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  • August 2015 Applause

    Minnesota Fringe Trending: Rarig

    With its four distinctive stages: Whiting Proscenium, Stoll Trust, Kilburn Arena /Liu Stage and Nolte Xperimental--the Rarig Center hosts the annual Minnesota Fringe Festival July 30 through August 9. With its 24-performance sites, the Fringe presents 170 shows, representing performances in every discipline ranging from comedy to drama, dance, stand-up routines and musical theatre. Indeed, if you count this year’s “site specific” shows, Rarig accommodates about one quarter of all Fringe offerings! 

    Theatre Arts & Dance Department Chair Marcus Dilliard said, “On behalf of the U of M’s Rarig Center, we join our neighbors at Mixed Blood, and Theatre in the Round in welcoming to the West Bank thousands of performers and Fringe goers." Located at 330 21st Ave South, Rarig Center is home to over 44 different productions, none longer than one hour.  Each production is presented five times so guests will have an opportunity to catch over 220 performances.  No one selects the participating shows. Instead, a Fringe lottery determines which of  400+ applicants win production slots in the festival. 

    At the time of this writing the Fringe website reports the following Rarig shows as trending:

    Trial by Jury - The lovely Angelina sues Edwin for a breach of promise of marriage and captivates the Judge's heart, in Gilbert & Sullivan's the most successful British one-act operetta (Proscenium)  

     Spicy Masal Chai - A stirring Bollywood Dance Scene promises a perfect recipe for a romance / drama of original storytelling and choreography. (Proscenium)

    The Consolation - War criminal Adolf Eichmann, on trial in Israel in 1961, attempts to make sense of what brought him there, while at the same time evaluating his own sense of what is true and what isn't.(Kilburn Arena/Liu Stage)

    School of Rhythm - A few ground rules: don't be late, keep your pencil sharp, most importantly, don't lose the beat! Experience food fights, secret handshakes, and other topics not covered on the exam. (Proscenium)
    For Minnesota Fringe tickets, performance dates, and times, visit:

    Our Students in the Spotlight

    Caroline Amos, Silas Sellnow, JuCoby Johnson, Jim Poulos and Brian White in Romeo and Juliet.Great River Shakespeare Festival, 2015. Photo by Dan Norman.

    Master Electrician Megan Winter (MFA’16), Actors JuCoby Johnson (BFA’15), Silas Sellnow (BFA’16) 

    Together Light Up Stage at Great River Shakespeare

    This summer Megan Winter is the Master Electrician for Great River Shakespeare Festival’s (GRSF) three productions: Glass Menagerie, Much Ado About Nothing, and Romeo & Juliet. Responsible for translating the lighting designers’ paperwork into the real world theatre space, Megan worked with other supervisors organizing work calls, renting/purchasing equipment, supervising, and troubleshooting. Now in its 12th season, Winona's festival opened June 24 and plays through August 2.

    Q: Lighting three different productions in a very concentrated period of time in a new theatre space could be daunting. What helped prepare you for this professional challenge?

    Megan: The organizational systems and processes I’ve been learning at the University of Minnesota plus working at other venues in the Twin Cities area have helped, certainly.  And I am especially grateful to have had such a great team to work with here in Winona: the other supervisors, my interns, and the lighting designers. I’m also indebted to the great support had from the Twin Cities area from colleague former GRSF Master Electrician Jesse Cogswell (MFA’13), Lighting Supervisor Bill Healey, and Advisor Marcus Dilliard.

    JuCoby Johnson makes his professional debut playing the fiery Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet and the thoughtful Friar in Much Ado in the rotating repertory -- quite the acting challenge for a student who just earned his degree three months ago. Silas Sellnow, a company intern last season, is cast as Juliet’s handsome suitor Paris and the role of Sampson. In Much Adohe plays Balthazar. Sellnow returns to the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training program as a senior this fall; Johnson is newly graduated from the program.
    After a recent Romeo & Julietperformance, Applause caught-up with the two actors, to ask about the transition from student to player working in a seasoned company of professionals.

    Q: How has your training at U got at the University benefited you? Can you point to one specific example or two?

    Silas: On a word I’d say the preparation you get. I had a path to approach these two different roles in Romeo and Juliet in a very short period of time. Preparation and training are essential.

    Q:  What have been the biggest challenges given the Festival ‘s schedule playing in repertory?

    JuCoby: Yes, the BFA program preparation is very practical and hands-on given the daily demands of rehearsals here. I was in the R&J rehearsals working on the fights [using knives] with Doug [Scholz-Carlson, director of R&J and the artistic director.]  Intense physical stuff. He would break it down into units demanding strong focus. Starting slowly, we gradually got up to speed. On that same day, I’m called to Much Ado rehearsals for my appearance as the Friar– he has two solid pages of text late in the play…. and thanks to my training, I knew how grasp the material. I had worked on it in advance outside of rehearsal, so I was not wasting director’s time explaining text and we could move into other stuff.  My training saw me through.

    (Watch JuCoby in combat rehearsal:

    Silas: It’s been a great experience for me as well.

    JuCoby:  I’ve have enjoyed every part of Great River Shakespeare, and am very grateful for the U’s training program.

    Rex Davenport (BA ’15) Keeps a Cool Head

    Park Square’s Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders Turns-up the Heat

    Actor, director, former TAD peer representative, and editor of student newsletter, Backstage Pass, Rex Davenport knows how to "keep it cool” as possible backstage. Working on the running crew for Park Square Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes and the Ice Palace Murders has had its moments he confides.

    Given the show’s precise timing, set changes, and trick props, the crew had to be well rehearsed and poised for action. But stakes went up considerably when lead actor Steve Hendrickson took ill opening night, and could not appear. Show director Peter Moore, who is also an actor, stepped in, but only temporarily due to prior commitments. So the leading role of Holmes was taken over by the playwright Jeffery Hatcher who penned this new work set in old St. Paul. Despite all these unexpected changes, Davenport reported “we just kept focus and flexible to keep the show going, helping actors adjust as best we could” from the wings. Cool heads prevailed and Hendrickson, now recovered, returned to complete the run at Park Square. 

    Alumni in Action

    Catching up with Casey Stangl

    TAD Alumna returns to stage Guthrie Stage Kiss

    Guthrie guest director Casey Stangl says, “I loved my time at Rarig…the different performance spaces, fantastic experience for me as a student.” She also remembers with great fondness her teachers: Professors Lee Addy, Robert Moulton, Charles Nolte, and Jean Montgomery. Stangl  came back to her Minnesota roots to stage Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kissnow playing through August 30 at the Guthrie. This occasion was her introduction in the Guthrie’s new building; she had previously directed Top Girls for the theatre in 2003. “It’s great to be back …just had coffee with Joe Haij. Very impressed.”  

    Following her 12 year tenure as artistic director of Eye of the Storm Theatre in 2005 in Minneapolis, Ms. Stangl's career grew. She has directed all across the country including at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, Guthrie Theater, Denver Center Theatre Company, Louisville’s Humana Festival of New American Plays, Washington DC’s  Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Portland Stage, Cleveland Play House, Arizona Theatre Company, and Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Impressed?

    “Now I’m based in Los Angeles,” Stangl explained, “and work a lot with South Coast Rep.”   Casey’s recent staging of Venus in Fur them was a big hit with strong press. Her production of Love and Information for the American Conservatory Theater completes its run in California this month. She also does work with Burbank’s Falcon Theatre, and Antaeus Company, where her production of Peace in our Time won numerous awards. Her other local credits include Between Us Chickens, which she work-shopped at South Coast Rep and moved to Atwater Village Theatre, Slither and The Chapel Play for Chalk Repertory Theatre, and the world premiere of How Cissy Grew, named Best New Play at the 2009 L.A. Weekly Theater Awards.

    As a Fellow at American Film Institute's Directing Workshop for Women, Stangl directed C U @ ED'S, a short film that has screened at 21 film festivals and won several awards. Other credits include the web series,Trudy O'Reilly Consumer Rights Advocate.

    So what’s next? “I’m back home soon,” directing J.C. Lee’s Women of a Certain Age at the Ojai Playwrights Conference (OPC), one of the most acclaimed new play developmental programs in the country with an extraordinary program of playwrights, new play workshops and special performance events from August 2 through 9, 2015 in Ojai, California. Following that, she directs Minette at Main Street Theatre in L.A. next spring.

    Feldshuh Stages his Yussle the Muscle for Illusion’s Fresh Ink Series

     In “Yussle the Muscle,” writer and director David Feldshuh (kneeling) has crafted a drama around the friendship between a Nazi poster boy and a Jewish American. Actors in the play include, from left: Michael Hanna (Joseph Goebbels), Dustin Bronson (Max Schmeling), and Daniel Vinitsry (Yussle Jacobs).

    StarTrib photo: Jim Gehrz 

    David Feldshuh (PhD ’75) directs Dustin Bronson (BFA’10) and Michael Hanna (BFA’13)

    Actor, playwright, and medical doctor David Feldshuh, perhaps best known for his Pulitzer- nominated stage play Miss Evers’ Boys which won Best New American Play and 7 Emmy awards for its HBO movie adaptation, recently returned to the Twin Cities. Feldshuh has crafted a new drama in which he explores the friendship between the Nazi poster boy and his Jewish American manager. Yussle the Muscle received a workshop production in the Illusion Theatre’s Fresh Ink series in July. Dustin Bronson played manager Max Schmeling and Michael Hanna took the role of Joseph Goebbels.

    As a U of M graduate student, Feldshuh was a McKnight Fellow and became member of the Guthrie Theater acting company.  

    Click here to read the StarTribune’s feature story about David Felshuh, his latest play, and connections to the Twin Cities theatre community.

    Fringe ‘15 Features UMTAD

    Alums, students make it all happen

    With the help of UMTAD staff administrator Katie Willer (BA alumna), here is a partial listing of individuals involved with this year’s Fringe shows. Disclaimer: no way to even suggest this as comprehensive of all alumni participants.

    Lungs with Dustin Bronson (BFA ’10) and Katie Kleiger (BFA’15)

    Too Punk To Care is actually a remount of an Open Stage show with students Bree Schmidt (BA’15), Kenzi Allen, Ryan LundbergRyan Bockenhauer, Kasey Heimstead, Zach Holmquist, Daniel Sakamoto-Wengel, Audrey Rice (BA’15) and Austin Ruh.

    High Flight has our last MFA Acting graduate and a former undergrad--Noe Tallen (MFA '00) and Ben Tallen (BA '01):
    Deus Ex Machina  ( with Laura Hickey (BA '13) and Jacob Mobley (BA '15).
    Frankenstein ( has Noah Bremer (BA) and Joanna Harmon (BFA '09).
    Leaving St Paul ( has Emily Rose Duea (BA '14).
    To the Moon ( has Emily King (Dance BA '08).
    105 Proof or The Killing of Mack "The Silencer" Klein ( has Allison Witham (BA '10).
    Pretty Girls Make Graves with Katie Willer (BA ’03) selected as one of "10 Must See" shows by City Pages. .

    "Would you be? Could you be Billy's Neighbor?" 

    Billy Mullaney (BA '11) at Open Eye in August 

    Performance artist Billy Mullaneypresents a split evening of new works, featuring his own project Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as well as hosting Seattle-based artist Erin Pike and her show, That’swhatshesaid, According to Minnesota Playlist, both scripts are "built using contemporary forms of appropriation: transcribing, cutting, rearranging, pasting, and re-contextualizing." Mullaney's and Pike's pieces are onstage at the Open Eye Figure Theater August 13-16. Click link for details and tickets .   
    "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is a verbatim staging of a full half-hour episode of the eponymous television show (#1718: "Be Yourself, That's the Best"). After performing excerpts and iterations of the piece in cabarets and showcases in Minneapolis and New York, Mullaney's Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood " ...stages the episode, featuring Mr. Rogers’ visit to a string quartet and a trip to the neighborhood of make-believe."

    That’sWhatSheSaid, a one-woman show featuring artist Erin Pike, mashes up "only female dialogue taken from Theater Communication Group’s 2013 top ten most-produced plays in America." By delivering those lines out of context, Pike, writer Courtney Meaker, and director Hatlo interrogate with laser precision on how women are represented onstage in contemporary theater -- by both male and female playwrights.
    Faculty Highlights: Summer offers professional growth

    Encore! Costumer Matt LeFebvre designs at ATP      

    Costume designer and faculty member Mathew J. LeFebvre returns for another summer to American Players Theatre (ATP). This season he creates the clothes for Othello, Shakespeare’s timeless story about race, love, jealousy, and betrayal. Previews begin August 7 .  

    Last summer Mr. LeFebvre designed The Importance of Being Earnest winning honors as the top Wisconsin production of 2014 based on performance and design by Journal Sentinel. In addition,  LeFebvre earned a special salute to designers who “made magic on stage," from the Milwaukee newspaper praising his “colorful and clever costuming [which] offered spot-on commentary about the relation between a dandified pre-1914 England [for The Importance of Being Earnest ] and World War I.” [for Travesties]    

    Devoted to the great and future classics, APT is a professional repertory theater with eight productions playing alternately this season from June to October. Founded in 1979 by Guthrie actor Randall Duk Kim, ATP continues to be one of the most popular outdoor classical theaters in the nation. The Theatre is located in Spring Green, Wis., on 110 acres of hilly woods and meadows above the Wisconsin River. For more information, visit

    Luverne Seifert climbs aboard Hoopla Train with Yard Master Yip and his Polkstra

    23 Whistle-stop performances in 14 towns from Nisswa to Sleepy Eye.

    “Imagine Lawrence Welk Show meets Hee Haw,” says actor/producer and faculty member Luverne Seifert, as he attempts to explain Hoopla Train, his current Sod House family entertainment, now touring small towns through August 30. “Think of it as a tribute to the variety shows of the 70’s with live music, singing, sketch comedy and well…” he pauses.  “Feats of amazement are promised,” pipes up Twin Cities actor and Hoopla Train’s writer Jim Lichtscheidl, while plucking his guitar. The cast also includes Twin Cities actors: Elise Langer, Nathan Keepers, Kimberly Richardson and Darcey Engen. CLICK here to read the full Star Tribune article
    For more information, locations click here:

    This activity is made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board through and appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the State’s arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

    Beware ValleySCARE

    A Wicked Creative Collaboration   

    This fall semester faculty member Luverne Seifert and guest theatre artist Jim Lichtscheidl lead a BA creative collaboration in a unique partnership with Shakopee’s Valley Fair where they hope to frighten the dickens out of you. 

    "Each student will  begin by exploring a darker side, conjuring- up and contributing to an original  ghoulish tale, then together they will bring it to life in a full-scale haunted environment." According to Seifert, " imagine a cast of creepy characters, maybe dipped in blood curdling circumstances." Finally the student creators will act as performers and/or guides leading audiences through a spirit invested house of horrors, nightly. 

    Together students will learn some of the skills required of playwrights, designers, and stage managers. Next they will build the sets, costume, make-up, arrange lights and sound and take roles in ValleySCARE, September 18 through October 31. Talk about a frightening long mid-term exam! In coming weeks, watch for updates on the public opening of  ValleySCARE at Valley Fair.  

    Kantor @ 100--Not to be Missed 

    Michal Kobialka to teach TH1950 Topics course this Fall
    Tadeusz Kantor

    Polish visual artist and theatre director, Tadeusz Kantor born April 6, 1915, “can be placed among a select group of the twentieth century’s most influential theatre practitioners,” according to Professor Michal 
    Kobialka.  Kantor’s work “with his Cricot 2 theater company and his theories of theatre have not only challenged, but also expanded the boundaries of traditional and nontraditional theatre forms." 

    Professor Kobialka explains, “The breadth and diversity of Kantor’s artistic endeavors align him with artists, for example, Marcel Duchamp, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Oskar Schlemmer, Jackson Pollock, Jerzy Grotowski, Allan Kaprow, Robert Wilson, or Pina Bausch. He was positioned within the avant-garde movements represented by those artists.”

    Kantor began his work during the modernist revolution instigated by the first wave avant-garde in France and the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, then continued at the time of the post-war European and American second wave avant-garde in the 1960s. His most widely known productions, outside of Poland, The Dead Class (1975), Wielopole, Wielopole (1980), Let the Artists Die (1985), I Shall Never Return (1988), and Today is My Birthday (1990) co-existed with diverse forms of postmodern art and theatre.

    To commemorate Kantor’s centennial year and celebrate his artistic life, Professor Michal Kobialka is organizing an extraordinary learning opportunity for students and faculty. In a series of events, he will present Kantor@100, (TH1950) a unique topics course. Attention students: Space is currently available to register for TH1905. 
    No registration restrictions.  

    This course will meet September 14-18, 2015, 7-10 PM in Rarig’s Kilburn/Liu Stage and will consist of the following lectures/screenings:

     9/14: Why Kantor?
     9/15: Memory and History—The Dead Class (1975)
     9/16: Memory and History—Wielopole, Wielopole (1980)
     9/17: The Self and the Others—I Shall Never Return (1988)
     9/18: Notes on the Late Style— Today is My Birthday (1990)

    Each screening will be followed by a commentary provided by Ludmila Ryba, who was a member of Kantor’s “CRICOT 2” company from 1979 until 1992, performing and touring the world with Wielopole, Wielopole, The Machine of Love and Death, I Shall Never Return, and Today is my Birthday

    On Saturday, September 19, Ms. Ryba will conduct a day-long workshop (10AM- 7PM) for course participants and other students, space permitting, which will explore and elaborate on some of Kantor’s ideas about objects, actor, and space presented in his productions.   Workshop observers are welcome, space permitting.

  • July 2015 Applause

    Student Matt Meeks doing what he loves: stage managing


    This summer Matt Meeks is a S.M. intern at King's Head Theatre & Pub situated in London’s historic Islington area, located just off West End theatre district. The 107 seat theatre, which focuses on new plays and musicals, operates as a separate independent entity within this handsome Victorian era building. The walls of King’s Head display scores of famous faces of those who began their stage careers here over the past four and a half decades. Matt tracked down this summer opportunity though the U of M’s summer internship program, in collaboration with London’s CAPA offices.

    As an assistant stage manager Matt just opened and “called the show” I Went to a Fabulous Party, but his very first task upon arrival was “shopper” and he was to purchase props and costumes for the show. After successfully navigating his way through the maze of neighboring streets and alleys, his supervisor knew “this Yank was a keeper.” Matt has been involved in the get in/get out (that’s Brit techie for load in/load out) with Fabulous Party, and striking the preceding show. Later summer, he will also be in the office working on the business side of theatre.

    “It's an enormous amount of fun, some long hours, and I am learning so incredibly much, says Matt. “I am loving the people that I'm working with. I really enjoy working here…” And who wouldn’t?

    For fun, he has seen Merchant of Venice and As You Like It at The Globe on the South Bank. “And I've seen Wicked (UK style) in an attempt to learn more about the show before I intern in New York during this winter break. I'm also shadowing the Deputy Stage Manager on Phantom of the Opera in a deal I setup on my own so it is not affiliated with the study abroad.” When not backstage, Matt reports, “I’ve been checking out the sites and hitting the road to Stonehenge, Bath, and York.”

    Matt found this London internship through the international summer intern program offered by U of M’s Learning Abroad Center, which is located in Heller Hall. Think about it. Maybe this could be you next summer?

    Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Underbakke and Nick Ryan conceive and create 20,000 Leagues under the Sea at CTC


    Want to know how to hold your breath underwater for four years? Ask director Ryan Underbakke (BA ’05) and co-writer Nick Ryan (BA ’06). On July 7 their much anticipated adaptation of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea commissioned by Children’s Theatre Company opens at long last. Here’s how the show got launched.

    According to Elissa Adams, director of new play development for CTC, “After we saw Ryan’s production of The Happy Show at Bedlam Theatre, he was hired to create a project in 2011 and he chose 20,000 Leagues…We commissioned him based on his professional body of work as a Twin Cities- based writer/director.” Together with Nick Ryan, the alums began adapting Jules Verne’s 1870 classic science fiction tale into a working script; next came two workshops at CTC to try out its sea legs. Then “in the fall of 2013 CTC partnered with the U of M,” Adams continued, “to do a three-week workshop of the play.”

    Casting student actors enrolled in the BA’s Creative Collaboration course that Fall, the director and his co-writer continued revising their work based on rehearsals, performance, and informal post-show debriefs with their young audiences. Together they tweaked the narrative to heighten audience participation, and honed in on action. Rather than staging the play in one of Rarig’s four performance spaces with seats, this interactive production kept spectators on their feet and swept them through the building’s labyrinth of stairways, halls, and offices transforming a real concrete into the shadowy ominous submarine interior. Audiences were small groups of elementary school age students (grades 3-8) were engaged and caught up in the show’s urgency by helping the crew search for the missing Captain Nemo.

    The U of M’s special partnership continues with Children’s Theatre Company throughout 20,000 Leagues performances, July 7 – August 28. BA program head, faculty member Lisa Channer explained, “We are excited that seven of our BA Performance students: Makenzie Allen, Laini Devin, Juan Fonseca, Vishnu Namboodiripad, Rosa Raarup, Kohlman Thompson, and Erika Wichmann are currently cast in the production, gaining valuable experience and earning credit while performing through our Creative Collaboration course TH4380.” The CTC’s professional acting company in the major roles is complemented by the students. Perhaps Kohlman Thompson spoke for all the student actors: “I'm really learning a lot working with a professional theater company, director and actors…This show has provided me with an avenue in which to work on my craft…help[ing] me improve as a dramatic actor.”

    What of the results of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea’s long gestation? Elissa Adams enthusiastically described the play as “something between a play, a game of laser tad, and a live action video.” Director Ryan Underbakke called it, “A thrill ride. ” CTC’s Artistic Director Peter Brocius, proudly endorsed “What Ryan and his team have created is something this town has never seen and this theatre has never done… ”

    “Once more, dear friends unto the Breech!”
    Summer Shakespeare Festivals embrace UofM talent 


    The arrival of summer also signals the arrival of acting job opportunities at Shakespeare festivals. Ten alums and current students are lighting up stages as a new generation breathes new life into the classics through performance.

    The Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota will feature alums Jucoby Johnson (BFA ’15) and Silas Sellnow (BFA ’16) in both Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing. Jucoby will play Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet; meanwhile Silas will take on multiple roles as Paris and Sampson, as well as providing musical accompaniment on his violin. In Much Ado About Nothing, Silas and Jucoby are cast as Balthazar and Friar Francis, respectively.

    The Utah Shakespeare Festival cast Allie Babich (BFA ‘15) in multiple productions. Allie landed the leading female role of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. Congratulations! Allie will also be understudying the role of Bianca in Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and playing the role of Ela Delahay in the classic comedy Charley’s Aunt.

    Alum Torsten Johnson (BFA ’12) will also be working on Taming of the Shrew appearing as Petruchio at Montana Shakespeare in the Park. Torsten will also be featured in Cyrano de Bergerac as Christian, one of the leading roles, marking his debut with Montana Shakespeare in the Park. Jack Mackie (BFA ’13) will take the stage as Cassio in Nebraska Shakespeare on the Green’s production of Othello. In addition, Jack will also perform in As You Like It as Oliver.

    A troupe of current TAD students and alums has been cast in the Public Theater of Minnesota’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, playing July 10 -26. Shae Palic (BFA ’16) is cast as Beatrice, Rebecca Leiner (BFA ’15) will perform the role of Hero, Dan Piering (BFA ’16) will play Claudio, and Avrielle Corti (BFA’16) will take on the role of Dogberry. In the words of Shakespeare, “it is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.” To all our current students and alums poised to enter --Break a leg!

    Alum Darrius Strong (BFA’15) will be performing in Lost Voices in Jazz Dance: The Choreographers of Minnesota Jazz Dance. This show, created by U of M dance faculty’s
    Karla Grotting and Eclectic Edge Ensemble, commemorates the four choreographers of MJDC who died from AIDS. (See Faculty Highlights below for details.)

    Penumbra Theatre’s Summer Institute


    Rarig Center hosts Penumbra Theatre’s Summer Institute July 6-26 and welcomes students, alums, instructors and leadership staff. Actor H. Adam Harris (BFA’11) who serves as the Institute’s Program Manager said, “We are so pleased to be able to be back in Rarig – we are bigger than ever and like to spread out in all these great spaces” including the Barker Center this year.

    Currently 46 students are enrolled, making this one of the largest Summer Institutes reported Harris, “25 first year participants, 10 second year and 11 third year returning so you know we are growing building on our successes.”

    Summer Institute is a three year leadership development program that trains teens to use their passion for the arts to promote social justice and equity. Across the Twin Cities, students are positively impacting their communities by standing up , speaking out and moving those who listen with the power of performance. Students work alongside professional artists and likeminded teens who strive to eliminate racism, violence and intolerance one performance at a time.—excerpted Penumbra Theatre’s website.

    This summer’s faculty of 19 instructors includes among others: Penumbra Theatre founder and professor emeritus Lou Bellamy, Theatre Novi Most co-founder and artistic director professor Lisa Channer, and U of M alums set designer Sara Brandner( MFA ’14), lighting designer Kathy Maxwell ( MFA ’14) and H. Adam Harris (BFA ’11). For more information click

    Stage Elements Summer Theatre Intensive


    Twelve high school visitors were immersed in an extraordinary eight day theatre intensive experience June 12-21designed for current high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

    Reflecting on the summer’s experience, Lisa Channer, who leads the Bachelor of Arts( BA) performance program said, “…this student group was just phenomenal… energized, excited and seemed to be soaking up everything with huge passion and talent. I'd be thrilled to have each and every one of the Stage Elements participants join our BA program next year. Joe Price and his faculty were great partners from the BFA program...”

    Led by distinguished U of M faculty who are professional artists with strong links to the Guthrie Theater, Open Eye Figure Theatre, Theatre de la Jeune Lune and Theatre Novi Most, and the Margolis/Brown Company, these young people participated in classes offered through the BA and the BFA programs.

    The BA faculty Kym Longhi, Vladimir Rovinsky, Dario Tangleson, Barbra Berlovitz, and Lisa Channer, shared material from courses they teach: Voice for the Physical Actor, Mask, Stage Combat, Contemporary Performance Making, Object/Puppet theatre, Viewpoints, Improvisation / Beginning Acting and Movement. Also were three former BA Performance students: Paul Stucker ('13), Billy Mullaney ('11), Samantha Johns ('07) who are now shaping the future of performance and training in the Twin Cities and beyond in addition to core faculty from our program.

    Representing core faculty of the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program, Lucinda Holshue worked with vocal exercises introducing basic fundamentals to the students. Alternatively Steve Cardamone presented lessons from his Acting Shakespeare course for the group sessions. “Their BFA time culminated in a Shakespeare monologue sharing, “explained Cardamone, so “each student now has a Shakespeare monologue that s/he can continue developing and use if, and when they audition for schools. Their monologue coaches consisted of current and former BFA students. Each high school student had three different coaches and me.” Deb Pearson, BFA program associate, spoke with them about the similarities and differences of the two degree programs, which they found very helpful.

    Students witnessed live performances at the Guthrie (Juno and the Paycock), Bryant Lake Bowl (Francais, L'Amour, Francais) and joined in a spirited conversation with the artists after the performance about the University’s program and the meaning of making a life in the arts.

    Special thanks to administrator Katie Willer also did a fantastic job of organizing the Stage Elements program.

    This activity is made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature from the Minnesota arts and cultural heritage fund with money from the vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

    Faculty Highlights: Summer offers professional growth


    Luverne Seifert, faculty member and Jim Lichtscheidl, faculty associate will be featured in The Hoopla Train with Yard Master Yip and his Polkastra, a Vaudeville-style variety show that will tour historic Minnesota Ballrooms this July and August. This family-friendly show boasts live music, singing, comedy sketches, and a live Polka band for all to enjoy. Audience members are encouraged to sing and dance along in this touring interactive production. Catch our faculty members live on stage in this light-hearted, festive show. Click on the link below for show dates and venues

    Karla Grotting, Dance faculty member creates Lost Voices in Jazz Dance: The Choreographers of Minnesota Jazz Dance in conjunction with Eclectic Edge Ensemble, in a program that commemorates four talented choreographers of MJDC who died from AIDS. Reviving select works from the late choreographers into one consolidated tribute performance, the show will only run July 24th to July 25th at the O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, College of St. Catherine in St. Paul.

    Mathew J. LeFebvre is having a busy summer. He designed 152 of period costumes for the Guthrie Theater’s production of The Music Man, set in Iowa in 1912. His second summer project is the American Players Theatre production of Othello which opens August 7, in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

    Torry Bend and Kym Longhi, faculty members, are working closely with performance artist Ann Carlson this summer developing set and costume designs for an upcoming Children’s Theatre Company production of Animal Dance, a play for young children.

    Annie Enneking, associate faculty, has been working as the Fight Choreographer at the Guthrie Theater coaching those combative Iowa types how to throw a punch in Music Man and more recently with the submarine crew in Children’s Theatre’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.

  • June 2015 Applause

    Financial impacts of 2014 floods still felt

    Minneapolis-St. Paul (May 5, 2015)--The University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts and the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance announced that performances aboard the Minnesota Centennial Showboat are being suspended for the summer of 2015.
    The Mississippi River flood during summer 2014 caused the cancellation of a significant portion of last year’s performances. The resulting financial shortfall, combined with deferred maintenance issues on the boat and the
    razor-thin budgets common to most theaters, led to the decision to cancel the season.
    By pausing this year to explore financial restructuring and new potential for programing partnerships, the University plans to come to a viable solution for the future of the Minnesota Centennial Showboat.

    TARTUFFE IN DC: Taking the show on the road with TAD talents 

    "The stage is lit for a thunderstorm," explains Marcus Dilliard. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
    Designer Marcus Dilliard, actors Luverne Seifert with alumna Susanne Warmanan join forces in a stunning Tartuffe at Washington, DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company.
    To light his production of Tartuffe, Molière’s 17th-century satire of religious hypocrisy, director Dominique Serrand had a bright idea. Why not make it look as if it’s happening in a single day, from sunrise to sunset…” reveals the Washington Post‘s feature story “A Dark Tartuffe’s Light Touch.” To accomplish this stage illusion, the director turned to lighting designer Marcus Dilliard, his friend, longtime theatrical collaborator and TAD, chair.  Dilliard is interviewed in this article which includes photos comparing the various “looks” he created to show shifting light over 24 hours through the towering windows of the three-story set. 
    This Tartuffe production, hailed as “stunning,” features a cast that includes faculty member Luverne Seifert as Orgon, U of M alumna Suzanne Warmanen as Dorine  and Steve Epp in the title role. University Theater audiences will recall Epp who with Serrand directed All’s Fair (2011) at Rarig Center. Tartuffe, now on stage through July 5 in Washington, D.C. had earlier stints at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory has provided new insights for the actors. "This three city tour of Tartuffe has been a professional pinnacle in my research as a performer,”reflected Luverne Seifert, who teaches acting and performance in the undergraduate B.A. program. “To be given the time to perform the same role over two years’ time has allowed me to fully investigate the nuance of characterization. It's a rare and valuable opportunity for any actor." Visit the Washington Post article:

    Steven Epp as Tartuffe and Luverne Seifert as Orgon in South Coast Repertory’s 2014 production of Molière’s 'Tartuffe', adapted by David Ball, directed by Dominique Serrand. Photo by Debora Robinson/SCR.

    CENTER STAGE: Alums and student collaborate at Bryant Lake Bowl  
     Francais L’Amour Francais, a show created and performed almost exclusively by alumni / current students from the U of M’s BA theatre program, opens this week at Bryant Lake Bowl.  This dramatic-comedy featuring a troupe of Frenchmen and live music, will be performed in English and simultaneously translated into French.  Director Edward Euclid (BA ’14) explains,“With zee tongue in zee cheek, French romance and the energy of improv comedy, zee kind of famous theatre company, Theatre de la Leuney Moons, travels to the Bryant-Lake Bowl Theater to share with jou a night of passionate love. Come for zee passion, stay for zee lauffs.”

    Francais L’Amour Francais: 7:00 pm Thursday, June 18; Friday, June 19; Saturdays June 20 and 27.  Tickets at

    Cast / Collaborators:  Emma Elise Childs, Elizabeth Cooper, Mandy Goldberg, Alex Hathaway, Kasey Heimstead, Cate Jackson, Joe Kellen, Baltimore Krahn, Alec W. Lambert, Evan Burigo O'Brien, Nico Pecans, Caleigh Rose, Austin Ruh, Bree Schmidt, Alexander Stene. 


    Nathan Barlow and Ryan Colbert, both TAD alums, perform in Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s Choir Boy making its regional premiere at the Guthrie, now through July 5. Under the direction of Peter Rothstein, who staged the critically acclaimed Spring Awakening at Rarig  in 2013, this one act drama chronicles a year at an all-black boys’ school.

    Alums, Peter Rusk ('12) and Hugh Kennedy ('08) play in The Jungle Theatre's production of the classic Kauffman & Hart comedy, "You Can't Take it With You," which  runs through August 9th. Be sure to catch Peter, Hugh, and a stellar cast of great performers under the direction of Gary Gisselman.

    Alums Michael Fell and Ben Tallen are featured in Theatre Pro Rata’s "The Illusion," that runs through June 28th, hosted at St Paul’s Park Square Theatre. Take this opportunity to see them in action in this intriguing classic comedy by Pierre Corneille, adapted by Tony Kushner.  Michael was most recently played in the premiere of Lee Blessing’s new play For the Loyal at the Illusion Theatre, Minneapolis.

    Katie Klieger (BFA ’15) plays Mary Boyle in the Guthrie’s Juno and the Paycock staged by Joe Dowling. Moreover, within a span of six months, Ms. Kleiger has had the rare opportunity to perform on all three Guthrie stages —as Scrooge’s intended Bell in A Christmas Carol, and Tess Moffat in Blue Stockings. Talk about winning the Trifecta! -- Quite the accomplishment considering she was also completing her studies in order to graduate with honors earning her BFA diploma only days ago.  A total of seven alums (three of whom graduated this month) are cast in Juno: Evan Adams, Dustin Bronson, Nate Cheeseman, Sean Michael Dooley, Casey Hoekstra, Riley O’Toole, and Katie Kleiger.   Don’t miss this ensemble in Juno which closes June 28.    

    Congratulations to our alum of 2013, Steven Lee Johnson, who was recently accepted into the graduate acting program at the Yale School of Drama! After being featured in productions locally at the Guthrie Theatre, Theatre Latté Da, and Park Square Theatre, Steven continued his acting career in Chicago at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. We wish him the best as he heads off to Yale in the fall!

    SPOTLIGHT: Summertime offers professional growth and research for faculty  

    Shapiro & Smith Dance with artistic director Joanie Smith were the first to ignite Northern Spark festival performances at Northrop earlier this month. At 9:01pm the Theatre Arts & Dance’s award-winning choreographer and educator, presented with her company three poignant and humorous dances featuring the dancer's hands. "Our hands serve as emblems for what is paradoxical in human nature: sources for healing, consolation, and love, as well as instruments of torture, murder and hate," said Smith. "What can be communicated with our hands and how we use them have cultural, personal, and societal implications."These original dances, built on outrageous handshakes, unusual caresses, and slapstick encounters, attracted an audience of over 400 to multiple performances throughout the night.   

    In response, they interacted leaving their own handprints displayed in a Hands gallery at the venue. Shapiro & Smith Dance is known for tales of beauty and biting wit that run the gamut from the intensely provocative to the absurdly hilarious. 

    Shapiro & Smith Dance offers a summer workshop (July 20-31) for intermediate and advanced dancers ages 16 and up. Visit info@shapiroandsmith or call (612) 879-0863 to register.

    NOTE: Earlier this year, Joanie Smith was awarded a McKnight Fellowship for artistic excellence in her career.  She holds the Barbara Barker Endowed Chair as a University of Minnesota faculty member in Theatre Arts & Dance Department, and was recently featured in the national publication, Dance Teacher Magazine.

    Michael Sommers directs Wise Blood 

    Congratulations to faculty member Michael Sommers, director of "Wise Blood," presented by Soap Factory and Walker Art Center, which concluded its final performance this past weekend. Based on Flannery O'Connor's novel, the stunning opera composed by Anthony Gallo received high praise from numerous publications including the Minn Post for its "masterful direction…and terrific cast…that delivered something new and thrilling." Additionally, MPR's The Current called "Wise Blood" a "striking achievement... that achieves a haunting effect that's much more than the sum of its parts." Audiences followed the action flowing through Chris Larson's amazing art installation-setting from gallery to gallery with in the 130 year old factory structure. Bravo, artist / director / professor Michael Sommers!

    Summer Dance Intensive with Carl Flink and BLM

    This summer’s Dance Intensive workshop in the Barbara Barker Center introduced 24 participants to a rigorous program based on Black Label Movement’s (BLM) contemporary movement technique, and Partnering Lab approaches aimed at creating their own original choreographic work.

    “Together we also explored works from BLM’s propulsive repertory,” reports BLM Artistic Directors Carl Flink (TAD faculty) who with Emilie Plauché Flink worked to stretch learners’ physical and creative limits over the 10 days which began in earlier in June.  The workshop culminates with a public showing on Friday, June 26 at 1:30 pm in the Barker Center’s Studio 100. “Everyone is welcome to this free showing,” said Professor Flink, “The program will include two pieces from the BLM rep and original works created by participants in this U of M Theatre Arts and Dance workshop.”  

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