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Andy Senor, FIU Theatre Alumus, Directing RENT in Cuba

Andy Senor describes his initial thoughts about RENT before he became a cast member; “During my final year as a student in 1997, RENT was fresh on Broadway and I was obsessed. Never before had a show spoken to me in such a way! I sang song after song, everyday, with the hope that I would someday be in RENT.”

The FIU Theatre alumnus and artistic director of District Stage Company, along with School of Music’s Carbonell Award winner Emmanuel Schvartzman (class of ’09), are currently in Havana working with local Cuban actors on a Spanish production of Jonathon Larson’s musical RENT. This is the second time the two will be teaming up as director (Andy) and musical director (Emmanuel) of the Tony Award-winning, ninth longest running show in Broadway history. After being involved with the show for many years and performing for millions of people all over the world, the two colleagues had the honor of directing the production right here at FIU in 2010. More recently, they have worked together on a musical production titled On Your Feet, about the life of Miami’s own Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

Senor has portrayed the role of Angel on tour nationally and internationally. Additionally, he worked as assistant director with the original director, Michael Greif, when RENT was revived off-Broadway. The show in Cuba will open on December 24 and run for three months at Havana’s Bertolt Brecht Theatre. This will be Cuba’s first fully produced Broadway show since the revolution, with a cast of all Cuban actors.

Since graduating from FIU in 1997 Andy has worked on numerous projects. He has appeared in commercials and music videos, presented on the Latin Billboard Music Awards. Some of his film and television credits include You Can’t Stop the Beat, Dummy, Ed and Lola.

The Department of Theatre is proud our alumni and wish them both great success in Cuba!

 

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FIU Theatre Students to Perform at Artistic Vibes

FIU Theatre students are bringing their talent to Artistic Vibes for two nights of solo performances! Recent graduates Amanda Ortega will portray the role of Sarah Jo Pender in 110 and Kayla Martinez will be playing Heidi Montag in There Will Be No Talent Displayed on Friday, December 12, at 8:00PM. Current students Lucas Hood and Caitlin Wiggins will perform Tonight is the Night to Drink and X’d on Sunday December 14, at 7:00PM.

Artistic Vibes is a creative collective whose aim is to grow South Florida’s local artistic community by producing a variety of performing arts productions, showcasing local talent, and providing a space for artists to exhibit their skills.

Location: Artistic Vibes 12986 SW 89th Ave, Miami, Fl 33176

Performance Dates: Friday December 12, 8:00PM and Sunday, December 14, 7:00PM

Tickets available at the door | Cash Only | General Admission $15, Seniors $12, Students (With ID) $10

For more information, click here.

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FIU Theatre’s Husband and Wife Team Aaron Alpern and Rebecca Covey to Perform at California Performing Arts Centre’s Fremont Centre Theatre

Department of Theatre faculty member Rebecca Covey and husband Aaron Alpern, Department of Theatre adjunct, will be producing and performing The Heart of Winter on Sunday December 21, at 3:00PM at the historical California Performing Arts Centre’s Fremont Centre Theatre (FCT) in South Pasadena, CA. Their performance will feature a lively collection of classic and contemporary stories based around Christmas, winter, and Hanukkah by Dorothy Parker, David Sedaris, O Henry, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and others. The Heart of Winter revolves around the theme of yearning to connect with others and to find meaning during the holidays.

Actor and producer Lissa Reynolds is the Artistic Director at the Fremont Centre Theatre and a long-time associate of Professor Covey. The two have often spoken about collaborating on a project, but the opportunity never presented itself until now. After a recent conversation about Rebecca’s desire to do a show in California, Lissa extended an invitation to perform their project at FCT over the holidays, as she wanted to provide a holiday offering for her patrons. Rebecca immediately accepted and, having been given creative leeway over the direction of the show, chose literary stories she and Aaron would find meaningful and would both enjoy performing.

The Fremont Centre Theatre is a non-profit professional theatre. Their mission is “to discover and rediscover plays of value to produce in an artistic atmosphere that nurtures creativity, originality and excellence. In addition, FCT is committed to producing theatre that promotes diversity and attracts diverse audiences.” FCT is known for working with artists like Pulitzer Prize-winning author and playwright Ray Bradbury and producing award winning, original adaptations such as A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe. They have been recognized by the NAACP, Women in Theatre, and many other organizations. It is an honor for Rebecca to perform at this prominent theatre, which has worked with artists of such high caliber.

Rebecca is very excited about this endeavor with the Fremont Centre Theatre. When asked about her expectations for the show and her future relationship with FCT, she responded, “I hope to establish a long-lasting relationship with the theatre. This could be a wonderful place for FIU Theatre to incubate new shows, especially new adaptations. I can envision larger scaled projects evolving over time, perhaps even on an annual basis. Aaron and I are looking forward to collaborating with Lissa to make next month’s performance a success.” It is also noteworthy that Rebecca is already in talks about bringing the show to different locations.

The Department of Theatre wishes Rebecca and Aaron great success in California on December 21. For more information about The Heart of Winter, please click here.

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Introducing Alpha Psi Omega, Department of Theatre Honors Society

Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honor Society is a collegiate society which encourages academic and professional success amongst college theatre students. The Theatre Department at FIU is pleased to announce that we have established a chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, with the first group of 28 members inducted on Monday, November 24, 2014. In following the tradition of using theatre-related terminology to describe the chapter officers, current BA student, Luisa Rodriguez is the Director (President) of the FIU chapter and she is very proud to be part of the induction ceremony. This idea has been in the works for quite some time and Luisa has spent countless hours doing research on starting the chapter and brainstorming with both her fellow classmates and their faculty sponsor, Theatre Chair Phillip Church. It is very satisfying to see all her hard work come to fruition. When asked why she wanted to start this chapter, she responded, “I am a member of another fraternity on campus and I really love that idea of brotherhood/sisterhood that these societies teach us and the fact that we all have similar aspirations and interests. I thought it would be great for my peers to be part of a group where we can feel comfortable enough to share with each other and learn from one another. So far, everyone has been incredible supportive and interested, so I hope that APO will continue to grow and be a success.”

Madeleine Escarne, Alpha Psi Omega’s Business Manager and BFA Performance student, describes the chapter as, “a bridge between the theatre community and the outside community. Alpha Psi Omega aims to raise awareness about FIU’s Theatre Department, encourage our students to be part of the camaraderie that is a fraternity and to serve as an honorary big brother/big sister to surrounding schools, especially the ones that have suffered loss of funding to their arts programs. Being a part of this society is an opportunity to give back and live up to APO’s motto-Seek a Life Useful. We want to prepare high school students for college life, teach them about the culture of the theatre and most importantly, to let everyone know how great FIU’s theatre program is. It is a wonderful feeling to be part of a group with common interests and goals.”

Alpha Psi Omega has numerous fun-filled and fund-raising events planned. On December 1, they will be having a bake sale in Graham Center lobby 11AM-1PM. They are also planning a holiday party (date TBD) and will be offering holiday song-o-grams. Please continue to visit our webpage for further details.

Requirements to become a member of Alpha Psi Omega
All prospective members must:
-Be a declared Theatre major for at least 2 consecutive semesters.
-Maintain a cumulative gpa of 2.5 or higher, be in good academic standing with the university and have no pending disciplinary actions.
-Meet the participation requirement. (Please contact Luisa for details about the participation requirement at lulusings@bellsouth.net)

To learn more about Alpha Psi Omega, please click here.

For more information about the FIU Department of Theatre Chapter of Alpha Psi Omega or officers, please contact Luisa Rodriguez at lulusings@bellsouth or visit the Department of Theatre Main Office.

Other Alpha Psi Omega officers include:

Juanita Olivo

Chachi Colon

Amanda Iglesias

Pia Isabelle Vicioso-Vila

Matthew Pastor

Erik Rodriguez

Sarah Perez

Melissa Lopez

Roselyn Moreno

Liana Sierra

 

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Interview with Cedric Liqueur

Despite being on the road for most of the year, Cedric Liqueur always returns to his hometown, Dade City, Florida, for the holidays. Occasionally, he has the opportunity to share his art with other Shakespeare and theatre enthusiasts on those trips home. Through his personal research he became interested in performing at FIU and contacted the Chair of the English Department, Dr. James Sutton, with his request. Dr. Sutton liked his proposal so he decided to partner with the Department of Theatre to bring Mr. Liqueur to FIU to meet with the faculty and students for a Q & A session and to present his fifty five minute performance of The Middle of King Lear. In anticipation of his visit, Mr. Liqueur has taken the time to answer a few questions about himself and his career.

Why did you write The Middle of King Lear? Do you have any expectations for the performance?

“I began my career in the theatre, reading the works of the greatest poet the world has produced, William Shakespeare. I’d thought about Lear for several years, but I knew that most of the actors who have played the part in the full plays often spoke of how difficult it is to carry the ‘weight’ of Lear. Some actors feel you have to do almost all Shakespeare plays to do Lear. When I made up my mind to do Lear, I hadn’t done all the plays, but I felt, and still feel, I can bring all I have to this complex, compelling, tragic character. My intent in this solo production is to explore what Shakespeare wrote about Lear without any other players. Call it ‘research.’ Research that I do each time I walk onto the stage.”

There are many colleges and universities in Florida, why did you approach FIU?

“The name ‘International’ caught my attention when I looked at the colleges and universities in Florida. I read on the website that it is classified as a research university and I spend far more time now doing research than I ever did as an undergraduate or graduate student. Also, I believe if any artist has the opportunity to go back inside a classroom and talk with students and educators, they should, as I think they will become better artists.”

Why are you so passionate about Shakespeare?

“Shakespeare put the English language and the magic and mystery of theatre together. To me, his 37 plays and 154 sonnets captured the 14th through 17th centuries-like a digital camera today snaps the perfect color of a butterfly’s wings in flight! How did he manage to capture almost all these colors, in human beings? Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets are about relationships during the Renaissance era. The Tragedy of King Lear, particularly, and in this work, is about the relationship between fathers and daughters. He understood that history repeats itself and brought this to the stage. His stage brought to life ‘human’ characters with complex yet recognizable personalities, something never seen on stage in the Renaissance era so dramatically and with such popularity. He knew about the Renaissance because he was a product of it. For me to present The Middle of King Lear, on stage, I have ‘become’ a product of that era as well.

Do you have any advice for aspiring performers or writers, particularly those interested in the Renaissance era?

“Be patient. It is the advice I first received as an actor from Sir Patrick Stuart at the Royal Shakespeare Company: ‘Cedric, after about twenty-five years, if you are still in the business . . . you should then be a pretty good actor.’”

For more information on Cedric Liqueur’s visit, please click here.

 

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Cedric Liqueur Brings The Middle of King Lear to the Wertheim Performing Arts Center

king learFIU Theatre, in collaboration with the Department of English, is pleased to present The Middle of King Lear by independent actor and playwright, Cedric Liqueur on Monday, November 24 at 2:00PM in The Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center | Black Box Theatre. The Middle of King Lear is a fifty-five minute condensed variation on Shakespeare’s play-script, with the main focus being the oncoming madness of the legendary King–and the audience sitting and standing in the same light as Shakespeare’s most complex major character.

Mr. Liqueur is in his eighteenth year as a solo performance actor and playwright. He spent two years as an apprentice at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Company, which led to many future roles in Shakespeare productions. He began writing and producing historical biographies in 1997. To date, he has written and produced twenty one shows, with The Middle of King Lear being one of his most recent. We are honored to have him visit our university and meet with the faculty and students.

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Alumni Spotlight: Sarah Bartels

Sarah Bartels ’10 is currently in Colorado working as a Producer and Casting Director for a short film entitled Two Secrets. This is Sarah’s first major film project since earning her BA in Theatre. As Casting Director, her duties include reading the script and collaborating with the director and other producers to create breakdown notices (brief descriptions of the physical attributes, skills, and experience sought in actors to portray particular characters.) She is also responsible for selecting the actors, scheduling auditions, and managing rehearsals. This job is new to Sarah and she has learned that a great deal of flexibility is required because of the long hours, necessary travel, and last minute surprises. Her strong interpersonal and communication skills have certainly been an asset in dealing with the plethora of different personalities she has encountered since the inception of Two Secrets.

Sarah is driven by this project because of the professional credit it awards her but also for personal reasons. This film is based on the true story of her partner, Alison Dolan, and she wants it to be portrayed well. Alison was abandoned shortly after birth, with her umbilical cord still attached, on the wintery streets of New York. She was found in a beer crate by two teenagers and taken to a hospital and was later adopted by a loving family. She has never been able to find any information about her birth mother. The film Two Secrets is told from the perspective of twelve year old Janey, played by Cassidy Mack. As the title suggests, there are two secrets: the story of Janey’s abandonment, which is kept from her, and a secret that she is keeping from everyone else.

South Florida’s Grammy nominated and Latin Grammy winning record producer, engineer, and mixer Charles Dye is the writer and director of the film. It is his hope to drum up enough interest and funding/investors from this short film to produce a feature film about Alison Dolan’s life in the future. Jay Riggs, founder and Executive Director of the national charity Will Play for Food, is also a producer. Other members of the team include script co-writer Meryem Ersoz, one of Colorado’s top film producers, internationally known photographer Laffrey Witbrod as Director of Photography, guest artist Alexx Calise, and many others. It is also noteworthy that the costume designer for Two Secrets is FIU Theatre alumnus Giovanni Valazquez (Class of ’11.) Once filming in Colorado is done, the team will begin working on making Two Secrets Oscar eligible for film festivals.

Sarah is very excited and a little nervous about this project. She says, “this is a huge responsibility for me professionally and of course I want it to be a great success. At the same time, if we make a feature film, my life will be included in it and that’s a little nerve wracking!” She recently came to the Theatre Department seeking advice from Department Chair Phillip Church and Head of Performance Wayne E. Robinson Jr. She talks a bit about her experience as an FIU Theatre student. “In addition to taking Phillips’s classes, I worked as his Assistant Director on The Cherry Orchard. That experience helped me to grow and boosted my confidence a lot. He basically handed me the reins on Tech Weekend because he could not be here and I really appreciated his trust in me. I felt that I was really part of the production. I wanted to get Wayne’s advice on working with the actors and things I could do with them, since they are quite young. He was always helpful as a professor.”

We wish Sarah and entire team working on Two Secrets the greatest success.

For more information on Two Secrets, please click here.

For more information on Alison Dolan, please click here.

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Workshop on the Roy Hart Technique and Extended Voice with World Renowned Artist Richard Armstrong

Richard Armstrong, world renowned performer, director, and teacher, will be conducting a workshop on the Roy Hart Technique and extended voice at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center on November 21-23, 2014. His workshop will include vocal training for theatre students as well as professional development sessions with Department of Theatre faculty. He will focus on exploring range and character and emphasizes proper use of breath, body alignment, and physical grounding.

In addition to being a musical theatre faculty member of the exclusive Banff Centre in Canada, Mr. Armstrong offers workshops and demonstrations nationally and internationally on a regular basis. He was instrumental in establishing one of Europe’s most influential schools of voice and research, The Roy Hart Theatre in France. Needless to say, the Department of Theatre is extremely pleased to have someone of his caliber facilitating this workshop at the university.

FIU Theatre Department faculty member Rebecca Covey worked with Mr. Armstrong several years ago and remained in contact with him. When she learned that he was on sabbatical from New York University’s Experimental Theater Wing at the Tisch School of the Arts, where he is currently an Associate Arts Professor, she seized the opportunity to invite him to share his talent and expertize with the faculty and staff of the Theatre Department.

Detailed information on the workshop to follow.

For more on Richard Armstrong, please click here.

 

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Juanita’s Statue, The Star’s Perspective

Coincidentally, the lead female role in Juanita’s Statue is being played by BFA Performance student Juanita Olivo. This has been her biggest role to date and the roller coaster of emotions she has been experiencing makes her giddy. Juanita describes the play as “the story of a woman who is forced to dress like a man to save her life. In the process, she helps other people discover love within themselves. If there is a message in this play, I think it is that we must all love ourselves as we are. Sometimes we need a little encouragement from others but once we find our wings, we shouldn’t be afraid to get out and fly. I sincerely hope that the audience will enjoy the chase that is Juanita’s Statue, but also pick up on the larger message of the show.”

Our leading lady also described her experience being a part of a collaborative effort as something that “means that your entire perception of your character can change in the blink of an eye, but we come into the space knowing that we are exploring together and we all have fun in that exploration.” Because Juanita is open-minded and understands that this is a learning environment, she welcomes the opinions of her peers and professors. She finds it fascinating that one slight change can alter her previously discovered character and bring everything together in a different way. Overall, the open communication and sharing of ideas gives the actors the feeling that they have a say in the direction of the play, which motivates everyone to work a little harder.

The complex staging of Juanita’s Statue is a challenge for Juanita who knows that it is the actors’ responsibility to ensure that the blocking of the elaborate chase scenes is seamless. She feels confident that they will be a connected ensemble by opening night. Another challenge she faces is adopting the persona of a man; she has to “talk, walk, carry myself differently AND make it seem natural. It takes a lot of work and discipline but I am getting there.”

Juanita is looking forward to opening night with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. She was a little worried about her family’s reaction to the risqué scenes in the play, but her mother’s encouraging words – “this is your art, your craft, this is what you do!” – helped to put her fears to rest.

For more information on Juanita’s Statue, please click here.

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Alumni Spotlight: Joseph Haj ’84

The Department of Theatre wishes to congratulate Joseph Haj (Class of ’84) who was recently honored with the 2014 Zelda Fichandler Award from the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC). Haj was unanimously chosen from 62 other nominated directors for this coveted accolade. According to SDC, the prestigious award recognizes “an outstanding director or choreographer who is transforming the regional arts landscape through imaginative, brave work in theatre.” The SDC chose Haj thanks to his “exemplary artistry, diverse and exciting programming choices, and deep commitment to the arts in North Carolina.”

The Haj family moved to Miami from New Jersey when Joseph was quite young. Growing up in South Florida, Joseph did not find his true calling until his senior year of high school, when he registered for a drama class. As a child of Palestinian immigrants, this passion for the theatre came as somewhat of a surprise to his family, who presumed that he would pursue a career in medicine, law or engineering. However, it was the theatre that provided a much needed outlet for his teenage anger, frustration and loneliness. Joseph earned his BFA Performance degree from FIU in a remarkably short time and went on to complete his MFA from University of North Carolina. He gained the full support of his family once they realized his talent and determination to succeed.

Haj worked as an actor for several years before shifting focus from acting to directing. When asked about the circumstances that contributed to the shift in focus he responded, “it happened fairly abruptly. For the longest time, everything I wanted to explore in the art form, I felt I could explore from the position of an actor. Then, almost overnight, acting began to feel very limiting and specialized to me. I started feeling like a punter on a football team and I wanted to have more ownership of a production, more of a say in how a piece was to be made.”

Joseph Haj is currently the Producing Artistic Director of PlayMakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He has directed and performed in theaters throughout the United States as well as overseas. He has conducted numerous workshops and been nominated for various awards, many of which he has won. American Theater Magazine named him “one of 25 theatre artists who will have a significant impact on the field over the next quarter century.” He has even directed Shakespeare productions at different maximum security prisons regionally. Elaborating on this, he explains that “those of us who spend a lot of time in the plays of Shakespeare go around protesting that Shakespeare is for everyone, even while having the nagging suspicion that that might not be true. I wanted to see if Shakespeare could be performed by those who had never come in contact with the work and for a community that also had little background with the work. The results were thrilling for both the inmates who acted in the productions and those inmates who attended the performances.”

A career in theatre for a man of color comes with certain challenges and Joe shares some of the challenges he has encountered. “It is very difficult to have a career as an artist. Ours is a field that has long supported ideas about diversity and inclusion. There are plenty of unconscious biases that negatively impact opportunities for women and people of color. I spent many years acting in the plays of Shakespeare all over the country, but I have never even had an audition for a Shaw or Moliere play. Women and people of color are under hired as actors, directors and designers.” He also offered some great advice to our aspiring theatre students; “your ambition will want to write checks that your talent cannot yet cash. Be humble, find mentors and learn from those who have gone before. Ours remains an apprenticeship game and what we know is handed down, so find great mentors.”

FIU Theatre is sincerely proud to call Joseph Haj one of our own and we wish him continued success as he strives to bring equity and inclusion to the stage in terms of stories, voices, directors and designers. It is rare to hear someone declare their love for their career and the people they work with, but love epitomizes Joe’s feelings about the theatre. It is truly inspirational to listen to someone refer to their career as a ‘calling.’

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Playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton Collaborates with FIU Theatre

Jacqueline E. Lawton writes to answer the big questions about the world. One of her questions about The Hampton Years was, “How these artists find the focus and determination to create such beautiful and lasting art when everyone around is telling them that they shouldn’t be artists?” This is a valid question that required a great deal of research to answer.

The Department of Theatre is thrilled to collaborate with talented playwright Jacqueline E. Lawton on a dramatized staged reading of her play The Hampton Years. The play’s world premiere was in 2012 as part of Theater J’s Locally Grown Festival, an initiative intended to highlight local stories by local playwrights. Since then, the script has been rewritten in development with Virginia Stage Company. On Sunday, October 19, at the first rehearsal in preparation for Monday’s performance, Ms. Lawton heard the edited draft for the first time.

The idea for The Hampton Years came from the author’s interest in exploring the relationship between African Americans and Jewish people, two groups that have shared a history of oppression and exclusion in history. She was particularly interested in the time period when these two groups were able to come together in support and encouragement of each other. When asked what compelled her to tell the story of Viktor Lowenfeld and his relationship with students Samella Lewis and John Biggers, Jacqueline responded, “I started doing research to learn about professors who went to teach at historically black universities. I found out about Viktor Lowenfeld, this Austrian Jewish professor who choose Hampton Institute over Harvard University. He went on to establish the art department at Hampton Institute at a time when black artists were being encouraged to go into trade, become farmers, educators, nurses or do things that were considered more practical. I loved the story that revolved around creative expression and using art as a tool for social justice and advocating for racial equity.”

Ms. Lawton holds a BA concentration in theatre and dance, a BS in radio-television-film, and an MFA in playwriting. She has been recognized as one of the top 30 national leading black playwrights by Arena Stages American Voices New Play Institute. Growing up watching musicals starring Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Judy Garland, she always knew that a future in theatre awaited her. This was a difficult decision, since it was a career choice which came with the challenge of learning how to overcome the fact that very few female playwrights are produced each year and there are fewer opportunities for women of color in the theatre. This knowledge was a main contributor in her shift in focus from acting and writing to writing. In an effort to rectify the inequality she saw, she decided to concentrate on writing more roles for women and women of color. She is inspired by the next play that needs to be told, the next story out there, the next character that needs to be introduced. According to Jacqueline, “I don’t want those coming after me to struggle as much as I did in terms of finding a place for their voice. We need a greater sense of diversity in our stories that are selected, our playwrights that are chosen, in our actors, directors, designers and artistic directors. That’s what inspires me to continue doing this work. I want to create space for more artists do continue doing their work and be viable artists telling stories in the community”

Jacqueline had some insightful advice for students pursuing a degree in theatre; “first and foremost, don’t compare yourself to anyone else and always strive to be better than yourself vs being better than someone else. Be clear about your definition of success. I always encourage young people to become professionals and view theatre as a profession, not just a passion. Be your own PR person by creating your website and being in charge of your personal narrative. Educate yourself on the business side of the work you are doing and try to find a balance between mastering the art and the business.”

Ms. Lawton is excited to see how the South Florida community will respond to the play. She is always interested in learning what compels audiences to become interested in a particular production. This is also an opportunity to learn about the issues that need to be addressed in the community. This play is very special to her as it was read and liked by Samella Lewis, an extraordinary woman for whom she has great respect and admiration.

 

For more information about Jacqueline E. Lawton, click here.

For more information about The Hampton Years, a dramatized staged reading, click here.

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Juanita’s Statue, The Director’s Perspective

Michael Yawney, director of the Department of Theatre’s upcoming production of Juanita’s Statue by Anne Garcia-Romero, describes the play as “a lot of lighthearted fun and a little thoughtful. This production is full of frantic chases, telenovela-like love scenes and action packed fights. Audiences will feel like they are standing in the middle of a race track as characters rush, collide and whiz by each other at every possible moment.” Michael hopes that everyone coming out to enjoy the show will laugh and snuggle a little closer to the person sitting next to them. One of the things that intrigued him about the play is that it deals with topics everyone can relate to, like the feeling of crushing self-doubt after losing a loved one or the intoxicating boost of confidence as new love blossoms. Somehow, the author manages to delve into potentially painful topics in a delightful way.

Juanita’s Statue is based on the premise of a young woman who disguises herself as a man and surprisingly discovers that she is irresistibly attractive to both sexes. The play is set in an undisclosed town where Spanglish is commonly heard, not unlike Miami. It revolves around a chase with moving walls and arches, set to the beat of wonderful vintage boogaloo. South Florida audiences are going to love the fast paced, crazy, rhythmic mix of Spanish and English in which the characters speak, along with the lively music and vibrant colors. Come out expecting to have a good time!

Directing Juanita’s Statue has been a collaborative process for Michael who believes that people work more effectively when they are part of a team. The designers meet regularly to share ideas about how to make the show a success and to iron out any production wrinkles that arise. The actors are in rehearsals every night working on perfecting their characters.  Everyone is diligently working together to create an enjoyable, riveting production for theatre-goers.

The main challenge he has encountered in staging Juanita’s Statue involves timing. This play requires amazing precision because it is so fast paced that if an actor takes one misstep, they will very likely be run over by everyone else.  Therefore, the choreography must be exact while appearing effortless. It is a small obstacle that Michael is confident the actors will overcome by opening night.

For more information about Juanita’s Statue, please click here.

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Rebecca Covey Coaches Special Guest Speakers for SOM’s Wind and Percussion Arts Series

At a recent FIU event, Department of Theatre faculty members Rebecca Covey and Michael Yawney had a conversation with School of Music (SOM) conductor Dr. Brenton Alston about a possible future collaboration between the two departments. Consequently, it was no surprise when Dr. Alston approached Rebecca with an invitation to read a poem for the SOM’s Wind and Percussion Arts Series, paying tribute to the late Dr. Maya Angelou, on October 8.  Instead of doing a reading for the performance, Rebecca, the department’s Voice and Speech professor, chose to coach three of our talented students – Madeleine Escarne (BFA Performance), Krystal Aleman (BFA Performance) and Adele Robinson (BA) – so that they could participate in her place.

Preparing the students for their readings took Rebecca over a week. They began by familiarizing themselves with the acoustics of the space and selecting the poems to be read. Rebecca then worked with each student individually; after warm-up exercises, they were encouraged to allow themselves to be affected by the imagery of their poems and to find personal meaning in each piece. They worked on discovering and utilizing variety in their voices as well as maintaining energy throughout a piece.

Rebecca has been with the Department of Theatre for the past 3 years.  She has worked as a professional actress since age 14 and holds a BFA in Acting from University of California, Santa Barbara and an MFA from University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  Additionally, she is a Designated Linklater Voice teacher, a certification which requires 4-5 years of training.  When asked why she pursued a certification that took so long to obtain, her response was, “as an actor, I have always felt that my way into character was through voice, but I always bumped into walls because of my voice. I soon learned that Linklater Voice work would make me more easily heard and understood. I could be more connected to my voice and self. Working this way is liberating for me as an actor.” Also noteworthy is the fact that Rebecca was the Voice and Dialect Director for the Department’s recent production of An Ideal Husband. She trained eleven students to maintain a British dialect for the two hour production.

The theatre students were honored to read the poetry of Dr. Angelou and pay tribute to someone for whom they have such great admiration. They unanimously agreed that it was a wonderful experience and they were most appreciative of Rebecca for her training. The department looks forward to future collaborations with our neighbors, SOM.

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The Show Must Go On!

On Thursday, October 2, the whole of The Wertheim Performing Arts Center was buried in utter darkness as a monster storm struck outside the Main Stage theatre while Act II of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband was in full flow. It was a random stroke of luck that Gaby Lopez (Assistant Events Manager), BJ Duncan (Technical Production Assistant) and Geordan Gottlieb (Assistant Technical Director) were all in the audience on a night that they were not required to be there.  Thinking quickly, Gaby immediately shone the light from her cell phone onto the stage to ensure the actors’ safety while Geordan professionally advised the audience to remain calm, stay seated, and encouraged the actors to continue. One would expect an abrupt end to the show, even an irate audience, or perhaps mass panic, but this was not the case. As they say in this business, “the show must go on!” The audience remained seated, with everyone graciously offering the lights from their cell phones to illuminate the stage. The crew, along with BJ and Geordan, found additional lights in the department and the actors finished the last twenty minutes of their performance, barely perturbed by the slight hiccup. According to Gaby, “it was the most beautiful thing to see! The way the actors took the situation in stride and continued their performance was great, the calm support from the audience was admirable and even though we had been trained for this, we had never experienced this situation before, so the outcome was pretty good!”

Department Chair and director of An Ideal Husband Phillip Church recounts Thursday night’s experience, “At least twenty phones were pointed in the direction of the stage. Audience members’ phones included!  It was, to say the least, a surreal experience, but the actors flawlessly marched on, and it reminded us, without the sound of that continual low-humming air conditioning, just how powerful pure silence and quiet can be. The voices of the actors were magnified and so sharp and crystalline. The pauses were so much more profound, aided by the suspension of alien light that gave the whole scene an eerie yet moving patina of a black and white movie. The curtain call was received with raucous cheers – even more phone lights lit up. This was without a doubt, a memorable event and one that many of our students are sure to recall with their children and grandchildren. And in this way are legend and myth birthed! Congratulations to all our students who, in an instant, stood their ground artistically, remaining in the zone of artistic inspiration. And thanks to our audience members who had the faith to remain with us.  It truly was an extraordinary theatre experience.”

Zack Myers, Danny Leonard, Allyn Anthony, and Pia Isabell Vicioso-Vila were all on-stage when the lights went off.  Pia was stunned at first, but took her cue from the audience and her fellow actors who did their best to bring humor to the situation.  She too immediately adopted a ‘the show must on’ attitude and finished her lines. Pia too was thrilled by the audience reaction.“It was truly amazing to see the front row of the audience all get up one by one and place their phones on the stage so that we would have enough light to continue.”

Lovanni Gomez describes the incident as amazing and intimate. When the show ended, he felt as though he was walking away from something special. It was a very different experience from other nights.

Waiting to go on-stage was BFA Performance student Sofia Sassone. Her first thought was concern for the safety of her fellow actors coming off-stage in the dark. She was surprised to realize that they were going to continue but glad she had the opportunity to experience this remarkable situation. She describes it as, “the best thing ever:”

After the show ended, some members of the audience actually remained in the faintly lit rotunda of the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center to greet the cast and offer their support. Overall, the actors were greatly appreciative of the encouragement and love they received. The Department of Theatre is proud of the students and staff for responding with such aplomb in an unexpected situation. Using cell phones to illuminate a stage was certainly an innovative choice and most definitely a sign of the time. The show must go on! And it did!

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FIU Theatre Performs at Gablestage

The Department of Theatre’s Phillip M. Church will be directing a dramatized staged reading of The Hampton Years, by Jacqueline E. Lawton, at Gablestage on Monday, October 20, at 7:00PM. Husband and wife team and Department of Theatre Professors, Rebecca Covey and Aaron Alpern, will portray the roles of Viktor and Margaret Lowenfeld, and adjunct professor Stephen Neal will play Dr. Malcolm Shaw Maclean. Theatre’s showing will not be limited to faculty members, however – talented BFA Performance student Madeleine Escarne will portray the role of Samella Sanders (Lewis).

The Hampton Years is a historical play; chronicling local events, it focuses on pivotal years at the Hampton Institute, Virginia, during WWII and explores the development of African American artists John Biggers and Samella Lewis under the tutelage of Austrian-Jewish refugee painter and educator Viktor Lowenfeld. The author touches on many profound topics like the discrimination Africans-Americans and Jews faced in the 1940s, war, art, and pursuing one’s dreams. Audiences will instantly take to Viktor because of his progressive thinking, open mind, and admirable passion for his work. John Biggers is bright and insightful, and Samella Lewis comes across as talented and strong minded. The play is captivating because most people can relate to one or more of the thought provoking topics explored.

Author Jacqueline E. Lawton will be coming to Miami to collaborate with the cast during rehearsals.

Performance Date: October 20, 7:00PM

Location: Gablestage 1200 Anastasia Avenue Coral Gables, Fl 33134

This is a free event with limited seating on a first-come-first-serve basis.

For more information, click here.

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Rick and Margarita Tonkinson Theatre Lobby Dedication

“No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” Dean Brian Schriner ended his speech with this poignant quote from Calvin Coolidge on Friday, September 26, before inviting everyone gathered in the rotunda of the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center to raise their glasses in honor of Rick and Margarita Tonkinson. The Tonkinsons have graciously donated $50,000 to FIU’s College of Architecture + The Arts (CARTA), which will provide scholarships for CARTA students. In recognition of their munificence, The Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center Mainstage Theatre lobby has been dedicated to them. FIU is fortunate to be included in Rick and Margarita’s philanthropic vision, which supports many South Florida organizations. Also present at the dedication ceremony was FIU’s newly appointed Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Kenneth G. Furton. Dr. Furton also expressed his sincere appreciation to the Tonkinsons for their generosity.

During his speech, Mr. Tonkinson shared his desire to make the community a better place. He acknowledged the philanthropy of Herbert and Nicole Wertheim, who brought the Wertheim Performing Arts Center to life with their altruism and emphasized his own passion for education and theatre, sharing his belief that “theatre allows a full expression of thought. We encourage theatre students to live to their fullest potential and have their passion develop into skills.”

Rick Tonkinson is the President of Tonkinson Financial and has recently been appointed Chair of the Dean’s Leadership Advisory Board for CARTA. He studied at night to earn an MBA and a Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Miami. He specializes in helping his clients achieve financial security through strategic, personalized financial planning. Rick is a man who enjoys challenges, and for his 50th birthday celebration, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, with his son! He is a devoted father and husband, who has been married to Margarita for 34 years. Moreover, he has a long history of volunteering, dating back to the Peace Corps.

Margarita Tonkinson is an integral part of the family business. She has worked alongside Rick for 20 years, relying on her expertise in administration, office restructuring and reorganization to help build the business into the success it is today. Like her husband, she is also a graduate of the University of Miami and holds a Master’s degree in public administration. A Fulbright scholar herself, Margarita was appointed by President George Bush to serve on the J William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, and she did so from 1990-1995.

This investment in our community, in the future of our students’ means a great deal to CARTA and we are indebted to the Tonkinson.s for their leadership and commitment in achieving CARTA’s World’s Ahead vision.

To view pictures from the dedication, please click here.

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FIU Theatre Faculty Designs Set for Off-Broadway Production

It was an eventful summer for the Theatre Department’s Head of Design and Production, Jesse Dreikosen. He co-authored a two-part article, entitled “Feng Shui Me: Free Yourself from Clutter-Part 1,” which was published in the September issue of Sightlines, the monthly newsletter for United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) members (Jesse is the Vice Commissioner for Education at USITT’s Scene Design & Technologies Commission). The article explores the rewards of incorporating feng shui into one’s workspace and/or life, and suggests techniques on how to do so. This was a topic of much discussion at the USITT 2014 Annual Conference and Stage Expo, held earlier this year in Fort Worth, Texas. Look out for part 2 in next month’s edition of Sightlines.
Additionally, Jesse was tapped by Peggy McKowen, Associate Producing Director of the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF), to design the set for their world premiere show Uncanny Valley, written by Thomas Gibbons and directed by Tom Dugdale. The show originally opened in West Virginia and is currently transferring to New York City Off-Broadway and opening at 59E59 Theaters this October. This was Jesse’s first major project for CATF and the opportunity came as a result of having his past work at the Texas Shakespeare Festival noticed by McKowen. The set took him approximately six months to design and complete, and he was required to work closely with a technical director and the different teams/crews responsible for building the scene.  The project involved the gradual unveiling a robot (first appearing as a talking head, then a torso, followed by limbs), all within the constraints of a desk, while on-stage.  Working for CATF proved to be a challenging yet rewarding learning experience, and the ability to create such an illusion in a small space, while being close to the audience, required a great deal of imagination and talent from Jesse. Luckily, he has an abundance of those qualities!

For Jesse’s article, “Feng Shui Me: Free Yourself from Clutter-Part 1,” click here

To learn more about the Contemporary American Theater Festival, click here

For more information about Uncanny Valley, click here

 

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FIU Theatre Presents Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband,” Directed by Phillip M. Church

FIU Theatre’s production of Oscar Wilde’s “An Ideal Husband,” directed by Phillip M. Church, opens on Friday, September 26.  The play revolves around a high ranking politician with a checkered past, whose secrets are exposed by an ambitious woman seeking personal gain and status.  This psychological thriller, set in Victorian London, encompasses dance, music, comedy and drama.

A a man who lived a dualistic life, married with children while besotted by the angelic innocence of the young Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde harbored his share of secrets, and as is common with many of his works, personal threads of Wilde’s life are liberally woven into the play.  The Department of Theatre invites you to come out and enjoy this psychological, literary commentary on late 19th century British social behavior while supporting the arts.

Performance Dates: September 26-28 & October 1-5

Location: Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center | Main Stage Theatre
10910 SW 17th St., Miami, Fl 33199

Tickets:
$10 FIU Students
$12 Seniors + FIU Faculty and Staff (with ID)
$15 General Admission
Available at wpac.fiu.edu or call 305-348-0496

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Meet & Greet Session for the Leadership Staff of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Department of Theatre, and School of Music Continues Dynamic CARTA Public/Private Partnership

On September 12, 2014, Brian Schriner, Dean, College of Architecture + The Arts, hosted a Meet and Greet session for the leadership staff of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCCL) to meet the faculty and staff of FIU’s Department of Theatre and School of Music. It was a fortuitous opportunity for everyone who will be involved in the state-of-the-art production, rehearsal and performance facility, currently under construction at the picturesque Biscayne Bay Campus, to meet and learn more about what this endeavor means to both institutions.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. has a fleet of 21 cruise ships, housing approximately 30 million passengers each year. To keep everyone happy and entertained, they offer Tony Award winning, fully licensed Broadway productions, Las Vegas style performances, and ice and aqua spectaculars. Live auditions are held in over 60 locations worldwide where only the best performers are handpicked for their guests’ pleasure. Currently, rehearsals are being held at a 35,000 square foot building in Hollywood, Florida, but there has been a need for a greater space to accommodate the training for some time. The completion of this $20 million dollar, 130,000 square foot facility on the Biscayne Bay Campus will certainly resolve that issue.  There will be 14 vocal rehearsal studios, a 20,000 square foot costume storage and production workspace and a 300-seat Black Box Theatre, where auditions will be held. Additionally, there are plans to renovate the Bay Vista Residence Hall on campus to provide housing while performers are in rehearsals.

FIU is particularly thrilled about this venture because  it is a vital part of CARTA 2020 to establish partnerships that include of training, research and internship opportunities. It will also provide students with unparalleled experience and value to the community. Both parties intend to collaborate on a custom curriculum that will be beneficial to students and performers alike, with ship tours planned for select students, master classes in design, and mock-auditions for students to get feedback from working professionals in preparation for job readiness and career placement. In addition, faculty members will be able to participate in enrichment lectures if they choose to do so.

According to Dean Brian Schriner, “as part of our CARTA 2020 vision, we will continue to create dynamic public/private partnerships like this that are multifaceted and mutually beneficial.”

Overall, the session was well attended and most informative. We are all looking forward to January 12, 2015, which is the expected first day of rehearsal in the new facility, and to a successful, continuing partnership.

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Theatre Student Participates in Goodspeed’s Musical Theatre Dance Intensive

Undergraduate theatre major Pia Vicioso-Vila always dreamed of doing musical theatre, so she was thrilled when she found a flyer for the Goodspeed Musical Institute posted on a bulletin board in the Theatre Department. After doing some research and careful consideration, Pia decided to register for their week-long Musical Theatre Dance Intensive being offered in East Haddam, Connecticut, a program “designed as a musical theatre boot camp for college age performers and young professionals.”  She was one of ten students from the entire United States to attend this prestigious workshop. Their days were spent mastering different styles of dance (such as ballet, jazz, swing, and waltz), acting, doing voice work, and attending Q & A sessions with renowned industry professionals, where they networked with aspiring actors, dancers and singers. The workshop culminated with a mock audition in front of actual New York casting directors, producers and choreographers.

Pia was honored to have met and worked with Broadway director, choreographer and performer Randy Skinner, probably most well-known for his choreography of 42 Street, which received a Tony nomination.  Additionally, Mr. Skinner choreographed the opening number for the 2001 Tony Awards. Pia also worked with Kelli Barclay, who, coincidentally, was mentored by Randy Skinner and has performed in works such as Singin’ in the Rain with Peter Gennaro, Cabaret with George Chakris, and many more.  Pia was deeply grateful for the constructive advice she received from the talented professionals she was fortuitous enough to meet.

It is Pia’s hope to work on a cruise ship after she graduates in spring 2015 in order to gain some experience in the field, and we wish her the best in her endeavors.

For more information about Goodspeed Musical Theatre Institute, click here.

To find out about the Musical Theatre Dance Intensive and other workshops offered by the Institute, click here.

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