Spring Season Highlights from the Department of Theatre and Dance

Distinguished professional artists offer hands-on expertise

Photo by Robert Cooper

Renowned dance master Bill T. Jones (right) and Stuart Singer at a recent rehearsal for "Continuous Replay."

Students in the Department of Theatre and Dance received a lot of extra, hands-on training from some noteworthy professionals this semester.

Theatre

Prof. Randy Mugleston, chair of the Department, said Leonor Lopehandia, a professional actress/voice and speech coach from Chile, offered two master classes in voice and speech for the freshmen BAs and BFAs. Lopehandia, currently professor of voice and coordinator of general training in the School of Theatre at the Universidad Mayor, in Santiago, Chile (one of Montclair State's international partner universities), also incorporated physical/movement work.

ANTOINETTE FASINO, a freshman BFA acting major, had high praise for the workshop and Lopehandia. 

"The workshop with Ms. Lopehandia was, by far, one of the most valuable and inspiring experiences of my life," Fasino said. "Being immersed early on in an entirely different cultural learning style forcibly removed any qualms or reservations I may have had and pushed me to new limits. The breathing techniques she showed us required physical closeness and comfort with your own physicality and voice and, even if the technique has faded a bit, it is the comfort and the confidence that remains. The experience was--and will be--an extremely positive and cherished one that I will remember for years to come."    

SERGIO S. CAETANO, another freshman in the program, said the workshop provided not only valuable tips in voice technique and physical movement, but also helped students to get to know one another.

"I personally got a lot from the weekend we spent with Leonor in regards to just being more comfortable in my skin in front of 12 newly introduced peers," Caetano said. "I thought it was a good bonding experience we had to go through, which is vital since we will be using each other in our future work in the upcoming three years. It was also imperative that the weekend was in the early part of the semester so it served as a nice ice breaker for all of us."

Prof. Sue Trauth, coordinator for the BFA Acting Program, said the Department's performance season included a production of Insula, performed at  the Howard L. Fox Theatre on campus in December. Serving as director was guest artist Kari Margolis, creator of the Margolis Method, a comprehensive methodology for training actors for the modern theatre now taught and recognized internationally, and co-founder and artistic director of the award-winning Margolis Brown ADAPTORS Company, founded in NYC in 1984.

Trauth added Insula was chosen by the Kennedy Center to travel to its American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) regional festival held January in the nation's capital. What's more, the production won three awards:

 Distinguished Production of a Devised Work
, Distinguished Director of a Devised Work (Margolis), and 
Outstanding Performance Ensemble.

Trauth also said the Department's touring company, Theatre on the Move, which takes theatre that explores contemporary social issues to schools throughout the state, is on the road this spring with a new show, Breaking the Cycle. The show is a compilation of short scenes and poems exploring different aspects of harassment, intimidation and bullying. Using scripted scenes from plays as well as improvised scenes and poetry, seven actors take on several different roles each in this fast-paced, very contemporary show that seeks to challenge and inspire the audience with humor and drama, as it confronts the issue of bullying, its consequences, and the need to break the cycle. Breaking the Cycle is playing 17 performances in 11 middle and high schools to nearly 1,700 students in New Jersey and Staten Island, N.Y. with talkback sessions following each performance.

Trauth said students performed a staged reading in February of Spring Awakening, directed by Jane Mandel, artistic director of Luna Stage, a regional theatre in West Orange, N.J. Following the productions on campus in the Howard L. Fox Theatre, the reading was presented at Luna Stage, providing students the opportunity to experience performance on the stage of a regional theatre. Trauth said she hoped it would be the launch of many such collaborations.

"This co-production was a first for the department and we look forward to many such cooperative ventures," Trauth said.

Dance

Prof. Lori Katterhenry, deputy chair of dance for the Department, said students in the dance division were also treated to workshops and hands-on training from distinguished professionals this semester.

The dance division presents three concerts each year featuring the work of students, faculty and guest artists. Danceworks 2013, the third and final concert of the season, features the work of six renowned choreographers. The repertory for this year’s concert explores the theme of “Myth and Transformation,” anchored by Martha Graham’s chorus from Night Journey, a choreographic retelling of the story of Oedipus. Students in the division performed the piece at The Joyce Theater in New York City in the Martha Graham Company’s annual University Partners Showcase on February 23. Seven dance majors performed the “Chorus” from Graham’s classic Night Journey (1947), an austere, theatrical piece that depicts the ancient Oedipus tragedy from the point of view of his doomed wife and mother, Queen Jocasta.

COLLEEN LYNCH, a senior and one of the seven dancers, said the experience was unforgettable.

“Performing at the famous Joyce Theater was incredible,” Lynch said. “Not only were we performing alongside the Graham Company during their New York season, we were also dancing on a space that has been used by many dance companies from around the world. We used our excitement and performed Night Journey with all the passion and emotion that the piece requires and felt completely connected to one another. I will never forget what I felt on the stage that day.”

Also featured in the Danceworks 2013 program will be the architecturally cool Powers of Ten by modern dance pioneer May O’Donnell, and the improvisationally based Continuous Replay by renowned dance master, Bill T. Jones. Works by Earl Mosley, Rebecca Stenn, and Larry Keigwin will round out this concert.  

In February, 22 dance majors were treated to a special afternoon with Jones. Accompanied by his associates, Leah Cox and Stuart Singer, Jones rehearsed his iconic improvisational piece, Continuous Replay, with the students for two hours, and then led a lively, informal discussion. The entire session was filmed for the Creative Research Center's Danceaturgy Archive by Kenneth Spooner. Dance majors performed Continuous Replay – originally choreographed by Arnie Zane and Bill T. Jones in 1977 and revised in 1991 –  in the April 4-7 Danceworks 2013 concert in Kasser Theater.

Business As Usual

Mugleston said all the above, and more, are par for the course for the Department of Theatre and Dance.

“These, along with many more opportunities, give our students the real-world experience and edge that will help them thrive as performing artists,” Mugleston said.