Department News 06-19-17

BYU’s 2016-17 Theatre Season closed last Saturday night, June 17, with the final show of an outstanding version of Mary Zimmerman’s Argonautika, directed by Janine Sobeck KnightonJanine describes the production as “a joyful experience!  The cast and design team were a joy to work with!”  Our best wishes go with Janine as this production closes the chapter of her service here at BYU, while she continues her work full-time at UVU.  We wish her all the best and hope we can find reasons for continued collaboration.  Dramaturg Haley Flanders interviewed several cast members, colleagues, and patrons who all applauded the strength of this production.  She also provided links to all the reviews in the local media.  To read these and see more of the stunning photos Michael Handley took of the show, click here.


We express our heartfelt condolences to media arts adjunct faculty member Brandon Arnold and his wife Kara on the passing of their daughter Iris Grace Arnold, age 6, who “returned home to our Heavenly Father following a traffic accident on Saturday, June 10, 2017.”  Funeral services for Iris were held last Saturday.  The department sent flowers to the service, but if you are interested in sending your personal condolences or reading her obituary, click here.



Congratulations to Ben Phelan, one of our adjunct faculty members (teaching TMA 201, 202 and 602), who successfully defended his PhD dissertation last week at Louisiana State University.  The title of his dissertation is The Machine Gun Hand: Robots, Performance, and American Ideology in the Twentieth Century.  The abstract is as follows: “Following the work of twentieth-century Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, this dissertation examines four historical moments in the United States–the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the 1960s automation debates, the end of the Cold War, and the turn of the millennium–to argue that robots in performance serve an important ideological function: to convince us that we, unlike robots, are free subjects.” Besides technology and performance, Ben has research interests in literary theory and Mormon history. He is a member of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and has served as an editorial assistant for the religion and theatre journal Ecumenica. A few favorite directing credits include The MatchmakerThe Lesson, and Drums in the Night.



Kamilla, an original student-generated, 30-minute ballet, which received an ORCA grant, Fulton funding and a Laycock Center Grant, was performed twice last Friday night in the Richards Building Studio Theatre for over 200 people. Those who worked on the project included choreographers Elise Meiners Schwicht (currently an adjunct faculty member in dance) and Sara Coray (recent graduate from the dance program), dramaturg Spencer Duncan (recent TMA THED graduate), and composer Daniel Fifield (current TMA THED student minoring in Music).  Daniel Schwicht (currently in BYU’s Civil Engineering Masters’ program) constructed the set and costumes.  The faculty mentors on this project included Shayla Bott from Dance, Neil Thornock from Music, and Rodger Sorensen from TMA.  Almost all dancers and musicians in the 13-piece orchestra were students.  The story is set “in a fictionalized 1920’s Paris, [where] a ballet company of young Russian expats rehearses for performance under the tender care of their elderly ballet mistress, Polina. Among them are two best friends, the effervescent Kamilla and the precocious Nastya. Meanwhile, the girls’ artistic director, Yirena, lusts for youth and the prima ballerina roles.” The story explores the themes of magic and friendship. To see a promo video (produced by recent media arts graduate Scott Cook), click here.

Composer Daniel Fifield observes that, “I have learned so much about collaboration, teamwork, professionalism and theatre production. It has certainly been a fulfilling process. I am so grateful to the Laycock, Fulton and ORCA grants for their generosity that has made this ballet a possibility and to my wonderful mentors, particularly the TMA faculty who have bent over backwards to help us have the greatest experience possible. [This production] was not accomplished by one person alone. Many, many people dedicated countless hours of work . . . and it was beautiful to watch it come together. I think we accomplished something worthwhile. I also want to let faculty know that we really appreciate their willingness to bend over backwards for a project like this. Rodger especially. What an exemplary professor.  It shows us that you value initiative, creativity and the educational experiences of your students.”


Daniel Fifield (with roses) and the 13-piece orchestra for Kamilla



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