Department News (9-8-14)

Julia Ashworth and Amy Jensen attended the American Alliance for Theatre and Education (AATE) in Denver, Colorado, at the end of July.  They were able to present the National Theatre Standards for the first time at the conference, which they’ve been working on in committees for several years. They also took four students:  Lela Kovalenko, Laura Masterson (both recent graduates of the Theatre Education program),  Kristen King and Carson Wright (both current students).  All four students presented at least twice, once on their own and once as a group.   The group of students presented with Amy and Julia in an examination of a pre-service education experience.  Faculty and students from two other institutions (The University of Northern Colorado and the University of Texas, Austin) also participated. They felt the conference was especially successful for the students, and will help them as they make career connections and gain experience in Theatre Education.

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This past spring, TMA sponsored the production of a pilot, Beyond.  Professor Tom Russell  was the creative consultant for the script, the director’s team mentor, and the instructor of the writing course from which the series came. Courtney Russell (adjunct faculty) was the producer’s team mentor and mentor for all other departments and department heads. There were also some alumni mentors that worked directly with certain departments as well:  Casey Wilson with Camera/Grip/Electric, Derek Reinhardt with DIT, Nick Dixon with Editorial/Visual Effects and Jordan Hunter with Editorial. Quen Wilson with the LDS Motion Picture Studio was an on-set mentor for the grip/electric department.  Just a few days into the shoot, the production had a raging outbreak of norovirus (they lost a total of 36 crew members over 4 days!).  But thanks to 10 –15 other student volunteers, they were able to complete the shoot on schedule.  Approximately 100 students were involved in the writing and production of this project. Other interesting facts about the production include:
• Filmed entirely on location in American Fork, Pleasant Grove, Lindon, Provo, the LDS Motion Picture Studio backlot, and Deer Creek Reservoir, UT.
• This was a SAG Signatory project.
• Crew was all students [mentors excepted]
• This is the pilot episode of a single-season series. [Along the lines of True Detective {not with regard to content} – purposely only one season in the whole series]
• There are 9 episodes planned, five of which are written and four outlined.
• Two faculty members were cast in this project – Rodger Sorensen as Merle Cannaday and Tim Threlfall as Reverend Pratt
• Alumni or current students cast in this project: Alexis Wardle Boss, Ben Isaacs, Joseph Skousen, Heather Burgess, Aaron Woodall, Thomas Skidmore, Jacob Tehrani, Chauntel Lopez, Gabriel Casdorph, Jonathan Ying
• Pre-production was very, very short – 6 weeks total!
• Shooting schedule was 11 days
• Shot on the RED Epic
• Funded by the University Film Committee and some Fulton funding.
• For many students, this was a first time experience in their role. It was Hunter Phillip’s first time directing, Matt Siemers’ first time producing and Josh Contor’s first time UPM-ing – all key and extremely difficult roles.
• We are in post-production now, and are scheduled to deliver the finished episode in October.


BYU’s premiere sketch comedy group, Divine Comedy, advised by George Nelson and Elizabeth Funk, held their annual auditions this past weekend.  Out of one hundred five people who auditioned, six were eventually chosen.  Thursday and Friday evenings had the cast evaluating a little more than 50 student auditioners each night.  On Saturday, the cast worked with twenty-four hopefuls who made call-backs.  By Saturday afternoon, the field had been narrowed to eight, and the cast worked with them to put on a free show Saturday evening to a packed  house in 151 Tanner Building.  After the show ended on Saturdaynight, the current cast discussed the candidates’ performances.  This field of candidates were all very strong.  After much discussion and prayer, the cast decided to invite six of them to join the group.  The current cast includes Kenny Baldwin, Stewart Felsted, Bryson Frehner, Stacey Harkey, McKay Jacobsen,and Tori Pence.  The “newbies” are  Kevin Baldwin, Becca Daun, Emily Hein, Matt Moen, Sarah Thompson, and Brad Witbeck.  


Sutton Foster’s performance last Friday evening to a packed de Jong was riveting.  She performed a wide range of musical numbers, from Broadway classics likeOklahoma! to a medley of Simon and Garfunkel songs.  She invited Megan McGinnis, one of her close friends with whom she worked in Little Women,  to perform several duets with her, including a breath-taking rendition of Craig Carnelia’s “Flight.”  Another highlight was Sutton’s performance of Jeff Blumenkrantz’s “My Heart was Set on You.”  Throughout the evening, Sutton was clearly in command of a three-octave vocal range from belt to pop.  Her warmth and ease on stage endeared the audience to her from beginning to end.  Sutton’s songs were arranged and accompanied by her masterful music director, Michael Rafter. Sutton also presented a Master Class for MDT, BFA Acting, and Commercial Music students on Friday in a two-hour workshop in the Nelke Theatre.  Over 150 students attended.  Sutton talked about her own journey in the world of musical theatre and television. She then coached four students with songs from Broadway musicals.One person observed that Sutton was always positive with her comments. Her easy-going style created a warm and relaxing environment for the students performing and terrific work was achieved by all involved. Thanks to Jeff Martin for arranging such an outstanding performer!


The company of Our Town has been filming weekends for the  integrated stage and media production of the production coming up in November.  Actors will interact with the media on stage.  The play, directed by Stephanie Breinholt, with media elements done by DP and Assistant Director David John Banks, will use film to enhance the theatricality of the production which will go up in the Pardoe Theatre as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration of the HFAC.  Our Town was performed as part of the season the year the building opened.  Stephanie chose locations to give the feel of film, with all its detail, and then she’ll pull the audience onto the stage where the play will have a more minimalist feel.  They were able to film in Eureka Cemetery, Goshen, and Spring City.  Below are some stills from the shoot.



The MDT program hosted a “Sociable” at George Nelson’s home Sunday night that celebrated the life and work of Lisa Stoddard.  Lisa was a beloved teacher adjunct faculty member in the area of Dance. She also was the faculty member in charge of the annual MDT Broadway Revue.  Lisa was killed in a auto accident while heading to the airport to join the BFA MDT and Acting students for the 2014 BFA Senior Showcase in New York City.  She left behind not only five young children and a husband, but countless MDT students whose lives she touched in numerous ways.

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