UC Irvine, Dr Marcia Blumberg from York University, Prof Gibson Cima at Tswane University, and Dr Anton Krueger at Rhodes.
The international travel part of the course includes several days in Johannesburg gaining an understanding of South African culture and history and ten days at the festival itself in Grahamstown. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students to experience international theatre artistry on the ground in Africa. And it is part of the Department of Theater's commitment to and support of the Chancellor's internationalization efforts on campus. As such, students will get to immerse themselves in and get to know another culture first-hand, see their own culture through new eyes, and become more independent and resourceful individuals and more informed global citizens. South Africa, here we come!"
Student Philip James Montaño’s play, American Empire, was part of the Provincetown Theater’s Spring Playwrights Festival this April.
Adewunmi Oke ‘14G served as the festival dramaturg for the annual Word! Festival.
A 2013 Los Angeles production of Dying City featured Laurie Okin, class of '94, and we learned that she and the other actor (Burt Grinstead) were nominated for 'Best Two-Person Performance' in the L.A. Weekly Theater Awards. 'The awards honor what the paper's committee of critics have deemed the best work performed in theaters of 99 seats or less in the 2013 calendar year.'
The LA Times review:
After working as house manager and sound technician on a national educational tour, Erica Simpson ’12 wrote us, she has made her way back to the stage as an actor and creative associate with the Bay Colony Shakespeare Company.
Joe Salvatore ‘97G, playwright, director and Professor of Educational Theatre at NYU Steinhardt, will direct the final presentation of a workshop at which Anna Deavere Smith is to be the master teacher; it is called Personal Narratives: Global Identities.
Brianna Sloane ‘14G let us know that on June 19 and 20th at The Emily Dickinson Homestead, she will be premiering an original work co-written with UMass student Emma Ayres entitled The Emily Dickinson Project, which was funded by a grant from the UMass Arts Council. The piece is a 9-woman promenade play moving the audience through variations of Dickinson's life and voice, while literally moving them through her home. All the spoken text was drawn from Emily Dickinson's personal letters. There will be two shows per evening, with an intimate audience of only 15 people admitted for each. Brianna is also directing a production of Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors, part of Hampshire Shakespeare Company’s 2014 Mainstage Season. Show dates are July 9-13 and 16-20 at the Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies.
Justin Townsend '97 won an award for Sustained Excellence of Lighting Design at the Obies.
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