Theatre and Performance Studies News
Dr. John Gentile To Receive NCA’s Heston Award
By Keaton Lamle
Dr. John Gentile, Professor of Performance Studies in Kennesaw State’s Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, will receive the National Communication Association’s Lilla A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies. NCA will present Gentile with the award during its 103rd annual convention in Dallas, Texas this November.
The Heston award, which recognizes excellence in published research and creative scholarship, comes on the basis of Gentile’s essay, “Shape-Shifter in the Green: Performing Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” (published in Storytelling, Self, Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Storytelling Studies). “Shape-Shifter in the Green…” builds on Gentile’s three decades of scholarship in arguing an inextricable link between the seemingly disparate tasks of performance and scholarship. To hear Gentile explain it, his goal is to illuminate the work of what he calls, the ‘scholar-artist,’ thereby, “show[ing] the work in scholarship that inevitably takes place behind the scenes in preparing a performance of a canonical text like Sir Gawain.”
Gentile has always been attracted to what he refers to as, “masterworks,” those canonical texts that are ultimately handed down and rediscovered across the distance of centuries. As a result, much of his work as a scholar and artist has centered on the concept of adapting and staging canonical works like Sir Gawain, Moby-Dick, and The Scarlet Letter for contemporary audiences. “I often wonder about the future of great works,” Gentile explains. “If they are not embedded in our education experience, when will people come upon them? And so I almost have a quest to ‘salvage’ works from a sense of loss, whereby a work of true power and significance is reduced— to contemporary students— to only a title they may have heard of.” According to Gentile, it is this task of cultural curation that ultimately necessitates a link between scholarship and performance. “Assuming the artist creating the adaptation of a major literary text for the stage has done his or her work in analysis and in research,” the professor explains, “and brings to it an effective vision, and makes it vital in the theatrical experience, then that performance can lead audiences back to the original text itself -- as readers, and that to me is the real benefit of doing the work I do.”
Given Gentile’s track record of both penning and staging engaging performances of famous texts, and his impeccable ability to articulate the theory behind this process in his work, it’s no surprise that Emerson College’s John Dennis Anderson called him, “the preeminent exemplar… of the scholar artist [in the field of performance studies]” in a nomination letter for the 2017 Lilla A. Heston Award for Outstanding Scholarship in Interpretation and Performance Studies.
Gentile’s celebrated scholarship and artistry will be on display on November 11, at the Jung Society of Atlanta’s, “The Green Knight and Other Stories of Magic and Transformation: A Storytelling Program with Music.”
BWW Feature: PETER AND THE STARCATCHER at Kennesaw State University
By Justin Cole Adams, Broadway World
February 9, 2017
At one point or another, we have all experienced the magic of Peter Pan and the legacy that J.M. Barrie created over 100 years ago. Whether you have seen the films, read the novels or seen the Broadway musical “Finding Neverland,” we have all wanted a little bit of Tinkerbell’s fairy dust. Tuesday, I got to experience the story of how a boy who did not want to grow up became Peter Pan in PETER AND THE STARCATCHER. The production was executed by the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies of Kennesaw State University under the direction of Professor Karen Robinson. With the audience’s imagination being a critical prop, this show is perfect for Robinson’s unique theatrical vision as you are reminded what it is truly like to use your imagination.
PETER tells the story of an orphan being held captive aboard a ship called the Neverland, and a starcatcher with a top secret mission. Together, along with the help of some lost boys, they tell the prequel to the story that we all know and love. It is a different side of the classic tale that still makes you never want to never grow up.
The cast, comprised of students from the university, was led by CameRon Walker as the orphaned boy named Peter, Alyssa Egelhoff as Molly the starcatcher and Tad Cameron as the comedic role of Black Stache (aka Captain Hook). The rest of the cast includes Joseph Ndoum, Truman Griffin, Carson Seabolt, Sully Brown, Amy Reynolds, Meg Harkins, Caleb Silvers, ChristIan Smith, Steven Taylor and Laura Reboulet. The musical talents of Alexander Crosett and Brooks Payne were additionally on stage. Every person in the show clearly had so much fun sharing this story and it translated wonderfully.
The scenic design by guest artist Jeffrey Zwartjes was exceptional. The black box hosting the show, lined with ladders, planks and the likes of a pirate’s ship, has never looked better. The costuming, done by Jamie Bullins, was just as satisfying. You just cannot go wrong with mermaid outfits made out of Chinese take-out boxes.
Kennesaw State University has a theatrical season comprised of plays, musicals and festivals that faculty, staff and guest artists (all of which are industry professionals) facilitate. PETER AND THE STARCATCHER is running through February 12 in their Onyx Theater.
Classic Russian play finds new relevance on the Stillwell stage
March 3, 2017 by Chandler Smith, KSU Sentinel
Hayden Rowe, playing Andrey, practices the piano during rehearsal. Photo credit: Cory Hancock
The Theatre and Performance Studies department will bring turn-of-the-century Russia to the Stillwell Theater March 16.
Written by Anton Chekhov in 1901, Three Sisters was originally performed in Russian. It has been translated into modern American English, and the actors do not use dialects, though the setting is the same as the original play. Kennesaw State University’s production is directed by Artistic Director and Department Chair Rick Lombardo.
“I think of Three Sisters as one of the great plays of modern drama,” Lombardo said. “It’s really an examination of how life happens and how life can divert us from the things that we think are most important.”
Lombardo said that the timeless themes in the show feel particularly poignant in our society today, given the social and political unrest we are currently experiencing.
The “Three Sisters” cast poses in their costumes as they prepare for opening night. Photo credit: Cory Hancock
“This play is set in a time with this huge upheaval, and people don’t quite know what’s about to happen,” Lombardo said. “Core values are being questioned. As we’ve been working on the play, we’ve been thinking, ‘This feels like now!’”
The cast of 14 theatre and performance studies majors ranges from freshmen to graduating seniors. As the freshmen prepare to perform at KSU for the first time, several seniors must say goodbye to the Stillwell stage after many years.
Three Sisters will be senior Danny Crowe’s 13th and final performance at KSU. Crowe plays the role of Vershinin.
“This character kind of embodies what it’s like to find a home and have to leave it,” Crowe said. “So this performance is sort of my love letter to the department and the family that I have found here. It’s been an incredible time.”
“Three Sisters” runs in the Stillwell Theater March 16-26, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Margaret Baldwin Wins Teaching Award
Margaret Baldwin, senior lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, wins the Felton Jenkins Jr. Hall of Fame 2016 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award for Regional and State Universities. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents review committee was impressed with Baldwin’s innovative approach to teaching, and wrote, “You stood out to the committee because you use theater to promote global learning and multicultural teaching, you grasp and apply the concept of assessing learning outcomes to promote success of students, and you serve as a mentor to both faculty and students at Kennesaw State University.” She was unanimously chosen as the award winner by the committee. We talked with Margaret about her award:
Q. What does this award mean to you?
A. I am honored and thrilled to receive this award and to see this testament to the power of theatre, and the arts in general, as vehicles for engaged learning. In the arts, we teach skills essential to prepare all students for successful work and civic life beyond college. We employ teaching practices seen as essential to prepare students for successful work and civic life beyond college: hands-on learning, collaboration, critical thinking, communication, global perspectives and community engagement.
Q. What advice would you give to educators?
A. Students learn by doing, so the big question is “how do you make the classroom a site for engaged learning?” The basic tools of theatre are really great for teaching and learning. We can take a written text––something hard for students to access––and by doing exercises that get the students up on their feet and into their bodies, they can learn those plays and and embody those concepts in ways that help them learn more deeply. It’s a basic tenant of performance studies that I didn’t know about until I came to KSU; it is embodied learning.
Q. Would you like to recognize any mentors?
A. When I was at graduate school at University of Iowa, Erik Ehn, Anne Bogart, and Naomi Iizuka definitely inspired and influenced me. Karen Robinson has been a great mentor and collaborator at KSU. We work together to discover the connection between theatre and global learning, and those intersections where the theatre becomes the seed for conversation, dialogue, and mutual exchange that’s meaningful and cross-cultural. That investigation is something that we’ve done together over the last ten years, and it’s changed and expanded my vision of what theatre can and should do. We always ask, “How do you take it beyond the theatre? How do you take it into the world?”
Rebecca Makus: An Artistic Vision
Grass is an interactive art installation that uses technology to give viewers a unique experience with art. “The entire show is called “Ipomoea,” which is a type of night blooming flower. It’s the idea that something exists between places… It ties into this idea of taking man-made materials and urban environments and transforming them into a place that feels like nature, that embodies that sense of liveness and growth,” said Rebecca Makus, professor in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies.
Along with her collaborators, Elly Jessop Nattinger and Peter Torpey, they will eventually develop five modules: Grass, Stone, Tree, Water, and Soul. Nattinger works as a Google-experience engineer and Torpey as a media-experience artist.
Since then, Makus has applied for numerous grants and worked on a weekly basis with Nattinger in San Francisco, and Torpey in Boston, making the most of a long-distance collaboration. Along with this work, Makus juggled the joy of having a baby.
“Being pregnant last fall and summer while I was doing all of this was pretty insane. We had a three-week workshop last July for Grass, when my two collaborators came into town… [But] everyone finds their pattern.” Desiring to push their artistic boundaries, Makus and her collaborators brought in KSU’s Department of Dance Chair, Ivan Pulinkala, and Co-Artistic Director of 7 Stages Theatre, Michael Haverty.
“We brought in two local artists to come and play inside of Grass: Michael Haverty and Ivan Pulinkala. They came in and played in their art form. Michael had some puppets for a piece that he’s working on and just played around [in Grass].”
When Grass premiered to the public, it was a part of Creative Loafing’s “Best Of Atlanta” series. Around 5,000 people attended the event, and the T. Lang Dance Company performed inside the installation.
Next in this creative endeavor is the development of the second and third modules of Ipomoea: Stone and Tree. Stone, a collaboration with KSU students, will be finalized in May while Tree begins development soon after. Water and Soul will be completed by Spring 2017.