Megan Alrutz, an internationally recognized expert in devising performance and digital media with youth from the University of Texas at Austin, conducted a workshop with about 10 students last Friday morning. Dr. Alrutz visited BYU several years ago and was in Utah conducting workshops at other local universities. She is a professional colleague of Julia Ashworth and Amy Jensen. The department was able to piggyback on her visit and provide an excellent window for our students into the cutting edge of devising theatre for youth using digital media. This was significant for our students because both media and theatre majors were exposed to 21st century storytelling skills that are inclusive enough to empower artist and non-self identified artists alike. It was a perfect example of where theatre and media meet.
Recent media arts recognition includes a Heartland Film Festival Crystal Heart Award for Jared and Carly Jenkins’ short documentary, “Ghosts on the Mountain.” Jared and Carly attended the Festival from October 16-25 in Indianapolis. Their film was nominated in two other categories, best student film and the grand prize for short documentary film (non-student). The film was one of the five finalists for this category, competing against “White Earth,” directed by TMA alumnus Christian Jensen. The Crystal Heart Award is given to top films at the festival. The purpose of the prestigious festival is “to inspire filmmakers and audiences through the transformative power of film. The films, whether they inspire and uplift, educate and inform, or have the ability to shift audiences’ perspectives on the world, all have one thing in common: they are entertaining films that do more than just entertain.” Over 24,000 people attend the festival, and over 1,500 films are submitted, with 134 films shown. Awards can be accessed at http://heartlandfilm.org/2014-heartland-film-festival-announces-grand-prize-winners-awards-115000-independent-filmmakers/ In addition, “Ghosts” will be showing at the annual Society for Visual Anthrophology Film Festival (SVAFF) in Washington D.C., Dec. 3 – 7. The SVAFF screens work by students, professional anthropologists, and professional filmmakers at their annual conference.”Ghosts on the Mountain” is featured as one of the highlights of the festival on their opening page, http://societyforvisualanthropology.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/2014-SVAFF-Festival-Highlights.pdf The short doc examines the isolated lifestyle of H2A guest workers in the American West by subtly exploring the emotions of the occupation. The film’s subjects leave family and home to work in the United States on H2A work visas, or no visas at all. Surrounded by breathtaking vistas, these workers find themselves in solitude and loneliness. This isolation is heightened by language barriers and the remoteness of the sheep’s pasture lands.
Our Town opened this weekend, and See How They Run closed. If you missed Rodger Sorensen playing an Episcopal bishop chasing four different pastors around the lily-pond, you missed a hilarious treat! Barta Heiner directed excellent comedic performances from senior acting students, and student Logan Hayden designed a outstanding set. If you caught Our Town, directed by Stephanie Brienholt, you won’t be able to catch it again until the week after Thanksgiving. Audiences raved at the innovative way media was used to create a film within the play. Our Town, by Thornton Wilder, was first produced in 1938 without an elaborate set or any physical props. The play was incredibly innovative for its time, and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama that year. In celebration of one of the first productions in the HFAC and as part of its 50th anniversary, the production includes a large projector screen along the back of the stage, on which scenes of the play will extend across the barrier between screen and stage. This production, the fifth of this play at BYU, “aspires to be as innovative as the play’s original 1938 run.” Jacob Swain plays the stage manager, Brittany Stahly is Emily Webb, and Morgan Gunter as George Gibbs. Mandee Wilcox was the dramaturg, Ashley Cook was the costume designer, and the hair and make-up co-designers were Celia Rivera and Marie Parker. Designers had to design for both theatre and film productions. Clayton Cranford served as the associate director, Hannah Richardson was the production stage manager, and Kyle Sawyer was the film production sound mixer. A special shout out to David Jon Banks who served as the assistant director, the director of photography and the composer. All of the production staff except the director were students.