Department News 9-18-17

You can already order it on Amazon but you won’t be able to get it in hardback until Feb. 1, 2018.  Darl Larsen’s most recent book, A Book about the Film Monty Python’s Life of Brian: All the References from Assyrians to Zeffirelli is in press, but not quite in print.  Amazon states, “By closely examining each scene, this book explores the Pythons’ comparisons of the Roman and British Empires and of Pilate and Margaret Thatcher. In addition, Larsen helps to situate Life of Brian in the “Jesus” re-examination of the postwar period, while also taking a close look at the terror groups of first-century Judea and the modern world. A Book about the Film Monty Python’s Life of Brian will appeal to scholars of history, film, British culture, and pop culture, as well as to the many fans of this iconic group.” Darl will also be the guest of well-known interviewer Doug Fabrizio, to discuss his forthcoming book in the near future.

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The Tessera, a game for the National Science Foundation on which Jeff Parkin was Co-Creative Director and Co-Writer, has been accepted into IndieCade: The International Festival of Independent Games. This year, the festival will be held Oct. 6-8, 2017, at the Japanese American National Museum in the Little Tokyo District of Downtown Los Angeles. From IndieCade’s press release about the festival, it is “[a]pplauded as the ‘Sundance of the videogame industry,’ IndieCade supports independent game development globally through a series of international events highlighting the rich, diverse, artistic and culturally significant contributions of indie game developers. IndieCade’s programs are designed to bring visibility to and facilitate the production of new works within the emerging independent game community. The IndieCade Festival is the largest gathering of independent game creators in the nation.” Media Arts alumnus Jared Cardon was the Co-Creative Director, Co-Writer and Art Director. Media Arts students Nick Ritter and Wes Bowen worked on the game extensively, and BFA Acting student Collette Astle played the role of Aida Lovelace, the first computer programmer.  The Game Trailer can be found here.  The IndieCade press release is available here.

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BYU’s Divine Comedy conducted auditions for the group last week.  There were about 70 auditions over two nights.  Of these, eighteen made it to call-backs, and eight made it to the finalist audition show last Saturday night in the Tanner Building.  There were some amazing auditions, but in the end, four new Divine Comedians were chosen, from left to right below, Parker Kelly (Advertising in Communications), Julianne Cook (Graphic Design Pre-major), Becca Hurley (Economics), and Kayla Peel Yentes (Pre-Acting)Adjunct faculty member Bryson Frehner, the company manager said that, “The girls crushed it this year!  Overall, the girls were much funnier, more unique and stronger than the boys, which happens to be reflected by who made it in the group.”  Divine Comedy’s first show will be on Oct. 13 &14 in 151 Tanner Building.

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Department News 9-11-17

In July, MovieMaker Magazine listed BYU Media Arts as a top film school for Outstanding Theory and Criticism Training. You can see the full article here. The college did a great article on the significance of this recognition, which can be accessed here. From the college article:

The BYU Media Arts Program was recently recognized as one of 40 top film schools in North America by MovieMaker Magazine. MovieMaker calls the BA in Media Arts Studies a top pick for the programs in North America. It also highlights BYU for its international focus and a “worldview [that] extends to its approach to film theory.” “We are pleased to have been recognized for the strengths of our film program,” said Professor Darl Larsen, an associate chair in TMA. “We offer a robust series of critical studies courses designed to complement production experiences, the goal being rounded, thoughtful, and motivated graduates who can excel in the industry and/or in academia.”

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On August 30, Brad Barber launched his long-term documentary series States of America with the first 3 episodes at www.StatesFilms.com, Nevada, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  After that, Brad will be releasing one episode a month.  So far, 20 TMA students and recent grads have worked on the project with him, and many more will in the future as the project continues. Brad began in 2009 mostly making the films while traveling to a new state for conferences or vacations, but has gradually enlisted the collaboration of students and recent grads and received generous support from IFP (the Independent Filmmaker Project), the BYU Film Committee, the BYU Film and Digital Media Fund, and the Laycock Center for Creative Collaboration in the Arts. Here’s a synopsis of the project:

What is it that connects us to the state we call home in the United States?  How does place affect who we are and how we identify ourselves? In an increasingly fragmented nation, where belonging and heritage are either celebrated or suspect, States of America asks these questions through the lens of 50 short, lyrical documentaries. Each features one person in every state of the Union as they explore a sense of connection to their place in America’s famously emerging identity. While the films are portraits of distinct people and landscapes across the United States, ultimately a mosaic emerges of what Americans have in common during a divisive and divided time.   Created and Produced by Brad Barber.  Made with TMA students and recent grads.

Follow the project on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter

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University and College Awards: Information taken from – http://cfac.byu.edu/byu/cfac-faculty-honored-at-byus-2017-university-conference/

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Thomas B. Russell
| General Education Professorship

Russell, teaching professor in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts (TMA), received the General Education Professorship as recognition for his work with the “Introduction to Film” general education (GE) course. This award is given to faculty who give “outstanding contributions to undergraduate general education” and put their scholarly interests toward serving the university community. More than 350 students enroll in the Introduction to Film course taught by Russell each semester. He focuses on student learning through thought-provoking lectures and discussions that help students ponder the influence films have on their thinking and actions. Russell has also been working to make the Intro to Film course available as an online course.

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Jeffrey L. Parkin
| Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship

Parkin, teaching professor in the Department of TMA, received the Randall Morgan Teaching and Learning Faculty Fellowship. The fellowship recognizes “the sacrifice and efforts by the university’s support service.” Recipients receive a “transfer of positions and budget to enhance teaching and learning,” as explained by the University Conference Committee. Parkin prepares film production students for their future vocations by engaging students in practical production work. The fellowship will continue Parkins’ effort to improve teaching and learning, especially efforts designed to achieve the Aims of a BYU Education, according to Dean Adams.

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Rodger Sorensen | CFAC Excellence in Citizenship Award

Sorensen, professor in the Department of TMA, has served in several leadership roles in the university throughout his career, including service as associate dean and department chair. As associate dean, he served on several university committees and helped clarify hiring policy and implemented other instrumental changes in the college. Sorensen has a sincere desire to work together with others and recognize their gifts. As a teacher, he shows deep enthusiasm for the topics and individuals he teaches. He is a talented director and has several credits for writing, directing and acting on the stage and on the screen in academic and professional venues. Recently, Sorensen was awarded the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Gold Medallion on behalf of Region VIII, the most prestigious regional award given by KCACTF.

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Alumni News

  • Media arts graduate Mark Leavy (2017) will attend the University of Edinburgh for critical studies graduate work.
  • Media arts alumna Marissa (Rissa) Beatty (2015) has finished at Trinity (Dublin) and begins an MFA (Comedy Writing) at Emerson soon.
  • The Hollywood Reporter recently reported that (BYU alumna) Rebecca Thomas (2009), who was one of our guest speakers at the Spring Writers’ Conference, “has been hired to direct Amblin Entertainment’s sci-fi film Intelligent Life.” The Tracking Board says, “Thomas is clearly red hot right now due to her work on Stranger Things, as she was recently signed to helm a movie based on the James Wan graphic novel. She was also in talks to direct the John Green novel Looking for Alaska for Paramount and is attached to direct a live action remake of  Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid for Universal and Working Title Films.”  To read the complete articles, go to hollywoodreporter.com and tracking-board.com.

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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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Department News (7-10-17)

We congratulate Stephanie Breinholt and Michael Kraczek who have had their 6th year dossiers reviewed by their faculty mentors, revisions completed, and dossiers turned in to be distributed to outside reviewers later this month. For all the faculty who have gone through this, you know what a huge sigh of relief this is. The dossiers will be available to all full-time faculty this fall when their CFS applications will be reviewed.  Best of luck to both these colleagues, and we hope they enjoy the rest of their summer!

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Russ Richins announced last week that, “with the retirement of Donnette Perkins, I am happy to report that Jessica Cowden has officially accepted our offer of employment as Costume Operations Manager, joining us on August 15, 2017.”  Ms. Cowden received her BS from Southern Utah University and MFA from Brigham Young University. She specialized in costume technology, including corsetry, millinery, and fabric painting and dyeing. Ms. Cowden worked with the Utah Shakespearean Festival for nine years, serving in many different positions including costume crafts supervisor and as a designer.  Ms. Cowden has been at Florida Atlantic University for the last 7 years as the Costume Shop Manager, teaching theatre tech classes and as a designer.  TMA joins Arts Production in welcoming Jessica back to BYU!

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You may have wondered what happened to the 3,500 + articles that were part of Mary Farahnakian’s BYU TMA Historic Clothing collection when she retired.  When Amy Jensen served as chair, she sent out numerous feelers to entities that might have a stake in historic Mormon clothing. BYU’s Museum of Peoples and Cultures and the L. Tom Perry Special Collection both expressed interest in the collection. You can imagine that the transfer of thousands of antique articles of clothing and accessories is daunting!  It has taken almost three years, but we anticipate the transfer will be complete in December 2017.  Three different students, Kirsten Watkins, Karrica Egbert, and current Design Tech student, Courteney Shipley, have been hired by TMA, overseen at first by Rory Scanlon, and currently supervised by Dennis Wright, to prepare the articles for transfer from the KMC, on the road to Springville, to the HBLL and the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.  Courteney started working on the collection in April 2017.  Even in the few months Courteney has been with the collection, she has become quite passionate about it.  Some of her duties include:

  • Working about 10 hours per week, which allows her to process about 10 boxes each week.
  • Evaluating each piece, recording the condition of the piece, making note of any wear, missing buttons, etc.  (Courteney makes drawings of some of the unusual aspects of the articles. She is an Illustration minor.)
  • Each box is taken over to the freezer in the Bean museum and frozen to kill any bugs or larvae in the clothing.  Scheduling this freezer can be a bit tricky at times.
  • Taking out of the articles from their current boxes, repackaging them in acid free paper and re-folding the clothing according to museum-standard folding specifications, which Courteney and her predecessors have researched and practiced extensively.
  • The clothing is then sent to either the Perry Special Collection in the HBLL or the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.

The articles are divided into two categories, “study” and “non-study.”  The non-study articles are usually in better shape and tend to be more museum caliber.  Most of these are housed in Special Collections.  The study articles tend to be more fragile and many of these are in the Museum of Peoples and Cultures.  The TMA student assistants have been able to process all the men’s clothing and most of the women’s articles through the 1940’s.  Sometimes they have found photographs, theatre tickets, or other items in the men’s pockets, which they carefully label and keep with the clothing article.  These become part of the history of that article.  Besides training as a curator, Courteney is designing the hair and makeup for The Mill on the Floss this fall, as well as costumes for Anne of Green Gables in spring 2018.  Her work on the collection has enriched her understanding of time periods and helped her research these production designs. Dennis Wright has taken his History of Costume class to see clothing articles in Special Collections, and the School of Family Life often brings students in to see some of the pieces.  Dennis talks about how amazing it is to see these antique articles of clothing, which have often been made over several times because cloth was of such a premium in the 1800’s. Those interested in seeing articles from the collection can contact Myrna Layton in the Special Collections of the library, 2-4334.  We have been greatly blessed to keep Mary’s Historic Clothing Collection here at BYU for our own cultural heritage.  Deep gratitude goes to Mary FarahnakianRory Scanlon; Kayla Willey, Russ Taylor, and Christina Thomas from the L. Tom Perry Special Collections; Paul Stavast from the Museum of Peoples and Cultures; and all those who have worked countless hours on the transfer of the Historic Clothing Collection to more permanent preservation within the university.

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August Convocation Regalia Rentals

We strongly encourage full-time faculty to attend the CFAC Convocation on Friday, August 18, at 11 am in the deJong Concert Hall.  The college covers the rental fee for any regalia that full-time faculty rent through Herff Jones. Here’s how to order your regalia:

  • The website to rent regalia is found at https://facultydirect.herffjones.com/.
  • Use your P-Card to order and turn in your receipt to the business office, as usual.
  • Kelly, our business manager, will charge the expense to the college account.
  • Order early. The last day to order regalia for August Convocation is July 10. After that date, you have to wait until the week of convocation to order.

 

Department News (7-3-17)

Last week, Dr. Wade Hollingshaus returned from Prague (Czech Republic), where he had been attending the Performance Philosophy biennial conference. He was presenting research on the Finnish philosopher, artist, and scientist Erkki Kurenniemi. Because of conversations with other scholars and the presentations he was able to attend, Wade reports that the conference was the most productive he’s ever attended, in terms of generating new ideas for his work. Also, during the conference, Dr. Hollingshaus had the honor of being elected to the executive board (“core conveners”) of the International Performance Philosophy network, the conference’s sponsoring entity. The first photo is the Old Town Square in Prague; the second photo is a view of the city from Prague Castle.

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Amy Jensen and Benjamin Thevenin attended the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) Conference in Chicago last week, mentoring five undergraduate students and one recent graduate student on presentations.  Benjamin Thevenin was the conference program chair, guiding the process of planning, curating, and designing all of the content for the conference– a huge feat!  Benjamin also serves as a member of the NAMLE Leadership Council. Amy Jensen was the awards committee chair and program reviewer; Media Arts graduate Alexis Romero serves on the student leadership council.  Amy mentioned that she was especially proud of the student presenters.  No one could believe that they were undergraduates! The presentations and presenters were as follows:

  • Sam Woodruff, Kyler Sommer, Haley Flanders, “The Media Journal Project: Media Literacy & Self-Awareness in Elementary Education”
  • Amy Jensen, Hadley Holyoak, “Pedagogies, Processes and Performance(s): Digital Literacies and Art Making in School Settings”
  • Benjamin Thevenin, Malori Bigler, Ian Hawkes, “’Dark Ride: Disneyland’: Mobile Games, Theme Parks & Media Literacy Education”

Benjamin and the students met up with faculty member Brad Barber and other recent graduates for dinner.  Brad’s wife Susan helped students get into the Art Institute of Chicago. Susan is currently in her final year of her MFA program at the institute.

Hodley Holyoak, one of the undergraduates who presented, observed, “The conference was very informational and eye-opening to all the different ways educators across the country are helping their students to be media literate. All of the presenters from BYU did very well and encouraged discussion on media literacy in the college setting. My favorite part was getting to explore Chicago as the conference was located right downtown next to all the action. Here is a picture of some of our group on the pier by Lake Michigan and a view of the [Chicago] skyline.”

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Deanne DeWitt recently went with 30 members of the USITT Costume Commission from all over the US to attend a summer study tour, sponsored by USITT, “Discover British Costume Collections,” at The Arts University in Bournemouth, England. The group studied historic clothing from nearby collections in many museums and other exhibits, including the Russell Cotes Museum in Bournemouth; The Blanford Fashion Museum in Blanford; the National Trust Berrington Hall – Wade Costume Collection in Leominster; the Hereford Museum Resource Centre in Hereford; the Hampshire Cultural Trust and the Mysterious Miss (Jane) Austen exhibit in Winchester;  the Kensington Palace Royal Coronation Collection and the newly opened Victoria Revealed, the Enlightened Princesses, and Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibits; the V & A Collections at the Clothworker’s Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles & Fashion; and the V & A Museum with the new Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibit in London. The group was given lectures by senior curators from all of the places they visited and allowed to photograph, and sometimes handle, their special collections. They were also treated to a performance of Kneehigh’s Tristan and Yseult at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.  In addition to clothing collection visits, they got to see other historical sites, including Hereford Cathedral and its Mappa Mundi and chained library, Salisbury Cathedral with the “best” surviving copy of the Magna Carta, and Winchester Cathedral, the resting place of Jane Austen. Deanne felt it was a once in a life time opportunity and “dream come true” trip, and she can’t wait to share all she learned with our costume students!

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Department News (6-26-17)

There are currently five student capstones in post-production this summer.  Watch for these films in the Final Cut Film Festival this fall.

  • Brooklyn Too,” directed by Cameron Babcock, produced by Garrett Helgesen. Synopsis: With the help of her imaginary friend, Brooklyn, a seven-year-old girl searches for a job to help her single mother.
  • I Love my Robot Boyfriend,” directed by Sariah May, produced by Elise Moulton. Synopsis: A talented teen scientist creates the perfect boyfriend . . . or maybe not so perfect . . .
  • Maggie,” directed by Lindsay Kampenhout, produced by Dhane Taylor. Synopsis: A new mother struggles to help her imaginative 9-year-old step daughter give up a beloved doll that has caused her to be bullied and socially isolated.
  • Pyramid Dream,” (non-fiction), directed by Emma Meurs, produced by McKinley Stauffer. Synopsis:  Utah is home to the most Multi-Level Marketing companies in the United States per capita. Pyramid Dream focuses on three women with aspirations of making millions, achieving ‘Princess’ status, and receiving luxurious all-expense paid vacations, all through selling lipstick. These women quickly find a sisterhood of support within their MLM community, though finding fulfillment while striving to make a profit proves more difficult than anticipated as Multi-Level Marketing only allows for a select few to succeed.
  • Socorro,” directed by Marshall Davis, produced by Colton Elzey.  Synopsis: Juan Diego suffers a loss of faith after his wife passes away due to a congenital heart disease. When his daughter develops the same disease, he goes in a final plea for help and prays to the Virgin Guadalupe to heal his suffering daughter.

This year’s Final Cut Film Festival will take place October 20-21, 7:00 & 9:00pm in the Pardoe Theatre.

Final Cut Film Fest Square Logo

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The High School Musical Theatre, Design and Tech, and Sketch Comedy Workshops are starting today, Monday, June 26, and will run through Friday, July 7.  Seventy-five high school students are attending the musical theatre workshop this year.  The final performance will be a concert version of Les Miserables on Friday, July 7, in the Pardoe Theatre, starting at 6 pm. David Morgan will direct Les Mis, with Jennifer Reed as the assistant director, Skye and Ben Cummins serving as the music and choreography directors, and Michael Kraczek is overseeing and mentoring the design and tech support for the production as the camp for design/tech students.  This is David Morgan’s 15th year directing the camp, the 13th year for Ben Cummins, and the 15th year for Skye, his wife.  This is the third year for the Sketch Comedy Workshop. The workshop, with 22 participants, will have its showcase on the same evening, Friday, July 7, at 7 pm in the Nelke.  The Sketch Comedy Camp is being headed up by Kenny Baldwin and Bryson Frehner, who serve respectively as Divine Comedy’s artistic director and production manager.  Much appreciation to all those who contribute to these workshops, particularly to Emily Barrett, from conferences and workshops, who oversees all the logistics.

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This past week, Shelly Graham, Janine Sobeck Knighton, and student Katie Hyatt attended the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA) Conference.  The theme of the conference was Arts, Access, and Activism, and was held in Berkley, California, at the Ed Roberts campus, a facility named for the famous activist for disabled persons.  As Shelley takes over dramaturgy responsibilities in TMA, this was the first time she had attended the conference for about 15 years.  Things had changed significantly, and even Janine saw the level of activism upped several notches at this year’s conference.  Shelley says, “We felt very motivated to see ways in which we could encourage dramaturgy classes to incorporate inclusive practices.  This was an eye-opening experience for all of us.  We learned the value of being careful in our language.” The conference encouraged an environment that promoted access for absolutely everyone. This included creating a sensory friendly environment, which urged participants to not wear perfumes, deodorants, and wash clothes in unscented detergents.

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Congratulations to BYU’s Center for Animation which teamed up with computer science students to create NokBak, a video game that was nominated as a finalist in E3’s College Game Competition. E3 is the world’s premiere trade show for computer and video games and related products.  This is the third BYU-created game to be nominated as a finalist in the past five years, since the game competition began.  For more information on the game, click here. To download and play Nokbak, click here.

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Department News (6-19-17)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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

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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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Department News (6-5-17)

A thoroughly delightful production of Argonautika, directed by Janine Sobeck Knighton, opened this weekend in the Pardoe Theatre.  From the roll call of the Argo crew to Hera and Athena’s placement of the heroes in the night sky, the production surprises and gathers momentum throughout.  The wonderful lighting, heroic music, costumes, set, and characterizations of the actors all combine seamlessly to tell the enchanting tale of Jason and the quest for the golden fleece.  You will want to bring your children and grandchildren to this one!  All this despite a major catastrophe on opening night!  Just an hour before call time on Friday, stage manager Caitlin Black received a phone call from Ian Buckley, who plays Tiphys, Medea’s brother Apsyrtos, and serves as one of the puppeteers for the two giant puppets.  He had been riding his bike to the HFAC and was hit by a truck.  In fact, he had been run over by the truck and had tire tracks on his chest!  But miraculously, he did not have a concussion or any broken bones.  And fortunately, he will be able to perform with the ensemble this coming Thursday and for the rest of the run.  In the meantime, Janine says her terrific cast was willing to support each other and figure out how to fill in for all Ian’s parts this weekend.  This was a big challenge, but like the heroes they played, the cast and crew were able to pull off this Herculean feat beautifully.  If you go, be sure to check out the dramaturgy displays in both the north and south Pardoe lobbies.  In the north lobby, there is a display of the costume renderings of each of the characters.  In the south lobby, there is an intriguing summer reading list of Greek Mythology books that are available in the HBLL and the Provo Library (For an in depth article about the lobby displays, go to the Fourth Wall here). To read the Universe’s article about the production, click here.

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Julia Ashworth was in Cape Town, South Africa, presenting at the ITYARN (International Theatre for Young Audiences Research Network) Conference, and attending the ASSITEJ festival.  Julia’s presentation centered on the ways we engaged with a Deaf audience and partnered with the Deaf community for the TYA production of The Taste of SunriseJulia reports that she saw over a dozen plays while at the festival, and her favorite shows were all from South Africa. The two plays that stand out the most were very different from each other; one was an adaptation of Animal Farm set in the current political landscape of South Africa, and the other, Mbuzeni, was spoken entirely in Xhosa (Nelson Mandela’s native tongue) about 4 young orphan girls and the role death plays in their lives.  Julia observes that “South Africa is an extremely beautiful place. I felt privileged to be there and to learn through first-hand experience more about their past, present and future.  It was wonderful to see how theatre for young audiences in South Africa is so connected to this country’s history and its people’s lives. I feel forever changed.”

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Six Week Cinema has shot their first two commercials and is heading into production of the next short film, which will be a short doc.  This student run initiative, advised by Tom Lefler and Kyle Stapley, is designed to help younger media arts students feel more comfortable on set in preparation for capstone projects.  The projects are low stakes and emphasize collaboration.  Participating students write and shoot two commercials and four short films, each with a similar limited production schedule totaling six weeks and staggered throughout the summer:  3 weeks of pre-production, 1 week prepping and production, and 2 weeks of post-production.  At the end of the summer, the commercials and short films are shown in a festival to celebrate the students’ work.  This year, Six Week Cinema is being headed up by media arts students Celene Andersen and Hannah Harper.  To find out more about the projects, go to their Facebook page here.

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London Study Abroad Report from Katie Jarvis:  This last week was so fun!! Students got cultural experiences from many areas in Spain, France, Italy, Ireland and Scotland. Also one of the students who stayed in London went to 12 shows!! All the British airline flights were cancelled so some of our students were stranded for a bit, but everyone is now safely back in London. We all shared about our experiences abroad and are looking forward to our last few weeks in England. Tonight we are going to Twelfth Night at the Globe!

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