Department News (6-12-17)

The TMA chair, Wade Hollingshaus, announced that Dr. Lindsay Livingston has accepted an invitation to serve as TMA’s Graduate Studies Coordinator. Dr. Megan Sanborn Jones has been serving excellently in this position for a number of years, especially in procuring significant funding for TMA graduate students and also in organizing and receiving approval for a re-focus of our graduate program: now “Media and Performance Studies.” We thank Megan for such high-quality service. At the same time, we are excited for the leadership and vision that Lindsay will bring to the grad program. Dr. Benjamin Thevenin will continue to serve as the associate grad coordinator.  Lindsay has been serving wonderfully as the head of the Theatre Arts Studies-General Studies area, but her new appointment will necessitate that we replace her in that position. Dr. Rodger Sorensen currently serves as the head of the Theatre Arts Studies program, which includes the TAS-General Studies area. Rodger has graciously agreed to pick up the TAS-General Studies responsibilities, folded into the work he does as the head of TAS.  We are grateful to Lindsay, Megan, Rodger, and Benjamin for their dedicated labor and willingness to serve. It is a pleasure to work with them.

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Congratulations to TMA graduate student Ting-Chun Chang who passed her thesis defense on Friday.  Rodger Sorensen is the head of her graduate committee.  Her thesis was entitled “Creating History towards Utopia:  The 2016 Taiwanese LDS Celebration.”  Ting navigated complicated performance theories across Asian, western, and LDS church cultures in her work. She connected utopian performative theory to the Asian Ganzhi belief that a new cycle of hope begins every sixty years. The writing and directing of the 60th anniversary celebration of missionary work in Taiwan was part of Ting’s graduate work.  After her graduation, Ting plans on going back to Taiwan and creating theatre for her native country.

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Another TMA graduate student, Chris Hults, is currently directing an unusual interpretation of Hamlet on campus.  Chris’s thesis is about “marketing Shakespeare, specifically attempts (at premier destination tourism sites) to convert cultural capital into financial capital. This production is, to some extent, a related experiment, as we market/sell a brand (James Bond) other than ‘Shakespeare’. This is also an effort to revisit the popular entertainment Shakespeare was creating, while we try to break from the highbrow art that Shakespeare has become. We looked at the text through a Bond film lens because spying is the predominant action in Shakespeare’s play. In most of the scenes, characters are either plotting to spy, spying, or reporting on their spying. To facilitate this we incorporated cameras, screens, and surveillance into the production design. Surveillance opens up the text and foregrounds themes in the play like performance, when we ask questions like ‘who is watching?’ ‘who knows they are being watched?’ and ‘what is being performed for the watcher?’” One of the challenges the production faced was implementing both recorded video and live feeds on stage. This required a great deal of creativity from both the Projections Designer (Matthew Kupferer) and the actors, but both rose the occasion! Another challenge was addressing the many mysteries and multiple meanings in Shakespeare’s poetry. Directors have noted that the ambivalences that make Hamlet great literature (Is he mad? Acting mad?) do not always play well on the stage. Actors had to make clear choices, and we sometimes felt we were leaving something behind in order to do that. However in the process of staging we discovered a powerful and poetic, yet simple story to tell.  Chris and his cast are grateful for the personal connections they discovered, and for the ways they found themselves in the play. They learned to love Hamlet as a play to experience as well as a text to read.

Below are photos from the show. Cast: Emily Barker (Horatio), Abbie Craig (Guildenstern), Erin Ellis (Ophelia), M. Chase Grant (Claudius), Cooper Hopkin (Marcellus), Max Hults (Laertes/Lucianus), Kris Wing Jennings (Gertrude), Stephen Moore (Rosencrantz), Ben Phelan (Polonius), Andrew Smith (Hamlet), David Liddell Thorpe (Ghost), Sarah Ziegler (Barnardo)

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London Study Abroad Report, from Katie Jarvis:  This week was FANTASTIC!!! We started off the week with a bang by going to see Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo at the Young Vic theatre.  They did it in the round, so most of our students sat on cushions in the middle of the playing space and got to interact with the actors.  Rick Curtiss even danced with Galileo! The space had a rounded dome ceiling which served as a planetarium with projections and original music written for the show by the Chemical Brothers. Tuesday, we went to Matilda, the musical, on the West End, and it was charming. It is nearing the end of its run, so we were lucky we got to see it. Wednesday, we saw a thoroughly creepy version of Richard III at the Arcola Theatre, which was some of the most excellently done Shakespeare we have seen on the trip. Thursday, we all went for a 5-mile country walk through Kent, and soaked in the beauty of the English countryside. We ended the week by a day trip to Dover and Canturbury. The White Cliffs of Dover were a much more pleasant experience for Amy Jensen and her family than they were last year!  We can’t believe the program is nearly over! These last few days we intend to really get everything out of London that we can.

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