The College of Fine Arts recently spoke with Theatre and Dance lecturer and scenic art supervisor for Texas Performing Arts Karen Maness about how her Scenic Art and Figurative Painting class coped with the transition to online learning. Maness adjusted coursework to enable students to complete projects using materials they had access to at home. The class met virtually twice a week, once for lectures and again for group drawing and painting sessions, providing students with connections and familiarity during an unprecedented semester.
Earlier this summer, a group of UTeach Fine Arts students, alumni and faculty presented a session entitled "Social Emotional Learning (SEL) through the Fine Arts" at a summit for teachers hosted by the Center for Educator Development in Fine Arts. The group examined new ways to foster human connections through Zoom, providing examples of fun activities to engage with their K-12 students. Among the students and alumni who helped with the presentation, led by faculty member Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, were Nathan Tran (B.F.A. 2020), Juan Angel Leyva (B.F.A. 2020) and UTeach Theatre students Indya McKnight and Deja Criston.
This week (June 30 - July 5, 2020), Performance as Public Practice professor and head of the Oscar G. Brockett Center for Theatre History and Criticism Dr. Charlotte Canning will be at the helm of the "Tweeting Historians" Twitter page. Each week, one historian from around the globe is selected to present their research and foster discussions through the page, giving Twitter users a view into the minds of many brilliant researchers. Dr. Canning will serve as the first theatre historian to take over the page.
The Conejo Players Theatre is currently preparing for a live stream performance of faculty member Steven Dietz's play Lonely Planet. Dietz's play explores the anxiety caused by the AIDS epidemic through the eyes of two gay men as they cope with the loss of friends in their community. The Conejo Players Theatre's production addresses themes of fear, loneliness and the importance of friendship, which have become especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. The California-based theatre company's production, filmed live on their stage each night, will run online from July 31-August 2, 2020.
Alumnus Drew Paryzer (M.F.A. 2017) co-created SUPERFLUXUS, an interactive theatrical experience that is available online through June 30, 2020. The sci-fi adventure story takes players on a choose-as-you-go journey to the moon in the distant future. Paryzer and fellow creator Seth Bockley originally intended for the storyline to take shape as an immersive theatrical installation, but made a quick pivot when the pandemic forced their project online.
The Hollywood Reporter recently interviewed Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard about working on Kirk Lynn's novel-turned-film Rules for Werewolves. Wolfard is set to reprise the role of "Bobert" in the upcoming film, which is an extension of the recently released short film of the same name. In the interview, he discussed themes of the story and Lynn's unique writing style for both the novel and screenplay. Wolfard also mentioned meeting Lynn, who he described as "an absolute genius from Texas" and "one of the best writers of our time."
Graduation is now behind us, but this year’s commencement and the final semester of many students’ college careers will be remembered for years to come. The resilience and diligence of our students when faced with unprecedented challenges has been nothing short of inspirational. Without the ability to honor these graduates in a usual commencement ceremony, programs within the Department of Theatre and Dance utilized new and creative ways to celebrate their seniors, including everything from car parades to socially distant yard processionals and Zoom celebrations.
The College of Fine Arts recently interviewed faculty member J.E. Johnson to discuss his experience moving his Digital Fabrication course online. Johnson discussed the challenge of adjusting curriculum for a class that is rooted in physically creating projects with resources including 3-D printers and laser cutters. He shared the ways he adapted the class's final assignment with inspiration from his child's marble run, inciting creative digital designs from his students that he then printed in his home studio.
Playwriting faculty member KJ Sanchez has been recognized for excellence in directing as a part of this year's Connecticut Critic's Circle Awards. The Connecticut Critic's Circle typically selects one honoree in each of multiple categories in order to highlight the Connecticut theatre scene. In the wake of shortened seasons due to the pandemic, they decided to broaden their award list, honoring multiple theatre artists in each category to acknowledge their superior artistic contributions through an unprecedented year. Sanchez was honored for her work with Quixote Nuevo, an adaptation of the classic Don Quixote, staged at Hartford Stage last fall.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, ten students received funding from the Fine Arts Diversity Committee for projects that supported diversity and inclusion. Though six of those projects were put on hold due to the pandemic, four were brought to fruition, including pieces by recent graduates Kendra S. Wiley (M.F.A. 2020) and Rebecca East (B.F.A. 2020) as well as current Ph.D. in Performance as Public Practice candidate Siri Gurudev (D.C. Hernandez). Their projects ranged from a non-binary dance piece to a production of Patrick Shaw's play Hamlettes to a performance piece critiquing gender violence across Latin American cultures.
Felicia Fitzpatrick (B.A. 2014) is hosting a TEDxBroadway Live Streaming Conversation on June 16, 2020. The talk, titled The Urgency of Change, will feature Jim Joseph, Dr. Desmond Upton Patton and Edward Poteat, three leaders in their fields who consistently advocate for diversity. Fitzpatrick, a TEDxBroadway Young Professional alum, will lead the conversation as a part of their series which asks the question, "What's the Best WE can be right now?" The series, which began as a response to the pandemic's impact on the theatre industry, is now address the topics of systemic racism and injustice in light of recent events.
Recent graduate Dan Caffrey (M.F.A. 2020) and M.F.A. in Playwriting candidate Jaymes Sanchez have been selected as finalists for the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center's National Playwrights Conference. Caffrey's play The Amphibians and Sanchez's play The Cucuy Will Find You are among the almost 60 submissions that have been narrowed down from over 1,200 applicants. They are now in the pool of plays from which six to eight applicants will be chosen for development and residencies at the O'Neill.
Austin360 recently sat down with faculty member and playwright Dr. Lisa B. Thompson (Single Black Female) to discuss the current fight for social justice as a part of their "What We Need to Hear" series. Thompson touched on the realities of life for black Americans, the art she has turned to for inspiration and comfort, the responses to racial injustices during a global pandemic and advice for her students on how they can stay true to their aspirations in a time filled with uncertainty.
We recently interviewed M.F.A. in Playwriting candidate Jaymes Sanchez about winning the prestigious Keene Prize for Literature (College of Liberal Arts, The University of Texas at Austin). Sanchez was recognized for his script The Cucuy Will Find You, a play that incorporates Mexican-American folklore to address the tensions between traditional and individual identity faced by Latinx millennials. The Keene Prize, awarded to an undergraduate or graduate student every year, earned Sanchez $50,000 for his creation of a work that exemplified the future of American literature and, as Mr. E. L. Keene said when establishing this prize, provided a “vital portrayal of the American experience in microcosm.”
The Austin Chronicle recently sat down with faculty member and head of the dance area Charles O. Anderson to discuss what he's calling his "social justice summer." This project aims to transform his recently completed work (Re)current Unrest, which was originally slated to tour this summer, into an immersive film. The piece has special relevance today as it addresses themes of racial injustice and, as Anderson says, "the ongoing cycle of Black oppression." He is also working to create a new production of his 2010 work Evidences of Things Unsaid/World Headquarters, inspired by the works of Octavia E. Butler.
The 2020 Roy Crane Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts has been given to four students, three of whom are students at the Department of Theatre and Dance. Doctoral candidate Khristián Méndez Aguirre (Portfolio: Mammoth by Adam R. Burnett; Mr. Burns, a post-electric play by Anne Washburn and Everybody by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins), recent B.F.A. in Dance graduates Mackenzie Lawrence (What Do You Know About Ghosts?, Reflects/Reflex, I Know You'd Be Asking and The Stamina of Joy) and Emily Tolson (Spillage). The award rotates annually between performing, literary and visual arts and celebrates achievement in the arts and performance.
Faculty member Sven Ortel and UT Live Design candidate John Erickson were featured on Further Education and Apprenticeships News in an article about evolving performance technology and its impact on virtual classes. With this semester's transition to online courses, Ortel incorporated the software Notch to allow his integrated media students to continue experimenting with 3-D graphic design from their homes. The software allowed them to complete their project for this year's virtual Fusebox Festival.
Alumna Felicia Fitzpatrick (B.A. 2014) recently wrote an article for Playbill highlighting the work of playwrights who put queerness and Blackness at the forefront of their work. Among those listed are faculty member Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney, author of Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet, recently performed at Texas Theatre and Dance as part of the 2019/2020 Season and In the Red and Brown Water (Texas Theatre and Dance, 2016). The article focuses on artists who have used theatre to share Black LGBTQIA+ stories, an existence that Fitzpatrick describes as "vast and complex, with identities occupying their own spaces and offering their own perspectives. This community is not a monolith, but rather a tapestry of different experiences of being othered and oppressed."
Faculty member Lisa B. Thompson has created a list of plays by African American playwrights to serve as an aide to better understand our present moment and the cries for reform and racial equality heard across the nation. Her list includes classical works as well as contemporary plays that explore varying forms of Black resistance, encourage social change and provide inspiration for those who continue to fight for an end to racial injustice. "In difficult times like these I find great solace and inspiration in the words and magic of Black theatre. Gather your people and share this magic."
Alumna Tyler English-Beckwith (B.A. 2016) was recently awarded Leah Ryan's Fund for Emerging Women Writers for her play Mingus. This recognition--established to support and encourage the work of emerging women, trans and non-binary playwrights--has earned her a cash prize and a public reading of Mingus at Vassar & New York Stage and Film's Powerhouse Theater. English-Beckwith's piece was selected out of over 400 applicants and stood out among the other submissions as a "smart, dynamic, and moving play."