September 26, 2014

Minnesota Centennial Showboat Scholarships; UMTAD Faculty at Work; Alumni: Onstage & Off


Showboat Scholarships

Today the 2014 Minnesota Centennial Showboat Scholarships committee announced a record number of nine students will receive scholarship support in recognition of exceptional contributions to this summer's production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde both on stage and backstage.
Theatre Arts & Dance Department Chair Marcus Dilliard stated, "Each of these recipients has demonstrated professionalism in rehearsal, in performance, backstage, and in the community. Faced with the flooding of the Mississippi and cancellation of 16 performances, they kept the Centennial Showboat before the public -- canvasing streets of St. Paul, creating and posting social media messages including a video, appearing at public events, singing in lobbies and restaurant patios, even a Minnesota Orchestra Hall reception. Clearly, they rose to the occasion demonstrating personal and professional leadership." Showboat scholarships are also awarded at the intersection of artistic merit and financial need, according to Dilliard, who concluded, "I want to extend thanks on behalf of our department to the thousands of generous Showboat audience members who gave contributions this summer. Your gifts directly funded scholarships for these talented young people-- we applaud you."
Actors Christian Boomgaarden, Bear Brummel, Katherine Fried, Kevin Gotch, and Victoria Smith were presented with the C. Lance Brockman Scholarships. Actors Kathleen Kleiger and Daniel Piering were granted the Vern Sutton Scholarships. Stage managers Jane Heer and Audrey Rice were honored with the Jean Montgomery Scholarships
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UMTAD Faculty at Work

Michael Sommer, Open Eye Figure Theatre co-founding and co- artistic director, hosts a full spectrum of performances, seminars, and workshops September 25-28, all part of the Handmade Worlds: A Festival of Puppet Theatre. In the Heart of the Beast Mask and Puppet Theatre (HOBT), Open Eye Figure Theatre (OEFT) and the Great Plains Region of The Puppeteers of America (POA) are partnering to offer a dynamic line-up of puppetry from around the country. This three-day festival will present the works of ten companies/artists, bringing over 55 performers to the festival.
HOBT and OEFT, both known for their expertise in puppetry, are partnering with the POA to put Minneapolis' thriving puppetry scene on the national map. The Festival has been scheduled so that Festival Pass Holders are able to see every performance (14) as well as take 2-4 workshops and enjoy all the events of the festival. Performances will happen at three venues - HOBT, OEFT and the Open Eye Studio (for some of the more intimate offerings). In addition to the 12 productions presented, there will be twelve workshops offered, a panel discussion featuring nationally recognized artists, and two puppetry cabarets. The Festival features prominent works by artists such as Julian Crouch and David Commander (New York), Manuel Cinema and Michael Montenegro (Chicago), Masque Theatre (Connecticut), Paul Mesner (Missouri), Toy Box and Cripps Puppets (North Carolina), Monica Leo (Iowa), Tony Fuemmeler (Oregon) as well as several Minneapolis artists. For more information and tickets/ passes visit http://www.openeyetheatre.org/stage/handmade-worlds-a-festival-of-puppet-theatre

Karla Grotting, associate director of the Flying Foot Forum performs in Alice in Wonderland with the Flying Foot Company Sept 25 - Oct 12 in the Lehr Theatre located in Lowry Building, downtown St. Paul. Grotting, a U of M dance alumna, has served as a dance faculty member since 1998.
Alice in Wonderland is a multi-faceted Twin Cities community event that will bring together community members, students, audiences, puppets, and 16 dancers, singers, actors, and musicians in a joyous participatory, promenade style, musical theater trip down the rabbit hole at the Lehr Theater in St Paul. Alice in Wonderland will be a combination dance party, bedtime story, and rock concert all in one fantastical retelling of Lewis Carroll's tale, reminding us all that life can be an adventure worth taking and that sometimes things you don't understand can make life more wondrous and mysterious.
Alice in Wonderland was adapted, composed, choreographed, and directed by Joe Chvala, also cast as the Mad Hatter.Tickets: General Admission Adults $26, Students $20, All Previews $20 Reservations: The Ordway Box Office, 651-224-4222, www.ordway.org

If theatre faculty member Lisa Channer seems a bit hurried these days it's no wonder. She is directing two productions, a celebration of the life of the legendary American folksinger Pete Seeger staged in Oneonta, New York, and co-directing with Sam Johns the department's first mainstage fall production, Working - a Musical. Based on the book by Studs Turkel, adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nin Faso, Working - A Musical with a cast of 24 students, is slated to open October 30.

Dance faculty Linda Talcott Lee is splitting her time with Mankato State University choreographing Beauty and the Beast and Bloomington Civic Theatre choreographing Next to Normal. Next she is looking forward to performing in the Ordway's "A Christmas Story" during November and December.

Alumni News: Onstage and Off

Alumni connections with the Flying Foot Forum's Alice in Wonderland company include: Colleen Bertsch, a Ph.D. candidate in Ethnomusicology, Natalie Nowytski ( '99 BA ) who composed some of the music for the Oil! and The Jungle (2011), and Scott Keever ('09 BA). Billy Mullaney ('11 BA Theatre) most recently appeared in the world premiere of Something About a Bear. Charles Robison, a longtime student in UMTAD dance program, also appears in the production.

The University of Minnesota / Guthrie Theatre B.F.A. program has been singled out as one of Joe Dowling's notable achievements, according to the theatre's Heidi Chronicles program /magazine. The article identifies Heidi Chronicles' cast members Sam Bardwell (BFA '08) and Eleonore Dendy (BFA '13) as graduates of this unique educational partnership. The show plays through October 26, 2014 on the Guthrie's Wurtele Thrust Stage.

September 4, 2014

Theatre Arts & Dance Department Announces 2014-15 Season

The University of Minnesota's Theatre Arts & Dance Department is pleased to announce its 2014-15 performance season. As University classes begin this September, so does producing at the Rarig Center and Barbara Baker Center for Dance. Auditions, rehearsals, design plans, shop activities and creative work leading to the following public productions of the fall, winter, and spring are underway.

Working, a Musical based on Studs Terkel's book adapted by Stephen Schwartz and Nina Faso opens the Rarig Center Mainstage season October 30 and plays through November 9 on the Stoll Thrust Stage. Under the direction of faculty member Lisa Channer (co-founder and co-artistic director of Theatre Novi Most) teamed with visiting artist Samantha Johns, Working explores the working lives of real people with a folk music-inspired score. With a talented cast of 22, the musical examines what, why, and for whom we work.

University Dance Theatre's Dance Revolutions takes center stage of the Whiting Proscenium Theatre December 4 -7. This dazzling collection of innovative new works by Cowles Visiting Artists Greg Dolbashian, Justin Jones, Maurya Kerr, and faculty member Scott Rink will be performed by students. Dance Revolutions is directed by Toni Pierce-Sands, co-artistic director of TU Dance and a member of the Dance Program faculty.

7 Dwarfs presents a unique twist on the classic Snow White story. This fairy tale for adults considers the familiar plot from an entirely different perspective. The quirky comedy playing February 26-March 8 in the Whiting Proscenium Theatre was created by Minnesota playwright/ NPR commentator/author Kevin Kling. His long time artistic collaborator, faculty member Michael Sommers (artistic director of Open Eye Figure Theatre) directs the production.

Blue Stockings, a new play by Jessica Swale, makes its American premiere in April directed by Joel Sass and performed by University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program's Senior Company. Set in 1896, the year Girton College became the first college in Britain to admit women, Tess Moffat and her fellow "first years" fight for the right to graduate and end up changing the future of education. Blue Stockings will be performed in the Guthrie's Dowling Studio.

Tickets for Mainstage performances are available by visiting theatre.umn.edu or by calling 612-624-2345. Admission prices include ticket fees: $6 for all students; $11 U of M faculty/staff; $16 general public
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From April 2-6, the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre Actor Training Sophomore Company performs its annual pair of Shakespeare plays. This spring's repertory features the comedies The Taming of the Shrew and The Comedy of Errors. Always cleverly staged with an emphasis on mastery of text, these pieces will be performed in the Stoll Thrust Theatre. All tickets for the Shakespeare rep are $6 and can be purchased online at theatre.umn.edu or by phone at 612-624-2345.

In addition to the Mainstage productions, Theatre Arts & Dance presents a wide variety of studio and informal showings that are free and open to the public with seating on a first come, first served basis.

The University of Minnesota/ Guthrie Theatre BFA Studio Series 2014-15 opens with Gorky's classic Summerfolk, October 2 -5 in Rarig's Kilburn Theatre. Later in October, the Sophomore Company will play three Tracy Letts works in repertory, Killer Joe, Bug, August: Osage County October 21- 28. In the spring, the Junior Company presents Medea February 26 - March 1 and later, two classic Moliere comedies, Lovers' Quarrels playing in repertory with Learned Ladies from April 16- 19. To conclude the Series, the Freshman Company makes its formal debut with Fresh Scenes playing April 30 - May 2.

In addition, Creative Collaborations present informal showings after a series of intense rehearsal weeks focused on ensemble theater creation. Production elements are usually light, creativity and artistic risk are always high. Admission is free to Creative Collaborations; seating is based on first come first served basis.

Mystery Bouffe, directed by guest Polish artist Ludmila Ryba with input from Michal Kobialka, performs October 20 and 21 in the Nolte Xperimental Theatre. Mayakovsky's play, grounded in the proletarian causes of the Russian revolution, directs performers to "change the content, making it contemporary, immediate, up-to-the-minute." Ryba, an original member of Tadeusz Kantor's theatre company, will utilize Kantor's theories and methods in creating the piece.

Theatre artist Dario Tangelson creates Saint Evita, an original devised piece inspired by passages from Saint Evita a novel by Tomás Eloy Martínez and from the short story That Woman by Rodolfo Walsh. The result of this collaboration will be performed on December 8 and 9 in the Xperimental Theatre. These works follow the journey surrounding Evita ́s dead embalmed body and the wax copies made of it. Part historical, mostly fiction, this story will present a whole new side of the Eva Peron story.

In the spring, Maren Ward teams with dramaturg Nathan Tylutki to lead a project titled D'workin! based on the work of Andrea Dworkin, a pioneer in the anti-pornography movement. As an ensemble, student performers will conduct their own debates and reactions to the views and tactics of Dworkin. The final product, performed on March 2 and 3, will include historical events, characters and students' contemporary reflections.

Hidden Cities led by Gulgun Kayim is inspired by Italio Calvino's book and performs April 27 and 28. Like Invisible Cities, this project will explore and draw from the experiences of the city and the imagination of each student to create short devised performances based on and scattered around various sites in Minneapolis.

Informal dance showings mark the end of the residencies of each of this year's Cowles Visiting Artists. These informal showings, performed by dance students, take place in the Barker Dance Center and are free and open to the public. Works by Gregory Dolbashian and Justin Jones will be performed on September 26 at 4:30 PM, work by Maurya Kerr will be performed on October 17 at 4:30 PM, and Scott Rink's new piece performs November 7 at 4:30 PM.

The Department of Theatre Arts & Dance serves 400 major students every year offering four undergraduate and two graduate programs through the University of Minnesota's College of Liberal Arts. Academic achievement is supported by over 100 distinguished faculty and staff members at the Rarig Center and Barbara Barker Center for Dance. For information on our curriculum and programs visit theatre.umn.edu or dance.umn.edu or call 612 625-6699 (Theatre Arts) or 612 624-5060 (Dance).

July 29, 2014

"Jekyll & Hyde" Mississippi Can't Stop the Showboat: Theatre Season Extended for Additional Week

Minneapolis/St. Paul (July 24, 2014)--After a summer when the Mississippi River was more Mr. Hyde than Dr. Jekyll, the University of Minnesota Centennial Showboat announced today that the current production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde will be extended for additional performances August 19, 20, 21 at 8:00 p.m., with a special closing night event on August 22.

June and July flooding along the Mississippi River led to the closing of Harriet Island and the cancellation of 16 performances on the Showboat between June 20 and July 3. "The irony is not lost on us," said managing director Peg Guilfoyle. "The Showboat is a boat, after all. But this flooding was so serious, even the Showboat had to shut down."

A special closing performance on Friday, August 22 ($100 per ticket, $75 tax-deductible) will allow fans to celebrate the end of a challenging, wet summer. The evening's highlights will include special material developed by the Showboat's talented student cast, along with a champagne toast to close the season.

The 16 performances of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde washed from the schedule resulted in heightened demand for tickets to the summer theatre operated by the University of Minnesota's Department of Theatre Arts & Dance. The resumption of University classes on September 2, along with previous commitments on the Showboat, mean that these additional four performances are the only ones that can be added. "This great production started with sold-out previews, an enthusiastic response from our opening night audience and strong word of mouth," said director Peter Moore. "Now that the waters have receded, we are excited that we can add these four dates for our audiences."

Showboat productions, known for their trademark thrilling melodrama plus vintage vaudeville song and dance, have become a Minnesota summer tradition.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performs 2:30 p.m. matinees every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; evenings at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Thursday nights feature post-show informal Q & A sessions with cast members. Family Fun special rates are available for Friday nights and Saturday matinees. Discounts for students with valid ID, seniors 62+ and group rates for 15 or more are available. Tickets for all performances except August 22 are $20-$25. Call 651.227.1100 or visit showboat.umn.edu.

FAST FACTS
What: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Musical Olios aboard Minnesota Centennial Showboat
When: now through August 22, 2014
Where: Harriet Island, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota
Tickets: $20-$25 showboat.umn.edu or call direct 651-227-1100; ask about rates for students, seniors, groups 15+ and Family Fun specials.
Tickets for the "Closing with a Splash" special finale on August 22 are $100.

July 15, 2014

Carl Flink's WRECK with Black Label Movement at Guthrie wins critical praise

Choreographer Carl Flink, outgoing chair of Theatre Arts & Dance Department, earns high praise from Star Tribune's dance reviewer Caroline Palmer (July 15,2014) commenting on WRECK now at the Guthrie through July 20. See following excerpt....

"Many artists have taken up the challenge of portraying what it might be like to face death without any hope of reversing the outcome.
It's a tough journey to take but Carl Flink, artistic director and choreographer for Black Label Movement, proves he and his dancers are up to the task in a polished revival of the elegiac "Wreck" (2008), now performing in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater.
"Wreck" depicts a harrowing scene inside the last airtight compartment of a sunken ore boat on the bottom of Lake Superior.
When the audience first enters the theater, the wall that separates the auditorium from the lobby has been raised. Daylight streams in and the space feels open.
But then the wall descends, sealing the dark in the theater, and there is an immediate sense of being shut in with the performers and their ordeal. Vintage films show intact ships traversing the great water.
The 13 dancers move anxiously but Flink's perspective is broader than fear and hopelessness. They fight for survival, as remote as it seems. They struggle with one another, and themselves, as anyone would in such a dire situation.
Flink's choreographic approach is rugged, athletic and gutsy but also beautiful and intimate as it depicts the final throes of lives cut short. Because the work is performed in the round, audience members see the movement from different angles...
The score for "Wreck" was composed by Mary Ellen Childs and is performed live by the top-notch ensemble...Childs received a Sage Award for this project in 2008 and the music is central to the work's success. Its texture inspires a rippling underwater mystery -- the composition pounds and crashes like a storm or delicately echoes as if recorded in the depths.
Together Flink and Childs lead us through an emotionally harrowing but artistically rewarding experience."

July 8, 2014

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Re-Opens on Centennial Showboat Harriet Island, St Paul


(July 7, St. Paul, MN) Today the Showboat Players return for their first full week of performances on the University of Minnesota's Centennial Showboat. "We are thrilled to announce we are open and welcoming folks aboard to see our summer thriller Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," said the production's director Peter Moore. "After sold out previews and a great response from our opening night audiences (on June 19) flood waters rose above 17 feet. You can't tangle with that mighty Mississippi,--she's a show-stopper - but now we are back with this talented cast that's poised for eight shows a week and rarin' to go." Tickets for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are available for performances by calling 651-227-1100 or visiting showboat.umn.edu online.

Seventeen performances of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde between June 20 and July 3 were postponed due to high water on the Mississippi. Flooding forced electrical power, gas, and sanitary, and waters services to be suspended on Harriet Island Regional Park, where the Showboat is permanently moored.

Showboat's managing director Peg Guilfoyle explained, "Our partner Padelford Riverboats Company has contacted over 1,565 ticket holders to offer alternate performance dates. The City of St. Paul has been very responsive helping us to get back onstage to raise the curtain on this summer's Showboat fun. All those interrupted services are now restored and our adjacent free parking lot is now open and dry. We are also indebted to our neighbors History Theatre and Park Square Theatre for getting the word out to the community that we are back."

To re-book previously purchased tickets, customers are asked to email info@riverrides.com for more information. Tickets for the performances June 20 - July 3 will be honored.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performs 2:30 pm matinees every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; evenings at 8:00pm Wednesday now through August 16, 2014. Thursday nights feature post-show Talk-backs, informal Q & A sessions with cast members. Ask about Family Fun Special rates for Friday nights and Saturday matinees. Discounts for students with valid ID, seniors 62+ and groups rates for 15 or more are available. Reserve tickets ($20-$25) by calling 651.227.1100 or by visiting www.showboat.umn.edu. for more information.

FAST FACTS
What: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Musical Olios aboard Minnesota Centennial Showboat
When: now through August 16, 2014
Where: Harriet Island, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota
Tickets: $20.00-$25.00 showboat.umn.edu or call direct 651-227-1100; ask about
rates for students, seniors, groups 15+ and Family Fun specials.
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June 20, 2014

Centennial Showboat's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Postponed One Week Due to Flooding

St. Paul, Minn. - The University of Minnesota announced today that Minnesota Centennial Showboat performances of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde have been postponed, June 20 to 28 due to high water on the Mississippi River. Tickets purchased to those performances will be honored for future dates and re-scheduling is preferred by email to info@riverrides.com. The box office phone number, 651 227 1100, can also be used, although call volume is expected to be very high.

"We are making every effort to accommodate our valued Showboat customers during this postponement," said Peg Guilfoyle, Managing Director. "We have reached out by phone or email to individuals, groups, and businesses - everyone who bought a ticket - to let them know about this flooding, and how to re-book reservations. We apologize for this inconvenience. Folks have been very understanding. The Showboat players have never had to postpone due to high water on Harriet Island."

Peter Moore, stage director of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, said "Of course our Showboat Players are waiting in the wings eager to put on this classic melodrama, but you just can't argue with the Mighty Mississippi."

Guilfoyle explained, "We hope the river falls as quickly as it has risen, and plan to resume performances on July 1. We will play through August 16 as previously planned." The Showboat is undamaged by high water, but the flooding threatens essential services on Harriet Island, and access to the Showboat will not be possible. "The safety of our patrons is our primary concern," she said, "but we'll be back!"

June 12, 2014

"Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" with Musical Olios opens June 19 aboard Minnesota Centennial Showboat

St. Paul, Minn. - The University of Minnesota Centennial Showboat presents Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the thrilling tale of a brilliant physician who struggles with dark forces while a series of crimes grip London with fear. The Showboat Players perform June 19 through August 16 on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat, on downtown St. Paul's Harriet Island. Adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic story, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde presents a cast of memorable characters driven by a quest to find the monster terrorizing their city, only to discover an unbelievable truth.

Directors Peter Moore and Vern Sutton return to stage the production and musical routines; this same dynamic duo created Showboat's three most recent hits Sweet Revenge!(or No Mother to Guide Her), attracting nearly 13,000 visitors last summer alone, The Vampire! and The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

When asked what audiences can expect stage director Moore quipped, "Secrets, potions, chills, thrills, and a twisted tale of good versus evil- the usual Showboat fun. Where else can you cheer on the hero and hiss the bad guy?"

In addition to melodrama, the Showboat also prides itself as home to olios, vintage musical interludes featuring song and dance. Spiced with fun gimmicks, striking costumes and surprises, these tuneful crowd pleasers are straight from the golden days of vaudeville. The Minnesota Opera veteran, maestro Vern Sutton returns to direct "with a sharp eye these musical vignettes...some poignant, some naughty" (St. Paul Pioneer Press) underscoring the evening's fun.

The Centennial Showboat - a floating palace with a fully air-conditioned 200 seat theater is styled after a vaudeville house, complete with painted scenery, footlights and nineteenth-century stage magic. Docked on the banks of the mighty Mississippi at Harriet Island in downtown St. Paul, the Showboat offers welcoming public spaces, bars and a beautiful upper deck lounge with spectacular views of the city's skyline. Visitors stroll along embankments with wide green lawns shaded by towering cottonwoods as they step aboard.

Owned by the University of Minnesota since 1958, the Minnesota Centennial Showboat proudly presents Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for this 56th summer of fun and laughter. Thousands of guests found "a perfect summer evening" for a first date or family outing. Unsolicited comments by one audience member sums up the response of many. "A talented cast of singers and actors kept me laughing and entertained the whole night...I'm going again and taking others with me." Convenient FREE parking for cars and busses is available. Arrive by bike on the Lilydale Trail or by boat and dock for FREE on the island. The University of Minnesota Centennial Showboat is completely accessible.

The cast includes Christian Boomgaarden (Dr. Jekyll), Bear Brummel (Lanyon), Katherine Fried (Agnes Carew), Kevin Gotch (Newcomen), Nike Kadri (Mrs. Higgins), Katie Kleiger (Mrs. Poole), Zach Margolis (Utterson), Kelsey Peterjohn (Lady Diana), Daniel Piering (James/Constable Wilson), Tori Smith (Marie/Billie). Production set design by Rick Polenek, costumes by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting by Kelli Hauangzhen, props by Jennifer Johnson, sound by Montanta Johnson, and stage management by Jane Heer, assisted by Audrey Rice.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performs 2:30 pm matinees every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; evenings at 8:00pm Wednesday through Saturday June 19- August 16, 2014. Thursday nights feature post-show Talk-backs, informal Q & A sessions with cast members. Ask about Family Fun Special rates for Friday nights and Saturday matinees. Discounts for students with valid ID, seniors 62+ and groups rates for 15 or more are available. Reserve tickets ($20-$25) by calling 651.227.1100 or by visiting www.showboat.umn.edu. for more information.

FAST FACTS
What: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Musical Olios aboard Minnesota Centennial Showboat
When: June 19- August 16, 2014
Where: Harriet Island, downtown St. Paul, Minnesota
Tickets: $20.00-$25.00 showboat.umn.edu or call direct 651-227-1100; ask about
rates for students, seniors, groups 15+ and Family Fun specials.

May 28, 2014

Santino Fontana (UofM '04) Stars in Tony Award winning "Act One"on Broadway

Santino Fontana, BFA Alum '04, stars in Broadway's Tony Award winning Act One based on theater producer-director Moss Hart's book of the same name and adapted by James Lapine. Nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Play, this critically acclaimed new biographic work brings to life Hart's hilarious and heart- warming rags-to-riches tale of his early life and his astounding collaboration with George S. Kauffman on his first Broadway success, Once in a Lifetime, which would skyrocket these kings of American comedy on the Great White Way. "To watch Mr. Fontana's Hart... [and] Mr. Tony Shalhoub's Kaufman," raves Ben Brantley of The New York Times, "is to witness this season's most electric onstage chemistry."
Fontana is no stranger to important leading roles, critical acclaim, or to Broadway's Tony Awards. In 2006 he became the youngest actor to portray Hamlet on the Guthrie Theater stage. Last year he was recognized at the Tony Awards as a Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical nominee for his portrayal of Prince Topher in Cinderella. Earlier this spring he voiced the antagonist character Hans in Disney's hit animated musical Frozen.
Fontana was actually a member of the first-ever graduating class of the Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program in 2004. "[At the University of Minnesota], they stressed that we're artists first, not just actors," he told Broadway.com. "Our job is to create and also at the same time not limit ourselves. The world is going to limit you. I don't want to limit me." His career is indeed limitless, as he continues to embrace diverse roles as an actor, and to simultaneously pursue directing and composing.

April 30, 2014

University Dance Theatre Honored at National and Regional American College Dance Festivals; Elander Rosser's Earth Song earns special recognition

Earth Song, choreographed by current undergraduate student Elander Rosser, has been chosen as a first alternate for the National American College Dance Festival. Dance students will get the chance to learn, perform, and network with national peers in Washington, D.C. at the Kennedy Center this June 5 - 7.

Director of Dance Ananya Chatterjea and eighteen of her students participated in research presentations, performances, and master classes with regional peers at the North Central conference this March. "We quickly established a supportive community, even though we were all from completely different backgrounds," says Rosser. "That's why I think Earth Song was chosen to close the Gala: it was kind of a visual representation of what we had all just went through. [It's] about people coming together to achieve a goal."

Earth Song earned glowing praise from the conference judges. They described the piece as "deeply emotional" and marveled that the dancers were "in their bodies, not their brains." Rosser says he is "deeply humbled by the attention" his work is already receiving. He insists that the piece "would be nothing without" his dancers, mentors and the entire production team. "In this process, I became aware of the scope of the community that came together," he reflects. "Earth Song was as much their piece as it was mine, and I'm truly grateful to all of them."

April 11, 2014

Barbra Berlovitz directs HAMLET, opens April 17 in Rarig's Stoll Thrust

Minneapolis, MN--"Who's there? Stand and unfold yourself." With that opening demand, Shakespeare's Hamlet signals an evening of probing questions and revealing truths. Under the direction of associate faculty member Barbra Berlovitiz (co-founder and co-artistic director of Theatre de la Jeune Lune) this production uses a lean, athletic approach to the text, as the action unfolds in a devastated world within an abandoned, crumbling playhouse. Hamlet will be performed April 17 through 27 on the Stoll Thrust stage, and marks the 450th anniversary of the playwright's birth. For tickets call visit theatre.umn.edu or call (612) 624-2345.

While Hamlet was first performed over 400 years ago, it is a play that stays forever in the present. It asks human questions: What do we do when faced with what seems inevitable? How do we avoid what looks like an inescapable path towards destruction?

"In this production, we have set our play in the near, or is it distant, future," explained director Berlovitz. "Much of what this cast of characters knew of the world is gone--only the bones remain. 'What have we done to the world?' they wonder." A group of actors, the few survivors seeking refuge in what was once a theatre, "take on the task of re-telling the story of Hamlet--the story of revenge, love, hate, murder, death. Maybe this time we will learn something," she paused. "Let's hope so."

Barbra Berlovitz co-founded the 2005 Tony Award-winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune and served as co-artistic director of the company for 25 years. She is a graduate of Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris, France, where she also studied at the National Circus School. In recent years she has studied with Patsy Rodenburg and Philippe Gaulier. For Jeune Lune, Berlovitz wrote, directed, acted, and taught. She staged the first American production of a major work by Pavel Kohout, August, August, August and a critically acclaimed production of Thomas Bernhard's The Force of Habit. She also directed a new adaptation of Emile Zola's Germinal, co-written with Paul Walsh. Her acting credits with TJL include Lulu, Arkadina, Medea, Gertrude, Milady, and Antigone. Half of her work at TJL involved creations. In 2009 she wrote and starred in Stories As Told in a Bed. She most recently performed the role of Mother Courage with Chicago's innovative Bricklayer Company.

Ms. Berlovitz has directed and taught at Carleton College, Augsburg College, University of California San Diego, Fairfield University, and the Eugene O'Neill National Theater Institute. As a member of the associate faculty in the Theatre Arts & Dance Department of the University of Minnesota, Berlovitz has directed Romeo and Juliet, The Oresteia, King Lear, Cabaret, and The Suitors. Honored with a Minnesota State Arts Board grant, she has also received a McKnight Fellowship, a Theatre Communications Group/ITI grant, and a Fox Fellowship for Distinguished Actors.

On April 25, English Department Professors Katherine Scheil and Tom Clayton will join director Barbra Berlovitz for a lively informative post-performance panel discussion, which is free and open to the public.

The Hamlet cast includes the following performers: Edward Euclide (Hamlet), Glen Geppert (Polonius), Max Giles (Bernardo/ Priest), John Graves (Player), Sylvia Hill (Ophelia), Alec Lambert (Gertrude), Alec Lambert( Player), Rick Miller (Laertes), Jacob Mobley (Player King), Evan O'Brien (Marcellus/ Osric), Austin Ruh (Francsico/Gravedigger), Bree Schmidt (Horatio), Ashton Schneider (Player Queen), Nico Swenson (Claudius/Ghost), and Jordyn Wick (Player).

The production's creative team creative team includes the following: Elias Arkham (Assistant Director), Carra Martinez (Assistant Director /Dramaturg), Cole Bylander (Costume Designer), Anne Henly (Set Designer), Aaron Preusse (Fight Choregrapher), Elizabeth Nash (Vocal Coach), Devin Nee (Lighting Designer), Kevin Springer (Sound Designer). The production's stage management team includes Katie Henely (Stage Manager), with Andrew Buckholtz (Assistant Stage Manager) and Aviva Gellman (Assistant Stage Manager).
For tickets and information call: U of M Arts/Events Ticket Office at 612 624-2345 or visit theatre.umn.edu Customer parking is available the 21st Ave. Parking Ramp, located across from the Rarig Center, on the University of Minnesota West Bank Campus.

Quick Facts
What: HAMLET by William Shakespeare
Who: University of Minnesota Theatre Arts & Dance
When: April 17-27, 2014
Where: Rarig Center's Stoll Thrust Theatre, West Bank Arts Quarter.
330 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis
Tickets: $6 Students; $11 U of M faculty and staff; $16 General Public.
U of M Ticket Office (612) 624-2345 or online at theatre.umn.edu
Tickets are also available at the door one hour prior to performance.

HAMLET Performance Schedule April 17-27, 2014:
7:30 pm April 17 Opening night
7:30 pm April 18
2:00 pm April 19
7:30 pm April 19

7:30 pm April 24
7:30 pm April 25 Post play discussion
2:00 pm April 26
7:30 pm April 26
2:30 pm April 27

University Theatre Arts & Dance is a laboratory for performance and practice of content taught in the Department's academic programs. In keeping with the University of Minnesota's three public purposes - research, and discovery; teaching and learning; outreach and public service - the mission of the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance is to educate students and audiences about the performing arts, and about the social issues and human emotions the arts speak to so powerfully. We are committed to realizing this mission by creating, producing, and studying works of theatre and dance, and performing them publicly for diverse audiences drawn both from the University and the community at large. Patrons should expect to see performances that challenge the mind and are produced with the highest possible quality.

March 31, 2014

Mia Jenneman (U of M '02) Featured on HerLife Magazine Cover

Mia Jenneman, University of Minnesota Dance BFA alum, was featured on the cover and in the Inspirations section of HerLife Magazine this February. She is the founder, owner and a teacher at Barre Bliss Studio.

After waiting tables to support herself as a full time student and professional dancer, and then opening her own business, Jenneman more than qualifies as an inspiration already. But the article focuses on her other accomplishments: positive thinking and balance. HerLife Magazine explains that Barre Bliss Studio, the culmination of Jenneman's efforts, "combines the joy of dance with the mind/body practices of yoga."

Jenneman's sister, Nora, is the University of Minnesota Dance Department Coordinator. Passion and dedication run in the family!

The online issue can be found here.

March 24, 2014

Mark Siegel (U of M '69) to Share His Hollywood Career

Meet visual effects artist Mark Siegel this Friday, March 28th, 2014 at 10:00am at the Regis Center for Art in the In-Flux Gallery.

Siegel's exciting career path started with a Theatre Arts degree at the University of Minnesota. He is now a visual effects artist for major motion pictures and has worked on such monumental films as Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Pirates of the Caribbean. He was kind enough to share some special images and stories as a sneak preview to his upcoming visit.

"People often ask me what my favorite movie I ever worked on was. And the answer, invariably, is Ghostbusters."

SlimerSiegel (in the plaid) sculpted the Slimer's teeth and tongue and was one of the puppeteers.

"Some people know this, but not a lot. Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, when they were creating Ghostbusters, wanted John Belushi to be part of the project, but John Belushi had already passed away and so the intention was that this character, The Slimer... was supposed to embody kind of the spirit of John Belushi, especially his character in Animal House, you know, who's really kind of horrible looking and, you know, stuffing his face all the time, but somehow manages to be charming and funny at the same time."

ET stamp
Photo credit Sean Casey, Photoshop composite by Mark Siegel.

Siegel was asked to create a model of ET for the filming of remastered scenes in the 20th Anniversary Edition of the movie. This project involved a personal meeting with Steven Spielberg. The legendary director was amazingly open, down-to-earth and hands-on. "When he got to talking about some of the sequences and some of the things he wanted to see in the updated animation," Siegel recalls, "he was up on his feet acting things out." A few years later, Siegel's work was featured on one of the US Postal Service "American Filmmaking: Behind the Scenes" stamps. You can see his fingers!

The incredibly passionate and humble U of M graduate is eager to share his stories and advice with the community this Friday.

February 26, 2014

UDT's New Dance/New Space opens newly Renovated Kilburn Theatre and Larry Liu Stage

University Dance Theatre presents New Dance/New Space, in an evening of innovative pieces on the new Larry Liu stage in the Rarig Center's freshly renovated Kilburn Theatre, February 27 through March 9. Directed by Erin Thompson, the program offers a range of contemporary work from Larry Keigwin's Runaway restaged by Kile Hotchkiss of Keigwin and Company, to Joanna Rosenthal's Grey Noise, created for Same Planet Different World Company. Both Mr. Hotchkiss and Ms. Rosenthal are Visiting Artists through the Sage Cowles Land Grant Chair. In a special preview, audiences will see the UMTAD faculty/student works by Ananya Chatterjea, Elander Rosser and Darrius Strong which will represent the University of Minnesota at the regional American College Dance Festival conference later this spring at the University of Wisconsin.

Director Erin Thompson, honored with the Sage Award for Outstanding Dance Educator in 2008, began her dance career with the Minnesota Dance Theatre. She continued her career in New York City during the 1980s with the companies of Nina Wiener and Bebe Miller earning the New York Dance and Performance Award "BESSIE" in 1986. Thompson joined the faculty of the University of Minnesota's Department of Theatre Arts & Dance in 1990 as well as at Zenon Dance Company and TU Dance, where she continues to provide advanced professional modern dance training for the Twin Cities' dance community. She is also a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique.

Ananya Chatterjea, Director of Dance and founder of the Ananya Dance Theatre, presents Neel, a Blutopia for Interrupted Dreams, which explores dreams and their effect on our lives. According to Chatterjea, "the dreams we weave sustain us with hope while facing the harshness of life; sometimes that harshness interrupts the dream with the reality of life's troubling march." Ms. Chatterjea is dancer, choreographer, dance scholar, and dance educator, who envisions her work in the field of dance as a "call to action"(Dance Magazine) with a particular focus on women artists of color.

She is the Artistic Director of Ananya Dance Theatre, a company of women artists of color committed to the intersection of artistic excellence and social justice, (www.ananyadancetheatre.org) and serves as Director of the Dance Program and Professor in the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance at the University of Minnesota. She is the proud recipient of a 2011 Guggenheim Artist Fellowship for Choreography. She was named "Best Choreographer" by City Pages in 2007 and has received awards from the BIHA (Black Indian Hispanic Asian) Women In Action organization, the MN Women's Political Caucus, and the 21 leaders for the 21st Century Award from Women's E-News for her work weaving together artistic excellence, social justice, and community-building. She was honored by the Josie Johnson Social Justice and Human Rights Award at the University of Minnesota (2008).

Joanna Rosenthal, choreographer, dancer, teacher and Artistic Director for Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre, has been performing professionally and teaching dance since 1996. Grey Noise focuses on "various relationships, aggressive behavior, sustaining control and an anxiety of isolation by way of hyper physicality," according to Rosenthal. Inspired by film noir, she shows "a picture of individuals living in constant isolation because of a fear and the inability to commit, communicate and relinquish oneself to another. The piece depicts the dancers craving to make connections by way of sexual manipulation, aggressive behavior, formation of liaisons, and cautious observation."

Rosenthal received her BFA in dance from the University of Iowa and was an Iowa Arts Fellow at the University of Iowa where she earned her MFA in Choreography. Rosenthal has been on faculty at the Dance Center of Columbia College since 2004 and has taught at Lou Conte Dance Studio and Visceral Dance Center. Rosenthal has also taught at Roosevelt University, Joffrey Ballet Academy, Chicago's Academy for the Arts, Illinois State University, The University of Iowa, St. Paul's School and other local schools. She has performed extensively in Chicago, dancing for seven seasons with Mordine & Company Dance Theater, where she also served as director of the Mordine & Company Youth Dance Company, and as Associate Artistic Director. She performed for five years with Lucky Plush Productions.

Chicago Sun Times described Rosenthal's dancing as technically outstanding. Her choreography has been widely praised by critics in Chicago as well as Minneapolis. Lucia Maura of the Chicago Tribune describes her choreographic work as bold and exacting. Her work Grey Noise, which won an award from the Joyce Soho Foundation's A.W.A.R.D Show, has been described by Minneapolis critic Camille Lefevre as "a gripping work of astute intelligence and raw tension filtered through an economical movement vocabulary of barely controlled violence." Rosenthal's work has been presented in Chicago, Minneapolis, Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin, New York and St. Louis, Missouri.

Larry Keigwin, Artistic Director of KEIGWIN + COMPANY with his Associate Director Nicole Wolcott have created and presented an electrifying brand of contemporary dance since 2003 when Keigwin founded this unique company. K+C reaches national and international audiences invigorating diverse communities with a refreshing vision of dance that embodies a theatrical sensibility of wit, style, and heart.

In Runaway (2008), a fashion-inspired choreographic ride, Keigwin explores the dynamics behind the predatory world of runway modeling. Using a mathematical base and geometric structure, he creates a world within the lines and lanes of a runway show. To contrast this restrictive environment, the physical movement ranges from a modeled strut to propelling ravenously through space with a sense of abandon. Personal interactions and partnering follow a similar path- predator vs. prey relationships, stalking mentalities, and more. Runaway was proclaimed by Vanity Fair, "a thrilling coup d'theater."

Since K+C's premiere performance at Joyce Soho in 2003, Keigwin has created 24 dances, including the acclaimed large-scale community project, Bolero, which has been commissioned in seven communities across the country, and Runaway (2008). Over the decade, K+C has presented performances throughout NYC and nationwide at venues including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Summerdance Santa Barbara, New York City Center, The Joyce Theater, the American Dance Festival, and Bates Dance Festival.

In 2010, Keigwin was named the Vail International Dance Festival's first artist-in-residence, during which time he created and premiered a new work with four of ballet's most prominent stars. Also he staged the opening event of Fashion Week: "Fashion's Night Out: The Show," which was produced by Vogue and featured over 150 of the industry's top models. In 2011, Keigwin choreographed the new musical Tales of the City, at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, as well as the new off-Broadway production of RENT, now running at New World Stages. Keigwin received the Joe A. Callaway Award for his choreography in RENT in 2011. Keigwin most recently created a new ballet with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

U of M undergraduate Darrius Strong created in his piece "Is There Only One Way..." as a very visually stimulating perfect picture, then transforms it. "This piece is meant to let the audience think and interpret the movements and a story line on their own. I have my own thoughts about the piece; however, I want to leave lots of room for thoughts when it comes to interpreting the piece." Everything is not as it seems.

Elander Rosser, student choreographer of Earth Song, drew inspiration from composer Frank Ticheli's choral work of the same name. Rosser's dance strives to convey the composer's "bid to find inner peace in a world that seems eternally bent on war and hate" (Source). Beginning with three seemingly violent duets in which the oppressed triumph over the oppressors, only to become oppressors themselves, the work depicts the never ending circle of power.

Quick Facts
What: University Dance Theatre's New Dance/New Space directed by Erin Thompson
Who: University of Minnesota Department of Theatre Arts & Dance
When: February 27-March 9, 2014
Where: Larry Liu Stage of Kilburn Theatre Rarig Center
330 21st Avenue South, Minneapolis, 55454
Tickets: $6 Students; $11 UMN faculty and staff; $16 General Admission.
U of M Ticket Office (612) 624-2345 or online at dance.umn.edu

Subject to availability, tickets will be sold at the door ONE hour before each the performance.

University Theatre Arts & Dance is a laboratory for performance and practice of content taught in the Department's academic programs. In keeping with the University of Minnesota's three public purposes - research, and discovery; teaching and learning; outreach and public service - the mission of the Department of Theatre Arts & Dance is to educate students and audiences about the performing arts, and about the social issues and human emotions the arts speak to so powerfully. We are committed to realizing this mission by creating, producing, and studying works of theatre and dance, and performing them publicly for diverse audiences drawn both from the University and the community at large. Patrons should expect to see performances that challenge the mind and are produced with the highest possible quality.

February 4, 2014

TU Dance & Penumbra Theatre, both founded by TAD faculty, each awarded $500,000 by Knight Foundation

Two of St. Paul's vibrant arts groups shared Twin Cities headlines when TU Dance Company and the Penumbra Theatre each received a $500,000 award from the Knight Foundation last week. Each was founded and blossomed under visionary artistic leaders, Toni Pierce-Sands and Lou Bellamy; both are faculty members in the department of Theatre Arts & Dance. In announcing these gifts to the St. Paul arts scene, Knight Foundation officials recognized the exciting work of both organizations and their ability to attract and engage audiences.

TU co-founder Toni Pierce-Sands commented, "We are delighted, so very happy for the Knight Foundation's support of our dream. As TU continues to grow its dance company and dance school we believe will have enormous impact on the city of St. Paul and the Minnesota dance scene." Launched in 2004 by Toni Pierce-Sands and her partner Uri Sands, TU Dance has garnered audience and critical acclaim for its diverse repertory and versatile artists, and for performances that are engaging, dynamic and generous. Modern dance, classical ballet, African-based, and urban vernacular movements are combined in inventive and unpredictable ways.

The StarTribune reported that Pierce-Sands, who grew up in St. Paul remembers taking the 16A bus with her sister to Minneapolis for dance classes. Now, TU will use its grant to fund dance classes for low-income St. Paul youths. "This is going to help us change the perception that St. Paul is Minnesota's political capital and Minneapolis is the arts capital," Toni commented. Visit http://www.tudance.org/ to learn more

Penumbra Theatre, which successfully overcame financial setbacks a year ago, will receive $500,000 to create two positions -- a marketing director and development director. Both were cut from the theater in 2012, according to the Pioneer Press. "This request was the first test of our recovery, of our business plan, of my vision," said Sarah Bellamy, recently named Penumbra's co-artistic director to Lou Bellamy. "Knight asked challenging and thoughtful questions. This award is testimony to their faith in our work, our mission, and our future. It is inspiring, not only for Penumbra but for the larger community. We are very grateful for their leadership, for taking such a bold and public position with Penumbra. It is a strong incentive to succeed."

Penumbra Theatre Company was started in 1976 by Lou Bellamy to create a forum for African-American voices in the Twin Cities' well-respected theatre community. Through its commitment to provide realistic, inspirational works that redefine the consciousness of its audience, the company flourished. As Minnesota's only professional African American theatre, (one of only three African American professional theatre companies in the nation presenting a full season), Penumbra has stayed on the cutting edge of the national theatre scene and continues to present groundbreaking work. It has achieved national recognition for its quality productions and leadership role in launching the career of many respected playwrights, including two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson. Visit http://penumbratheatre.org/ to learn more.

January 17, 2014

Dance Magazine spotlights Carl Flink and his Black Label Movement

"I never want to lose that passion to move, to be alive in my skin," says Carl Flink, founder/ Artistic director of Black Label Movement (BLM) in Dance Magazine's January issue. Flink, who also heads Theatre Arts and Dance department, is interviewed in a feature story titled "Flying through Space." Onstage and in TED Talks, Flink's Black Label Movement stretches the boundaries of physical possibility, according to this national arts publication.

Dance Magazine's article by Linda Shaprio is excerpted here:

Black Label Movement gives new meaning to risky behavior. Coming from a serious soccer background, founder Carl Flink has what he describes as "a commitment to flying into space without being worried about the impact." Onstage, his dances explore wildly physical action and dramatic subjects, such as the fate of people trapped in an airtight compartment of a sinking ship. Offstage, his collaborations with scientists have used dance to simulate molecular processes and navigate zero-gravity environments--and have become a sensation at TED Talks, the global big ideas conferences.

"When I was young, movement was about running, jumping, falling, catching," Flink says. "I never want to lose that passion to move, to be alive in my skin."

That full-throttle approach has made Flink into a dream choreographer for a certain kind of adrenaline-junkie dancer. "I'd never seen movement done that way--so visceral, dynamic, big," says Lauren Baker, who studied under Flink at the University of Minnesota before joining BLM in 2011. "It tore my world apart."
Presenters are also taking notice: Flink has recently gotten several commissions, and his Twin Cities-based company is increasingly touring beyond Minnesota's borders. His wide-ranging vision has brought BLM from the concert stage to science laboratories and the viral upper echelons of YouTube.

Flink, who holds a law degree from Stanford University, sees his work as an attempt to "manifest political statements in the work of the body." He first began taking dance classes at the University of Minnesota while majoring in political science and women's studies. After graduating in 1990, he performed with the Limón Dance Company in New York for six years, eventually moving back home to Minneapolis to work with the Farmers' Legal Action Group. He began teaching men's and partnering classes at the U of M, and in 2004, he left his career in law to become director of the dance program and later chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance.

When Flink launched BLM in 2005, he named the company after generic food brands because of their no-nonsense way of communicating: "I liked those unrelenting black and yellow labels saying exactly what's inside--like 'peas.' "

Flink also calls his 10 dancers (many of whom are U of M graduates), "movers." He likens them to surfers trying to find ease riding natural forces they can't control.

This approach is part of why Flink has become an appealing collaborator for scientists. Biomedical engineer David Odde worked with Flink to develop "bodystorming," a technique where dancers model scientific theories, such as the tumultuous function of particles in a cell. That led to a dance entitled HIT that explores the impact of bodies colliding and finding, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune put it, "the unexpected poetry within aggression."

In 2011, BLM and John Bohannon, a Science magazine correspondent and the founder of the annual Dance Your Ph.D. contest, performed A Modest Proposal during TEDx Brussels. The 11-minute presentation examined ways that dance, science and communication could intersect to become an alternative to the dominant medium of PowerPoint. When posted on the main TED website, the video went viral. (Play Video of BLM in A Modest Proposal at ted.com/talks)

That success led to BLM working with Bohannon and the Minneapolis band Jelloslave to create a new presentation for the 2012 TED: Full Spectrum conference. Called "Let's Talk About Sex," it discusses how to explain the evolutionary nature of sex to young people. (Ed. note: Minneapolis showing March 27-29, 2014 at Cowles Center) Later that year, Flink's award-winning choreography for a Twin Cities production of Spring Awakening took some of those ideas to embody adolescent passion and pain, with dancers literally bouncing off of the walls.

- See more at: http://www.dancemagazine.com/issues/January-2014/Flying-Through-Space#sthash.LRDlHdQU.dpuf


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