University of Minnesota
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Upcoming Events

    • American Soviet
    • 02/18/2016 7:30 PM
    • Rarig Center -- Nolte Xperimental <p> The University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Training Actors perform the new play <strong>American Soviet </strong>by Micheal Punter, directed by Hayley Flynn, February 18-21.<br /> <br /> The 21st Avenue Ramp is the nearest parking structure to Rarig. Some metered, on street parking is also available.<br /> <br /> To request disability accommodations; please contact Dennis Behl at<br /> <br /> Admission is free, but ticket reservation is recommended due to limited seating.</p>
    • American Soviet
    • 02/19/2016 7:30 PM
    • Rarig Center -- Nolte Xperimental The University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Training Actors perform the new play <strong>American Soviet</strong> by Micheal Punter, directed by Hayley Flynn, February 18-21.<br /> <br /> The 21st Avenue Ramp is the nearest parking structure to Rarig. Some metered, on street parking is also available.<br /> <br /> To request disability accommodations; please contact Dennis Behl at<br /> <br /> Admission is free, but ticket reservation is recommended due to limited seating.
    • American Soviet
    • 02/20/2016 7:30 PM
    • Rarig Center -- Nolte Xperimental The University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Training Actors perform the new play <strong>American Soviet </strong>by Micheal Punter, directed by Hayley Flynn, February 18-21.<br /> <br /> The 21st Avenue Ramp is the nearest parking structure to Rarig. Some metered, on street parking is also available.<br /> <br /> To request disability accommodations; please contact Dennis Behl at<br /> <br /> Admission is free, but ticket reservation is recommended due to limited seating.
    • American Soviet
    • 02/21/2016 2:00 PM
    • Rarig Center -- Nolte Xperimental The University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Training Actors perform the new play <strong>American Soviet </strong>by Micheal Punter, directed by Hayley Flynn, February 18-21.<br /> <br /> The 21st Avenue Ramp is the nearest parking structure to Rarig. Some metered, on street parking is also available.<br /> <br /> To request disability accommodations; please contact Dennis Behl at<br /> <br /> Admission is free, but ticket reservation is recommended due to limited seating.
    • The Threepenny Opera
    • 02/25/2016 7:30 PM
    • Rarig Center, Stoll Thrust Theatre <p> A startling piece of musical theatre featuring some of the 20thcenturyâs greatest songs â including âMack the Knifeâ and âPirate Jennyâ â <em><strong>The Threepenny Opera</strong></em> is a wickedly funny story of betrayal upon betrayal, climaxing in one of the most unusual and hilarious finales in modern theatre.<br /> <br /> Composed by Kurt Weill with book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, and translated Elizabeth Hauptmann, <em><strong>The Threepenny Opera </strong></em>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.</p> <p> Performed as part of the Weill/Brecht Festival, presented by the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, the School of Music, the Department of German, Scandinavian &amp; Dutch, and the Institute for Advanced Study's Brecht Research Collective.</p> <p> The 21st Avenue Ramp is the nearest parking structure to Rarig. Some metered, on street parking is also available.<br /> <br /> To request disability accommodations; please contact Dennis Behl at<br /> <br /> Tickets: (prices include all fees)<br /> $16 General public<br /> $11 U of M Faculty/Staff/Alumni/Retirees<br /> $6 Students (any college or under 18)<br /> <br /> To buy tickets, <a href=";BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=0E7D5C3D-4C3F-4A45-A388-0FDE9B4F1631">click here</a>, call 612-624-2345, or purchase in person at Rarig Center.</p>
    • Hippolytos
    • 02/25/2016 7:30 PM
    • Rarig Center- Kilburn Theatre /Liu Stage Directed by Dario Tangelson, the BFA junior class performs <strong>Hippolytos</strong>, the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides, translated by Anne Carson.<br /> <br /> <strong>Hippolytos</strong> is a mortal prince who prefers chastity and hunting to the pursuits of love. He therefore worships Artemis, goddess of the hunt and virginity, as opposed to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Aphrodite avenges her honor by causing Hippolytusâ stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with him.<br /> <br /> <strong>Hippolytos</strong> runs February 25 â 28 in the Liu Stage/Kilburn Theatre.<br /> <br /> The 21st Avenue Ramp is the nearest parking structure to Rarig. Some metered, on street parking is also available.<br /> <br /> To request disability accommodations; please contact Dennis Behl at<br /> <br /> Admission is free, but ticket reservation is recommended due to limited seating.

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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.


  • February 2016 APPLAUSE

    Weill and Brecht Festival  

    Perfomances, Seminars, Guest Scholars, Concerts,

    Begins February 3  

    Two keynote speakers, theater director Liz Diamond, Yale School of Drama and Dr. Kim Kowalke , Eastman School of Music and president of the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music launch the Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht Festival- A 21st Century Celebration at the School of Music’s Ultan Recital Hall, Wednesday, February 3 at 7:30 pm in the West Bank Arts Quarter of the University of Minnesota. See complete listing of events for Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht Festival. 

    Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) is broadly acknowledged as the most influential political theatre artist of the 20th century and his ideas about the role of art in the analysis and transformation of society remain the bedrock of whole schools of theatre, and genres of literary criticism. Kurt Weill (1900-1950) one of the most versatile and influential theater composers of the twentieth century, re-invented the musical theater form.                                                                 
    The Weill and Brecht Festival kicks off February 3 and continues through April 17 with rich variety of attractions. First engage in a lively introduction to these giants of the twentieth century in “Brecht and Weill Together and Apart” as director Liz Diamond, and Dr. Kim Kowalke share insights about these artists, their close partnership, as well as their achievement independent of one another. The Wednesday evening’s discussion will be moderated by Ben Krywosz of Nautilus Theatre with panelists David Walsh of the University Opera Theatre, and Marc Silberman of University of Wisconsin’s German Studies. Enjoy musical selections from  Threepenny Opera and Lady in the Dark  performed by casts members of the upcoming University Theatre Arts & Dance and University Opera Theatre productions, to be presented at the Rarig Center (February 25- March 6) and the Ted Mann Concert Hall, (April 14-17) respectively.  

    “Brechtian Legacies: Expanded Theater” will investigate theatre as a medium, its epistemological force and potential to initiate social change on Thursday, February 4, at 4:00  pm at Northrop Auditorium’s Crosby Seminar Room 240 hosted by the Institute for Advanced Studies. Matthias Rothe, German, Scandinavian and Dutch department, will moderate the afternoon’s session featuring presenters: Lisa Channer, Theatre Arts & Dance; Maria Hofmann, German, Scandinavian and Dutch, from the University of Minnesota, and Marc Silberman of University of Wisconsin’s German Studies. Free and open ot the public.  

    A free concert titled “The Roaring Twenties: An Age of Change”on Friday, February 5 at 7:30 pm at Ted Mann Concert Hall will feature the Threepenny Opera Suiteand other musical selections by Kurt Weill. This concert includes works by Gustav Holst, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Jerry Luckhardt conducts the presentation. The event is free and open to the public.                                                                      

    The Threepenny Opera, composed by Kurt Weill with book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, and translated Elizabeth Hauptmann, takes the stage directed by Kym Longhi at the Rarig Center, Stoll Thrust Theatre , February 25- March 6. Scroll to What's on at Rarig for details below. 

    The Weill Brecht Festival  celebration continues next next month with:
    Brecht & Weill Smorgasboard, March 21 at 7:30pm at the Southern Theater, Minneapolis. Tickets: $10 public, $6 students; free to ARTShare members at the Southern Theater 
    generously supports the Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht Festival, presented by  
    the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance; University of Minnesota School of Music, School of Opera Music Theatre; the Department of German, Scandinavian & Dutch Studies; the Institute for Advanced Study's Brecht Research Collective, and the Southern Theater.  

    What’s on @ Rarig...

    The Threepenny Opera, composed by Kurt Weill with book and lyrics by Bertolt Brecht, and translated Elizabeth Hauptmann, takes the stage at the Rarig Center, February 25- March 6. “With Brecht's cuttingly satirical look at the meaning of morality in a society populated by gangsters, beggars, prostitutes and corrupt cops, and Weill's edgy, opera-meets-cabaret score . . . this show was all but irresistible,” praised the Chicago Sun-Times. This startling piece of musical theatre featuring some of the 20th century’s most enduring songs – including “Mack the Knife” and “Pirate Jenny” – The Threepenny Opera is a wickedly funny story of betrayal upon betrayal, climaxing in one of the most unusual and hilarious finales in modern theatre. Under the direction of Theatre Arts’ faculty member Kym Longhi and conducted by School of Music’s Jerry Luckhardt, The Threepenny Opera information and tickets are available by calling 612-624-2345 or visiting


    Why Threepenny Opera?

    Kym Longhi, stage director /B.A. performance program faculty member, took a moment between rehearsal to answer that question, and share her thoughts...
    Why Threepenny Opera now?  How is this play with music relevant to us today?
    Threepenny Opera is a critique of a society in which everything is a transition-so that nothing has value unless it can be sold to the highest bidder. Love is for sale. Justice is for sale, pity is for sale.  For me, the big question that comes out of this work is “What are you worth?”  And who assigned that value? This question haunts me as I witness the events in my world --The Black Lives Matter movement , terrorist attacks, the Syrian refugee crisis, campaign finance, the political rhetoric bullies, police brutality , gun violence, the health care debate and mounting student debt, minimum wage protests- and whose stories get told and whose don’t.
    How is this idea reflected in the production?
    We’re setting Threepenny Opera at a time in the not-too-distant future, and referencing current events as recent history.  Even though it is set in the future, the world is nostalgic, referencing the sentimentality and idealism of the 1950s that stimulated our economy and masked the threat of nuclear destruction. It’s a media –saturated world where every desire is commodified, and everyone consumes and consumes to assuage their deepest fears.  This production will have a densely-layered multimedia element designed by Martin Gwinup with students from his video class.  Throughout the show commercials and video images from the past and present will provide a stream of editorial commentary on the dramatic action.
    The world of Threepenny Opera - as revealed by set designer Sarah Bahr and costumer Mary Woll - is decaying and on the verge of collapse, but no one is aware of it.  The society is addicted to entertainment, because entertainment distracts everyone from what is really going on. 

    And you are hoping to achieve…
    In the end, we’re approaching Threepenny Opera as an entertaining critique of an entertainment –driven marketplace.  Our goal will be to entertain the audience and, at the same time, cause them to question their enjoyment.  But don’t worry, it’s got a “happy” ending.
    So Brecht teams up with Kurt Weill back in the 1920s,right?  
    Yes and they set out to create a new kind of theatre.  Though their Threepenny Opera barely managed to open after a tumultuous rehearsal process, the play with music became an instant success.  This bothered Brecht who felt that the play should have created more dissonance of the audience, provoking more change.  In essence he held a mirror up to the bourgeois class saying “how do you like what you see?”  He thought they would hate it instead they loved it and wanted more.
    Why? What’s the appeal?
    The world of Threepenny Opera is ruled by charming criminals and exploitation is the norm.  The characters don’t try to live ethically within the system; they are living off the system.  The pursuit of profit replaces morality and the pursuit of pleasure is the standard of living.
    It is a culture of fear anesthetized by entertainment: The jazzy ballad of Mack the Knife keeps our toes tapping to Mack’s deeds of arson, murder and rape. 
    The audience should be caught in the dialectic tension between enjoying the entertainment and being horrified at the lack of morality, or really the invented morality that all the characters display. 
    This production of Threepenny Opera will definitely be horrifyingly entertaining, joyously wicked, and best of all, everyone lives “happily ever after”—at least while they are on stage. 

           Costume renderings created by designer Mary C. Woll 


    What’s on @ Barker Center for Dance... 

    Mark your calendar now for March 4 and 5 for the Spring Dance Concert, in Barker’s  Studio 100.  Under the direction of TAD faculty member and artistic director of Shaprio & Smith Dance Joanie Smith, this program will feature choreography by Leila Awadallah, Ayana Dubose, Luke Olson-Elm, Joanie Smith,  and Erin Thompson. 
    NOTE: Performance start times are 6:00 pm and 8:30 pm both March 4 and 5.
    Spring Dance Concert tickets are $6 for students and $11 for everyone else.
    Call 612 -624 2345 University Tickets and Events.  

    B.A. Theatre Program expands its New Voices projects with additional staged readings this month. You’re invited to join the audience.

    February 12, 7:30 PM @ BARKER CENTER FOR DANCE, STUDIO 100

    New Voices class project– staged reading of RONIN
    Based on a Zen story about the shift from vengeance to forgiveness, this new adaptive work, shaped by playwright Rick Shiomi, founder of Mu Performing Arts, is presented as a class project. Limited free seating.

    February 19,7:30 PM @ BARKER CENTER FOR DANCE, STUDIO 100

    New Voices class project – staged reading of GOOD KIDS by Naomi Iizuka

    Set at a Midwestern high school, in a world of Facebook and Twitter, smartphones and YouTube, this play explores a casual sexual encounter gone wrong and its very public aftermath. Led by MA/PhD student Jacob Rorem Public Reading. Limited free seating.  

    February 26, 7:30 pm @ BARKER CENTER FOR DANCE, STUDIO 100

    Led by Jason Ballwebber, Four Humors Theatre 
    Enter a world ruled by delusions and far-flung imagination, where a windmill transforms into a giant and a filthy innkeeper is a king. The story of a man who can no longer leave that beautifully imagined world, even after the curtain has come crashing down.  Public reading-- limited free seating                                                                                            

    University of Minnesota /Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program offers two February showings.  Because seating is limited, reserve your free seat in advance to the performance of your choice at

    February 18, 19, 20, 7:30 pm & 21, 2:00 pm NOLTE  XPERIMENTALTHEATRE
    AMERICAN SOVIET by Michael Punter
     Directed by Hayley Finn
    BFA New Plays Senior Company
    Free Tickets : reserve @

    February 25, 26 & 28, LIU STAGE/ KILBURN THEATRE
    HIPPOLYTOS by Euripides   Translated by Anne Carson
    Directed by Dario Tangleson
    U of MN / Guthrie Theater BFA Junior Company
    Free Tickets : reserve @


    JuCoby Johson (BFA ‘15) performs in Dear World,  the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee play with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman. Produced by Ten Thousand Things, the show plays through February 7.  Learn more>

    Ryan Colbert (BFA ’13), Hope Cervantes (BFA '06) and faculty member Barbra Berlovitz play in Dickens’ Great Expectationsthrough February 7. 


    Christian Bardin, Michael Hanna, Jason Rojas, Ryan Colbert and Jamila Andersonperform in Romeo and Juliet.   BA alum Katie Willer is assistant director for the show which plays Feb 12 and 13 at Park Square Theatre.

    FACULTY  Update  

    Faculty member Lucinda Holshue, served as Voice Coach to new artistic director Joe Haj’s inaugural production of  Pericles playing through February 21 at the Guthrie Theater.

    Joel Sass directed and adapted Great Expectations for Park Square Theatre. An  associate faculty member fall semester, Sass and has staged a number of TAD productions including last  spring’ s Blue Stockings  with the University of Minnesota / Guthrie Theater Actor Training program, graduating class of 2015 at the Guthrie’s Dowling Theater. 

    Congratulations to B.A. program head Lisa Channer and Kym Longhi, in partnership with School of Music's  David Walsh, Opera Music Theatre and Matthais  Rothe, German, Scandinavian, Dutch Studies for planning and organizing over six months the first ever collaboration between these units to create  the Kurt Weill and Bertold Brecht Festival- a 21st Century Celebration, February 3- April 17. 

  • January 2016 APPLAUSE

    Kurt Weill & Bertolt Brecht,

     A 21st  Century Celebration 

    Kurt Weill 
    Theatre Arts & Dance and University Opera Theatre are thrilled to announce their first ever full collaboration, in partnership with the German, Scandinavian, and Dutch Studies Department and Institute for Advanced Studies’ Brecht Research Collaborative, to create a mini Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht Festival during the spring 2016.

    According to David Walsh, director of University Opera Theatre for the School of Music and Marcus Dilliard, Chair Theatre Arts & Dance, “This celebration will include University Opera Theatre’s presentation of Lady in the Dark (April 14 – 17), and Theatre Arts & Dance Department's production of ThreepennyOpera (February 25 – March 6), several concerts and events involving our University Symphonic Band and other community and professional theatrical partners at various venues in the School of Music, Rarig Center, and at the Southern Theater, as well as seminars and other presentations here in the West Bank Arts Quarter by eminent Brecht-Weill scholars which will be related to our performance themes."

    Bertolt Brecht  
    The first of these seminars titled Brechtian Legacies: Expanded Theater” convenes at the Institute for Advanced Studies, February 4 (2:00- 4:00pm) at Northrop and is free and open to the public. 

    Panelists include: Elizabeth Diamond, School of Drama, Yale; Marc Silberman, German, University of Wisconsin; Maria Hofmann, German, Scandinavian & Dutch, UMN and Lisa Channer, Theatre Arts & Dance, UMN. 
    The discussion will be moderated by Matthias Rothe, GermanScandinavian and Dutch, UMN. 
    Learn More>

    Explore Threepenny @ 

    A Brighter UCLA’s Mini College, February 27                        

    “It’s a love story…a lie…and it’s all in a day’s work for Mack the Knife,” quipped Kym Longhi, stage director describing the musical thriller Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht. “True, all in a day’s work,” laughed Professor Matthias Rothe, “and that’s where we start telling them about the real story behind Threepenny’s narrative -- the creators’ indictment of Germany’s social/economic system.”

    Professor Rothe of the GermanScandinavian and Dutch Department teams up with Kym Longhi of Theatre Arts to explore (and maybe shock!) participants when they present  Threepenny Opera: Capitalism on Stage. It’s just one of six different topics to dive into at CLA’s “A Brighter U” mini-college Saturday, February 27 at McNamara Alumni Center.

    The Threepenny Opera was written to denounce the injustices of a capitalist economy. Ironically, it became Germany’s most successful play in the Weimar era. Mission failed? Did audiences seem to applaud their own misery? Did Brecht overestimate art’s capacity for political mobilization? Or do we have to think of political mobilization in different terms? And if so, how can the play’s impact be preserved for today? Director Kym Longhi and Matthias Rothe will discuss these questions and introduce you to the current production on stage at Rarig Center. Complement your Brighter U experience by attending University Theatre’s production of Threepenny Opera, performed in English, Feb. 25 - March 6. Purchase tickets for Threepenny Opera separately.

    A Brighter U showcases talented College of Liberal Arts faculty and relevant topics rooted in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Here’s an excellent opportunity to engage CLA alumni and friends in dialogue about new ideas and ways of thinking. “Through this outreach,” says Dean John Coleman, “our graduates have the opportunity to connect once again with CLA and engage with dynamic teachers in timely subjects that impact their world.”  For more information and registration visit 
    For specific questions contact Megan: 

    Mark your Calendar

    Tune in Minnesota Public Radio 91.1 FM (KNOW) Friday, January 8 at noon, or rand at 9 pm, if you missed “Re-Imagining Theatre” at Rarig in December. This engaging conversation with artistic directors Sarah Bellamy (Penembra Theatre), Joe Haj (Guthrie Theater), Sarah Rasmussen (Jungle Theatre) and Randy Reyes (Mu Performing Arts) was moderated by MPR’s Marianne Combs at Rarig. MPR News Presents a 50 minute version of the Rarig Center event which was sponsored by CLA’s Theatre Arts & Dance, and the College of Continuing Education’s  Arts & Cultural Leadership Program. 

    Karen Landry, a final bow 

    Stage, Film & TV Actress Passes

    Karen Landry Mulkey (BFA,‘72) worked as a professional actress in theatre, film and television for over four decades. Ms. Landry, who hailed from Minneapolis, is familiar to theatre audiences at the Guthrie, Mixed Blood and Park Square Theatre, as well as California’s South Coast Repertory and the Denver Center Theatre Company. She died December 31, 2015 at her home in Venice Beach, Calfornia.

    On television she had been seen in many shows including Cold Case, Six Feet Under, Any Day Now, The Practice, The Personals, Chicago Hope, Beverly Hills 90210, Picket Fences, M*A*S*H and appeared for three years on St. Elsewhere. She played Vorgon Ajur in the Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    Her work in film includes roles in Collapse, Live!, Sweet Land, Frozen Kiss, Peaceful Warrior, Shattered, Dragon Wars, Jimmy Zip, The Personals, Heartbreak Hotel, Collapse, After the Denim, Blue Highway, Finding Hope  as well as writing and starring in "Patti Rocks".

    While training at the U of M, she was awarded a Bush Fellowship, and later in her career shared an Independent Spirit Award nomination for co-writing with her husband Chris Mulkey the 1988 comedy “Patti Rocks.”   Learn More>

    She taught at UCLA’s Extension and was a mentor to many acting students as they pursued their careers.  Five years ago, in response to a letter from an aspiring actor asking for guidance, she wrote the following article which was published in Minnesota Playlist magazine. Click for Advice to young actor

    ALUMNI Spotlight

    Kaleena Miller                   photo:Ginger Murray 

    Kaleena Miller (BFA’06) is singled out in “25 to Watch” as one of the nation’s top dance talents in Dance Magazine’s January issue in a feature titled Tap Entrepreneur. Miller is “…redefining how we consume tap. She’s created The Cutting Board an open-mic-style tap dance and live music show at a Minneapolis bar; co-founded Rhythmic Circus, a widely popular troupe that appeared on (NBC’s) “American’s Got Talent”; choreographed for her Kaleena Miller Dance, which was commissioned by the Walker Art Center and co-founded the Twin Cities Tap  Festival which had its inaugural event this past fall. Miller has become a one woman show- whether or not she’s wearing her signature red tap shoes.” 
    Learn More>  

    Dateline New York …
    U of M alum Polly Carl (PhD 2000) received the Person of the Year the National Theatre Conference last month. Presently creative director of ArtsEmerson at Emerson College in Boston, Ms. Carl is also director and co-founder of HowlRound, “a knowledge commons” by and for the theater community. Congrats Polly! Previously, she served 11 years at the Playwrights’ Center, seven as its producing artistic director reports. 

    Dateline Paris …
    Sam Kruger (BA’12) writes: "Yesterday, I graduated from Ecole Philippe Gaulier.  It's difficult to describe quite how writing that sentence makes me feel. It was nearly two and a half years ago that I first landed in Paris and sat by the Seine in the rain. Moreover, it was seven years ago that, in the blank darkness of my dorm room, I made a promise to myself, that someday, somehow, I was going go study in France. And it happened, it really happened" Bravo Monsieur Kruger!

    The school, founded by French master clown Phillippe Gaulier, teaches clowning and an approach to acting which is also thoroughly grounded in the principle of Le Jeu - 'the game'.
    Gaulier also teaches classes in Shakespeare, Chekhov, melodrama, and farce.
    Former students at the school include the theatre director Simon McBurneyof Theatre de Complicite, and actors Emma Thompson, Marcello Magni, Kathryn Hunter, Cal McCrystal and Sacha Baron Cohen, according to Wikipedia.

    BBC  News on Ecole Phillippe Gaulier  

    Santino Fontana (BFA ‘04) was featured on the PBS holiday special “Christmas with the Morman Tabernacle Choir and the Muppets.”    

    Q&A:  Paul Hackenmueller, 

    Lighting Designer



    An industry design professional for nearly sixteen years, Paul Hackenmueller (BA’99) has created a diverse body of work that ranges from corporate meetings and events to featured music performances, opera, theater and nearly everything in-between.  Much of his passion for the work and industry lies in the unique aspect of relationships and collaboration inherent in the process of realizing an event or show.  After his University of Minnesota training, Paul completed graduate work in design at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Department of Design for Stage and Film. In the process, he was mentored by many professionals including Robert Wierzel with whom he eventually teamed to create Spark Design Collaborative/ Creative & Design with offices in New York and Minneapolis. Learn More> 

     Paul recently shared some of his professional experiences, observations and memories of his time on the U of M campus.

    Spark Design Collaborative has earned impressive credits on Broadway, off Broadway, regional theatres, industrial expos, corporate events across the nation, even museums.  Paul, do you have a project you are most proud of and why?  

    First, we are all about collaboration… Robert Wierzel was a mentor and we connected through our work to create this company (so together) we bring over 40 years of experience for our clients. … Can’t point to one just one project, but I’m most proud of the cross disciplinary work and the range of our work: theatre, opera, music concerts, corporate shows and industrial events … Skills of the craft are essential and we knew how to collaborate from our theatre experience.  It’s why we formed this company … Corporations look for an entity that can serve them – Target,  Sharkey, Carlson Companies, lots of others -- we work with them to help them develop and tell their “stories. “ Our know-how comes from the theatre/opera process,so we understand how to get the show on to the stage. Corporations need help with events—they don’t know how to do this. Sure they might have a concept idea, but we bring the story to life for them. 

    photo: Spark Design Collaborative  
    How did you go about finding your path into the professional theatre?

    There’s not one way, I’d say.  Grad school?  Working as an assistant with professional work? Number one, follow what you find interesting -- Love what you do.  I’ve known since I was in the third grade when I saw A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie—this was my interest.  As an undergrad I never designed a show at the University. But I had a lot of part-time jobs --Varilight , internships at the Guthrie,-- where I got to see all the various aspects , understand the toys of all of it.  I did that for four years or so. You follow your interest.  I was an assistant and was mentored by Robert and Allen Lee Hughes,and it was only after that I considered becoming a designer.  I found and built relationships and supplemented course work with these with real world experiences.

    What training at the U of M was most useful in getting launched in the theatre and why? 

    You get out of it what you put into it. The tech director Jean Montgomery (now retired) was my advisor and she let me explore what really interested me, and I supplemented under what was called then “independent study,” with my own learning experiences.  I took classes in movement, acting and Tech Theatre 1&2 , but I added to all that with interning in Dallas with Varilight  and learning about program consoles that were just coming into the field. 
    Wizard of Oz: Children's Theatre Company  Photo: Dan Norman 

    What advice would you share with up-coming students? What might you consider the most powerful lessons or practices that proved essential in your profession? 

    Get out and work with as many different designers a possible.  Take whatever job you can along the way:be a carpenter, electrician, haul lights and cable; get to understand this business.  Take time to chat with designers and learn about their work… Reach out and learn the totality of the form. It will all help you grasp an understanding of what the profession is about.   Seeing everything in town from Red Eye to the Guthrie is the most useful way to meet people inside the profession.

    Go to museums. See art, architecture, learn about different philosophies, eras of history, learn about the work and how it reflects the era it was written in. Travel and read.  All this takes time but it is essential to replenish you to do the work….In advance technical theatre and lighting you can get very technical and lost in the minutia of this year’s model of fixture and all.

    In grad school at NYU/ Tish working on my MFA, we had to take a play reading class.

    We read a play a week, then came together to talk as a class about it. Not about how to design for it, but to talk about the play. Its story, when it was written, what philosophy shaped it, what historical context it lived in. In other words, we entered the world of the play.  Why? Because you are the director – your cast is not actors, but light. You must understand the big picture.                                        
     Photo :Spark Design Collaborative 

    FACULTY in the NEWS

    photo : Joanie Smith, Shaprio & Smith  

    Joanie Smith’s Shapiro & Smith Dance performs on TPT2’s “MN Original” on Twin Cities PBS  January 10 at 6:00 pm and 10:30 pm. Catch a sneak-peek online Friday, January 8; visit Joanie Smith is interviewed and linked with rehearsal shots as the dancers prepare for the filming of her work The Gist at the Minneapolis Women’s Club In coming weeks, “MN Original” will air a complete performance of The Gist, prior to Shapiro &Smith’s dance concert March 25 and 26 at the Cowles Center. 
    Joanie Smith is the Artistic Director of Shapiro & Smith Dance, the Barbara Barker Endowed Chair in Dance, and a John Black Johnston Professor as well as a former Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Helsinki, Finland.  She founded Shapiro & Smith Dance in New York in 1987 with husband Danial Shapiro. S&S Dance has performed in major venues and festivals across the U.S., Europe and Asia including in New York at The Joyce Theater and internationally at Festival di Milano, Teatro de Danza in Mexico City, Reclinghausen RuhrFestSpiele, Taskent Festival in Uzebekistan and the Korean International Festival.  Danial Shapiro died in the fall of 2006 and now Joanie Smith serves as sole Artistic Director and Choreographer creating new works for Shapiro & Smith Dance.

    Smith’s and Shapiro’s choreography has been commissioned by noted companies as diverse as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and the PACT Dance Company of Pretoria, South Africa and over 600 dancers in professional and university dance companies have performed their work, “To Have And To Hold.”

    S&S Dance has received continued institutional support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The McKnight Foundation, and The Target Foundation as well as touring grants from MSAB’s Arts Tour program.

    Smith is a 2014 McKnight Fellow in Choreography was named an “Artist of The Year,” in 2011 by City Pages and received a 2012 Sage Award for “Outstanding Performance.” Smith and friends created the Danial Shapiro Fund in 2006. The Danial Shapiro Scholarship is awarded annually to gifted choreography students at the University of Minnesota.

    Joanie Smith was interviewed in Dance Teacher magazine last year. Learn More>

    Best of 2015 Kudos to Four Dance Faculty Members   

    The 1984 cast of William Harren's "As You Desire Me," was reconstructed for "Lost Voices in Jazz." Pictured,left to right: Tony Vierling, Georgia Harren Reuling, Jan Naegele Campbell, William Harren, Greg Thul and Jody Berg.
    photo credit : Ken Lau 

    Minn Post’s Pamela Espeland selected 25 of her favorites for the 2015 year in the arts, and she spotlighted for special recognition “Lost Voices in Jazz” at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium.  She  wrote, “Thanks to Karla Grotting’s commitment, body memory and willingness to do the work and research, dances by choreographers lost to AIDS lived again. This was a labor of love that brought many people together.”

    StarTribune’s arts writer and critic Shelia Regan also lists “some of the most magical moments” of 2015.   Among works created by local choreographers and companies she names TU Dance (co –artistic director and faculty member Toni Pierce-Sands), and Ananya Dance Theatre (artistic director and faculty member Ananya Chatterjea).  Reganalso notes, “Many local artists won acclaim outside the Twin Cities…mentioning TU Dance artistic directors Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands named USA Fellows, winning $50,000, and Minnesota companies [that] bopped around the world, from southern France (Zenon) to Ethiopia (Ananya).”

    Acknowledging dance works in retrospect, Ms. Regan salutes faculty member Joanie Smith’s nod “to early feminism with her piece “Tableau Vivant,” and Karla Grotting’s “Lost Voices in Jazz,” presented with Eclectic Edge Ensemble, honoring the choreographers and dancers lost to the AIDS crisis.” Congratulations all. 

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