Stages: December 2014
Monday, December 1, 2014
Monday, December 1, 2014
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- Remarks from the Chair — wrapping up a great semester!
- Tanya Kane-Parry '01G climbs her own Tower of Babel
- Kim Euell joins UMass Theater as its first Visiting Playwright
- Katharine Scarborough '05 mines a family story for a new work
- Present meets past: First-year students travel to New York to meet an alumnus
Remarks from the Chair
We've hit the halfway mark! With short nights and cold temperatures upon us, we are enjoying the warm glow of a successful fall season with a Shakespeare show and a modern musical. Both were wonderful, and I enjoyed seeing all the friendly alumni faces back for a visit.
We launched a new program, called Fridays at Four, that invited people to the department for career-related subjects. Dinora Walcott Alexander '02 was one of the speakers, as were representatives of Actor's Equity and ACT, as well as Kevin Mahoney from Center Stage. We hope to continue to offer more enlightening career talks for our students next semester.
We have lots to look forward to next semester, actually: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof will feature, together in a mainstage Rand Theater show for the first time, faculty members Julie Nelson and Milan Dragicevich. Dead Man's Cell Phone will be our first Sarah Ruhl play in the mainstage season. It also marks a bittersweet milstone as it is designer Miguel Romero's final design as a UMass Theater faculty member, as he retires at the end of the school year. (More later on opportunities to pay tribute.)
Meanwhile, we look forward to bringing two brand-new plays to life as part of our New Play Lab in March, and the dramaturgy department will welcome peers from other programs to campus as part of its January conference.
Meanwhile, though, we have some business to do to close out this calendar year — you either already have, or will shortly receive a mailing from us asking you to Mark Your Spot. We're thrilled with the generosity of theater family and friends so far as we move ever closer to our goal of refurbishing the Rand Lobby, but we aren't quite there yet. As you look at your year-end giving, please see if you can help us out and buy yourself a seat!
If you haven't seen the new purple seats in the Rand Theater, consider this your invitation to join us for a performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof — drop me a line to let me know you're coming, and I'll save you a cush for your tush!
See you next semester!
Penny (with Casey and Scout)
Tanya Kane-Parry ‘01G bridges grand opera and postmodern street performance
A note from the editor: A few weeks ago, we received an update from Tanya Kane-Parry ‘01G, in which she detailed an impressively busy sabbatical involving intercontinental travel and artistic endeavors. What caught our eye most of all was that she mentioned, almost in the same breath, her work with an internationally-renowned opera director and a performance collective she founded in Los Angeles — two undertakings which seemed very far apart to us at first glance. We asked her to elaborate on both, and she kindly sent us the following report, which showed that in fact, both are efforts to build bridges through and to art.
By Tanya Kane-Parry '01G
In 2010, after four years of freelance gigs as an Assistant Director at Los Angeles Opera, I was asked by Houston Grand Opera (HGO) to work with director Joan Font from Barcelona on the creation of his new production of Il Barbiere di Siviglie (“The Barber of Seville”). Font speaks no English, and HGO needed someone who was experienced in assisting on world-class productions and could help with translating between Spanish and English. Months later, I was at L’Opera National de Bordeaux with Font and company to remount this same production of Il Barbiere, and it was an education not only in opera, but in making an international artistic endeavor succeed.
Since our first collaboration in 2010, I have spent the last 4 years assisting Font on his three Rossini productions (Il Barbiere, Cenerentola, L’Italiana in Algers) at Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Opera Omaha, the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, coming up at Washington National Opera, and onwards.
Font now trusts me to handle the first week of rehearsals without him – just me and the choreographer, staging the big scenes, getting the production together. Then Font comes in and works on the acting, the buffa gags, and then together we sit with the lighting designer and put the finishing touches on it. With the success of these three productions, the bookings are starting to overlap. Font is now asking me to remount one production in one city while he’s in another city with a different production.
An Operatic Tower of Babel
The Il Barbiere gig at L’Opera National de Bordeaux with Font and company was my first gig in Europe in over 20 years, when I lived in Paris working as an actor in a touring company, followed by work in Moscow. Now I was back in Europe, working in France with a director I still barely knew. I was anxious about my ability to do this job well. I feared issues with French theater technical vocabulary (won’t find the translation on Google!), feared I would get lost in rehearsal process, and mostly feared that I would never really gain Font’s trust.
Font is the co-founder and Artistic Director of the renowned company Els Comediants, with its roots in street theater that incorporates commedia dell'arte, puppetry and grand pageantry. Font directed the opening and closing ceremonies for the Barcelona Olympics and is revered for his celebration of Catalan history and culture.
Font’s Spanish is about as good as my Spanish – it’s his second language, Catalan is his first. I quickly discovered that Font and his team all communicate in Catalan, and although I speak both Spanish and French, there was much I just could not follow when the director, designers and choreographer all began shouting at one another in Catalan.
The first day of rehearsal was total chaos. The Maestro was Italian and spoke as little French as I speak Italian (none!). The stage manager was German. The cast was French, Spanish (Catalan), Russian and Italian. Chasing Font around the stage carrying my bulky score with blocking notes, each time Font looked at a singer to explain his/her action I would yell out the appropriate language: “French” or “Spanish” or “Italian”. Intermittently, the Maestro would join into a conversation, which forced everyone to strain in Italian. Font would be speaking French to a singer, then switch to Catalan to the choreographer, then look at me to give a note and I’d yell out “Castellano”. We laughed a great deal in our frenetic Tower of Babel.
The next day it became apparent to me that Font was struggling in remounting the production because, as he can’t read music and can’t follow a score, he could not remember cues for the singers’ actions. I had been quietly whispering to him that I had the notes and could give him the cues, but he seemed impatient with me. What I realized was that I needed to step up and tell him when and where the characters went before he began the scene so that he had that information fresh in his head, and then it was him, the director, who was telling the singers where to go and what to do. I was cracking the nut, figuring out how Font needed my assistance and how best to help him. And this is how we work now. I walk the singers through their blocking, giving them the musical cues they need. Then Font goes into the characterization and motivations. We do this scene by scene. And when we get into giving notes after running a scene, we split up the work – I take the “minor” characters and fix little moments, while Font focuses on the lead characters. We save time, which is critical in opera!
My time with Font is teaching me many things. The job of an assistant/associate is not obvious. Each director is different, each production is different, and each theatre/company is different. I have made many mistakes over the years – failed to anticipate what a director expected from me; failed to properly follow the chain of command within a company; failed to properly communicate information. Sometimes I accidentally “stepped on someone’s toes” and took care of something that was not appropriate for me to do, and other times I was ill prepared to take on the responsibility that I should have been prepared to do. Rarely was anything really explicitly explained to me prior to these gigs, so a lot of it has been figuring it out as I go along. However, I have learned to ask more questions. I have learned more about the process and hierarchy of opera and what to expect. I have a better sense of when to step in, and when to step out. I have learned to make people laugh when it’s tense, to keep smiling when I’m tired, and to keep an air of confidence when things go astray, to reassure the performers.
Tanya Kane-Parry was the Assistant Director to Joan Font on this production of Cinderella at Los Angeles Opera last year. During final dress rehearsal, the singer playing the character of Dandini suddenly became ill, so she jumped up on stage to play his role. In this moment, the two evil sisters, Tisbe and Clorinda, believe that Dandini is the prince and they are trying to seduce him, but end up fighting over him. (photo courtesy of Tanya Kane-Parry)
On the Home Front
I tackled these latest gigs with Font as part of my sabbatical, which will take me to several continents and countries by the time it’s over. I visited the sites and history of Istanbul (where my paternal grandfather had snuck onto a cargo ship to Paris during his harrowing escape from the Russian Revolution). From there I went to Tanzania. I camped along Lake Chala on the Tanzania/Kenya border, hiked up Kilimanjaro, safaried in the Serengeti, hiked the Usambara mountains, and then spent a few days camping and swimming near a remote village along the shores of the Indian Ocean.
After the successful run of the production, I began my journey around Europe: Bilbao, Paris, London, Edinburgh, Dusseldorf, Berlin, back to Barcelona, then Mallorca, Madrid, Seville, and then onto Italy — seeing productions, attending professional rehearsals, meeting with artists, visiting universities, participating in professional training classes and workshops.
In the meantime, my performance collective in Los Angeles, Opera del Espacio, has continued performing while I'm away. And despite the distance, I'm enjoying using all tools of the technology to continue to mentor my MFA and MA grad students on their first formal teaching assignments, their thesis projects and their own professional development.
The collective grew out of the needs of the students I work with. I moved out to LA in 2001, leaving the Happy Valley and my roots in NYC, arriving just days before the attacks on the Twin Towers, to start my full-time teaching position in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA). I was invited to create a comprehensive acting program within the Department that would address the needs of students who were mostly from immigrant backgrounds, coming out of the overwrought public schools of East L.A., and who were the first in their families to ever go to college.
New to LA, I was struck by the segregated neighborhoods, the lack of public transportation and people inhabiting the streets and public spaces, and the distraught theater community that was thinly spread out across the vast network of freeways struggling for attention and relevance in the shadow of the immensely influential TV and film industries. Critics and theatre artists openly complained that audiences weren’t making the effort to attend their important works, while many responded that “theater was dead” and irrelevant.
In direct response to the complaints and attacks on theater (and audiences), and in direct counter response to the elitism and exclusivity of grand opera, I founded my own company, Opera del Espacio (translation: “Work of the Space”). We’re a collective; we work outside and offer free performances to audiences who would otherwise not have the ability to see us. We present improvised postmodern performances in unlikely public spaces: street corners, cross walks, parking lots, metro cars, parks, in front of restaurants, cafes, bank staircases.
We videotaped everything, started a blog, a youtube channel, a facebook page, printed out business cards encouraging onlookers to “like us” or “follow us”. We chatted up local police when they interrupted us (we never bother with permits), who, when they understood what we were doing, kindly asked us to go “somewhere else”. But, as our presence at the Downtown Art Wal has started being a recognizable feature, and as more and more audience members are impulsively inspired to join our performances, we have started getting invitations to perform at festivals, in historic ruins, and inside theaters.
In our four years we’ve been embroiled in some interesting controversies. While LA confronts its own inherent racism in the arts, we are a multicultural, feminist group, without consciously making a point of being any of those things. We have a “Latino” name, which reflects the reality of LA, but we are not a “Latino” company, nor do we focus on any particular racial perspective or reference. We are a performance group, but we don’t do “performance art”. We make hybrid work that defies definitions of theater or dance. We often include media. Rather than being “site-specific”, we create work out of the spaces, so we call our work “site-generated”. We get invited to many conferences and festivals, only to then be denied access or dismissed for not fitting into the racial or aesthetic qualifications – all of which I find incredibly amusing!
In the meantime, we just keep making new work. There is no goal, just the process and the interaction with others – the audience.
I know that all that I am doing now is only possible because of the training and mentoring I received at UMASS/Amherst's MFA in Directing program. Being a teacher and an artist is so fulfilling and exciting. I share my successes as a way to express my gratitude to all of you who challenged and supported me during my years at UMASS and beyond.
“Curtains and Hands” is from the devised work Space: The Final Frontier that Tanya directed with Opera del Espacio last year. (Photo courtesy of Tanya Kane-Parry)
You can read more at: www.operadelespacio.org watch our work at www.youtube.com/OperaDelEspacio stay updated via www.facebook.com/operadelespacio
The youtube clip of Meet Me @Metro III, one of the group's performances.
Kim Euell joins UMass Theater as its first Visiting Playwright
When she sent her daughter off to Stanford University, Kim Euell’s mother didn't want her to go into the arts. Accordingly, Euell majored in International Relations and African and African-American studies—but the arts dominated her free time almost from the moment she set foot on campus.
Those extra-curriculars became a saving grace when she realized foreign service wasn’t going to be a good fit. She landed her first post-college job, with an event promoter, on the strength of her involvement with a number of campus organizations. Subsequent positions led her inexorably toward a life in theater and eventually to the post she currently holds at UMass as the Visiting Artist in Playwriting, the first person to hold the new annual appointment. During her time here, Euell’s duties will include teaching a playwriting class, advising the graduate students who run the New Play Lab, and teaching a theater course on African-American theatre “from pre-emancipation to the hiphop generation.”
“In a way, you could say that the description for this job was sort of my dream job description, in terms of being able to teach playwriting, African-American theater, and be involved with a new play program. Those are the three bullet points of my career,” she said.
Euell entered college as a dancer-choreographer, but the scope of her arts work rapidly expanded. African-American students were mounting a production of a play by Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and needed someone to create the dances for the piece. They asked her, and when it turned out no one knew African dance, she became their teacher as well as their choreographer. Eventually she was involved in founding an African dance troop and received an invitation to join the campus’ committee on Black performing arts. She also worked for Special Events, which put on large-scale rock and jazz concerts on campus, and she was on the student committee for the Lively Arts.
“I had my finger in ALL of the pies in the performing arts at Stanford,” Euell laughed.
Euell said that she still assumed that after graduation, she was going to become a career diplomat or work on foreign policy for Africa or the Caribbean. However, the more she considered this career direction, the more she realized she was not well-suited to it. “I might have to carry out policies that I didn’t agree with, so I didn’t think that was a good path for me,” she said.
Next problem: “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I had to find a job while I figured it out,” she said.
A connection at Stanford’s Lively Arts gave her the number of a San Jose promoter who was looking for someone in production, and she got the job. She developed a reputation for being good with the talent, which meant she had to be in the theater whenever the company had a show going.
That sparked the next phase of her career: Seeing so many shows, so many times over, gave her an opportunity to immerse herself in dramatic structure and play development. It gave her the idea that she might want to write a play herself. In San Francisco, Euell saw a presentation of the Negro Ensemble Company’s production of Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play that sharpened her interest in African-American theater.
Being in San Francisco put her in the center of a particularly vibrant theater scene. “It was a great time to be in theater in San Francisco, because there was so much going on — a lot of new work, a lot of experimental work, a lot of culturally-specific theater,” Euell said. “It can be so liberating for theater communities when they’re not operating in the shadow of the industry. … I think I was there during that Camelot era. That just fed my interest and my involvement.”
Euell has worked as a producer at Oakland Ensemble theater (where she met Gil McCauley, then a resident director). She has headed play development programs at Center Theater Group’s Mark Taper Forum, Hartford Stage, San Jose Repertory Theatre, and The Robey Theatre Company. She also worked at the Sundance Institute’s Theatre Lab, The Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference, and for six seasons at Center Theater Group’s New Work Festival.
Her interest in diverse voices meant that she advocated for plays that came from different corners of the community. In Hartford, for example, she founded the company’s Voices! Program, which aimed specifically to spotlight new work by African-American and Latino playwrights.
Asked what she looks for in a new play, Euell mentioned compelling characters with lots of layers and a story that’s not predictable. “I really enjoy work that has some a-ha moments in it,” she said. “I like to experience a perception shift. I like work that makes me think and makes me feel something deeply. And of course I love to laugh.”
Euell writes original work, too. The last play she completed included dance and spoken word. It was what she calls a “drawer play” — she wrote a version, then put it in a drawer while “while I had to go off and evolve as an artist.” Now that it’s finished, she’s moved on to creating her first musical, a commissioned piece that tracks several generations of a family.
In addition to developing new plays and writing her own, Euell teaches aspiring playwrights. Her current teaching approach comes out of a momentous trip to Kenya in 2003. In the wake of the end of Daniel Arap Moi’s repressive regime, Kenyan theater artists were looking for a fresh start. “It had gotten to the point where the only plays being produced in Nairobi, the nation’s capital, were British farces,” Euell said. At Sundance she met the late Gichora Mwangi, who was among those seeking to encourage people to start writing again to help reclaim Kenya’s long history of theater.
Mwangi’s ambition for the plays created in her workshop was to produce them — there wouldn’t be a long development period as in the USA, which meant she and the playwrights were under time constraints.
“I teach people structure concurrently with the creative writing aspect of [playwriting],” Euell said. “I think that most playwrights start out focusing on the creative writing aspect, hoping to bring in the structure later. The people I teach learn to think with both sides of their brain simultaneously as they approach the writing of the new play.”
Katharine Scarborough '05 mines a family story for a new work
Among the intriguing emails that reached us at UMass recently was an update from Katharine Scarborough '05. After leaving us, Scarborough went on to graduate school at the New School in New York City. This year, Scarborough wrote us, she has been a resident artist with Mabou Mines.
The Mines website describes the company, founded in 1970, as "an artist-driven experimental confederation, generating original works and re-imagined adaptations of classic works through multi-disciplinary, technologically inventive collaborations among its members and a wide world of contemporary filmmakers, composers, writers, musicians, choreographers, puppeteers and visual artists." Scarborough was happy to tell us more about what it's like to be associated with the group and agreed to answer some questions for us via email. Read on below for her answers.
Stages: Can you talk a little about your time at UMass — I know that you consider professor Julie Nelson a mentor, so can you talk a little bit about what you feel she imparted to you?
Katharine Scarborough: I really had a great experience at UMass. I was a BDIC major – incorporating theater classes with women’s studies, anthropology and I think even a German class! The theater department exposed me to so many techniques and practices. Some stand-out classes were the Dramaturgy of Shakespeare with Dominica Borg, Contemporary Repertory with Julian Olf, and two classes I took with Julie Nelson – Voice and a Performance for Social Justice class (shamefully, I can’t remember the title of the course).
I do consider Julie to be a mentor. One thing that I always appreciated about her is that she is a supportive teacher. Her critiques and teaching style clearly come from a desire for her student’s success. The relationship between an acting student and their teacher can be a delicate relationship. It’s a scary thing that we do. I always felt like I could trust what Julie said to me, because I knew it came from an honest place.
I should also note that Melissa Sivvy (previously Miller), who was a graduate student in directing while I was at UMass, had a huge influence on me. I performed in two pieces for her, Attempts on Her Life and Angels in America. Melissa and I are still collaborating, actually – she played a huge role in the development of my piece at Mabou Mines, helping me in the application process, editing the piece, and giving me directing advice.
Stages: After graduating from UMass, you studied acting at the New School. Can you talk a little about your decision to pursue further education and how you picked the New School?
Katharine Scarborough: I knew after I graduated from UMass that I’d want to continue my education, specifically in a conservatory program. After college, I participated in a summer course with the Moscow Art Theater, and then went to Moscow to study further with them for the winter of 07/08. Being immersed in the very place where Stanislavsky developed his method was incredible, and very overwhelming. Seeing the costume he wore as Vershinin in Three Sisters was pretty awesome. I was also introduced to the Michael Chekhov technique while there, which continues to influence the way I approach my work.
I moved to NYC the summer after my adventure in Moscow with Midori Harris, who also graduated from UMass. I began to look at graduate programs, and what struck me most about the New School for Drama was that it focuses on the development of new work as a cohort of actors, directors, and playwrights. I believe it’s imperative to one’s success as a theater artist to create your own work and opportunities, and the New School trained us for this.
Stages: How do you think your grad school experience built on the foundation of theater knowledge you already had in place?
Katharine Scarborough: My graduate education deepened my education in that it was a conservatory program, so I was immersed in a study routine and was able to develop my own artistic practice. I took Acting, Vocal Production, Alexander Technique, Michael Chekhov Technique, Grotowksi, Theatrical Clown, Masque, among others. We also had a collaborative class where the actors, directors, and playwrights worked together in the development of new plays.
Stages: What kinds of works are you most interest in/challenged by as an artist? Do you have a dream role or type of project?
Katharine Scarborough: I like all kinds of theater – Restoration Comedy, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Gogol, Sarah Kane, Caryl Churchill, Maria Irene Fornes, Stephen Adley Guirgis. I like theater that challenges me, makes me think. Heidi Shreck is a new favorite, I just saw her new play Grand Concourse, and it was incredible.
My dream role is Josie from Moon for the Misbegotten by O’Neill. I just love that play, and I love her character. It was my thesis in grad school – we were required to work on a single character over the course of a semester and a half, and then present a chosen scene at the end of our third year. I would love to put up the whole play someday. It’s funny, and dark, and heartbreaking.
Stages: How did you become aware of Mabou Mines? Assuming you were a fan of the group's work, how did that then lead you to the residency program?
Katharine Scarborough: After my sophomore year at UMass, I had a summer internship with the Ko Festival at Amherst College (with Sabrina Hamilton also a UMass Theater alumna). Mabou Mines came as guest artists, which is when I was first introduced to their work. Ruth Maleczech came that year, and I’m so, so glad I had the opportunity to meet her.
When I moved to New York, I saw Lee Breuer’s production of A Doll’s House, which was totally crazy, and beautiful, and moving. The female characters were all played by tall women, and the male characters played by little people. The furniture in the set was all miniature for the men, so the women literally didn’t fit in the world.
Funnily enough, I follow them on Facebook, and there was a notice about Artist Residencies with them, which led me to apply.
Stages: Can you talk a little about the process of becoming a resident? Do you have to come to the group with a specific idea for a project?
Katharine Scarborough: I had been dreaming/thinking about/marinating the idea for a project through my last year of grad school. When you apply to Mabou Mines’ residency, you have to propose a project, which I did. They do two rounds of application. Your initial proposal is very short. You answer two questions in 500 words or less. For the second round you have to send in writing samples/script excerpts, five pages or so. The reviewed in, and in January of this year, I found out I was accepted.
The piece you're working on sounds like it comes out of a personal story — what is the genesis of the idea and how did you come to take it in the direction it's going?
Katharine Scarborough: In 2012, my father was arrested and briefly incarcerated, which was awful for all of us. He has a very interesting history, he’s a pretty interesting character, so I began writing. The piece explores family history and how storytelling shapes our understanding of ourselves and our truth.
The piece continues to evolve. I’m not sure I can describe how I came to take in the direction it’s gone. One of my acting teachers, Cotter Smith, always says that an actor’s process is like playing wack-a-mole. You just hit things until something works… and then the thing that works pops up somewhere else, and you wack at it again. The development process for my play has always been about figuring out the best way to serve the story.
Stages: Please talk a little bit about the various different performances/theater areas that you’re using to tell this story — I see mention of opera and puppetry, and am curious about whether that was part of the original idea or whether that grew with the project.
Katharine Scarborough: You know, it’s funny, because my default is always to make things way more complicated and grandiose than they need to be. I constantly have to tell myself to simplify, simplify, simplify. I had all these grand plans for the piece, but as we worked, I realized what served the story best was to keep it minimal. The play, which I titled Myth Keeper, includes Spalding Gray inspired monologue work, neo-fairytales, realistic dialogue, some mythology, and my father’s correspondence from jail. Not quite the magical, puppet opera I initially was planning to execute.
Stages: How does Mabou Mines support the projects as they develop? How has your experience with them been.
Katharine Scarborough: Mabou keeps in pretty close contact, keeping us abreast of other residency spots and applications. It’s a great community, and I’m grateful for the friends and new colleagues I’ve found in the process.
What’s next for the project — you mentioned that you’re submitting it to theaters; do you have some good leads yet? Do you plan to be part of the performances or will you let it go to other producers/performers?
Katharine Scarborough: Oooh, let’s keep our fingers crossed! I don’t want to say too much (I’m suspicious), but I’m submitting the play all over, and I’ll definitely keep you apprised of its progress. I do want to continue performing in it, although I don’t think I’ll direct it again. Being the playwright, director, and actor proved challenging.
Stages: What's next for you once the project wraps?
Katharine Scarborough: I’m currently involved in a dance theater company called “New Dance Theater”, and we’re currently in rehearsals for a new piece. I’m also writing a solo show, auditioning, and looking for new projects. I’ve found it important to always be working on something, moving forward with my career. If you’re practicing, you’re improving.
Present meets past: First-year students travel to New York to meet an alumnus
This year, Department of Theater chair Penny Remsen organized a first year seminar to introduce freshmen to the many facets of theater. The culmination of the class was a trip to New York to see a show which featured the work of two department alumni, Justin Townsend and David Korins. Remsen asked student Sofia del Valle to write up a short piece sharing her impressions of the experience. Please read on!
by Sofia del Valle
As a part of the freshman first year seminar, Introduction to the Art and Craft of Creating Theater taught by Penny Remsen, Department of Theater Chair, on Saturday, December 9, 11 students, along with Remsen and Julie Fife, theater Production Manager, took a day-trip to New York City to see the new rock musical Here Lies Love. The choice of production was not a coincidence: lighting designer Justin Townsend ’97 and scenic designer David Korins ‘99 are both alumni of the Department of Theater, and we had a chance to hear from Townsend about his part in the show.
Developed by David Byrne and DJ Fatboy Slim, the show tells the story of Imelda Marcos, the First Lady of the Philippines. It is an immersive and interactive disco-clubbing experience between the actors and the audience, in which the entire room becomes the stage, and the set and audience are constantly being rearranged.
Lighting and computer generated images and graphics displayed on screens positioned around the room create a funky, “trippy,” almost dream-like atmosphere. During multiple scenes throughout the show, real news and interview footage of Marcos and her husband Ferdinand are projected on the screens but are tweaked and modified to appear like twisted pop art.
Prior to seeing the musical, students met with the show’s lighting designer, Justin Townsend ‘97. He took the group on a tour of the theatre, where the show is performed and described his design process.
According to Townsend, to help create the funky world of the 1960’s presented in Here Lies Love, instead of considering which specific lighting tools to use, he focused on light and color itself and innovative ways to display them.
“I try to make a fool of myself, make mistakes, and try different things,” Townsend said. “Always stay dangerous."
Welcome, one and all, to this issue’s updates!
There are not very many of them this time around, but we know that it is not for lack of activities on your parts — you’re probably all just too busy to write and will get to it shortly, right? Right???
As ever, please feel free to send in any and all news you’d like to share. If filling out the contact form leaves you cold, you can reach us through email, facebook, twitter, or by coming to the department and shouting in our general direction about the things you’re doing.
Many of you remember fondly the opportunity to take classes or be directed by guest director and instructor Tony Simotes; he was back again to do both this semester, and UMass featured him and his students in stage combat on the home page. Check out the great photos at the link: http://www.umass.edu/gateway/feature/art-war
Marcy Braidman '08 is part of a very cool non-profit doing some gfreat social justice theater work this holiday season. She passed on a press release about the undertaking:
HOMELESS WRITING PROGRAM PRODUCES 2ND PRODUCTION
OF LIVE THEATER AT BOSTON PLAYWRIGHTS' FOR HOLIDAY SEASON
Boston, MA - A new play from the Stories Without Roofs writing program is currently in production and opens the weekend before Christmas. Created by Program Director Misch Whitaker, Stories Without Roofs' goal is to provide homeless residents of the Boston Metro area an opportunity to have their voices heard, and moreover - to dialogue with the greater community. Last year’s production, Transitions, reached over 300 people over the course of two days and was written by men staying at the Salvation Army. This year’s production, Writing Home, features an all female cast and is based on the writing of women in the day shelter program On The Rise located in Cambridge, MA. After each performance audiences will be invited to stay for talk backs with the authors themselves.
“Last year’s production of Transitions featured stories from men only,” says Whitaker. “And that was only because we happened to be working with a men's program at Salvation Army. So this year we made a point to introduce the female perspective. The success and support from last year’s show made this year possible.”
Whitaker created the program as a way of combining her two passions; theater and social justice. As a registered nurse by day at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless, Whitaker is moved by the stories of her patients every day. She wanted to try and share those stories with a larger community in an effort to build an awareness of those who are often passed by on the streets of Boston, and realized theater would be an ideal vehicle. "I think when people realize how much all of us have in common- just as human beings first and foremost, then they start to think about the whole concept of 'homelessness,' differently," Whitaker says. As a well-known comedy performer Whitaker applied her performing and directing experience to create a show that would easily share the hopes and fears of the people she cares for everyday.
Stories Without Roofs: Writing Home opens Thursday Dec 18th and performs through Sunday December 21st, 2014 at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre. Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased through their website at www.storieswithoutroofs.org.
Stories Without Roofs also launched an IndieGoGo campaign which made its goal in less than one week and is still currently accepting donations. For more information about the fundraising campaign or the show visit www.storieswithoutroofs.org.
Alumnus Draper Harris shared the link to his new Youtube channel, Artistic Drapes, with us: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCurrAhg-MLsv5VRE96M-pXA/about
Priscilla Page ‘01G will be a scholar-in-residence with the playwrights for the 2014 México/U.S. Playwright Exchange Program at the Lark Play Development Center in New York City. She has been asked to write about the work and the program and will also provide dramaturgical support to the writers as needed during the exchange. “It's an honor to be asked to participate and more specifically to re-connect with Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, who has been a guest in my classes in years past and was affiliated with New WORLD through New WORKS for a New WORLD and Project 2050,” Page wrote. “I am also going to take this opportunity to begin a conversation with Andrea Thome, head of this program, about internship opportunities for students enrolled in the Multicultural Theater certificate.”
More about the program at http://www.larktheatre.org/the-2014-mexicou-s-playwright-exchange-program/
Graduate student Glenn Proud has a role in the UVC-TV mockumentary Unofficial: Boys to Men.
Bill Pullman ‘80G is appearing in The New Group’s production of David Rabe’s Sticks and Bones.
Alumnus David Zucker was one of the many friends of Stephen Driscoll to visit the department in conjunction with his star turn in The Merchant of Venice this fall. It inspired him to dig through his archives and share some old photos with us. He didn’t find one of Stephen, but he did locate two other gems!
"I thought I had an old picture of Stephen as Myron in Doris Abramson's 1968 production of Awake and Sing but I can't find it. Here is one of me as Moe Axelrod in the show as well as a picture of Richard Gere, Peter Stelzer (A favorite of Harry Ms and a UMass theatre star in his day), and me in Madwoman of Chaillot (1969)."
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