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March 19, 2012

John Cowles, Jr. 1930-2012


(March 18, 2012)

Our community, city, and state are marking the passing of
John Cowles, Jr., who died over the weekend after a long battle with
cancer. He was surrounded by family. Department Chair Carl Flink noted
that Cowles was "an enormous patron of the Department of Theatre Arts and
Dance and a key figure in the performing arts landscape of Minnesota in
which it is embedded. It could be argued that the Guthrie Theater would
not exist without his critical efforts to recruit Sir Tyrone Guthrie to a
small upper midwest urban area in the 1960s. Our dance program has reached
the level of national prestige it now holds almost solely based on the
long-time and sustainable support of both John and Sage Cowles in terms of
the Cowles Guest Artist Chair, the Barker and endowed professorships. He
was simply one of the finest human beings I have ever had the privilege to
know in my life.

"His obituary (http://www.startribune.com/local/143100356.html) illustrates
that Cowles was a model of humble and quiet leadership and dedication to
our Minnesota community and beyond. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, he
was one of the key builders of the rise of Minnesota as a center for equal
justice, the arts and thoughtful politics. He and his life partner Sage
continued that leadership up to his passing as represented most publicly by
the opening of the Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts downtown
in fall 2011."

March 12, 2012

UMTAD well represented as ACF grant recipients

The American Composers Forum (ACF) recently announced nine grants totallying $40,000 in support of "Live Music for Dance Minnesota." The U of M's Theatre Arts and Dance department is well represented among those honored. In fact, three of the nine awards went to projects headed by dance faculty members leading professional companies: Ananya Dance Theatre, Shapiro & Smith Dance, and Black Label Movement (BLM).

Ananya Dance Theatre, lead by Ananya Chatterjea, was awarded funds to work with composer Greg Schutte, and Joanie Smith of Shapiro & Smith Dance will hire live musicians for upcoming projects through their ACF award. UMTAD Chair and BLM choreographer Carl Flink will collaborate with composer Greg Brosofske with ACF funding for composer/choreographer teams.

Professor Lisa Channer's Theatre Novi Most does "Picnic on the Battlefield"

Theatre Novi Most, a partnership between UMTAD Professor Lisa Channer and Vladimir Rovinsky, presents a blending of two absurdist works in what is described by Graydon Royce in the Star Tribune as "a refreshing break from the kitchen-sink drama that fills our schedule."

The first act is based on the short work "Picnic on the Battlefield" by Fernando Arrabal, while the second draws it's material from Slawomir Mrozek's "Enchanted Night."

The show runs through March 18 at the Southern Theatre.

March 10, 2012

Meet the Artist: Sugith Varughese, UMTAD Alum and Award-Winning Screenwriter/Director/Actor

University of Minnesota theatre alumnus Sugith Varughese, the award-winning screenwriter, director and actor, will visit the Xperimental Theatre in Rarig Center as a part of the Meet the Artist Series on Wednesday, March 28 at 2:00 pm.

Varughese's credits include writing for the Muppet series "Fraggle Rock," "Blue Murder" and "Blobheads." He also co-wrote the IMAX film "Lost Worlds: Life in the Balance" and directed the award-winning shorts "Kumar and Mr. Jones," "Mela's Lunch," "The Secret Life of Goldfish" and "Tongue Tied." His film acting credits include "Mission to Mars" and "Orphan" while his television career includes "Little Mosque on the Prairie," "An American in Canada," and "Metropia." He has also done stage work and numerous radio plays. Winner of the Writers Guild of Canada award, Varughese became the Toronto Public Library's first screenwriter-in-residence. A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Minnesota, Varughese additionally holds an MFA in film from York University and has taught at Humber College and Centennial College. He currently teaches at the Toronto Film School.

March 8, 2012

TDF to Honor Mathew LeFebvre, Professor and Designer

University of Minnesota's Department of Theatre Arts and Dance faculty member and director of theatre and undergraduate studies, Mathew LeFebvre, will be honored with the 2012 Theatre Development Fund's Irene Sharaff Award for distinguished costume design. Bestowed upon a designer who has demonstrated unusual promise in the field of costume design, this year's award focuses on designers in education. As both a talented designer and a teacher, LeFebvre has made great contributions "to the theatre, education, and theatre education through dedication to excellence and creativity," according to Stephen Cabral, director of the TDF Costume Collection, who also states "I can think of no one who deserves the recognition more." The award will be presented this spring at a ceremony in New York City. Congratulations on this special honor, Mat!