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Minnesota Centennial Showboat

Features an interactive style of theatre based upon old-time vaudeville traditions and offers great music, wit, charm, and lots of laughter to thousands of patrons per year.





    Welcome to Theatre Arts and Dance (TAD)!
    If you are new to campus, here’s your chance to meet and greet faculty/staff. If you are returning, it’s time to get reconnected. Get the buzz on the new Season at Frameworks, September 11 at 4:00pm in the Stoll Thrust.

    Department Chair Marcus Dilliard kicks-off the gathering with greetings and Associate Chair Sonja Kuftinec guides us in exploring those foundational ideas sparking this season’s creative work. “Hear about the values that inform each of the department’s core programs,” explains Professor Kuftinec, “and how these values work their way through our season.” It’s exciting and adventurous season that includes Cowles choreographers’ Tony and Olivier Award winner Garth Fagan (Lion King) and Natalie Rogers-Cropper, Polish visionary Tadeusz Kantor, contemporary American playwright Sam Shepard, and the twentieth century’s dynamic duo of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. “Each of these artists has pushed aesthetic boundaries to explore events from the dark dynamics of intimate relationships, to the cultural politics of memory, to the seductive lure of thievery,” she concluded. B.A. and B.F.A. directors, graduate designers, dramaturgs and program heads will share inspirations and thoughts on what it means for us to connect with these artists today.

    To top off the afternoon,celebrity ice cream dippers – likely your favorite instructor -- will be serving your favorite flavor immediately following the event in the Pit. Don’t miss the scoop.    

    UDT: Dance Revolutions, Threepenny Opera, Earthquakes in London, Henry VI plus free Creative Collaborations, Informal Dance Showings and BFA Studio Series  

    The University of Minnesota’s Theatre Arts & Dance Department is pleased to announce its 2015-16 performance season. As University classes begin, so does producing at the Rarig Center and Barbara Baker Center for Dance. Auditions, rehearsals, design plans, shop activities and creative work leading to the following public productions of the fall, winter, and spring are underway.

     University Dance Theatre: Dance Revolutions opens Rarig’s Center main stage season with a dazzling collection of innovative pieces December 10-13 in the Whiting Proscenium Theatre.  This program includes new work by Wynn Fricke, McKnight Fellow and artist/educator, Joanie Smith, faculty artist and director of Shapiro & Smith Dance choreographs a revival of her “Pat A Cake,” Gerald Casel’s acclaimed “Proxima’’, and Natalie Rogers-Cropper, director of Garth Fagan Dance School will stage Mr. Fagan’s piece “Two out of One: Green.”  The Tony and Olivier Award winning choreographer for Lion King,  Garth Fagan will also be on campus for Artist- in- Residence Dialogue (details to be announced).  Dance Revolutionsis directed by Toni Pierce-Sands, artistic director of TU Dance and a member of the Dance Program faculty.

    Threepenny Opera  A startling piece of musical theatre featuring some of the 20th century’s greatest songs – including “Mack the Knife” and “Pirate Jenny” – Three Penny Opera is a wickedly funny story of betrayal upon betrayal, climaxing in one of the most unusual and hilarious finales in modern theatre. Composed by Kurt Weill with book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, and translator Elizabeth Hauptmann, Threepenny Opera takes the stage February 25- March 6 under the direction of faculty member Kym Longhi and conducted by School of Music faculty member Jerry Luckhardt.

    Earthquakes in London by Mike Bartlett is driven by “an all-pervasive fear of the future and a guilty pleasure in the excesses of the present …in an epic roller-coaster of a play from 1968 to 2525 and back again. Earthquakes in London includes burlesque strip shows, bad dreams, social breakdown, population explosion, and worldwide paranoia.  It is a fast and furious metropolitan crash of people, scenes and decades, as three sisters attempt to navigate their dislocated lives and loves, while their dysfunctional father, a brilliant scientist, predicts global catastrophe. “-- Methuen Publications. “Questions fizz and soar like fireworks….not to be missed.” --Time Out. Directed by Bruce Roach, Earthquakes in London will be presented in the Guthrie’s Dowling Studio April 14-23 and performed by the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program senior class of 2016.  Note: University Theatre ticket pricing applies.

    Tickets for these main stage performances are available by visiting or by calling 612-624-2345. Admission prices include ticket fees: $6 for all students; $11 U of M faculty/staff; $16 general public.

    Celebrating of Shakespeare’s rich 400 year legacy, the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre Actor Training Sophomore Company performs an adaptation of Shakespeare’s trilogy Henry VI  directed by guest artist Doug Scholz-Carlson (Artistic Director, Great River Shakespeare) and faculty member Steve Cardamone. 
    Always cleverly staged with an emphasis on mastery of text, these works will be performed March 31 – April 4, 2016  in the Stoll Thrust Theatre.Note: All Henry VI tickets are priced $6 and may be purchased online at or by phone at 612-624-2345.  King Henry VI in its entirety? Buy tickets for both parts when  purchased barch 31 to receive a discount.  Note:  Reduced prices for groups of 15 or more.  
    In addition to the main stage productions,Theatre Arts & Dance department presents a wide variety of studio and informal showings that are free and open to the public.  Register for your general admission seating with University Events Calendar 
    Print out your free ticket and present at the door for admission. Any unclaimed seats will be available on a “first come, first served” basis ten minutes before the curtain time.

    The University of Minnesota/ Guthrie Theatre BFA Studio Series 2015-16opens with Chekhov’s classic The Cherry Orchard directed by Risa Brainin playing in repertory with Uncle Vanya staged by Michelle O’Neill.  Performed alternately the plays will offered October 6-11 in Rarig’s Liu Stage/ Kilburn Theatre. Later in October 27-November 3, the Sophomore Company will play three Sam Shepard works in rotating repertory with showings of A Lie of the Mind directed by Bruce Roach, Buried Child directed by David Colacci, and Heartless directed by Ellen Fenster. In the spring, the Junior Company presents Euripides’ Hippolytus staged by Dario Tangelson February 25- 28, on the Liu Stage /Kilburn Theatre.  Next, a trio of one act comedies by Christopher Durang takes the spotlight April 14-18 on the Liu Stage/Kilburn Theatre. To conclude the Series, the Freshman Company makes its formal debut with Fresh Scenes playing April 30 - May 2 which will be directed by Lucinda Holshue and Joe Price.

    In addition, B.A. Creative Collaborations present informal showings after a series of intense rehearsal weeks focused on ensemble theater creation. Production elements are usually light, creativity and artistic risk are always high. This fall's line-up includes two different works: 

    ValleySCARE, acreative collaboration with 19 B.A. students this fall, is led by faculty member Luverne Seifert and guest theatre artist Jim Lichtscheidl.  In a unique partnership with Shakopee’s Valley Fair, they hope to frighten the dickens out of visitors.  Each student explores a darker side, contributing to an original macabre tale of animal transformation, and then collectively they will bring to life in a full-scale environment housing these grotesque mash-up experiments.   Acting as performers and /or guides, costumed students will lead groups through a bizarre collection of misshapen creatures. Together these creative collaborators learning basic skills required of designers, stage managers, make-up artists and mask- makers, will conjure this truly creepy creation for ValleySCARE spectators on selected weekend nights September 18 - October 31. For more information on this event, contact or visit for details. 

    A Penny for Brecht, a performance piece generated by students through in-depth explorations into the life and times of writer, poet, lyricist, adaptor, theorist, 20th century theatrical revolutionary Bertolt Brecht. Student collaborators stage a montage of scenes, music and stories about the artistic collaboration between Brecht, his lover and translator Elizabeth Hauptmann and composer Kurt Weill that led to the Threepenny Opera.  Framed as an open “rehearsal” with Brecht actively imagining his work with his actors, “A Penny for Brecht” offers an entertaining and critically engaging look into Brecht’s attempts to stage capitalism.  The showing will include brief excerpts and songs from Threepenny Opera juxtaposed with Brecht’s revisionist Threepenny Novel, and his Messingkauf Dialogues.  Presented December 5-7 , (with  two performances December 6) in Rarig Center’s Nolte Xperimental Theatre,  A Penny for Brecht directed by theatre artist and faculty member Kym Longhi, weaves together student work with the interdepartmental resources of the U of M German scholars, music and theatre history experts. This workshop prepares audiences for the upcoming Weill & Brecht Festival productions of Threepenny Opera and Lady in the Darkpresented in the spring of 2016. Admission is free to this Creative Collaboration; tickets will be available through University Events calendar reservation system at no charge. 

    In the spring B.A. Creative Collaborations  will be Autobiography of Red: Adapting Anne Carson’s “Novel in Verse” for Live Performance showing May 6. This a universal coming-of-age story about the search for self-expression and identity, guided by guest artist Jeremy Wilhelm,  will push aesthetic boundaries. The novel is raw and unsettling, just like the teenage years for pretty much everyone. It is not a morality tale or feel-good journey of empowerment, but a love story. Geryon is an Everyman Freak for anyone who has felt like an “other”, and learns about love for others, love for his art, and love for himself. For the students it will serve as a great performance text for devising and problem-solving without having to start devising from scratch.

    The second showing My Name is Anton Chekhov, is guided by Acting Instructor Shirley Venard and will be presented April 1. This investigation will take two of Chekov’s short stories, have students research Chekov’s life, and engage in a performance of the intersection of the life and the work.This project will look at the conversation between 
    recorded and life performance.

    Guided by theatre artist Rick Shiomi, Ronin  will have a staged reading. Watch for details on this project. 

    Informal Dance Showingsmark the end of the residencies of each of this year’s Cowles Visiting Artists. These informal showings, performed by dance students, take place in the Barker Dance Center—Studio 100. Note: Seating is limited, based on first come basis and is free. Each showing is followed by Question/Answer/Discussion with the artists. The Fall 2015 informal showings are scheduled as follows:

    Friday, September 25, 4:30 pm.   Excerpt from Garth Fagan’s Two Pieces of One: Green restaged by Garth Fagan and Natalie Rogers-Cropper, Cowles Visiting Artists.   
    Friday, October 16, 4:30 pm. Newly Commissioned Work, by Wynn Fricke, Cowles Visiting Artist.
    October 30, 4:30 pm. Proxima by Gerald Casel, Cowles Visiting Artist Friday.

    OUR STUDENTS in the Spotlight 

    CATCHING UP on the PQ 

    Graduate Students Sarah Bahr and Phillip O’Toole

    In June, Sarah Bahr and Phillip O’Toole attended the 13th Annual Prague Quadrennial (PQ) of Performance Design and Space in the Czech Republic. This international professional gathering convening every four years receives support from the United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT); the U of M Theatre Arts and Dance department is an affiliated member through the organization’s Minnesota chapter.  Recently two MFA graduate students Sarah Bahr, in Design/ Tech, (emphasis in Costume & Scenic Design) and Phillip O'Toole graduate student in (Sound Design & Technology) sat down with Applause to discuss their time in Prague.

    Q : How would you describe the Prague Quadrennial?  

    Sarah: “The PQ is a global theatre festival focused on design. This year over 64 countries and regions participated by sharing their work through exhibitions, installations, and performances. It was a gathering space where people from literally across the world could connect with each other and support a common goal of exploring and using theatre as more than just entertainment. Theatre work was displayed in rooms that ranged from video of live productions, interactive sculptures, to performance art. There was a constant stream of daily events including costume parades called ‘Tribes’ where costumed groups walked through the city streets and interacted with the environment and people. Another event was called ‘Makers’ where artists were asked to explore a past production through a four hour long process of making food.”

                                    Tribes: costume performance of 'Bahian' a Brazilian culture figure, Brazil

    Phillip: “Professor Torry Bend introduced me to the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space. It was the perfect culmination to her TH5520 Scene Design course that I took in the   spring. There were scores of exhibits of traditional theater models, live theatrical performances, video and audio installations and other elements of performance design.”

                                                 Sections of Countries & Regions: 'Post-Apocalypsis' 
                                                        sound installation and sculpture, Poland

    Q: How would you describe the time you shared with these artists and architects, performers and designers?  

    Sarah: “My experience was eye-opening; the PQ challenged my theatre making process and the way I interact with performance as a designer.  A common theme of ‘trust your audience’ occurred though the work I viewed and interacted with.  Audiences were asked to physically, vocally, and mentally participate with performances and exhibitions of work.  Sitting silently was not a concept.”  

                                                Sections of Countries & Regions: 'The Submission' 
                                    an interactive performance based on the set design for 'Miss Julie', Latvia

    Phillip: “I had many aha-moments when experiencing the Quadrennial connecting what was taught in Torry’s class to live art. I took this picture of some actors on break from a piece calledBlue Tired Heroes created by Swiss artist Massimo Furlan. I really liked watching the actors on break as much as the performance.”

                                            Actors take a break from performing Blue Tired Heroes 
                                                    created by Swiss artist Massimo Furlan.

    Q: Looking back on the Prague experience, how will it affect you?

    Sarah: “I look forward to this coming year where I’ll have the opportunity to apply my broadened perspective and deepened understanding of what it means to be a theatre artist and designer in my class work and design projects. I would like to thank the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, College of Graduate Studies, and the Dubceck Fund for their financial support in making this extraordinary experience possible.”

    Phillip:  “I was fortunate enough to benefit from Research Travel Funding and … the funding made it possible for me to experience the PQ. I saw a lot of examples of performance design there that I think will inform my future projects. It was great to be in a forum of world-class performers and designers who were really experimenting with the latest technologies, artistic tools and methods. It's an experience I won't forget, and I'm grateful for the funds and support that made it happen.”


    NaThan Barlow plays in CTC premiere

                                                          Nathan Barlow (left) as Big Brothe

                                                           with the cast of Akeelah and the Bee

    Nathan  Barlow  BFA alum plays Reggie, big brother to Akeelah in the upcoming premiere of Akeelah and the Bee opening September 1 at Children's Theatre Company . At the conclusion of its Minneapolis run, the show moves to the Arena Theatre in Washington DC. 

    Justin Reiter (BFA '13) is featured in the national publication Dance Magazine (September issue) as a performer "On the Rise."  Described as " a monster onstage with his exaggerated moves and outrageous riffs, the Whim W'Him dancer is barely manageable, hardly classifiable, but oh so stunning. His powerfully emotive torso conveys an urgency in the arc of each story he tells.  Artistic director Olivier Weavers calls him "a beautiful creature'" 

    Sarah Brandner (MFA'14 ) is designing Park Square's Murder for Two, opening Sept 18 and playing through November 1 .  The show is directed by Randy Reyes, one of performing teaching/ artists in the BFA / Guthrie faculty.  

    Ashley Rose Montondo (BFA ’11) Dustin Bronson (BFA ’10) and Shae Palic (BFA’16)
    appear in the Guthrie production of To Kill A Mockingbird. Ms. Montondo is playing the character Mayella Ewell, and Mr. Bronson is playing Mr. Walter Cunningham.  Shae Palic (BFA’16) is an understudy in the show.

    U of M's Got Talent:  Meet ALUM DErek HUgHEs (BA'95) 

    Alums have sprouted up on stages on Broadway, in Hollywood productions, and even on your favorite TV show—and we bet you didn’t even realize it. Derek Hughes (B.A. 1995) has sparked astonishment on the hit TV show America’s Got Talent with his impressive, bold magic acts. May 26th, 2015 marked the premiere of Season 10 of the show bringing a scope of new contestants with fresh ideas.

    Derek showed up on America’s Got Talent during the second week of the show where he performed a thrilling card trick that excited the judges enough to send him to the next round of Judge Cuts. For his second act, Derek performed the magic act of telepathy, which was nothing short of mind-blowing. With exhilarated cheers from the crowd and amazed expressions of the judges, Derek was sent to the Quarterfinals round.

    “So far, the experience on America’s Got Talent has been exhilarating, unexpected, surprising, and a bit of a rollercoaster,” Derek Hughes said. “I auditioned for America’s Got Talent because I wanted to see what new material I could bring to show, brand my voice as a performer, and reach a wide audience.”

    As nerve-wracking as it might seem to perform in front of a large audience on national television, Derek appears to maintain his focus and seems like a natural in front of the camera. Perhaps that’s because it’s most definitely not Derek’s first time in front of a camera. Derek has made appearance on shows such as the VH1 reality series Celebracadabra and Comedy Central’s Gong Show. In addition, Derek has also had roles as an actor in works such as Grown Ups, As If, Angel and Kikki, as well as CSI: NY. Derek has also had plenty of practice of being on stage from his time in the Rarig Center in productions such as Two Gentleman of Verona.

    “The University of Minnesota instilled in me the discipline to rehearse, which gives me the confidence to perform. The rehearsal process is very important to me.” Derek Hughes said. “An idea is an idea, but doesn’t come reality until you put that idea into action which is what happens when you rehearse.”

    As a department, we are always amazed at the brilliant achievements of our alums. We hope that stories such as these inspire our current students to take risks and truly reach for the stars with their respective careers. Congratulations to Derek Hughes and best of luck as he advances on to the next round of the competition. Look at the video below for a clip of one of Derek’s incredible performance that advanced him on to the quarter-finals. Who knows, perhaps we might have more alumni on the stage of America’s Got Talent in the future.

    “My advice to current theatre students to reach their goals is to create. The most important thing an artist can do is create their own work. Being proactive has a ripple effect that will get you noticed and help you get to where you want to be in your career. It’s a lesson I’ve learned throughout my own career.”

    Still interested to learn more about Derek? 
    Visit his website at…he might be performing at a location near you! 



                       Experts helping prepare high school talent for competitive college auditions

    The ArtsBridge program aims to prepare and enrich high school students on track to study theatre at the collegiate level through specialized, two-week long intensives. Both the Musical Theater and Dramatic Acting intensives were hosted at the University of Minnesota Theatre Arts and Dance Department this year. Through conservatory style training, students were able to engage with different techniques of acting and develop the skills necessary for a career in theatre and admission into a university’s theatre program.

    Students traveled from numerous different states across the nation to attend this competitive program. However, not only students hailed from near and far to contribute to the program. The faculty that educates these students on the ins and outs of theatre come from other top theatre programs at universities across the country. The program is comprised of an elite faculty renowned for their accomplishments in both theatre and academia. Included among this impressive group is our Theatre Arts and Dance program’s very own Joe Price, who serves as the BFA Program Director for the University of Minnesota and as the Artistic Director for the ArtsBridge program. 

    “For the ArtsBridge program, I audition students by reviewing audition views, I help plan the schedule for classes, and I work closely with the faculty,” Price said. “We want our students to have a deep experience with process while completing the program.”

    The students’ days were filled with early morning breakfasts, long workshops, specialized training, and audition prep in the Rarig Center. With all of this extensive training, students are surely more prepared to tackle those seemingly daunting college auditions in the near future. After learning more about the University of Minnesota’s BFA and BA programs and all that the city of Minneapolis has to offer, some students expressed serious interest in pursuing the University of Minnesota for college upon graduation.

    Isabella Lampton,  a student from New York, said “I’ve learned a lot about acting, technique, and how to live in the moment from this program. I really wanted to improve the stuff I’ve worked on previous to the program and I also wanted to get new materials to work on.”

    Claire Hill, a student from Arkansas saw great value in not only in the ArtsBridge summer intensives, but in the University of Minnesota’s Theatre Arts and Dance Program as well. 

    “I’ve been really impressed with the program and have learned a lot, so I hope to set up an audition time with the University of Minnesota.” Claire said. Perhaps we will be seeing familiar faces in the Rarig Center next year as they begin their college careers and pursue their goals of theatre.  


    Playing September 18-19 at O’Shaugnessy

    Prepare to be inspired by faculty member Dr. Ananya Chatterjea’s lastest work through Ananya Dance Theatre, Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine which will debut at The O’Shaugnessy at St. Catherine University on September 18th-19th. This latest work is actually the second piece of a quintet created by Dr. Chatterjea entitled, “What Women Do.” Dr. Chatterjea is known for her works that use the art of the dance to understand and express important social issues. Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine creates a narrative focusing on female labor in the agricultural sector of global societies and how it influences the food system. With a specialized focus on women of color, Dr. Chatterjea has choreographed a production that not only seeks to educate people on the practices of female migrant labor, but more importantly, seeks to honor the women who invested their love, labor, and lives into the cultivation of the land for the utilitarian sake of sustaining a community of people. 

    How does one even prepare to communicate this monumental social issue through the art of dance? One of the most important steps of this process happened in late May and mid-July when the dancers who will be performing in Roktim: Nurture Incarnadine took field trips to different farming locations in Minnesota to conduct research for the dance. The dancers visited Frogtown Farms, Dream of Wild Health, and MN Food Association/Big River Farms in order to connect with the land, the farmers, and build relationships that would ultimately influence the production.

    “At one of the farms we got to participate in a little bit of actual fieldwork with them, so some of us planted seeds alongside the farmers, and some of us pulled weeds and tilled soil.” second year dancer of Ananya Dance Theatre Kealoha Ferreira said. “There are parts of the show that have a literal translation of acts such as planting seeds, but the stories shared by the farmers are what really helped us connect the research to the choreography.”

    Dr. Ananya Chatterjea is a professor in the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance. Additionally, she is also the Artistic Director of Ananya Dance Theatre a dance company of women artists of color who believe in the powerful intersection of artistic excellence and social justice.            

    “I tell stories through dance and try to share these issues with audiences through personal stories—which are partly remembered, partly researched, and partly imagined,” Dr. Chatterjea said. The dance not only seeks to influence audiences, but the artists cast in the piece as well.  Dr. Chatterjea aspires for her dancers to “gain a broader enjoyment of women's stories of work and resistance, and the way in which we are all implicated in issues of seed and food justice and a sustainable eco-system.”

    Note: Roktim will be traveling to Ethiopia and will be performed as the keynote performance at the International Crossing Boundaries Festival this September. 


    Audiences often speak of seeing a play, but may be unaware how much they depend on the skill of the vocal coach fine tuning dialects with actors in hearing a play. 

    Theater professional Lucinda Holshue, who also teaches voice and dialect is a faculty member in Theatre Arts and Dance.  She graciously agreed to speak about her research, vocal work with the cast, and her joy in bringing  to life To Kill a Mockingbird 
    on the Guthrie ‘s stage. 

    Q: As a dialect/vocal coach, what is the process of working with a cast and director? What did this process look like for this production specifically?

    A: The challenges of To Kill a Mockingbird are, first of all, the two sets of children, and the children are really one of the main focuses in the play. So that’s been really interesting to work with them.  They’ve been rehearsed separately, so they’re really being able to create their own performances.

    In terms of research for the dialect, some of the dialect is written. I re-read the novel first of all, so I could understand the world of the play, and there are kind of different dialects within that world, according to the economic status, really, and the social status. And then within that, there’s great variation according to the characters. For example, there’s Miss Maudie, Atticus, and the Judge, and they have a dialect that is Alabama, but it’s more educated, and it still has some of the qualities of an older Southern dialect. And then there’s people like the Sheriff, who’s written to have not so heightened of a dialect sound. And there’s the African-American [characters]. [Harper Lee] really wrote [in the script what character] Tom Robinson sound is like, as well as [the character] Calpurnia. And then the poor white trash and how that [dialect] sounded different. They’re actually very different sounds.

    I did a lot of research on how Alabama is the Deep South but it’s different than Mississippi. It has more of a kick to it in many ways. [I watched] a lot of documentaries; some are with Harper Lee, and you can hear her sister talk, and some of the citizens of Monroeville talk. I also have friends who are coaches from the South, so I always consult with them to see what their thoughts are. I also have some films that I have the actors watch where the [film] actors are doing really good dialect work, so they can just hear it, feel the rhythm and the music of it.

    Q: What kinds of films?
    A: Some are documentaries and some are feature films […] Forest Gump has really good Alabama dialect work from Sally Field and Tom Hanks. Honeydripper, by John Sayles, set in Alabama has really fine work by Charles S. Dutton, Danny Glover, Lisa Gay Hamilton and Mary Steenburgen.

    Q: So what is the next step?

    A: I talk to the director and then I consult with the actors … Many of them have experience with southern dialects, so then they tell me where they want to go with their characters. I had a couple people listen to George Wallace on YouTube because he’s an Alabama boy and he was trained as a lawyer. ..his speech patterns  are very interesting. I also suggested some interviews with writers from Alabama, like Rick Bragg and Mark Childress. […]
    With the kids, I did not record their lines, because I feel that it would have sent them into line-reading, so we physicalized it. We worked a lot with the possibilities of where the drawl could open up, when it extends, when the music is extending. It’s slower [than using recorded tapes], but I think in the end it’s much more interesting.

    Next we talk about the placement in the mouth. For Mississippi we always say “butter would melt in my mouth,” cause it’s kind of in the middle of the tongue, but for Alabama, I usually say “butter won’t melt in my mouth” because it has more of a harder sound. For example, some of the characters have harder ‘r’ sounds than the more educated characters might. You just find where the shifts are, and then within that, you find where each person’s character is. Like one of the women has a very smooth, beautiful rhythm and one of them has a sharper rhythm, the gossipy one, she has a sharper edge to her.It’s just like Minnesota dialect, or any dialect. Different people articulate it in different ways, but there has to be this feeling on stage that there’s a common community.

    Q: Do you provide one-on-one sessions or dialect tapes for the performers? How do you decide what to provide as a tool for individual performers? 

    A: A lot of these actors I’ve worked with before, so I know how they work, so that’s really helpful. Some of them really like recordings to listen to, others really like to work with feeling out the dialect in their mouth, where it’s placed, some work more imaginatively. You’ll give them a metaphor for a color of the dialect, or something like that. You just kind of figure out how each actor likes to work. I do have sessions with them, and then as they begin to put the play together, I begin to take notes, not just on the sound changes, but just on how the flow of the dialect is going. You’re always checking in, but the actor has to feel ownership of it. Your job is to help with that, however that is, but it’s a really skillful task.

    And then I take them out on the Guthrie’s thrust stage, which has its own set of challenges, to really open their voices out into that space. The kids are probably going to be supported with mics, but the thing that we’re really trying to do is have as little support as possible for them, so they’re really keeping physically energized and not laying back. I’ve had a lot of fun sessions with them onstage. 

    It’s been really joyful to see these two young women who are playing the character of Scout. One is 12, and one is almost 12, and they’re very articulate in the room, very gung- ho, very strong, very empowered and that’s really great. I think Harper Lee wrote Scout like that so it’s really fun to see that. Each have differences in their work but they’re really capturing the essence of Scout, so that’s been really good.

    Q: How does working professionally (for theaters like the Guthrie) inform what you do and how you teach in the classroom? Inversely, how does working with student actors inform how you work in professional theater environments?

    A: Working professionally informs what I do in the classroom because I’ve been in a lot of rehearsal halls with a lot of different types of directors, so you can kind of begin to teach the actors what they need to do to work with different energies, different types of directors.  [I can also teach students] what the process will be like and how much of the responsibility, really, is on them. With both voice and dialect,  when they’re working in the Twin Cities, certainly in the beginning, they’re not always going to have a coach so they really need to know how to go about researching and working on a dialect.

    It’s a great balance, working in the professional and student world because they’re both very renewing processes. I think the only difference with the students is that they’re learning the skills, and many of the people I work with already have a lot of the skills, so you’re just refining them. But with the students you’re teaching them new skills, so there’s a lot of repetition, and the process of discovery is really fun to be a part of.

    I think dialects are great because they inform your physical life too. It’s not just about the neck up. It’s really about: how does that inform how your body moves in space? What kind of environment is that dialect coming out of? Some people learn a lot by hearing, some people learn visually, and I think part of what students learn is ways of noting the text. I think all actors can note the text, but if you do know IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) it can be helpful because you can do it really quickly. The students are the next generation coming up in theater, so that’s very exciting, to see them acquiring  skills, and then to see where they will go with them. That’s an honor to be a part of that process.

    Two former BFA students are in this production, actually.  Ashley Rose Montondo plays Mayella Ewell, and Dustin Bronson is playing Mr. Walter Cunningham. That is incredibly thrilling to see how they’ve matured (they’ve both been out of school for quite a while), and it just makes you feel really good to see them doing work, and they’ve both worked a lot around the Twin Cities. 

    Q: Lastly, what's your favorite part of the job, both as a working professional and as a professor?

    A: Collaborating, and then seeing an outcome that you’ve helped to influence-- that it’s been a mix, but that you’ve helped the actor do that. Also, to see some really interesting, exciting work. You see that in the classroom all the time, really amazing  work. To see people growing in their skills, and, with the professionals, to see how they’re evolving a role, I always find that really interesting.

    KANTOR @100 with Kobialka and guest artist Ludmila Ryba  

    UNESCO declared 2015 the Year of Tadeusz Kantor to mark the 100thanniversary of his birth, reports the arts website Culture Pl. “An extensive program will promote knowledge about Kantor around the globe….A wide variety of events are being held from a cross-sectional retrospective by Kantor in Sao Paulo, an exhibition by works by Kantor and other contemporary Polish artists in Japan, through the creation and presentation of new performances inspired by his work in the United States to cooperation with prestigious academic institutions around the world…”

    One of those experts celebrating and contributing to The Year of Kantor is Professor Michal Kobialka, Professor of Theatre History and former chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. Author of two definitive books on this twentieth century avant-garde Polish theatre director, painter and set designer, Kobialka traveled to Poland this early summer to complete work on a project for the Sao Paulo, Brazil’s international Kantor exhibition. In conjunction with the exhibition’s opening, he presented a series of lectures and commentaries August 20-22 in San Paulo. 

    This month U of M students can join in the celebration as well by enrolling in a special course taught by Kobialka himself.  He will present lectures, discussions and actual screenings of Kantor’s acting company performing.   Each screening will be followed by a commentary provided by theatre artist Ludmila Ryba, an original 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

     This unique topic course (TH1950) meets September 14-18, 2015, 7-10 PM in Rarig’s Kilburn/Liu Stage.  Space is currently available.  No registration restrictions.  The following lectures/screenings are scheduled
     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)

    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.

  • 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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