Theatre and Performance Studies News

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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.”

Archived News

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.