Be sure to check out BYU Magazine with a fun article on the making of cult-classic Napoleon Dynamite. The article includes memories of the project from alums Jared and Jerusha Hess, Jon Heder, Jeremy Coon, Emily Kennard Dunn, Cory Lorenzen, Munn Powell, Christopher Wyatt, and famed principal, Tom Lefler. Here’s a link to the online version of the article: https://magazine.byu.edu/article/its-still-dynamite/ And here’s a link to an article on how that fantastic cover art was made from 25 pounds of tater-tots: https://magazine.byu.edu/article/a-tot-tastic-cover/
Michael Kraczek recently returned from his most recent collaboration with the Theatre Engine project. Each time the production team builds off of their previous productions, applying what they have learned about audience interactive performance in new ways and developing new methods of facilitating audience/ performer interaction. This time around, the development group, which includes Michael, Kori Wakamatsu (Dance, BYU), Alison Dobbins (Theatre, Michigan State University), Dr. Charles Owens (Computer Science. Michigan State University), and Bradley Branam (Theatre, University of Oregon) joined with Dr. Shondrika Moss-Bouldin (visiting artist at Georgia State University) and her students, plus playwright Kristin Idaszak, and composer Dr. Alexis Bacon to devise Shark: An Interactive Musical. Now, the audience determines what happens in the tale: Who dies? Who escapes? The interactive workshop performance took place at Georgia State University on April 21 & 22, 2018. Audience members interacted with the performers through music tempo, choosing plot twists through polling, controlling lighting, and even joined the performers on stage! In feedback sessions after the performance, audience members reported that the best part was being able to control the plot. Future development of Shark: An Interactive Musical will take place at Michigan State University in 2019. Here is a link to a website with conceptual ideas for the production. (The current script version departs somewhat from the initial ideas.) https://msu.edu/~dobbinsa/jaws.html
Theatre London Study Abroad report from Hannah Gunson-McComb: BYU students, including many TMA and English students, Megan Sanborn Jones & family, and Lance Larsen (English), successfully completed a week in London! Students have really taken to heart the professors’ urging to “get out and explore”— since day one, they’ve been running around (in good taste) and visiting museums, galleries, historical sites, anything they can get their eyes on.
As a class, we’ve seen two shows and been on a tour of the National Theatre. On the tour, our guide showed us each of the three theatres housed in the large, brutalist building. The guides also showed us several work rooms for carpentry, painting, and welding as well as a rehearsal room. We’ve seen The Encounter— a one-man performance of an anthropologist who explores the Amazon. The single performer used sound (self-made, live mixed, pre-recorded), and the audience all wore headphones so as to feel an intimate proximity to the story and the actor. Most of the students were awed by the technical prowess and complexity of the show. A few, admittedly, were struggling with jet lag and may have dozed off for a moment… but we won’t fault them. We saw Macbeth at the National on Saturday. This performance was met with some criticism on the students’ end. The general consensus was one of disappointment, feeling as though many choices that could have, maybe should have, been made were neglected, and many more choices didn’t work. Initially there was a lot of hope and some high expectations, but they fell rather flat.
The 17th annual Brigham Young University BFA Senior Showcase took place in New York City on May 1st and 2nd. The ‘open’ showcase performances at the June Havoc Theatre in mid-town Manhattan on Tuesday, May 1st were very well-attended by both industry professionals and BYU alumni. The annual Showcase has become a terrific Alumni Reunion each year and the result has been an ever-strengthening network of alumni in the New York City area. And the number of agents, casting directors and producers attending was higher this year than ever before. Faculty members Tim Threlfall, Gayle Lockwood, and Stephanie Breinholt all attended the Showcase in New York City this year; Lindsi Neilson also attended as a producer. This year’s Showcase was unique in that for the first time, there were MORE BFA Acting graduates in the Showcase than MDT students. Seven BFA actors and six BFA MDT students participated in the Showcase. (To see bios and head shots of all those who attended, go to https://nyshowcase.byu.edu/ ) Several BFA Actors performed songs in the Showcase and a number of MDT student did one song and an acting scene. Tim Threlfall, director of the Showcase commented: “The monologues and scenes this year were really the best we’ve had. Sometimes it is hard for the scenes and monologues to compete with the energy created by the musical selections. But this year they really did. I think we hit a new standard this year for the scenes and monologues. It was great!” Four of our male students (two BFA actors and two MDT) were immediately called-back after the first Showcase performance to audition for BOOK OF MORMON, the musical, and Tierney Bent, an MDT student was called-back to audition for Glinda in WICKED…all from the first performance that day.
The Showcase was also presented in a ‘private’ session at famed Telsey Casting on Wednesday, May 2nd. This session was arranged by Casting Director Rachel Hoffman, who has been working with the BYU group for four years now. Rachel comes to Utah each winter term and works with the Senior Showcase and then promotes the BYU presentation in New York. Most recently, Rachel is the lead Casting Director for Broadway’s FROZEN and ESCAPE TO MARGARITAVILLE. In the ‘private’ session at Telsey Casting (the largest casting company in NYC that casts many Broadway shows as well as respected film and television productions such as THIS IS US and THE GREATEST SHOWMAN), Rachel arranges for four agents to watch the Showcase and then speak with the students in a question and answer session following the performance.
In addition, the BYU group also participated in another BROADWAY SESSIONS this year. BROADWAY SESSIONS is a fun, late-night cabaret performance that highlights casts from different Broadway musicals performing show tune favorites. Select musical theatre training programs and their Broadway alumni are also featured. Four BYU Music Dance Theatre alum with recent Broadway credits performed and virtually all of the BFA graduating class of 2018 also performed. The host of Broadway Sessions is from Orem, Utah…go figure. So many LDS Primary songs were sung by the group as well. It is quite prestigious for BYU to be asked to participate in Broadway Sessions.