Department News 11-13-17

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Capitalizing on our LDS culture’s fascination with musical theatre, this year’s BYU Homecoming Spectacular was a musical theatre celebration featuring Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth.  The spectacular covered songs from thirteen different musicals, from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum to Hamilton.  There was even a wonderful number publicizing the upcoming TMA Theatre Season offering, Into the Woods, featuring MDT students Preston Taylor and Benjamin Raymant, directed by Dallyn Bayles.  Kristin graciously combined forces with Gentri, Vocal Point, BYU Contemporary Dance Theatre, BYU’s Men’s Chorus, and the whole BYU Spectacular Cast and Orchestra on many musical theatre production numbers.  Our own Megan Sanborn Jones got in on the dance action by choreographing The Music Man medley featuring Ms. Chenoweth and the Men’s Chorus.  And adjunct faculty member Patrick Livingston contributed to the comedic writing of the script.  Highlighting the legacy of LaVell Edwards, BYU Homecoming honored eleven BYU alums from each college and six additional University Service Award recipients. Kudos go to Arts Production personnel and students who put in countless hours to pull off this amazing show, including Jennifer Reed, the show’s artistic director; Bridget Benton, production stage manager; Marianne Ohran, lighting designer; and Jeff Martin, the Producer and Artist Manager who enticed Kristin to join the celebration.

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The Glorious Story Emporium finished the first week of its on-campus run, with only one more week to go.  The production’s stage manager, Jake Fullmer, has loved working with the cast and seeing them grow in their ability to improv under Patrick Livingston’s direction over the past six months.  At first, they were very nervous about the whole prospect of performing with no script, but with the inventive props and costumes, practice, and Patrick’s encouragement and training, the cast is now able to be as excited as the audience to see where this fairytale goes each night.  Although it is a Young Company show, Jake has noticed all ages engaging and laughing at the unexpected turn of events.  He loves that our audiences have been willing to enter into this fun, magical fairy tale, where anything can happen.  And no matter which show you go to, it’s always opening night!  This is the final week of the show before the show completes its tour to schools around Utah; be sure to get your tickets here.  To read more about the improv process, visit 4th Wall Dramaturgy here.  For a list of performances at schools on their tour, go here.

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Department News 10-2-17

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The TMA Fiction Production area hosted the world premiere of four capstone films on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 8 pm at the Geneva Megaplex Theatres in Vineyard. The faculty members in the fiction production area, Jeff Parkin and Tom Russell, felt it was important for capstone films to be screened in the type of venue for which they were created. The film makers can see how their films play in that space as well as how an audience reacts. This required that all the capstones be transferred to a DCP format, which is the only format used in professional screening venues.   The theatre was packed, with over 430 attending, and in fact, a few people had to be turned away!  After each screening, the directors and producers were introduced and had the cast and crew stand and be recognized.  Afterwards, there were cookies and punch and a chance for cast and crew to get photos taken and posters signed.  If you missed the premieres, watch for at least some of these films in the upcoming Final Cut Film Festival.   Kudos to the faculty mentors and the capstone teams who created this year’s cohort of capstones.  The screened films included the following.

Socorro
Written and Directed by Marshal Davis
Produced by Colton Elzey
Summary: When Marcelo’s daughter Luz is taken off the heart transplant list, he turns to prayer at a shrine to Guadalupe seeking help. Miraculously Guadalupe steps off her painting and goes with Marcelo to Luz’s bedside to bless and comfort them both.

Hey Brooklyn
Written and directed by Cameron Babcock
Produced by Garrett Helgesen
Summary:  During fall break of 1994, eight-year-old Brooklyn and her mom, Tina, are threatened with eviction from their humble home. With the help of her young friend, Austin, Brooklyn has three days to raise $700 to help her mom pay rent or they will be forced to leave their home behind.

 I Love My Robot Boyfriend!
Written and directed by Sariah May
Produced by Elise Moulton
Summary: Plagued by the elusive and tantalizing idea of true love, Shelly, a teen queen scientist extraordinaire, sets out to create herself the perfect robot boyfriend. When she succeeds, however, she has to deal with the consequences of his so-called “perfection.”

Maggie
Written and directed by Lindsay W. Kampenhout
Produced by Dhane Taylor
Summary: ‘Maggie’ is a family drama about a woman named Linda, who has recently become the stepmother of an overly imaginative little girl named Maggie. Linda’s goal is to be accepted as Maggie’s mother, despite Maggie’s tendency to rebel and embarrass her by carrying around a strange homemade doll.

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George and Leslie Nelson put their guest from the Theatre School, Monika Switaj and her husband Richard Milczarek on the plane back to Poland on Saturday. George met Monika about 8 years ago when he traveled to Poland and presented his educational theories for at-risk learners.  He has traveled to Poland several times since then and each time, his friendship with Monika and her husband has grown.  Monika has worked at the Studio Theatre in Warsaw, Poland, for over 30 years.  The Studio Theatre has a permanent home in the Palace of Culture, “an internationally recognized symbol of Warsaw.”  The building, which is one of the tallest in Warsaw, currently serves as an exhibition center, film and office complex, museum, and home to four national theatres. (For more about the Palace of Culture, see the Wikipedia article here.)  In her forum presentation on Thursday in the Nelke, Monika talked about her experiences as an actress under a communist regime and then after communism fell.  Under communism, plays always had to be screened by censors who arbitrarily changed props, costumes, or other elements of productions during dress rehearsals to thwart any subversive messages.  But ironically, these changes rarely had much impact on the messages of the productions since the censors rarely understood their themes.  Monika was able to work with wonderful actors and directors over the years, and she has “always felt free in her heart.”  She and her husband were so impressed with the talent here in Utah and at BYU, and the incredible scenery (George and Leslie took them to the Shakespeare festival, Bryce Canyon, and Temple Square).  Ultimately George hopes to establish an exchange between the Studio Theatre and BYU.
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Student News

Media arts senior, McKinley Stauffer Haas has recently been hired by NBC as a production assistant for the 2018 Winter Olympics.  She interviewed with NBC about two weeks before her internship with NFL films ended this past summer.  McKinley’s internship lasted from May to August at the NFL Films headquarters in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She was assigned to the documentary series “A Football Life”.  McKinley’s success story was recently highlighted on the college news page highlighting experiential learning stories.  To read the complete article, go here.

Haas poses with the celebrity Ice Cube, during a shoot for the John Madden episode of “A Football Life.”

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Department News 9-25-17

The Rocky Mountain Southwest Regional Emmy Award nominations were announced last week.  Congratulations to the following films from our department nominated in the following categories.  Several alums from our department were also on the credits for BYU Broadcasting nominations, including Adam AndereggTom Morrill, Derek Pueblo and Courtney Russell.  For a complete list of the nominations, go to rockymountainemmy.org  The regional Emmy awards and the Student Production Awards will be held on October 14 in Phoenix.

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Beehive Stories: Salt Lake County, created/produced/directed/filmed by Brad Barber, also shot by Eric Chi Kin So, and edited by Jessica Marquis Bryant. (This is the 6thyear in a row that Beehive Stories has been nominated. Sharon Swenson introduced Brad to Cathy, the subject of this episode, as she was a friend from her ward.)  To see the interstitial, go to kbyutv.org

College/University Student Production – Long Form: Fiction/Non-Fiction
– No Walk in the Park, written and directed by Peter Walton, produced by Alexis Romero and Caitlyn Walton.
– The Coal Minority, a TMA documentary capstone directed by Helen Butcher,produced by Camlyn Giddens, shot by Emily Bade, sound designed by Michelle Giogglio, edited by Aubrey Clark, and advised by Brad Barber.

College/University Student Production – Director
No Walk in the Park, directed by Peter Walton

College/University Student Production – Writing
No Walk in the Park, written by Peter Walton and Drew Tekulve

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Congratulations to BYU Performing Arts for being recognized in The Daily Herald’s 2017 Reader’s Poll as being the Best of Utah Valley in the category of Best Live Theatre. The Orem Hale Center Theatre and the Scera Center for the Arts were also recognized. From The Daily Herald website: “The Best Of is an annual reader-generated competition where beloved businesses, medical professionals, restaurants, stores, entertainment venues, outdoor hangouts and even specific products all vie for the honor of being named as The Best in Utah Valley. Daily Herald readers nominate their valley favorites by submitting ballots either online or by sending in their ballots printed in the newspaper. Votes are then meticulously tallied and winners announced.”

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George Nelson is hosting Monika Switaj, an award-winning actress from Poland who has performed in film, television, opera, and theatre.  Monika will be featured in the theatre forum this week where she will speak about doing theatre under the Communist regime and the change that happened after the Iron Curtain fell.  Monika has played hundreds of roles including Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, directed by Jerzy Gruza, at the Dramatic Theatre in Poland; Lucy in Nosferatu, staged in the Opera House in Graz, Austria; and Joan in Joan d’Arc, directed by Waldemar Śmigasiewicz, at the Dramatic Theatre.  She has worked with many internationally recognized directors.  Monika has generously been attending many theatre classes, conducting workshops and giving feedback to students.  She’s attended 2 intermediate acting classes, 5 playwriting classes, 3 auditions classes, 2 directing classes, and 2 voice classes.  In the directing class, she talked about good and bad directors she has worked with from the perspective of an actor.  Monika’s husband, Richard, who teaches English in Poland, is also accompanying MonikaGeorge and Leslie took Monika and Richard down to the Shakespeare Festival this past weekend, which they loved, but were especially stunned by Bryce Canyon and our Southern Utah scenery.

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The Theatre Opening Social was held last Thursday at River Park with the theme of “Breakfast for Dinner.”  Magleby’s Fresh catered the event with their famous French Toast, bacon, and scrambled eggs.  About 50 students, faculty members and their families braved the cool weather.  Special thanks go to Lindsi Neilson and the Student Theatre Association who helped with set up, clean up, and games during the event.


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The Media Arts Opening Social was held on Friday, Sept. 22, at the River Park, as well.  The dinner featured J-Dawgs and Wonder Woman cookies, provided by Sharon Swenson.  In fact, media arts alumni were invited to come to the social to pay tribute to Sharon, who recently retired after 30 years of service to BYU.  Over 150 students, faculty and alums attended, gathering to wish Sharon well in this new chapter of her life.  Tributes included poignant and well-deserved words from Dean Duncan.  Kudos to Kyle Stapley for organizing this event.

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Alumni News

Julie Saunders (BFA Acting, 2009) just completed three days of twelve, intense 10-minute “speed interviews” as one of eight finalists for the 2017-18 Nickelodeon Writing Program. She will find out if she is accepted into their year-long training/mentorship program in TV writing within the week.  Julie became interested in writing while she was at BYU, though she didn’t think of herself as a writer before that – she considered herself a lazy actor who couldn’t find material and often wound up writing it instead. When Juliewrote a short play for George Nelson’s TMA 101 class, he suggested she start taking playwriting classes. Julie kept up with the BFA Acting program, but also took as many playwriting classes as possible in the meantime with the hope of doing both. After graduation, Julie wasn’t sure if she wanted to do either, but then realized she just wasn’t happy without a little Drama in her life. So she wrote a spec episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine(a Halloween episode titled “Spooky Beyonce”) and submitted it to the Nickelodeon Writing Program. She had pretty much forgotten about it until she got the notification that she was a semifinalist. Now, 14 interviews later, she’s waiting to see if they let her in. She is super excited and thrilled just to have gotten into the finals. For a list of the finalists, go here.

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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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