Department News 7-17-17

This year, the High School Theatre Workshop tackled the musical of all musicals, Les Miserables, directed by David MorganJennifer Reed, the assistant director, seriously wondered if they would be able to pull it off, but in the end, she observed, “It was even better than I could imagine. It was a miracle on so many levels.” Les Mis attracted 75 students to the workshop, more than ever before. This year, the purpose of the workshop shifted towards helping students be more aware of the BYU faculty and program.  The workshop organizers invited other faculty members to come in and work with the students, something that hadn’t been done so extensively before. For instance, Megan Sanborn Jones staged 3 scenes; Stephanie Breinholt coached several acting students; Adam Houghton also served as an acting coach; Teresa Love staged a scene; and Dallyn Bayles conducted a masterclass, worked as a vocal coach and staged a scene.  His perspective was invaluable since he had actually performed in the Broadway tour of the show. This year, students and directors spent much more time rehearsing than ever before.  Jennifer felt the experience was more like an intensive than a workshop.  In the end, the performance was so moving, and of such high caliber, that it was a spiritual as well as a theatrical experience for both cast and audience.

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The Sketch Comedy High School Workshop successfully completed its third year last week, and the camp organizers, Kenny Baldwin and Bryson Alejandro Frehner, are always amazed at how much the students grow in a mere two weeks. The participants all come in trying to be the funniest one, but by the end, they have matured and realize that true comedy comes by being real and not necessarily by being “goofy.” This year, the participants wrote over 70 sketches in the first week, and in the second week, they rehearsed 17 of them for their final performance. Bryson observes that, “There’s just something extraordinary about these young minds that bring such a fresh perspective to the world of comedy.” This year, Kenny and Bryson called in several of their Divine Comedy colleagues to help with the workshops, including Kevin Baldwin, Aaron Fielding, Brittni Foskey Miner, Alena Helzer, Dalton Johnson, Kayla Peel Yentes, and Tori Pence.  Kenny felt the kids this year “were fantastic and even created an original 15-minute parody piece.  They were absolutely impressive, and many students expressed how unforgettable the workshop experience was.”

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George Nelson attended the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Connecticut as a Kennedy Center appointed Playwriting Fellow last week. He has had the amazing opportunity to observe their developmental process for new works, participating in dramaturgical discussions, and attending many readings. In this extremely supportive environment, he was able to write new or revise over 350 pages of dialogue in 4 different writing projects.  This week, George is in Moldova, teaching classes at a Balti State University, in Balti, Moldova, and for the Moldovan National Institute of Justice.

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A short postscript to the article on the BYU Historic Clothing Collection:  We failed to mention the efforts of Jaynanne Rigby Meads, a graduate of BYU’s Theatre and Design Production MFA, with an emphasis in Costume Design, who meticulously and faithfully put in over 8 years of curatorial work under the supervision of Mary Farahnakian on the collection before the transfer was finalized. Jaynanne has presented historic clothing related research at the national symposium of the Costume Society of America and at the national meetings of the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums.

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Bradley and Shawnda Moss, two of our adjunct faculty members, recently spent a week in Lincoln, Nebraska at the International Thespian Festival that falls under the umbrella of the Educational Theatre Association. While there, Bradley taught three different workshops a total of twelve times for both secondary students and teachers. Shawnda taught three different workshops a total of seven times for students, plus a 6-hour professional development intensive for teachers on “Perfecting Your Theatre Pedagogy”. Shawnda also just finished teaching a four-day course for the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. Her course, “Teaching Shakespeare: Speak the Speech and Ditch the Desk”, was directed to English Language Arts teachers who teach Shakespeare in their classes. The focus of the class was teaching Shakespeare to and with students in creative, active ways that highlight the dramatic performative nature of the text. The teachers taking the course were very excited to walk away from the class with dozens of different activities, exercises, and ideas in approaching Shakespeare in ways that gets students away from dry desk reading and into active, engaging, individual interpretation and meaning with the text. In fact, one of the people taking the course, a UVU English Education professor and editor for a professional journal, has asked Shawnda to contribute to the English Journal introducing this concept and including a few of the activities introduced in the workshop. Shawnda will be teaching a workshop at the Utah Advisory Council of Theatre Teachers at the end of the month.  This local state organization is excited to have her share her insights on “Keeping Students Center Stage” as she works with them on generating student-centered class instruction.  And finally, Bradley and Shawnda have been cast as William and Anne Shakespeare in The Drown’ed Book by Mahonri Stewart that will perform at the Castle Theater the end of August.  It is about the last years of Shakespeare’s life as he navigates retiring from London and returning home to his family.

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