03/22/17

Pursuing Passion: Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre & Dance

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working in the university's Costume Shop

Every UM-Flint Theatre & Dance production is a chance to teach something new. Adam Dill, lecturer and Costume Shop Supervisor for the department, specializes in connecting his students to each project while creating pieces that build their skill sets and portfolios.

The final theatrical production of the 2016-17 season is The Importance of Being Earnest—a classic satire set in Victorian England. Said Dill, “This production is set in the 1890’s, so we are constructing silhouettes we have not made in this shop before.” He also noted that special considerations have to be made in fabric choice and construction—so the costumes function for the actor while looking the part—and in adapting older styles to modern bodies.

“We used historical patterns that are actually from the 1890’s on this production,” added Theatre Design & Technology student Alli Switalski, “so it was definitely a learning experience to adapt the pattern of a teeny tiny garment from the turn of the century into garments that our actors could wear.”

A dress for the production is Switalski’s first large-scale project: she completed the garment’s entire drape, pattern, and construction process. And, she admits, it’s this start-to-finish project that she’s most excited to see on stage.

Dill is the production’s Costume Shop Manager and Lead Draper, and also charged with being the faculty advisor for the Wardrobe Crew. “As the shop manager,” said Dill, “it is my responsibility to budget and price out the show, to make sure all of the clothes are produced in a timely fashion, and the clothes are properly fit to each actor. Acting as the lead draper, I have taken on the creation of Miss Prism and Lady Bracknell.”

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working with a student in the university's Costume Shop

Adam Dill works on a bodice with UM-Flint Theatre Design & Technology student Alli Switalski.

Teaching in UM-Flint Theatre

Switalski transferred to UM-Flint to study with Dill—her previous institution didn’t provide a supportive teaching environment like the one she found on a visit to UM-Flint Theatre. “It’s like a little family in the theatre department,” she noted. “Collaboration makes our world go round, so I really love that we are all so close.”

When asked about Dill as a teacher, she said, “Adam has taught me to laugh. To ‘just do it’ and have fun in the process. He challenges me to push my limits as a designer and technician and to trust my instincts in the process.”

Lydia Parker VanTol, a senior Theatre Design & Technology student, echoed her sentiments, adding, “Not only have I learned how to pattern, drape, and sew, but I’ve also learned a lot of life lessons like how to handle working under a deadline and learning about a balance between perfection and time management. I love our sense of teamwork and community. It’s great to work with people who understand and respect your craft and who are also learning at the same time as you.”

Taylor Boes works on a boa for "The Importance of Being Earnest." She's also an actress in the production.

Taylor Boes works on a boa for “The Importance of Being Earnest.” She’s also an actress in the production.

 

Switalski and Parker VanTol are just the kind of students Dill enjoys teaching at UM-Flint. “I really appreciate that the average student has an open mind and a willingness to learn,” he said. “Regardless of background, upbringing, or circumstance—our students are constantly committed to pursuing their best self.”

Currently, Dill teaches Introduction to Stage Costuming, Patterning, and Draping, Textiles and Costuming, and a Stage Costuming Lab. His students often get a chance to assist on production costumes, adding finishing touches like hems and closures.

Bringing Experts to Campus

Part of Dill’s teaching philosophy involves bringing experts to campus. “I’ve previously hosted a tailoring workshop, a lighting technology workshop, and most recently a wig workshop,” said Dill. “For the future, I have workshops planned specifically for working with thermoplastics in theatrical costumes, a workshop on creating/recreating parasols, and hopefully a two-day workshop on working with theatrical millinery.”

The wig workshop, held on a Saturday in late February, brought Heather Fleming from the Custom Wig Company to campus. Seven UM-Flint Theatre students and one alum attended.

“In the workshop, we discussed how to properly style wigs using different roller sets, how to properly prepare the actor for wearing a wig, how to make/take a wig wrap, and how to ventilate and create our own custom wig products,” recalled Dill.

Participants in UM-Flint Theatre's recent wig workshop.

Participants in UM-Flint Theatre’s recent wig workshop.

 

“We decided to host this workshop so students could actively learn the art of wig styling on a practical application for one of our productions,” he continued. “Several of the students from the workshop are on the wardrobe crew for Importance of Being Earnest, so having direct access to the wig stylist benefits the wig work you will see in this very exciting production!”

Alli Switalski at the UM-Flint Theatre wig workshop.

Alli Switalski at the UM-Flint Theatre wig workshop.

 

Switalski was one of the student participants. When asked what she enjoyed most, she responded, “It’s a fascinating art form that most people don’t even know exists. I enjoyed diving right in and playing with wigs to get a hands-on experience of styling and maintenance techniques.”

A Life of Creativity

Dill is an excellent example for students who are unsure about pursuing a career in theatre. “I previously started my education in Pre-Dentistry,” said Dill. “One day while sitting in a molecular biology class, I realized how much I missed being in the theatre. I eventually withdrew from school, moved back home, and prepared myself for a life in the arts. After a few months at home, I enrolled at the University of Texas at Arlington as an Acting major. I was assigned to the costume shop as part of my practicum. I was given the task of decorating hats. Once I realized that working in theatrical costumes was a viable career path, I changed my major again and have never looked back.”

Adam Dill of UM-Flint Theatre working in the university's Costume Shop

 

Switalski is ready to follow in his footsteps. “I have two semesters left before completing my degree,” she noted. “This involves my capstone project which will probably be a draping project, so keep an eye out for my name in next season’s programs. After graduation, I plan on moving to where the work is to get some experience before graduate school. I’ve also started my own business that I’d like to expand, taking more costume commissions for Halloween, Cosplay, and Renaissance Festivals.”

Dill hopes all of his students “leave here with a renewed sense of self confidence, and understanding of how to overcome challenges, and an open mind to potential that life presents to us!”

As for his future? Dill replied, “Right now, I am in the process of designing one of the dance pieces in our dance concert—A Midsummer Night’s Dream—choreographed by Adesola Akinleye. At the same time, I am remounting a previously designed production of Cat in the Hat for the Flint Youth Theatre. Because I don’t have enough going on, I am also managing the Colorado Shakespeare Festival costume shop this summer.”

After graduation, Parker VanTol will also be working at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, where she’ll no doubt continue learning from Dill.


Learn about creative opportunities for all majors, both on and off stage. Visit umflint.edu/theatredance.

01/30/17

UM-Flint Theatre Brings ‘Big Love’ to the Stage

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What does “love” mean? Student actors, and their director Janet Haley, will explore this question in BIG LOVE, the second production of the UM-Flint theatre seasonThe play opens on January 27 and runs through February 4, 2017. It is a contemporary revision of one of the western world’s oldest plays, The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus.

“This piece is so unlike what people may think what a ‘play’ is,” said Haley. “[It] features song, dance, poetic language, gorgeous costumes, and a stunning scenic landscape. BIG LOVE examines and celebrates love, in all its manifestations.”

More Than Just Love

BIG LOVE is the story of fifty brides on the run from arranged marriages—and what happens when they take refuge in an island villa with their fifty grooms in pursuit.

“It’s called BIG LOVE for a reason. These characters have real epiphanies about themselves and the world. It’s not a romantic comedy, a little romp in Italy, it’s not Under the Tuscan Sun,” noted Haley. “This play is giving our students a wide and diverse set of opportunities to be involved in—it’s a very diverse composite of character perspectives, gender and sexual identities, age and experience range.”

Make-up, costume, and hair for the UM-Flint Theatre production of BIG LOVE.

Make-up, costume, and hair for the UM-Flint Theatre production of BIG LOVE.

Layla Meillier, a Geneseee Early College student, English major, and Women’s & Gender Studies minor, agrees. “Since I often study gender and communication,” she said, “I have been thinking a lot about traditions and binary stereotyping and how this show enforces and challenges gender roles.”

Meillier has found herself exploring themes of the play in her own life: “love in a large sense and how it manifests and conquers. Romantic love, sister love, humanity love. I have a sister and I think about how I would do anything for her when justifying the plot and text.”

Computer Science major and actor Matthew Statson added, “Every character in this show searches for a ‘comfortable’ state that they might find in another person. It’s important to remember that no matter what our intentions or goals are in life, how we accomplish it and treat others in the process may be the most important thing than actually achieving the overall goal.”

A Collaborative Work

The staging and movement sequences of BIG LOVE were devised in collaboration with the student company and students hold leadership positions on the production team as Dance Captain, Fight Captain, Stage Manager, and Costume Designer, among others.

“It’s a highly collaborative endeavor,” said Haley. “[The students] were inventing, creating, and devising something together as a group. That’s different than there being a script that tells you all of the words to say and where you are in space. This collaborative way of working ultimately helps our students learn how to have confidence in their ideas, to risk, to experiment, to research, to test. To know that not everything is going to be the right answer; it’s kind of scientific. They are going in to try stuff—as you would in a lab—and some of it’s not going to work, and we’re okay with that, and we’re going to keep trying things. Because whatever doesn’t work puts us one step closer to discovering what will work.”

Set and stage construction for UM-Flint Theatre's BIG LOVE.

Set and stage construction for UM-Flint Theatre’s BIG LOVE.

The production style also reinforces lessons of effective communication and listening, respect for others’ points of view and values, and a willingness to try new things. “I think this helps their citizenship skills,” noted Haley, “their personal responsibility. We talk about teamwork a lot, it’s a pretty complex thing.”

Meillier appreciates the intense experience. “I have gained so much from this production,” she said. “I have made so many friends and deepened my understanding of theatre. This piece has opened my mind to so much newness. I have been challenged in frequently incredible ways.”

Something for Everyone

Both cast and crew members believe BIG LOVE will appeal to a wide audience.

“Love is such a universal entertainer,” said Meillier. “Many in this community will be able to relate to what we have created no matter their sexuality or gender identity/expression. So much is considered and presented to the audience, every character is working from a different place and it is difficult to see clearly who may be in the wrong.  [Playwright] Charles Mee really gets you to think about your values and reaccess your ideas of good and bad.”

Added Statson, “In the extremes that this show goes to explain how love affects people, we hope it shines a light in your own life on where love hits you, and what you choose to do with that.”


BIG LOVE is recommended for ages 18 and up. Mature content and strong language. Strobe lights. Stage violence. Running time is approximately 100 minutes with no intermission.

Tickets are available by calling (810) 237-6520 or at the UM-Flint Theatre Box office (buy ahead or at the door). Show times start promptly as stated below, please arrive early to purchase tickets.

UM-Flint Theatre Performances of Big Love:
  • Friday, January 27, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, January 28, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, January 29, 2017, 2:00 p.m.
  • Friday, February 3, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 4, 2017, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, February 5, 2017, 2:00 p.m.

The UM-Flint Theatre is located at 303 E. Kearsley Street, Flint, MI 48502. Free parking is available. For full details, visit the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department at umflint.edu/theatredance.

10/25/16

Pursuing Passion: Stephanie Dean, UM-Flint Theatre

In the University of Michigan Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences, faculty, staff, and students combine their passions with academic excellence as they participate in coursework, research, and creative pursuits. We are proud to spotlight some of these individuals in our new series: Pursuing Passion.

Stephanie Dean of UM-Flint Theatre

Stephanie Dean of UM-Flint Theatre

A Rock Musical with Feeling

Assistant Professor Stephanie Dean is the director of Next to Normal, an award-winning rock musical about a woman’s struggle with bipolar disorder. The show is the first production of the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department’s 2016-17 season and will run October 28-30 and November 4-6.

Next to Normal began as a ten-minute play called Feeling Electric that explored the medical field’s approach to mental illness. But, noted Dean, “they began to realize that they story they wanted to tell wasn’t about the treatment, it was about the people, and they began to morph it into the Off-Broadway production that opened in 2008.” By 2011, the musical had enjoyed three years on Broadway and earned numerous awards, including three Tony Awards and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

The musical suited both the talent pool at the university and Dean’s desire for material that would challenge her students and herself.

She began work on the production long before students stepped on stage for auditions. Her spring and summer months were filled with research about the show’s sensitive subject matter. Recalled Dean, “I wanted to know: What is fact? What is fiction? And how was the production received by audiences when it came out? There was a lot of research that went into the research that [the writers] did.”

UM-Flint Theatre's Stephanie Dean talks with cast members during a rehearsal of "Next to Normal."

UM-Flint Theatre’s Stephanie Dean talks with cast members during a rehearsal of “Next to Normal.”

This is Not a Case Study

Dean wanted to be sure she was both respectful and accurate when representing the journey of someone being treated for bipolar disorder. The musical touches on a wide variety of topics related to the mental health field, including prescription drug use, electroconvulsive therapy, hallucinations, depression, and suicide.

“When I was doing the research, I read an interview in which the composer and lyricist had said they had not written the show to be  a case study,” said Dean. “Next to Normal takes dramatic liberties; everything that can happen to this woman does happen, and it not only affects her, but everyone around her. It’s important to understand that the writers wanted to create a story that people could relate to from many different viewpoints, depending on their own life experiences. Because of that, I truly believe that you cannot be an adult or even a teenager and not relate to something in this show.”

Dean consulted with Dr. Tom Wrobel of UM-Flint Psychology for insight on the script, and to learn about the validity of the portrayed treatments in today’s fields of psychology and psychiatry. She also talked with practicing therapists.

Stephanie Dean and the "Next to Normal" cast rehearse in the UM-Flint Theatre

Stephanie Dean and the “Next to Normal” cast rehearse in the UM-Flint Theatre

Now that the show is in rehearsals, the preparation is paying off: “I feel like I have command of the material, and am well prepared to address the issues in the script in a way that is effective and within the scope of reality. I also feel prepared to work actors through these difficult topics and the emotions that come with that. Understanding the content and context at a deeper level allows me to find subtleties in the script and makes me better equipped to guide the actors to more nuanced performances and to speak to the designers about a unified vision.”

Working with a Student Cast

During the summer, Dean also spent time considering the emotional toll the production could have on its student actors and stage crew. “When you are working on a musical, it is not an exaggeration to say the music does not exit your head for the entire two months,” said Dean. “Between rehearsals, memorizing lines, working on music, etc., the actors and I are spending four to eight hours a day with this material. I had to ask myself, ‘how do I bring the students in and out of rehearsals in a way that is mentally healthy for them?'”

Dean works with UM-Flint Theatre student Shelby Coleman on the set of "Next to Normal."

Dean works with UM-Flint Theatre student Shelby Coleman on the set of “Next to Normal.”

Part of Dean’s work to answer that question took place during the summer in North Carolina where she studied a method of evoking emotion using breathing, posture, and facial expressions, rather than actual emotional stimuli. Dean has used this to inform her work with students, when she has had to help them be comfortable with difficult emotions like anger, fear, and sadness. She hopes it will also help her student cast process the heavy emotions that come with the Next to Normal script. “I’m interested in focusing the actors energies in rehearsals,” said Dean. “It is important to step into rehearsal as a group, leaving personal problems at the door, and to develop a supportive ensemble that can talk about problems if this story is hitting too close to home. Likewise, the actors have to be able to leave the characters and their problems in the theatre to avoid having an ’emotional hangover’ when they leave rehearsal.”

“Maybe the songs will be stuck in our heads, and some days it will be harder than others to put the show away outside of rehearsal; I recognize that,” continued Dean. “Alice Ripley, the actress who played the lead role in this musical on Broadway, talked in her interviews about having a very difficult time living this story night after night and not feeling it during the day.”

Dean hopes that what students are learning as UM-Flint Theatre performers will serve them well after graduation. “Part of my job as a teacher and as an acting teacher is to teach students to be physical and vocal vessels for the tough emotions their characters experience on stage without tying that too closely to their personal lives. Theatre reflects humanity. Humanity is messy. Therefore, the actors face this challenge throughout their entire professional career. I’m excited for this challenge.”

Her cast has responded very well to Next to Normal, and embraced its difficult themes. “On the first night I asked each of the cast members why this show was important to them,” remembered Dean. “I got some really interesting answers about how they each related to the material. Lots of stuff I wasn’t expecting. They each bring a lot of insight to this show.”

Stephanie Dean sits with Assistant Director Michaela Nogaj and Stage Manager Taylor Boes during rehearsal

Stephanie Dean sits with Assistant Director Michaela Nogaj and Stage Manager Taylor Boes during rehearsal

Connecting with the Audience

“It’s important to me to help people understand that theatre doesn’t always have to be about entertainment. It can make you think about life and help you to relate to others and still be an incredibly wonderful, fulfilling, and positive experience that you want to have again.”

Because of its relatable material and high entertainment value, Dean hopes that Next to Normal can entice audiences to the UM-Flint Theatre. “This show has a profound and immediate purpose. It’s a show that invokes conversation about a topic that our society is afraid to address, and yet mental health effects everyone to different and varying degrees on a daily basis.”

During the October 28-30 and November 4-6 weekends, performances will be held Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online or at the UM-Flint Theatre box office (please arrive early if purchasing tickets at the door). The Sunday, November 6, performance will feature a talk-back session with the cast, crew, and director. All are invited to attend.


For more information on showtimes, ticket sales, and performances, visit umflint.edu/theatredance/season-information or call (810) 237-6522. To reach Director Stephanie Dean, email scdean@umflint.edu.

05/4/16

CAS Faculty Join UM-Flint Celebration of Teaching

Shelby Newport of Theatre & Dance and Amy York of Physical Therapy discuss peer observation at the 2016 UM-Flint Celebration of Teaching.

Shelby Newport of Theatre & Dance and Amy Yorke of Physical Therapy discuss peer observation at the 2016 UM-Flint Celebration of Teaching.

Throughout the year, UM-Flint’s Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching (TCLT) acknowledges and advances excellence in teaching throughout campus. This spring they put a spotlight on that excellence with their annual Celebration of Teaching. The event marks the end of another academic year while fostering conversation and connections between faculty from around the university.

The 2016 event opened with a welcome by Tracy Wacker, director of the TCLT. She applauded the gathered faculty for the ways in which they are advancing teaching at the university.

The keynote address was given by Dr. Tom Wrobel of Psychology on the theme of the “Multiple Identities of a Teacher.” He talked about all of the facets of a teacher’s soul: a journeyman to the student apprentice, exposing them to the richness of each discipline; a salesperson, selling each area of study to students; an actor, putting on an excited face for the explanation given dozens of time before—remembering that the content is fresh for each batch of students; a lens, encouraging students “not just to see, but to see through”; and in some ways a parent.

He closed by noting that students also affect each faculty member’s identity, for “in trying to become a better teacher, you can’t help but become a better person.”

Learning from Peers

Tracy Wacker of the TCLT discusses the upcoming conversation with the Celebration of Teaching panel

Tracy Wacker of the TCLT discusses the upcoming conversation with the Celebration of Teaching panel

A faculty panel, made up of individuals from the College of Arts & Sciences, SEHS, and SHPS, spoke on “Advancing Teaching Excellence at UM-Flint.” Members included Scott Caddy of English, Jessica Camp of Social Work, Seung-Jin Lee of ERS and CSEP, Shelby Newport of Theatre & Dance, Joyce Piert of Mathematics, and Amy Yorke of Physical Therapy.

Newport and Yorke opened the discussion together, talking about their experiences with peer observation.

They discussed the unexpected ways in which their disparate disciplines, theater and physical therapy, gave surprising insight into each other’s teaching spaces and methods.

For example, Newport offered feedback on use of space that reflected her experiences with staging plays. From that, Yorke learned to stage her students and classrooms for more effective communication.

Yorke, while giving a lesson on touch in her physical therapy course, inspired Newport to think about the ways in which she talks to students about applying stage makeup. For both, a softness of touch was needed to convey expertise and confidence.

Both were surprised by the amount of common ground they found in observing each other’s teaching methods and disciplines. Newport said she loved finding, “connections from unlike sources,” and Yorke added, “as teachers, we have so much in common.”

Emily Feueherm of English at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Emily Feueherm of English at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Seung-Jin Lee spoke on his experience of being brought to campus to “bridge the gap between environment and engineering.” To do so, he’s established a course that will help engineering students think about sustainability, “not just performance, but the consequences of design.”

His goal with the course is to help his students not only make products that have a sustainable design, but also come from sustainable systems. He hopes to inspire the students to be more “aware of making the world a better place.” For example, how do you redesign a computer so that its components and the energy it uses are not negatively impacting the world in which it works?

Panel member Joyce Piert of Mathematics speaks at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Panel member Joyce Piert of Mathematics speaks at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Joyce Piert of Mathematics discussed Teaching Circles on campus, and the ways in which they have enhanced her time in the classroom. Teaching circles bring together educators from many disciplines for conversations on their personal experiences in the professional world. She noted that, surprisingly, the sessions became a place of healing for her and others as they discussed shared moments.

Jessica Camp of Social work presented on her redesign of a senior capstone course as a new faculty member, and its expected and unexpected outcomes. The new course structure allows for senior projects to be student driven and community focused. Camp noted that she wanted her students “to be able to recognize social justice issues that need to be addressed,” and then to “research and apply action.” The capstone ends with an annual event at which the students present their research projects to the community and campus.

Camp noted that having the freedom to identify and drive their own research builds important and individual skills. It “helps students identify where their passion lies and move forward in this incredibly diverse field.”

She hopes the new student-driven model will help her students stand out when entering the job field after graduation, saying “[the] industry is looking for self-sufficient and self-motivated individuals [who can] think intentionally and critically about these issues.”

Associate Dean Roy Barnes of CAS at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Associate Dean Roy Barnes of CAS at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Scott Caddy teaches English 111 and 112, courses required by nearly every student at the university and ones in which he learned a great deal about being a teacher. While helping his students learn that making mistakes is okay, and that it will lead to stronger writing, he found that the same is true for being an educator.

Said Caddy, “It’s important to create a space where ‘failure’ is acceptable and you find ways to evolve and change your approach.”

Caddy’s powerful message about giving yourself permission to fail resonated with the faculty in the audience. It led to intense discussion about the importance of sharing both successes and failures with peers, and utilizing campus resources like the TCLT to have such conversations and gain feedback and support.

Powerful Conversation

Following the panel discussions, the Celebration of Teaching audience broke into small groups for a discussion on Teaching Moments. The TCLT staff prompted discussion by asking the groups to discuss the 2015-2016 academic year and the best thing that happened, the most surprising thing, and a powerful realization they had as teachers.

Faculty members share ideas on Teaching Moments at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Faculty members share ideas on Teaching Moments at the 2016 Celebration of Teaching

Audience members reflect on the 2015-2016 academic year at the Celebration of Teaching.

Audience members reflect on the 2015-2016 academic year at the Celebration of Teaching.

After the groups had come back together and shared their findings, Scott Johnson, Dean of the School of Management, noted the small groups’ findings shared “the common theme of self-awareness, learning as a person, and being honest that you have vulnerabilities.” He added, “it’s a really special thing to be a teacher, but this applies to all walks of life.”


For more information on the Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching, and the ways in which they work to advance educators at UM-Flint, visit their website: umflint.edu/TCLT.

 

 

04/15/16

Spring 2016 Dance Concert Program Announced

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Join our Department of Theatre & Dance students and faculty, April 15-17, 2016, for the annual Spring Dance Concert. This year’s theme is the Five Elements: ether, water, air, earth, and fire. The pieces feature both classic and original choreography, presented in a variety of styles. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30pm; Sunday is at 2pm. Please arrive early if purchasing tickets at the door. All performances are in the UM-Flint Theatre, located at 303 E. Kearsley Street, Flint, MI.

The program will include:

The Wilis – (Excerpt from the Ballet Giselle)

  • Original Choreography: Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot
  • Choreography Adaptation: Beth Freiman
  • Composer: Adolphe Adam
  • Dancers: Jermariana Chandler, Danielle Emerson, Ashlynn Feige, Kacee Myczkowiak, Brooke Olney, Ashinique Wesaw, Frieda Yang

Water

  • Choreography: Emma Davis
  • Lighting Design: Briannah Rench
  • Music: “Water Dripping” by Priscilla P. Wood; “Soothing Water Stream” by Mistral Wind; “Rushing Stream” by SwiftDK; “2 Ghosts” by Nine Inch Nails; “Dirty Water (instrumental)” by Lecrae
  • Dancers: Frederick Fields, Jameel Gilbert, Dominique Hinde, Shakeda Mitchell, Nataniel Morales, Lydia Parker

A Bird in The Hand

  • Choreography: Beth Freiman
  • Music: Tres Para Uno A Cinco by Christian Matjias Mecca
  • Dancers: Ashlynne Feige, Brooke Olney, Ashinique Wesaw

Earth

  • Choreography: Adesola Akinleye
  • Costume Design: Lydia Parker
  • Lighting Design: Nicole Stafford
  • Dancers: Ashlynn Feige, Jodi Jaruzel, Charity Lloyd, Nataniel Morales, Octavish Morris, Hannah Nettleton, Farrell Tatum
  • Music: Karsh Kale

The Firebirds – Inspired by George Balanchine’s “The Firebird”

  • Choreography: Beth Freiman and Classical Repertory students
  • Costume Design: Adam Dill
  • Lighting Design: Tyler Rankin
  • Dancers: Jermariana Chandler, Danielle Emerson, Ashlynn Feige, Kacee Myczkowiak, Brooke Olney, Ashinique Wesaw, Frieda Yang
  • Music: Igor Stravinsky

Air

  • Choreography: Adesola Akinleye
  • Dancers: Ashlynn Feige, Jodi Jaruzel, Charity Lloyd, Nataniel Morales, Octavish Morris, Hannah Nettleton, Farrell Tatum
  • Music: Restrung, Vitamin String Quartet
  • Film: Barry Lewis

For more information, visit umflint.edu/theatredance.

01/27/16

Africana Studies and Theatre Enrich Actor’s Role in The Call

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Kenyatta Brown on the set of “The Call”

Kenyatta Brown is a senior majoring in Africana Studies and minoring in Theatre. He is playing the role of Alemu, an immigrant from western Africa, in the upcoming UM-Flint production of The Call by Tanya Barfield.

Thanks to his courses in Africana Studies, Kenyatta was able to bring unique insight to the role. His own personal experiences from family life and growing up in Flint also helped to enrich his portrayal. Read on as he discusses his role in this new production.

How did you connect with this character?
When you get a character, one of the exercises that most directors will do is have the actors give that particular character a backstory. The backstory is the thing you think the character was doing before this particular box of two hours happened. What was this character doing before this happened? Why is this character like this? What happened in this character’s life? Because we all have a turning point in our lives that makes us think a certain way and act a certain way. So creating a backstory for Alemu—definitely my Africana studies helped me. Because of the genocide in his country, the guilt that he carries because he made it out—it’s kind of similar to how I felt growing up here and then going away to the Navy. I grew up in a rough neighborhood—so my friends were kind of stuck doing the same thing. When I came home to visit, I kind of felt guilty. They would see me and think ‘oh, you’ve got it going on,’ which I didn’t, but to them I did.

Another thing in the backstory, I try to find similarities to me and the person, the character. One similarity is that Alemu’s father had died of sickness and my father died of cancer. There’s a part in the story where he’s wishing he could do something, but there is nothing he can do—same here, you know? So, that allowed me to kind of feel where Alemu was coming from.

How do you feel about this role?
It’s funny because with this role there were so many qualities that I could relate to in him. But then, on another note, it was very challenging because of things like the accent. He’s a little weird, so he brings a little comic relief, but I don’t want him to come off as stupid or just as the ‘funny guy.’ That’s my goal for the character. You have to walk that thin line and you have to be careful. Because you want to portray the right thing—what you want the audience to get.

How do you feel about the ambiguity surrounding some of this play’s characters and situations?
That’s the beauty of this playwright. She doesn’t answer any questions. So I think this particular play is a great play to come and see. Especially if you like to debate afterwards or if you like to have a dialogue with those you’re with when you see it. It’s a good piece for conversation. She leaves it out there, and there are so many issues in this hour and thirty minutes!

I’m excited about the last day that we perform, that has the Q & A session [with the audience] afterwards. I’m curious about what people will ask. All she says is that Alemu is from West Africa; she doesn’t say what country. It’s not just his character that’s ambiguous; there are five characters and for each there are questions that can still loom after the play.

What advice do you have for audience members?
Come with an open mind, because it will benefit you. Be open to things that you don’t agree with—lifestyles you don’t agree with, or cultures that you don’t necessarily get into. Just come open.

What did you take away from this role and this play?
This play made me think about trust. In Flint the term “genocide” is floating around with the water issue. I thought about things like the Tuskegee experiment. When the people don’t trust the powers that be, there’s something happening within that. It’s a scary thing sometimes.

I dug deep into this. I thought, ‘What if I didn’t have the water issues here? Would I have dug so deep?’ Being human, I had to ask myself that. I have to check myself in a way, wondering if I am as sensitive to others as I need to be.

What has it been like being a student of Africana Studies and Theatre?
For me, it’s great and it’s challenging, too, because I’ve been away from college for some years and just came back this year. From the Africana Studies standpoint, it’s great, just learning more about my culture that I didn’t even know, which I love.

It’s learning about the thing that I love and who I am, and then learning about what I love to do. . . Combining the two is perfect. I think this play, for me, it came on time. Opening night is my father’s birthday. I haven’t been on the stage in three years. In LA, I was doing film and TV, too, but I got custody of my daughter three years ago and theatre takes a lot of time. So this is my first play being back on stage, on his birthday. So, I’m excited.


The Call opens on January 29 and runs on select days through February 7, 2016. For show times and ticket information, visit umflint.edu/theatredance and click “current season.”

There will be a Special Discussion with the Director on Wednesday, February 3, at 2pm in the Thompson Center for Learning & Teaching, 134 Thompson Library. Join in to learn about the play and gain insight into the artistic choices used to present this dynamic story.

01/25/16

Chazz Irwin, Theatre Major, Wins Recognition for Original Play

Irwin1Theatre major Chazz Irwin recently traveled with members of his department to the Kennedy Center American College Region III Theatre Festival in Milwaukee, WI. Attendees of the festival can compete in various categories, focusing on work both on and off the stage. Irwin’s original one-act play is a finalist for the Region 3 John Cauble Short Play Award and the National Playwriting Program One Act Play Festival.

Following he describes his experiences with UM-Flint Theatre and his recent recognition.

How would you describe your time in UM-Flint Theatre?
I started at UM-Flint in the fall of 2012 and joined the Theatre Department immediately. I have always been interested in Theatre, so it was a natural fit. Janet Haley of the department was actually my first point of contact when enrolling in the University. My primary role has been that as an actor.

All of the faculty have been instrumental in my development as a playwright, most notably Andrew Morton, Janet Haley, and Bill Irwin. Professor Morton has given me the tools I needed, and Professors Haley and Irwin have always enthusiastically read and critiqued my work. Without their help, I would not have made it this far.

This has already helped me professionally, because my work is now being seen by people who work professionally and their feedback will be highly educational. It could help me further because I will be learning from these industry professionals on how to be the most successful I can.

How would you describe your experiences with the ACTF and this year’s recognition?

I first heard about ACTF when I first started with the UM-Flint Theatre department. All theatre majors are encouraged to go by the faculty as it is a great learning experience and is also an important networking resource. I was encouraged by Professor Andrew Morton to submit my plays that I had written for his playwriting course.

My play, More Real Than It Should Be, is a KCACTF Region 3 finalist and is now up for national consideration. I will know if it is selected to be a national finalist sometime in March after all of the regions have concluded their respective festivals. So my play, along with 15 other plays, will be up for consideration, then 6 will be chosen for the National competition in Washington DC.

Tell us a little about the play and how you wrote it:

I first developed my play last year as an assignment for Professor Morton’s class. It was the final project for the course. The elevator pitch, which is how would you describe your idea on an elevator ride, is that two professional wrestlers meet backstage to discuss their upcoming match, and there’s a problem when one of them doesn’t want to do the match as planned.

You’re a senior, what comes next for you?

After I graduate from UM Flint, I plan on attending graduate school to earn an MFA in Theatre so I can teach at the University level. I would also like to see my dramatic work published by a national publisher such as Dramatist Play Service or Samuel French.

I would just like to thank the University and the Theatre department for giving me the tools I will need in my field and a special thanks to Andrew Morton, Janet Haley, and Bill Irwin for all of their help and their encouragement, as I said before, I wouldn’t be where I’m at without them.


For a full list of winners at the Region III KCACTF, including others from UM-Flint, visit their website.

For information on the UM-Flint Department of Theatre & Dance, please visit umflint.edu/theatredance or call 810.237.6522.

01/25/16

Shelby Newport Wins Innovative Teaching Award; Shares Methods with Campus

Newport_blog

Shelby Newport–Chair, Associate Professor, and Resident Costume Designer for the UM-Flint Department of Theatre & Dance–is the recipient of this year’s Region III Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) Innovative Teaching Award, presented at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in Milwaukee, WI. The award recognizes Newport’s use of social media in her courses.

In her application’s teaching statement, Newport notes, “Using social media elements in the classroom have allowed me to open up the discussion and classroom interactions between students even before they enter the room. It has also shifted the ownership to the students; I have found that when they feel a responsibility for some of the course material, they are much more engaged.”

She adds, “My hope is that students will thrive in a classroom that puts them in the passenger seat, as a navigator and co-pilot.”

shelby-backstage

Shelby Newport working backstage with UM-Flint Theatre students.

The previous department Chair, Associate Professor William Irwin, described an example of her approach in his letter of recommendation to the selection committee: “In her Clothing and Western Culture course, all students are required to post images via Pinterest exemplifying specific characteristics of the period they are studying. Shelby skillfully uses a shared Pinterest board which students collectively submit their research/discussion images to. After projecting the Pinterest board images on the classroom screen, Shelby clicks on each student’s submission for that class and asks them to speak briefly on their choice and how it exemplifies the period. This is an effective use of technology in the classroom that not only supports student learning but also in a way that is innovative, relevant and interesting to those in her class. It also supports additional course activities, research, and enhances the provision of information and resources to students, as well as foster interactivity and collaboration among them.”

The adaptability and fluid nature of social media seems to suit her teaching philosophy. Says Newport, “I accept each day as a learning experience, and realize the importance of remaining open-minded and flexible. With this in mind, I too will continue my education; seeking new opportunities, observing the teaching methods of others, taking advantage of extended learning courses, and most of all remaining prepared to grow and change.”

Irwin seemed especially appreciative of the inclusive benefits of Newport’s social media methods. “[Shelby] has been committed and incredibly successful in recognizing each student’s capabilities while providing them with appropriate challenges without ever alienating anyone. This is a significant juggling act that requires her to possess not only an immense sensitivity to each individual’s needs, but also an innovative spirit that makes her classes accessible and meaningful for all . . . Shelby has proven to be expert in integrating students’ own interests and passions into the curriculum and has enabled them to flourish as learners. Going a step further, she has demonstrated a commitment to sharing her talents with her colleagues.”

The UM-Flint Office of Extended Learning (OEL) has also recognized Newport’s talents and willingness to share with others in her field: a new online course based on her methods and experiences will be offered to faculty beginning in February 2016.

Social Media in the College Classroom will introduce key concepts and social media tools that can be integrated into the university classroom. Faculty will learn about the benefits to students and to classroom learning when social media is thoughtfully woven into the course, rather than prohibited from the learning environment. Various social media platforms are covered and faculty will get hands on experience creating accounts and utilizing them.

Newport developed and recorded materials and the online course was created around her lectures and demonstrations. According to Katie Curnow, Marketing Coordinator for OEL, “[Shelby] is the creative and pedagogical force behind it.”

For questions about enrolling or about the course, email mcurnow@umflint.edu.

To congratulate Shelby on her ATHE award, visit one of the UM-Flint Theatre & Dance Department’s social media accounts!

 

01/8/16

UM-Flint Well Represented & Winning at Kennedy Center Theatre Festival

Shelby Newport, Theater & Dance Department Chair, Associate Professor, and Resident Costume Designer at UM-Flint, is attending the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region 3 Festival with a number of her students and fellow faculty members. She sent the following update of “UMF’s great involvement” at the event. She notes that “in addition to the students listed below, we also have other students who are here attending workshops and performing in other projects.”

UM-Flint students are competing in the following categories:

Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Nominations: 

  • Shelby Coleman with partner Andrew Eisengruber
  • Britton Paige with partner Lucas Moquin*
  • Mark Vukelich with partner Kyle Clark**
  • George Marzonie with partner Seth Hart
  • Christine Micheala-Kay Nogaj with partner Josh Cornea
  • Paul Docter with partner Gage Webster*
    *Passed on to the semi-final round on Thursday
    ** Passed on to Final Round on Friday

Allied Design & Technologies Award: 

  • Lydia Parker- Mask Design for Romeo & Juliet
Stage Management Fellowship:
  • Madaline Harkema- Romeo & Juliet
  • Corey Boughton- Romeo & Juliet 
National Playwriting Program- One Act Play
  • Chazz Irwin, with his play More Real Than It Should Be
10 Minute Play Festival Director
  • Paul Docter, directing Wandering featuring Shelby Coleman, Nick LaRosa and Andrew Eisengruber
Theatre2016

UM-Flint Students participate in the Costume Parade at the KCACTF

Newport added, “Our costumes from Romeo & Juliet were selected to be one of 11 schools represented in the Costume Parade last night at the Pabst Theatre. Chazz Irwin, Farrell Tatum and Christine Micheala Nogaj showed off their costumes; Madaline Harkema was the stage manager for the event and Maria Oakley and Alli Switalski worked wardrobe crew.” (Pictured above.)

During the festival, Lisa Borton, Theatre Lecturer and Resident Scenic Designer, and Newport will be presenting two workshops titled “How to Get a Summer Job in Theatre.”

Andrew Morton, Theatre Lecturer and Director, is busy as the Vice Chair of Playwriting at the festival, coordinating events like the National Playwriting Program.

Nicole Broughton, Theatre Lecturer and Stage Management Advisor,  is coordinating all of the Stage Managers for the KCACTF events.

In addition to her recognition and participation in other areas of the festival, Newport was awarded the American Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) Prize for Innovative Teaching this year for the region.

Congratulations to all of our students and faculty!

For more information on this award-winning and dedicated department, visit the Theatre & Dance Department website.

You can see their outstanding work first hand in their upcoming production of The Call, opening January 29 in the UM-Flint Theatre.

12/1/15

Giving Blueday – December 1, 2015

Impact students. Start a journey. Fund the future.

On Giving Blueday, Tuesday, December 1, 2015, we are asking you to donate any amount you can to the departments or programs that mean something to you. Even $5 makes a difference if everyone gives!

We also ask that you share the stories of our programs’ requests–so others can give, too!

Read below for specific requests and links for each of our programs.

Give proud, give loud, and GO BLUE!

 

AfricanaStudies.StampAfricana Studies
The Africana Studies Department is dedicated to diversity and global awareness. To do so they utilize literature, theatre, film, and traditional academic studies. Each year they bring Africa Week to the Flint Community and they work with the Flint Public Library to present a visiting writer or author.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/AfricanaGBD

Anthro.StampAnthropology: AIYER MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
Dr. Aiyer was an associate professor of anthropology and a passionate researcher and teacher. The Regents of the University of Michigan regarded him as “a valued student advisor [and a] respected leader in his department.” Make a gift to his namesake scholarship and help future students who demonstrate a special commitment to education.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/Aiyer

Biology.StampBiology: STUDIER and SUCIC SCHOLARSHIPS
The Biology Department is celebrating two of its dedicated faculty by requesting gifts to their memorial funds. The Eugene “Doc” Studier Scholarship offers research support to Biology graduate students. The Holly Sucic Memorial Scholarship serves students in the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology programs.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/Studier or go.umflint.edu/Sucic

ChemBio.StampChemistry & Biochemistry: BLECKER CHEMISTRY SCHOLARSHIP
Professor Harry H. Blecker was the founder of the Department of Chemistry and a faculty member from 1957 to 1989. This fund honors him and helps Chemistry students complete their studies at UM-Flint. In his obituary, Professor Blecker’s family said “It was important to him to help future generations. This vision was his passion for working with thousands of students at UM-Flint.”
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/ChemistryGBD

ComVisArts.StampCommunication: UM-FLINT DEBATE TEAM
The UM-Flint Debate team has had a winning tradition at national-level debate for the last few years. Gifts made to this fund will allow the team to continue traveling and debating at tournaments near and far. Although housed in the Communication Program, the team is open to all UM-Flint students. Give today and keep them the Victors of Debate!
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/Debate

ComScience.StampComputer Science & Information Systems
Help fund study and research by Computer Science & Information Systems students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/ComputerScienceGBD

CriminalJustice.StampCriminal Justice
Help fund study and research by Criminal Justice students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/CriminalJusticeGBD

EarthScience.StampEarth & Resource Science
Help fund study and research by Earth & Resource Science students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the department leaders.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/EarthResourceScienceGBD

Economics.StampEconomics: SCHOLARSHIP FUND
The Department of Economics awards $500 scholarships every semester to our highest achieving majors. These scholarships allow students to cover any cost associated with attending, such as tuition, books, fees, etc.  Our students are very grateful to the generosity of our donors, as these scholarships make a meaningful impact on their lives.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/EconomicsGBD

Engineering.StampEngineering
Help fund study and research by Engineering students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/EngineeringGBD

English.StampEnglish: STUDENT BOOK SCHOLARSHIPS
Every student has to buy books, but English majors have to buy a LOT of books! In the department we try to keep book costs as low as we can, but the reading remains essential. We were all cash-strapped English majors ourselves, and that’s why we want to establish the English Book Scholarship Fund. For us, anything we can do to defray these expenses is worth doing, but we can’t do it alone.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/EnglishGBD

FLLshortForeign Language & Literatures: MONICA KARNES SCHOLARSHIP
Monica Karnes was a student in Spanish at UM-Flint. Although she was seriously ill, she “continued to pursue her education . . . demonstrating a commitment to excellence which is in the best tradition of the University.” Our UM-Flint Chapter of the Phi Sigma Iota Int’l Foreign Language Honors Society established this fund in 1985 in her memory “to benefit students who share Monica’s hopes, her dreams, and her spirit.”
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/ForLangGBD

History.StampHistory: MUSEUM OF LONDON INTERNSHIP
Help one of our students travel to London, England, for our first international internship! This experience will have a profound effect on their love of history and future studies and career. The student will work at the Museum of London.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/HistoryGBD

InterGlobalStudies.StampInternational & Global Studies: STUDY ABROAD SCHOLARSHIP
Named for Dr. Matthew Hilton-Watson, associate professor of Foreign Language and the Director of the International and Global Studies Program, this scholarship helps undergraduate and graduate students travel the globe. Give the gift of experience, diversity, and expanded horizons to UM-Flint students while you pay tribute to Dr. Matt.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/GlobalStudiesGBD

Math.StampMathematics: FAMILY MATH NIGHT
Twice each year the Math Department hosts Family Math Night, a free event where young children and their families have fun together with math. The kids learn two important lessons: math can be fun, and they can do it! Help us continue this tradition of community engagement and inspiring future mathematics majors!
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/MathGBD

Music.StampMusic: MUSIC MAJOR SCHOLARSHIP
Voice. Instrumental. Classical. Jazz. Contemporary. Music can mean so many things, but, at UM-Flint, each definition has passionate students in common. Your gift to this scholarship will help future Music majors follow their dreams toward a life of making music. Encourage them to embrace creativity! This is an endowed scholarship, so your gift will be continuous.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/GBD

Philosophy.StampPhilosophy: CANDACE BOLTER SCHOLARSHIP ENDOWMENT
Our Candace Bolter Scholarship is $2,500 away from reaching endowment status. Once endowed, the scholarship will always be available to fund future Philosophy students. Says past recipient Thomas Mann, “[scholarships] give the student the sense that someone else believes in what they’re striving for, and for the student, that can mean the world.”
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/PhilosophyGBD

Physics.StampPhysics
Help fund study and research by Physics students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/PhysicsGBD

PoliticalScience.StampPolitical Science
Help fund study and research by Political Science students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/PoliticalScienceGBD

Psychology.StampPsychology
Help fund study and research by Psychology students by donating to their general gift fund. This ensures donations go to the area of highest need, as dictated by the program leaders.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/PsychologyGBD

PublicAdmin.Stamp-2MPA Program: ALBERT C. PRICE SCHOLARSHIP
Professor Albert Price served as Director of the Master of Public Administration Program for 24 of the its 35 years. He was also one of the program’s best known faculty members and a mentor to many of its graduates. Donations to this scholarship will help future MPA students complete the program that means so much to Dr. Price.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/Price

Sociology.Stamp-2Sociology: MARSTON CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AWARD
Gifts to this fund will benefit our students AND our city! Established in 2010 to honor the memory of Professor Wilfred Marston,
this endowed fund supports students who undertake a civic engagement project with a sociologically relevant research component that focuses on the improvement of Flint.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/Marston

Official.Theatre.Horz.Sig.png.binTheatre & Dance: FRIENDS SCHOLARSHIP
This fund supports Theatre & Dance students as they cultivate the necessary tools, both artistic and personal, to meet the demands of an ever evolving world and profession. With your support our students will stand ready to take a place of responsibility in the community at large and excel as fearless artists, flexible workers, and compassionate citizens. Thank you for giving!
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/TheatreDanceGBD

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Visual Arts & Art History: STUDENT TRAVEL
The Visual Arts and Art History Faculty would like support for students and student travel for Giving Blueday. In summer 2015 our students traveled to Paris, France. They loved the experience and can already see the benefits of their time there. Your gift will allow future Visual Arts & Art History students the chance to expand their horizons and find new inspiration!
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/VisualArtsGBD

WomenGenderStudies.StampWomen’s & Gender Studies: CRITICAL DIFFERENCE FUND
The WGS would like gifts to be made to the Women’s Education Center Critical Difference Fund. This small grant helps students facing emergency situations stay in school. Says one recipient, “I believe this grant is important because everyone needs help sometimes and even the littlest thing can save a life.” Give today and be a victor for those who need it the most.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/CriticalGBD

WritingCenterlogoWriting Center: C. SCOTT RUSSELL SCHOLARSHIP
The C. Scott Russell Scholarship helps writing students with the expense of higher education. The scholarship is awarded to students enrolled in English 109: College Writing Workshop based on their writing improvement and financial need. ENG 109 is designed as an independent study in writing. Students focus on writing issues that interest them and are important to their academic success.
Share or Give: go.umflint.edu/WritingCenterGBD