TDPS Presents “Love and Pride” a New Musical About Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, and Relationships.

Berkeley, CA – March 2017 – This Spring UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents Love and Pride, a new musical directed, written, and choreographed by TDPS student Sy Bocalbos Jordan that lightheartedly explores how people navigate gender identity, sexual orientation and learning to love yourself and others. Featuring an original electronic score, Love and Pride follows six interconnected characters through San Francisco’s landmark festivals and celebrations as they learn to respect, and appreciate, all expressions of sexuality and identity. Love and Pride runs March 16-19 in Zellerbach Room 7 on the UC Berkeley Campus. Tickets are $10 to $15 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office (http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/love-and-pride/) or at the door.

Love and Pride opens on Bay to Breakers, San Francisco’s annual 12k run that is heavy on costumes, light on competition, and optional on clothing. The show’s opening number, “Summer in San Francisco,” declares that you can be whatever you want in SF, and introduces a lively cast of characters who want to believe just that: Aphrodite, an outspoken genderqueer pansexual; Alexander, her best friend and band mate who is uneasy with the LGBTQ+ community; Aurora and Ash, a lesbian couple going through major changes; and married couple Abigail and Andrew who are not the cisgender heterosexuals they appear to be. These individuals intermingle, transition, come out, fight, laugh and fall in love against the backdrop of iconic San Francisco events, from Outside Lands to Pride to the Folsom Street Fair.

In order to accurately portray the struggles of multiple individuals across the gender spectrum, Love and Pride writer and director Sy Bocalbos Jordan conducted numerous interviews with LGBTQ+ identifying individuals. “Authenticity was really important to me,” says Sy, “because I explore multiple viewpoints in the play—queer, trans, asexual and more.” Sy found the interview process especially helpful as she herself doesn’t identify with all of the viewpoints presented in the musical. And, she adds, “Even if I did, one person can’t speak for an entire group.” To ensure these identities were portrayed with respect and accuracy, Sy used the interviews to identify common themes and struggles, and drew all the dialogue in the play from people who occupy those identities. “It was important that the narratives came from lived experiences, in the hopes that these stories can be a starting point for conversation and understanding.

The original electronic music score in Love and Pride, also written by Sy, draws from a variety of genres, including pop, jazz, trip hop and acoustic. Sy says, “I’ve been a musician my whole life, mostly in rock bands, but most recently I was in an electronic band. I started thinking, ‘What if I did an electronic musical?’ And I just started writing songs!” Sy, a double major in Theater and Performance Studies and Gender Studies with a minor in Music, sees all of her passions converging in Love and Pride—“This is the perfect combination of everything I’ve been studying here at Berkeley!”—and hopes that the musical will spark honest conversation and reflection. “I believe that if people are willing to talk openly and respectfully, even about polarizing issues, then we can all learn something. Hopefully this play can show how dialogue can allow you to have a relationship with someone who holds different views.”

With its original score, diverse ensemble, and humorous approach, Love and Pride shows the difficulties and rewards that come from opening up and having honest conversations about gender and sexual identity with family, friends, lovers, and, ultimately, ourselves.

Production Details

Love and Pride opens Thursday, March 16 and continues through Sunday, March 19, 2017 at Zellerbach Room 7 on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $10 online and at the door; General admission tickets are $15 online and at the door; Tickets are on sale through the TDPS Box Office at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/love-and-pride/ or at the door.

Directed by Sy Bocalbos Jordan with co-director Lila Mullins, Love and Pride features scenic design by Chin Kuo and Ashley McGullum, costume design by Kyo Yohena and Michelle Lubimov, lighting design by Kalon Cheung, and sound design by Chris Sauceda.

The cast includes: Max Yearian, Chad Theriault, Kevin Mu, Ceylan Ersoy, Alyse Gonthier, Illan Halpern, Ariel Hsieh, Yara Kanaaneh, Janette Keola, Mallory Penney, Joel Sedano, Kamia Rodil Willis, Stephanie Toussaint, Camille Cheetham.

For more info about the TDPS production, visit http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/love-and-pride/.

For more info about the script, visit http://loveandpridethemusical.com/.

# # #

About TDPS

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Sy Bocalbos Jordan

Sy is an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, double majoring in Gender and Women’s studies and Theater and Performance Studies, with a minor in Music. Born and raised in San Francisco, she has been a musician all of her life, and has been the lead singer of several bands, ranging from pop to rock to electronic music. She worked as a fitness instructor for over 8 years, where she taught kickboxing, yoga, and hip hop dance. Sy has been writing Love and Pride for over a year, conducting interviews and facilitating workshops to discuss the complex topics of the play. As the playwright and composer, and currently working as the director and choreographer for Love and Pride, this project is the culmination of her passions for music, theater and dance; her fascination with gender, sexuality and relationships; and her desire to fight for social justice.

UC Berkeley Presents Naomi Iizuka’s “Polaroid Stories,” a Powerful Telling of Street Kids’ Stories Woven with Myth

Berkeley, CA – March 2017 – This Spring UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories, an eye-opening depiction of the lives of street youth woven together with tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Directed by veteran Bay Area actress and director Margo Hall, this dark social commentary on street teens runs March 3-12 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley Campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office (tdps.berkeley.edu/events/polaroid-stories/) or at the door.

Based on Iizuka’s interviews with sex workers and runaways, Polaroid Stories elevates complex tales of life on the street by using poetic language and mythological figures. Set in a dilapidated urban landscape, Polaroid Stories follows a group of teenagers, portrayed as mythological characters, as they hustle, steal, and try to survive the streets. Narcissus is a young street hustler obsessed with his own visage who lives off wealthy men that desire him. Orpheus obsessively follows and harasses his girlfriend, Eurydice, who is trying to escape his stifling love. Semele is seduced by a God/drug dealer. Living amongst these teens are gods. Persephone, queen of the underworld, gives potent advice. G (aka:Zeus) chases young girls and D (aka:Dionysus) is a drug dealer who demands to be worshiped. The transformations of Ovid’s Metamorphoses are reenacted through drug induced delusions. A drug addict becomes a Goddess. A God becomes a man. And a warehouse becomes a terrifying maze.

Director Margo Hall was originally drawn to Polaroid Stories by Iizuka’s use of language. “She takes abrasive and unapologetic urban language and makes it poetic in a way that you can hear and listen to,” says Hall. “You are drawn in because of the melody. Language like that can seem repetitive, which it is in her piece, but the words that she chooses to repeat and the rhythm of it keep you interested, as opposed to distanced from it.”

Beyond the lyrical nature of the play, Hall sees particular resonance of the play with the students. “The current political climate has motivated our students to be more invested in this project,” says Hall. “ We are surrounded by tent cities in our area, and the stories in this play shine a light on the inhabitants of those tents.” Hall hopes viewers leave the play changed. “Watching the play and seeing students that are the same age as the characters, characters similar to people sleeping in People’s Park, you hope it will create empathy. I want people to walk out of the playhouse, walk around the corner and see people on the street with empathy instead of apathy.”

Disturbing and illuminating, Naomi Iizuka’s Polaroid Stories blends poetry and profanity to explore how young people pushed to the edge of society survive drug addiction and violence, love lost and found, and transcend the difficulties of life on the streets.

Production Details

Polaroid Stories opens Friday, March 3 and continues through Sunday, March 12, 2017 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are on sale through the TDPS Box Office at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/polaroid-stories or at the door.

Polaroid Stories features scenic design by Justine Law, costume design by Wendy Sparks-Rehl, lighting design by Jack Carpenter, and sound design by Hannah Birch Carl.

The cast includes: Yohana Ansari-Thomas, Joe Ayers, Obashi Chen, Anya Cherniss, Jordan Don, Sarah Handler, Farryl Lawson, Jessica Li-Jo, Marie Morley, Akash Patel, Samuel Peurach, Ciclady Rodriguez, Paris Shockley, and Baela Tinsley.

# # #

About TDPS

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Margo Hall

Margo Hall is an award-winning actor, director, playwright and educator. Margo teaches at Chabot Community College, and has taught at the American Conservatory Theater MFA Program, and the Berkeley Repertory School of Theater. She holds a MFA in Drama from Catholic University of America. Recent acting credits include Fences and Twelfth Night at California Shakespeare Theater and Gem of the Ocean and Seven Guitars for Marin Theater Company. Margo is a founding member of Campo Santo, a resident theater company at Intersection for the Arts. She debuted as a Director with the award-winning world premiere of Joyride, from the novel Grand Avenue by Greg Sarris. She most recently directed Red Velvet, at SF Playhouse. Margo completed her first writing project in April 2005 with the world premiere of The People’s Temple at Berkeley Repertory Theater, which won the Glickman award for best new play in the Bay Area for 2005. She premiered her semi biographical piece, Be Bop Baby, a Musical Memoir, at Z Space, featuring the Marcus Shelby 15 piece Orchestra. The musical chronicled her life growing up in Detroit with her jazz musician stepfather who was with Motown and featured original music composed by Marcus Shelby.

November 2016 Student Spotlight: Dylan Feldman, ’16

feldmancropName: Dylan Feldman
Major: Double major in Theater & Performance Studies and Computer Science
Year: 5th Year Senior


When did you first become interested in lighting design?

I’ve been involved in theater lighting since my freshman year of high school. My theater teacher basically said, “We need another lighting designer because ours is graduating.” So I said yes on a whim, and then ended up loving it and deciding to pursue it professionally. I knew when I entered Cal that I wanted to study lighting design, so I sought out TDPS and enrolled in all the design courses I could.

What is it about lighting design that attracts you?

I’ve actually thought about this a lot. Halfway through tech week, I always get really tired and grumpy, thinking, “Why am I doing this? It’s so stressful and long and I could be doing so many other things.” But what I’ve realized is that I really like coming together with a bunch of different people, often strangers, to make something come to life. Through collaboration, we turn ideas into something concrete and real that other people can appreciate too, and that’s the biggest attraction for me. And even though it can be sad when the show ends and the team disbands, I’ve realized that the theater community is a very strong one. I will likely work with the same people again at some point, which is exciting to look forward to.

How did your experiences and training at TDPS prepare you for your largest project yet, designing lights for the recent production of Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War?

During my time here, I’ve been lucky to have a lot of opportunities to design or assist with the lighting for TDPS productions. I designed the Fall Choreography Showcase in 2014, was the Assistant Lighting Designer for Aulis in Spring 2015, co-designed A Murder of Crows with Jack Carpenter in Fall 2015, and designed one of the pieces in the Berkeley Dance Project this past spring.

So that brings us to the current production of “Heart of Spain,” which is quite frankly a giant behemoth of a musical. Having worked on multiple productions in the department, I had a general sense of how the design processes work. Working on this show, however, made me realize how shielded I was from many of the small details and nuances of putting a production together. As the sole lighting designer for this large-scale production, I made so many small, detailed decisions and learned how intricate communication has to be. This show made me grateful for all of my experiences thus far and to the people who have helped me along the way.

The design team for Heart of Spain was primarily professional designers, such as Annie Smart (Costume Design) and Kate Edmunds (Scenic Design). What was the experience like for you, as a student, to be on par with these professionals?

Really awesome but also really intimidating! At first I felt a lot of pressure, which was self-imposed, to produce ideas of the same caliber as these professionals. But after many lessons learned, I became more comfortable with being a student in this environment—if I’m not as insightful as Kate Edmunds, that’s okay! So in that sense, I tried to relax and enjoy it more. When I am less stressed, I can do a better job of being present, which allowed me to really listen to what these professionals had to say and watch how they handled the complications of this project. Everyone in the room was so smart and creative and they have such inspiring careers.

Jack Carpenter [TDPS lecturer and professional lighting designer], who was credited as Lighting Director for the show, was my supervisor (but really more like a guardian angel). He was in a lot of the meetings and rehearsals, and sometimes he’d poke me in the side to say, “Someone just said something that’s related to lighting. Be sure you write that down and follow up on it, or ask a question to make sure you know how this affects you.” He was also really good at asking leading questions to help me realize the questions I should be asking at each point of the design process. And sometimes he saved me on practical points, like “that light isn’t going to work there because there’s a wall in the way.” I’d ultimately figure that out on my own, but it was really helpful to get that advice before I got too far down an ineffective path and wasted time. I’ll be mostly learning through trial and error on my own once I’ve graduated, so his mentorship throughout the process was invaluable to me. And the part of me that still needs to find time to work on homework also really appreciated the guidance!

What role did lighting play in Heart of Spain?

From the very first concept meeting, we knew that the scenic design was going to be a unit set without much movement, so the lighting would have to separate space, indicate time and location, and let the audience know where the characters are. It was a challenging but exciting responsibility to be helping define the show in such a way.

With this show, I had the freedom to be bold. I remember talking in a design meeting about an idea I had for a certain scene and saying something like, “I’m worried it will be too dramatic.” Everyone started laughing—and that’s when I realized that there’s no such thing as too dramatic in this show. I experimented with bold colors, light leaking onto the stage to indicate offstage actions and presences, and footlights and handheld lanterns, to name just a few things.

Anything else you want to share?

One thing I realized while working on this production is that it’s okay to say that you don’t know. People aren’t going to get mad at you if you’re honest. Then you can go think about it and come back and say, “Okay, here’s what I’ve found.”

Good luck to all the aspiring designers out there!

November 2016 Faculty Spotlight: Julia Fawcett

-1Julia Fawcett, Assistant Professor and Performance Studies/History scholar, is the newest member of TDPS’s faculty. She comes to UC Berkeley from Ryerson University in Toronto.

Picture a venn diagram. If the circle on the left is Theater History and the circle on the right is Performance Studies, the overlapping section in the middle is the research home of Julia Fawcett, the newest member of TDPS’s faculty. Julia, who comes to UC Berkeley from Ryerson University in Toronto, self-identifies as a “Performance Historian” and her research interests focus primarily on theater history and performance studies in the context of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Says Julia, “I’m interested in what was happening onstage during this time period, but I am also interested in performances that were taking place outside of the theater.”

Julia’s research requires her to be part researcher, part detective, and part investigative journalist. For example, her current research project examines ideas of personal space in late 17th century England after the Great Fire of London. “When I first came to this topic, I thought, there are no explicit records on this subject and I can’t travel back in time, so how do I even begin to investigate? And that methodological question intrigued me,” Julia shares.

She eventually identified multiple angles that combined to demonstrate society’s growing awareness of how urban planning and architecture affects people moving through the city. “People were starting to consider how space impacted inhabitants, partly because the fire left a relatively blank slate and partly because a growing immigrant population was beginning to cause tension,” Julia explains. “So I am looking at this subject by analyzing things like architecture treatises, maps, and medical records and court documents that touch on personal space for women and what was considered a violation. I can also learn a lot from the developments in theater architecture and set design at the time. When you put everything together, it’s clear that people at the time were thinking about space in new ways, both in the theater and outside the theater.”

Julia, who holds a PhD in English from Yale and a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard, did not always see her career path in performance studies. In fact, she didn’t even know that the field existed! As an English major at Harvard, she was involved in theater extracurricularly and took several classes with Beth Lyman that introduced her to the concept of studying performance as an academic subject. “But I didn’t know at the time that it was called Performance Studies,” Julia explained, “and I had no idea that I could combine English and theater.” It wasn’t until she began her PhD program at Yale and met performance studies scholar Joe Roach that she realized her interests had a name. “I started talking to Joe and realized that what he was calling performance studies was exactly what I had been doing and exactly what I was interested in. I finally had a name for it, and a vision for a career that incorporated all my interests.”

After graduating with her PhD in 2011, Julia completed a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Yale and then moved to Toronto to teach Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture at Ryerson University. She was motivated to accept the job at Berkeley because of TDPS’s integrated approach to performance studies and welcoming atmosphere. “When I came for the interview,” Julia recalls, “it was such a warm environment. The faculty were very supportive and seemed to enjoy each other. I remember that, at one point, Gail [De Kosnik] said something that made Shannon [Steen] almost fall out of her chair laughing — and I thought, I want to work here! The graduate students were also very impressive; they asked such great questions and everyone was doing really interesting research. I didn’t get to meet any undergraduates during that first visit, but the faculty and graduate students all said great things about the undergraduate students. That isn’t always the case in top-tier universities, and it was very refreshing.”

Julia is settling into her first semester with TDPS; she is currently teaching a graduate course on Performance Methodologies as well as the undergraduate course Theater 125: Community Theaters, which explores how practices of performers in medieval York, Restoration London, and twenty-first-century San Francisco use unique performance practices and settings to get around the dearth of space and the price of real estate in their cities. She is also busy settling into life in California. “It’s strange, I never pictured myself as a California person,” Julia laughs. “I always told myself that I liked winter, in that way that people from the East Coast, and also people from Canada, say that they like winter. It’s a pride thing. But California is beautiful and, as of now, I don’t think I’ll miss winter! Ask me again in January.”

Student Veterans’ Stories Take Centerstage in Choreographer Joe Goode’s New Piece “Reentry: The Process of Resilience”

ReentryBerkeley, CA – November 2016. The UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies continues its 2016/2017 season with the new physical theater piece Reentry: The Process of Resilience, created by acclaimed choreographer Joe Goode from interviews with Cal student veterans. The production uses verbatim text, physical movement, music, and other forms to share veterans’ narratives of their UC Berkeley experiences and craft a nuanced portrait of reintegration, resilience and the tenacity of the human spirit. Reentry: The Process of Resilience plays November 17-20, with performances Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8:00 PM and Saturday & Sunday at 2:00 PM in Durham Studio Theater on the UC Berkeley Campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office (http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/reentry) or at the door.

To create Reentry: The Process of Resilience, award-winning choreographer and TDPS Professor Joe Goode worked closely with the Cal Veterans Center to gather stories and explore the unique challenges facing student veterans, above and beyond the challenges faced by all combat veterans who reenter civilian life. In the course of interviewing  veterans, including both current students and recent graduates, Goode was struck by the strength and resilience that these individuals exhibited in order to not only get to UC Berkeley, but to then also remain and be successful. “Their stories, to a great degree, are stories of survival and of overcoming great obstacles in order to get this rigorous education,” says Goode. “Having experienced the rigors and the discipline of the military, and then the rigors and discipline of going to a Research I university, these veterans have a lot of maturity and wisdom to share, especially about grit, tenacity, coping, and overcoming.”

Goode’s interviews revealed that integrating into Cal’s liberal university environment proved difficult for many student veterans. Says Goode, “Regardless of their own personal political views, there’s a stigma attached to being military or ex-military at this liberal, radical university, and there’s also the social dynamic of Berkeley to consider. Navigating how they fit into, or don’t fit into, these environments is something a lot of veterans wanted to talk about [in the interviews].” The physical theater piece Reentry will portray these stories and a range of other experiences related to UC Berkeley, as well as topics such as navigating personal relationships and returning from a combat zone.

An award-winning choreographer, the leader of San Francisco-based dance company the Joe Goode Performance Group, and a non-veteran, Joe Goode acknowledges that he is an unlikely mouthpiece for military voices. When the Institute for Health and Well Being of Military and their Families, in collaboration with Kansas State University, first approached him in 2013 to see if he would do a project with wounded veterans around their reintegration into civilian life, he almost said no. “I was reluctant because I am not a veteran myself and I don’t believe in telling other people’s stories if I can’t live them,” said Joe Goode. “So I only reluctantly agreed to go and meet with the people in Kansas, but after I talked to them I was totally sold. The stories were so compelling, deep, and human. Some veterans are very eager to tell their stories; I hope I can be of service in getting their stories into the world.”

After that initial production in Kansas, Goode’s interview-to-performance process took on a life of its own as “The Resilience Project,” an ongoing performance series by the Joe Goode Performance Group, which primarily explores stories of disabled combat veterans. Members of the dance company conduct interviews, then use those texts to create a visceral, emotional dance work. Says Goode of the process, “I call it Verbatim Theater. We’re not coming up with the words; we are editing and arranging and sculpting, but every single word is from an interview. It is all verbatim from the mouths of real people.”

In producing Reentry: The Process of Resilience at UC Berkeley with student artists, Joe Goode is using the same methodology and creation process that he uses with his professional dance company. However, instead of looking specifically at injured combat veterans’ stories, Reentry focuses on the wide-ranging experiences of Cal student veterans, including some who saw combat and some who did not. Additionally, the piece will be far less dance-heavy than Goode’s previous productions. “I’m delighted to be presenting this piece with the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies,” says Goode. “We have very talented students here, both actors and dancers, and as a result I can lean much more heavily on the acting. That’s new territory for me and very exciting.” The cast of eight TDPS students (non-veterans) tasked with bringing these stories to life includes: Joe Ayers, Linda Girón, Hesed Kim, Logan Moody, Marie Morley, Ely Orquiza, Alex Parkin, and Baela Tinsley.

About TDPS

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Joe Goode

Professor Joe Goode is an acclaimed choreographer and Artistic Director of Joe Goode Performance Group, with whom he has performed in the U.S., Canada, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. His performance installations have been commissioned by: the Krannert Art Museum; the M. H. DeYoung Museum; Capp Street Project; and the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, UCLA. In addition to creating more than 50 new works for his own company, Goode has also been commissioned for dance companies across America.Joe Goode has received a New York Dance and Performance Award (for his production of Deeply There); the Isadora Duncan Award for choreography; fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the California Arts Council; and the Irvine Fellowship in Dance. He is the recipient of the 2007 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship for Choreography and the USA Artist’s Fellowship for Choreography in 2008. Goode has also been honored with awards of excellence from the American Council on the Arts, the Business Arts Council/San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and the California Dance Educators Association.

 

 

UC Berkeley Commemorates the 80th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War with Slate of Cultural Events

This fall, UC Berkeley marks the 80th Anniversary of the start of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) with a series of cultural events on campus, including theater performances, exhibits, film screenings and public discussions. These events commemorate the Spanish Civil War, recognize the remarkable achievements of volunteers during and after the war, and mark UC Berkeley’s connection to this progressive, activist, and internationalist event.

When General Francisco Franco staged a coup against the democratically elected Spanish government in July 1936 he did not realize the passions his action would unleash around the world. Approximately 30,000 volunteers traveled to Spain between 1936-1939 to support the Spanish Republic in its struggle against Franco; 2,700 of those volunteers were from the US.

One of the first and most celebrated volunteers was Robert Hale Merriman, a Berkeley PhD student in Economics, who became the first commander of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which was made up of US volunteers. Later, Merriman’s widow helped found the Bay Area Post of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB). Over the years, this Post has donated an extensive collection of papers, letters, photographs, posters, pamphlets and artifacts from the Spanish Civil War to UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, making it one of the most significant archives of its kind. In recognition of UC Berkeley’s connection to the war and its role in preserving the history of the conflict, the campus has organized a variety of commemorative events across multiple University departments and organizations. Full event details can be found at www.spanishcivilwar80.berkeley.edu.  Below is an abbreviated listing of upcoming events.

Fall 2016 Program of Commemorative Events

September 2016 – July 1, 2017
Guerra Civil @ 80
Gallery Exhibition | Bancroft Library

A visual and written display of the struggle to defend the Second Spanish Republic, this exhibition features selections from The Bancroft Library’s Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (VALB) Bay Area Post Records and Photograph Collections, as well as posters, books, pamphlets and more.

September 2016 – December 16, 2016
Incite the Spirit: Poster Art of the Spanish Civil War
Gallery Exhibition | Townsend Center for the Humanities, 220 Stephens Hall

This selection of digital prints (drawn from the collection of the Bancroft Library) showcases political posters designed by leading graphic artists of the era and reflects the influence of contemporary aesthetic movements such as expressionism, formalism, and constructivism.

September 14 + September 21
Author Adam Hochschild on Spain in Our Hearts
Two book talks | September 14, Morrison Library, 5 PM | September 21, Townsend Center for the Humanities, 220 Stephens Hall, 12 PM

Adam Hochschild discusses his latest book, Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939, that draws on a vast array of sources to tell the story of the Americans who defied US policy to risk their lives defending democracy in Spain.

October 4
Poetry of the Spanish Civil War: A Reading
Poetry Reading | Durham Studio Theater, 7 PM

Faculty and graduate student poets and poetry scholars from the Department of English and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese read selections of Spanish Civil War poetry in both English and Spanish. Hosted by Lyn Hejinian and Robert Hass.

October 13, 2016
Showings of “The Good Fight” and “Guernica”
Film Screening | Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 7 PM

The documentary “The Good Fight” (1984) tells the inspiring story of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a ragtag group of American volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War. Presented with the short film “Guernica,” which considers one of the Spanish Civil War’s worst atrocities through Pablo Picasso’s masterpiece.

October 21 – October 30, 2016
Heart of Spain: A Musical of the Spanish Civil War
Theater Production | October 21-30 | Zellerbach Playhouse

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies presents “Heart of Spain,” a musical that follows a diverse group of American volunteers across the Atlantic, over the Pyrenees, and into battle. The show combines popular music and poetry of the period, writings by the volunteers, and original material into a rousing theatrical experience. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office (http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/heartofspain) or at the door.

Following the 2 PM matinee performance of “Heart of Spain” on Sunday, October 23, playwright/composers Peter Glazer and Eric Peltoniemi discuss the inspiration, creation, and evolution of the show. *A ticket to the 2 PM performance is required to attend this event.

October 25, 2016
Investigative Journalism and Human Rights: Lydia Cacho and Jeremy Scahill in Conversation with Kate Doyle
Discussion  | Zellerbach Playhouse, 6:30 PM 

The ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Rights Activism was established in 2011 to honor all those who fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War by connecting the legacy with international activist causes today. This year’s winners, Lydia Cacho and Jeremy Scahill, discuss their work with Kate Doyle, director of the Evidence Project at the National Security Archive.

Sponsoring Organizations

These events have been made possible by contributions and support from: Puffin Foundation | San Francisco Foundation | Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives | UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, ARC/Arts and Design Initiative, Townsend Center for the Humanities, Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive, and the Division of Arts and Humanities | the UC Berkeley Departments of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies; English; and Spanish and Portuguese.

TDPS’s “Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War” Commemorates 80th Anniversary of the Conflict

This October, the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War, co-written by TDPS professor Peter Glazer and Eric Bain Peltoniemi. Presented in conjunction with the 80th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), Heart of Spain follows a group of US volunteers—men and women from a mix of socio-economic classes and ethnic backgrounds—across the Atlantic, over the Pyrenees, and into battle as they fight to defend the Spanish Republic against fascist General Francisco Franco’s military coup on the eve of WWII. Interweaving eyewitness accounts, historical documents and writings, original compositions and traditional songs accompanied by a four-piece band, the production brings to life the bitter war that inspired everyday Americans, most with idealistic beliefs but minimal military training, to fight. Heart of Spain plays October 21-30, 2016, with performances on Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM in Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley Campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office (http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/heartofspain) or at the door.

Heart of Spain opens in 1936 as a call to arms goes out internationally for volunteers to travel to Spain and defend the newly elected Spanish Republic against a coup by the fascist Nationalist Spanish generals. The show’s first act plunges viewers into the Depression-era America of the 1930’s as volunteers gather: communists and left-leaning revolutionaries fighting for change, laborers and unionists supporting the Spanish people, journalists documenting revolution, and liberals appalled by the rise of fascism and what it represented for the world. The second act follows the volunteers as they journey to Spain to join the front, as their hope turns to despair when they encounter the forces (backed by Hitler and Mussolini) arrayed against them, as they confront the realities of their own idealism, and as they are forced back to the US, where they are greeted with suspicion and labeled un-American.

The passionate willingness of international volunteers to intervene in another country’s civil war speaks to today’s contemporary debate about the United State’s involvement in regime change and overseas interventions. “Heart of Spain brings up many questions about the nature of internationalism,” says director Peter Glazer, “When and why is it appropriate for a nation to intervene overseas? This was a big part of the controversy around the Spanish Civil War at the time it was fought, and those questions persist today.”

With a live four-piece band, songs and poems from the period, evocative staging and costumes, and a talented cast, Heart of Spain transports audiences to this historically-important, ideologically-fraught conflict fueled by the fervent idealism of anti-fascist volunteer soldiers who were willing to hike over mountains and huddle in foxholes, steadfast in their belief that great global issues at stake.

Production Details

Heart of Spain opens Friday, October 21 and continues through Sunday, October 30, 2016 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are on sale through the TDPS Box Office at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/heartofspain or at the door.

Heart of Spain features scenic design by Kate Edmunds, costume design by Annie Smart, lighting design by Dylan Feldman, sound design by Emily Fassler and musical direction by Mark Sumner. The cast includes: Yohana Ansari-Thomas, Eddie Benzoni, Melissa Chapman, Josie Clark-Steinmetz, Isabel Cruz, Harry Fahn, Alexander Gebert, Yoonji Jang, Veronica Maynez, Akash Patel, Claire Pearson, Shauna Satnick, Vaisakh Shankar, Alyssa So, Bri’Unia Stock, Ali Toia, and Boris Zabavsky.

# # #

About TDPS

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Peter Glazer

Associate Professor Peter Glazer is a professional director and playwright, as well as a longtime member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Board President of Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco, and a member of the Board of the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley. He is the creator of the musical Woody Guthrie’s American Song, which has been produced over 100 times nationwide since its premiere in 1988, at theaters including Seattle Rep, Berkeley Rep, Ford’s Theater, Northlight Theater, San Jose Rep, Missouri Rep, and Marin Theater Company, all under Glazer’s direction. The New York production of American Song at the Melting Pot Theater Company received two Drama Desk nominations, among the many awards the show has received in its long history.

Other theater pieces Glazer has written or co-written include Foe, adapted from Nobel Prize winner J. M. Coetzee’s novel of the same name; Michael, Margaret, Pat and Kate with singer-songwriter Michael Smith; O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music with Celtic harpist Patrick Ball; and Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War with composer Eric Bain Peltoniemi.

Glazer has also co-written, produced and directed numerous commemorative performances remembering the American anti-fascist volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, in New York, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area. He sits on the Board of Governors of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives (ALBA), and served on the Board’s Executive Committee for four years. His book, Radical Nostalgia: Spanish Civil War Commemoration in America, explores the commemorative history surrounding the volunteers, and argues that the memories and traditions called upon at these events through music, texts, and photographs, have progressive potential in the contemporary world.

About Eric Bain Peltoniemi

Eric Bain Peltoniemi is a singer/songwriter, actor, Grammy-winning producer and the former President of acclaimed indie folk label Red House Records. Peltoniemi’s original songs have been recorded by artists like Bok, Trickett & Muir; Robin & Linda Williams; Sally Rogers & Claudia Schmidt; Lisa Asher; and prominent Finnish artists Topi Saha and Koinurit, among others. He has also written music, lyrics and occasional book for eleven plays, including the regional hits Ten November (a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Steven Dietz) and Plain Hearts (with playwright Lance Belville). Along with his collaborator Peter Glazer, he was awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the creation of Heart of Spain, a musical about the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. His music will soon be featured in Ikitie (The Eternal Road), a new Finnish/Swedish/Estonian film production in which he also appears (to be released in 2017).


FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Melissa Schultz
UC Berkeley TDPS
Email: mschultz@berkeley.edu
Tel: (510) 644-7612

TDPS’s 2016/17 Season of Playhouse & Studio Productions

TDPS 2016/17 Season

Playhouse and Studio Productions

TDPS’s 2016/17 season, our 75th, explores ways that individuals fight against the odds, against seemingly insurmountable forces and powers greater than themselves, and manage to survive. In our Playhouse and Studio Productions this year, we delve into stories of conflict, and also of connection—with others, with causes, with the physical world.

Our fall productions investigate two different facets of war: Heart of Spain follows volunteers heading off to the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to fight against fascism, while Reentry: The Process of Resilience, a physical theater work devised by choreographer Joe Goode, features stories of student veterans resuming their lives and relationships upon returning to civilian life. This spring, the battle in Polaroid Stories is on city streets, as homeless youth who are fighting to survive turn to myth, poetry and profanity to find meaning in their lives. Our other two spring shows, Love and Pride and Berkeley Dance Project, also feature themes of struggle, connectedness and communication. Each show will be brought to life by a new generation of artists who are creating work right here at UC Berkeley.

We invite you to join us for a season that celebrates humanity’s fighting spirit and probes the depths of our survival instinct, sacrifices and strength.

Learn more and buy tickets at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/season/201617/


Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War

By Peter Glazer and Eric Peltoniemi // Directed by Peter Glazer
October 21-30 // Playhouse Production // The Playhouse

A musical exploration of the conflict that set the stage for World War II.

In conjunction with the 80th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), TDPS presents Heart of Spain, a vibrant musical that follows a diverse group of US volunteers—men and women from a mix of socio-economic classes and racially diverse backgrounds—across the Atlantic, over the Pyrenees, and into battle as they fight to defend the Spanish Republic against fascist General Francisco Franco’s military coup on the eve of World War II.


Reentry: The Process of Resilience

Created and Directed by Joe Goode
November 17-20 // Studio Production // Durham Studio Theater

Voices of Cal student veterans form the foundation of a powerful physical theater piece

Reentry: The Process of Resilience is a new physical theater work by acclaimed choreographer Joe Goode, derived from interviews with Cal student veterans and their families. The piece explores how these brave individuals have worked to be resilient as they reintegrate into civilian life, and what they can teach us about the tenacity of the human spirit.


Fall Choreography Showcase

December 8-9 // Showcase // Zellerbach Room 7

The Fall Choreography Showcase highlights the work of emerging choreographers as TDPS students present original solos and duets. Come see the next generation of dance artists!


Polaroid Stories

By Naomi Iizuka // Directed by Margo Hall
March 3-12 // Playhouse Production // The Playhouse

A visceral blend of classical mythology and real life stories of street kids

In Polaroid Stories, Naomi Iizuka transports Ovid’s Metamorphoses myths to the streets, where punks, street kids and prostitutes weave mythology and their lives together into a spellbinding and haunting tapestry. With poetry and profanity, these youth living on the edge manipulate stories and the truth in order to understand, alter, forget, or escape the circumstances that keep them homeless: addiction, abuse, and poverty.


Love and Pride

Written and Directed by TDPS student Sy Desiree Jordan
March 16-19 // Studio Production // Zellerbach Room 7

An exploration of self identity and expression

Who am I? Where do I identify on the spectrums of gender identity and sexual orientation? Should I express or conceal myself? In this original new musical by TDPS undergrad student Sy Desiree Jordan, individuals identify, explore, and address their personal identifications, and also face situations like coming out, transitioning, and homelessness.


Berkeley Dance Project 2017

Choreography by Bay Area choreographers James Graham and Krista DeNio
April 20-29 // Playhouse Production // The Playhouse

Inspired by the theme “Digging Deep”

Berkeley Dance Project 2017 explores how we communicate with each other as humans, and the connections we have to our world and the organic life and elements that surround us. Krista DeNio’s Network considers the incredible abilities of plants
and humans to survive and thrive, even in tiny spaces and constrained realities, while James Graham’s For Elements explores the concepts of earth, fire, air, and water, and our relationships to each element.


Learn more and buy tickets at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/season/201617/

UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies Installs State-of-the-Art Meyer Sound System

The UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) has partnered with Berkeley-based Meyer Sound to install a state-of-the-art audio system in the 550-seat Zellerbach Playhouse. Used by both TDPS and Cal Performances, the newly-installed Meyer Sound System will provide optimal acoustics for a broad range of events, including theatrical performance, dance concerts, lectures, workshops, classes and special events.

Generously underwritten by Bay Area sound innovators Meyer Sound, the audio solution includes UPJunior-XP VariO loudspeakers, UP-4XP loudspeakers, UMS-1P and 500-HP subwoofers, and a Galileo loudspeaker management system for system drive and alignment. Meyer Sound equipment has also been installed in TDPS’s other performance and studio spaces, including the 140-seat Durham Studio Theater and the Zellerbach Room 7 blackbox.

“The old audio system in The Playhouse had been in operation for more than 30 years and was still functional, but did not offer an optimal sound experience,” says Wil Leggett, TDPS’s Production Manager. “Sound is an essential component of any theatrical experience. We want to offer the best experience possible to our students and our audiences, so when we had the opportunity to upgrade our system we went to Meyer Sound, a company that is the gold standard in professional audio equipment and also happens to be local.”

With the installation of Meyer Sound equipment, TDPS students have enhanced opportunities for hands-on work with precise professional audio, allowing for invaluable professional training and artistic growth. Chair of TDPS Catherine Cole says, “Meyer Sound equipment is renowned for accuracy and precision, and this new system will be an incredible asset to the student performers and designers that create in our spaces, the professional designers we hire, and the audiences that come through our doors—both now and for years to come.”

Based in Berkeley, Meyer Sound is a valued and generous community partner to UC Berkeley. In addition to the custom-designed TDPS system, Meyer Sound equipment provides memorable experiences at Zellerbach Hall, Memorial Stadium, Haas Pavilion and the new UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive building. “With this state-of-the-art audio system from Meyer Sound, TDPS now has equipment on par with some of the best cultural institutions in the region and around the world,” says Cole.

ABOUT MEYER SOUND

Meyer Sound is a leader in the world of sound, continually seeking to elevate the overall dialogue about sound and bring greater awareness to the importance of how we hear and how we listen. Founded in 1979 by John and Helen Meyer, Meyer Sound has continually explored the everyday impact of sound—applying the highest level of scientific and acoustical principles to achieve extraordinary results in places ranging from restaurants to cruise ships to office space and concert halls and cathedrals. Outstanding design, manufacturing, service and support are the result of a company philosophy where creative thinking, old-fashioned craftsmanship and forward thinking technology are strongly intertwined.

ABOUT TDPS

Currently celebrating its 75th Anniversary, the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

 

Spring 2016.

Bruce Beasley’s Rondo Sculptures Come to Life in “Berkeley Dance Project 2016”

BDP2As UC Berkeley student dancers spin and leap onto stage this week, they will bring to life a unique collaboration, a year in the making, between sculpture, movement and technology.

Renowned sculptor and Cal alum Bruce Beasley’s Rondo series consists of large scale elegant intersecting metal rings. The five sculptures in the series were displayed on the Berkeley campus in 2013 and one piece remains permanently installed near the Mining Circle. Says Beasley of the project, “There was always a question in my mind about movement. Even though the sculptures themselves are static, there was always a little tickle saying, ‘Movement. Think about movement.’” As he watched people interact with the sculptures, he began to wonder what it might mean to make a static form move, and what would it might mean to join sculpture with performance.

BDP1Then Beasley was introduced to Theater, Dance and Performance Studies professor, choreographer and new media artist Lisa Wymore. The two began to explore creating new sensor technology that could animate the rings and allow dancers to communicate with those animations. Over the course of the past year, the dance piece “Rondo Variation” emerged, which is a highlight of Berkeley Dance Project 2016, presented April 21-30 by the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies.

In “Rondo Variation,” six dancers wear iPods built into their costumes. As the dancers move, Wymore explains, “the accelerometers in the iPods send data to a centralized computer that uses specially designed technology to map the motion data onto animated rings, which are then projected onto the back wall of the stage.” Additionally, off-stage operators track each dancer’s spatial location on the stage, sending that data to the computer and adding yet another dimension to the animation. The end result is dancers and rings communicating together through the mediums of movement aBDP3nd technology.

Says Beasley, “We didn’t want the rings to be a background for the dancers, nor did we want the dancers to be independent of the rings. The goal was to create a new subject: the connection between the two. Hopefully you are torn between looking at the rings and looking at the dancers, but then there comes a point when you are watching both at the same time and seeing the real relationship.”

Berkeley Dance Project 2016 also features original works by Katie Faulkner and Amara Tabor-Smith, both award-winning Bay Area dance artists and TDPS faculty members. Faulkner’s piece asks viewers to examine what happens when a community grows so much that there is no more space for its inhabitants, while Tabor-Smith’s piece draws on the Bay Area’s history of local social justice and Black Power movements. BDP4Additionally, for the first time in over fifteen years, original student choreography is featured as part of this annual program: TDPS students Heather Brown, Hesed Kim and Sebastian Hernandez present original solos.

Berkeley Dance Project 2016 opens Thursday, April 21, and continues through Saturday, April 30 at the Zellerbach Playhouse on campus. Tickets are $13-$20 and can be purchased online or at the door.  The show runs 90 minutes with one intermission.

To learn more about Berkeley Dance Project 2016, visit the event page on the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies website.

April 21, 2016

Photos: Hillary Goidell

February 2016 Alumnus Spotlight: Dick Capp, ’58

DickCappName: Dick Capp
Year of Graduation: 1958
Major: Dramatic Art

What are your strongest memories about your time in the Department of Dramatic Arts or on the campus as a whole?
Well, one of the biggest things is that Zellerbach Hall wasn’t built yet, so we did shows in the basement of Dwinelle (the “Little Theater”) and in a converted lecture hall (Hearst Hall). It was still an active lecture hall, so you had to build sets that you could take down and put up again for each of the four performances. Personally, I was more interested in directing and technical theater than acting. I was a member of Mask and Dagger and Thalian Society; members of those two groups were always involved in any dramatic presentation.  We always had lots of fun on those enterprises.

I also directed the Axe Review for 2 years, which took about 3-4 months each time. The Axe Review was part of Berkeley Big Game leadup, taking place the week prior to the game. It was a big variety show put on by the living groups, fraternities and sororities. There were skits, and trophies. We’d always have a theme to the show relating to the Big Game or something about campus, and would usually borrow music from a big broadway show, like “76 Trombones” from The Music Man, and change the words to suit the theme. Everyone would get really excited. Again, with no campus theater, we had to rent the Berkeley Community Theater; each show was always a sellout!

I did a lot of audio recording for campus events and sporting games. A group of us formed the ASUC Radio-TV Theater,  and we would record concerts, football games, basketball games, glee club, octets, you name it. Then we would beg time on local stations to play them. The Berkeley campus had no radio or TV facilities at that time. Every week, we had a 15-minute segment where we talked about sports and featured a player of the week. One time we even took a tape recorder out on a boat and recorded the rowing crew during practice in the Oakland estuary, something easy to do today, but very difficult in 1958! We would do one TV show each year and broadcast one production about computers on KQED and one Glee Club presentation on KPIX in San Francisco  Another time we were recording an organ concert as part of the opening on a new concert hall. It was a major undertaking and they had brought in a guest organist. He got partway into his concert and lost his place in the music, so he said “I’m going to start again.” And he started the whole thing over. I was panicking that I would run out of tape, but it turned out alright after carefully splicing all the tapes together.

Where did life take you after graduation?
I went into the Air Force, since at that time ROTC was required on campus. I flew for the Air Force for seven years and was shot down in Vietnam. After the Air Force, I went to work for the airlines and ended up flying for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, which eventually became Boeing. I became an instructor pilot and test pilot on some very advanced commercial aircraft.

I also used my GI Bill to go to UCLA and study Film and Television ending with a Masters in Fine Arts. I would go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and then fly for the airlines on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

What skills did you gain at UC Berkeley that were useful in your life or career?
As students, we really learned to be creative and inventive. Because we often had severe facility and equipment constraints, we had to make what we had work for us. Nothing was just handed to us, so I learned to be flexible. Also, I was a flight instructor for part of my career and that involved reading people. You have to know when to prod, when to use humor, when to be forceful. I think my experience in theater helped me to build connections and make quick assessments and direct people toward our mutual goals.

Does theater play a role in your life now?
You know, it’s hard to make money in theater unless you are really actively, consistently involved. So that wasn’t a life for me. But I do enjoy viewing live theater immensely. I live in Redondo Beach, south of LA, and we have great theater nearby to enjoy. Los Angeles, and even San Pedro, has lots and lots of little theater, as well as world-class music sources.

What is next for you?
Well, I’m retired. I do a lot of photography and it’s really fun now because digital photography is so easy compared to film. I spend time writing, consulting, and lots of traveling. I’ve been around the world four times and on all seven continents. My favorite country? Australia; if you listen closely, they do speak English and are very friendly to Yanks.

 

 

February 2016

February 2016 Student Spotlight: Sarah Stoker

SarahStokerSarah is a junior majoring in theater and performance studies. She is currently co-creating the workshop “Politics of Spectatorship,” which will be performed at TDPS in March.

Sarah Stoker’s decision to come to UC Berkeley was influenced by a fish. A goldfish, if you want to be precise. Sarah was visiting Berkeley from her home state of Hawaii, trying to decide if Cal was a good fit for her, when she visited some family friends and noticed their fishtank. “There was this enormous goldfish in a large tank, way bigger than any goldfish I’d ever seen,” Sarah shares. “And I learned that a goldfish can grow much larger than you might expect, if you put it in an environment where it is allowed to do so.” Deciding that the same could be said of her, Sarah decided to take the leap from close-knit island community to Cal’s campus.

Though Sarah embraced and enjoyed new situations in Berkeley—joining the rowing team, becoming a reporter for CalTV, pursuing acting in TDPS—she sometimes felt lost in the large campus. “My sophomore year at Cal I felt very small. Coming from an island where everyone knows everyone, I was looking for community. I needed to take small classes where I could get to know my classmates and do life with them,” she says. Due in part to her decision to take small classes, Sarah ended up in a directing class with TDPS Professor Peter Glazer, where she discovered her passion for making “art about what I know.”

For Sarah, “making art about what I know is what I find at the intersection of theater and performance studies.” She is interested in working in solidarity with other artists to make people think and respond, valuing diversity, questioning exclusion and inclusion, and exploring her experience in the world. “When I say that I need to create art that I know, what I mean is that I want to tell stories that respond to my own life and personal experiences. I am not implying that I know everything!” she emphasizes. “ I have so much more to learn. And knowing that fact has held me accountable to keep learning, researching and asking questions. I’m so grateful for the resources and teachers here at Cal that are pushing me to keep growing.”

Currently, Sarah is drawing on her life experiences to co-direct the workshop Politics of Spectatorship with Lara Nupert, a University of Glasgow student who is studying at TDPS for the year. The two students first met at the TDPS Undergraduate Welcome last fall. Sarah says, “We sat on the floor of the Playhouse and ate popsicles and met everyone, and at some point Amara Tabor-Smith [a TDPS lecturer] told us to ‘look around you. You are seen and you see.’ That was the start,” Sarah recalls. She and Lara then discovered they had two classes together in the fall: directing and Performance and Culture, taught by Sima Belmar. “The class we had with Sima was great because it got us thinking about our lives through the lens of performance, but there was so much more we wanted to explore. We decided to create Politics of Spectatorship so that we could look closer at how we are seen and how we see others in society.”

Politics of Spectatorship is a work in progress. “Thanks to TDPS, we have three weeks to develop the piece, 7 cast members, and a space,” Sarah explains. Lara is interested in exploring how people are seen and see through the lens of gender, while Sarah is interested in how people seen and see through technology, and together they have discovered overlaps between those two frames. The two aren’t sure what the final product will look like yet, but they are clear that it will be a performance piece and not a play. They plan to refine the rest of the piece in rehearsals through the use of exercises, free writing, physical movement, memories, focused people-watching and sharing experiences with their cast. “Right now,” says Sarah, “we’re focusing on finding the right lens. We don’t want to get lost in possibilities, even though there are many, many questions.”

The workshop Politics of Spectatorship performs March 16-17 in Zellerbach 170. Admission is free, but capacity is limited.

 

February 2016

February 2016 Faculty/Staff Spotlight: Glynn Bartlett

GlynnBartlettGlynn Bartlett is the Scenic Artist at TDPS and is also a passionate puppet designer and builder. In November 2015, he traveled to South Africa to help design and construct puppets for the Barrydale Reconciliation Day Puppet Parade, an annual collaboration between the community of Barrydale in the Klein Karoo region and South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company, known internationally as the creators of the “War Horse” puppets.    

THE LURE OF PUPPETRY

I’ve been interested in puppetry ever since I was a kid, probably since I was around 6 or 7. I was one of the first generations to be exposed to Sesame Street, which of course has Jim Henson’s muppets, and that was certainly an early influence. As I grew older I continued to have an interest in puppetry. In college, I took a puppetry class and built my first real marionette, and also made my first large-scale puppet for a production of The King and I. The director decided that it would be great if the evil King Simon of Legree was a traditional Thailand puppet, so I made this giant rod puppet, very simple, with a head suspended by a cable and then big hands on dowels. At the appropriate moment, the puppet rose up and the audience gasped.

Then my career turned more to set design and scenic painting, but every once in awhile I’d still make a puppet because I was interested in the artform. In 2008, I went to Burning Man for the first time. Since Burning Man is a participatory event and an artists’ event, I started to think about what kind of art I could contribute, and I realized it was puppets. Puppetry is a great form of art for engaging a whole community. That was probably the first time I’d done puppetry on a major scale, and it was a little overwhelming! Then around 2010 I started to delve into puppetry more deeply, in part because I moved to a new house that had room for a workshop where I could work. Last April, Handspring Puppet Company had a residency at TDPS [in partnership with Cal Performances] and I realized that puppetry is really my artistic passion.

THE BARRYDALE RECONCILIATION DAY PUPPET PARADE

At one point last year, I was talking about puppetry with Catherine Cole [TDPS Chair and Professor] and she said, “Maybe you should go to Barrydale,” which, at the time, I had never heard of. Every year Handspring works with the Barrydale community to make a puppet piece around Reconciliation Day. [Reconciliation Day, celebrated on December 16 is a public holiday that was instituted after the end of apartheid.] The local school kids are involved and participate in the piece, and there’s a parade beforehand where the puppets and performers go through the town.

I was blown away by what Handspring was doing in this small town in South Africa. So I started emailing members of the company that I had met when they were here at UC Berkeley to see if there was any way I could contribute. They were initially surprised by my suggestion but receptive, saying that they couldn’t contribute any money, but that if I could make my way to South Africa they’d love to have me work on the project. I replied, “This isn’t about money, this is about passion” and bought my plane ticket. I ended up helping design some of the puppets and worked on them for several weeks in Cape Town with Ukwanda Puppets and Designs Art Collective Company and then moved with the team to Barrydale to finish up building and have rehearsals before the performance.

“DIE NAME WAT ONS GEE”

DieNameWatOnsGee

Event poster designed by Glynn

(language adapted from the Barrydale Reconciliation Day Parade tumblr blog)

The 2015 Barrydale Reconciliation Day puppet performance Die Name wat ons gee remembers, honors and celebrates the ancestors of the Barrydale community, who were forced into slavery and indentured labour in the farming districts of the Cape in the 1800s. The story is narrated by ancient Tortoise to young Secretary Bird, who has forgotten how to fly. Tortoise takes Secretary Bird back in time to the Cape Colony where foreign-traded slaves were put to work under horrific circumstances. Amid the devastating losses of homeland, community, sacred names, belonging and humanity, a young slave woman and a Khoi man strike up a friendship in their shared dream of freedom. Through their heroic story of emancipation, Secretary Bird finds the courage to not only face the truth of her past, but to rewrite her future story.

Interesting note: PhD candidate in Performance Studies Joshua Williams was also present in Barrydale, serving as assistant director for the project. His article “Puppets and Politics in South Africa” gives more insight into the theme and meaning of this year’s performance and can be read here.

BUILDING A MASSIVE TORTOISE PUPPET

(from Glynn’s personal notes; language has been lightly edited and condensed)

HeadCarvingTortoiseDrawingTortoiseNeck

 

 

 

 

 

 

November 26: Yesterday I started carving the tortoise head for our giant tortoise puppet for the Barrydale/Smitsville Puppet Parade. I got pretty far along with it. The foam assembly and carving process was done in about five to six hours. Although it’s not really necessary, I am hoping to create a moveable jaw so that the puppet will have an animated mouth for talking action. Today I hope to complete the carving and move on to the neck and four feet.

November 28: Yesterday Luyanda, Ned and I put our heads together and figured out an exciting neck control mechanism for our tortoise. The collaboration aspect of group art making is perhaps the most exciting part. It really feels great when everyone in the group gets to contribute to the idea pool to solve artistic problems together. Ned proposed this fantastic solution to allow us to retract the head of the tortoise, as well as allow it to turn from side to side. We figured out how to do all this and provide controls for animating the mouth as well.

December 2: Today turned out to be a great day at the factory. We made some great progress on Secretary Bird and Tortoise puppets. It’s really great getting to have whole uninterrupted days building puppets and having the time and the heads to help figure it all out. We are attempting to give our giant puppets some great opportunities for movement and along with this comes a whole lot of mechanical problem solving. Tortoise was a challenge at the start of the morning. A lot of work was done to stabilize the head and even with that, the head still felt unwieldy and heavy. Finally Ned suggested we do some foam removal in the cranium area. So I did that and was amazed at what a difference it made. Polystyrene seems so light until you get a good sized chunk of it hanging off the end of a pole. So I was feeling hopeful that this was going to work. I rummaged around in the aluminum scrap box and found what turned out to be the perfect ready made piece, which ended up saving lots of time. Then all that was left was to drill the hole into the PVC pipe for the pivot bolt to go through and then tie on the guide ropes that control the head movement from side to side. And then to my amazement it worked! We are well on our way to having an awesome giant tortoise puppet.

December 8: It’s amazing and interesting to be a part of a show and actually be participating in the production as it unfolds. Rehearsals and puppet assembly take place in the same garage on the Karoosee olive orchards and vineyards. I can’t imagine a more stunning place to be creative. Those of us creating the puppets are part of the process in real time; we get to actually see how well or not the puppets are working at the time they are used in rehearsal so we can problem solve as things come up. I wish this sort of proximity and part of the process could happen at home in the professional world. Alas, it is seldom practical or possible. But it’s pretty amazing to get to experience it in this particular setting.

December 10: Today was a day of rebuilding the neck for tortoise. Unfortunately our PVC and dowel did not hold up to the rigors of rehearsal. Ned and I were very busy from late morning into the afternoon getting tortoise’s head ready for this afternoon’s rehearsal.

tumblr_nyvwx5wedU1ui2o1go2_400tumblr_nz70xqMIDI1v0ydiho2_1280 tumblr_nz3qlsKn7J1v0ydiho3_500

 

 

 

 

 

THE PERFORMANCE COMES TO LIFE

The parade was magical. It starts in front of the Smitsville school and makes a loop around the town and back to the school. At one point in the parade, we rounded the corner of the road to head back and were greeted with an astounding view of the valley. Absolutely stunning. It actually brought tears to my eyes.

12362870_966789110046680_3699622220571098208_o12339091_966788786713379_2584020169816976940_o12370842_966787393380185_948033387905492877_o

 

 

 

 

 

Once we got back to the school, we made our way to the play field behind the school. By this point the stone bleachers were completely filled with audience. It was incredible. I was asked, along with my fellow puppet builders, to help in the tortoise transition from horizontal to vertical.

We had a tense moment when the shell (that was tied on with twine) got knotted as the performers attempted to undo it. So we had a bit of worry and a delayed start as we fumbled and made do. The other fluke was an unexpected power failure for the lighting. This turned out to truly be a community event in that only one light was operational so surrounding cars provided side lighting with their headlights. It really added something special in the end and, as always, the show must go on!

In spite of the rough spots, I can’t imagine a more beautiful, energetic, and meaningful outcome than what we had that evening. At the end of the performance the audience was invited to come down, given “wings,” and everyone danced with the performers. Words can’t adequately describe the feeling, except to say it was absolutely magical. After all was said and done it was clear to me that all the energy and creativity put into the prior weeks of preparation, rehearsing, and puppet building all paid off in the end.

tumblr_nyrwe2qunQ1v0ydiho1_500 12366092_966791433379781_3688731013920094621_o 12377706_966791376713120_202245398760847372_o

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2016

TDPS Presents Chavez Ravine, Culture Clash’s Dynamic History of Community, Politics and Baseball

 

Chavez Ravine Poster Berkeley, CA. This March, the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies  (TDPS) presents the Bay Area premiere of Chavez Ravine, which brings to life a small Mexican-American community in 1950’s Los Angeles that became a target for political maneuvering and land acquisition—and the eventual home of Dodger Stadium. Written by Culture Clash, a zany Chicano performance trio, and directed by Sean San José, this fast-paced social satire incorporates music, vaudeville and multimedia to tell the true story of a courageous community fighting against displacement and urban power structures. Chavez Ravine plays March 4-13, 2016, with performances on Fridays & Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM in Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley Campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office or at the door.

Chavez Ravine opens in 1981 at Dodger Stadium, where rookie Fernando Valenzuela is pitching the season opener. Just as he steps up to the mound, ghosts of Chavez Ravine residents appear, entreating him to remember the bulldozed community whose past lies buried under the stadium. Taken on a journey through time, we witness Chavez Ravine residents strive to keep their poor but vibrant immigrant community intact while a coalition of powerful political and financial interests attempts to defeat them using eminent-domain seizures, evictions, puppet politicians, anti-communist media hype, red-baiting and more. A cast of 18 brings to life dozens of dynamic characters, including City Housing Authority chief Fred Wilkinson, LA Mayor Norris Paulson, Maria Salgado Ruiz, a community activist and organizer; and The Watchman, a sinister figure wielding immense behind-the-scenes power.

With themes including gentrification, urban growth and planning, race and class divisions and community identity, Chavez Ravine is relevant to contemporary issues facing the Bay Area. “Loss of lineage, loss of neighborhood, loss of stories, loss of actual land—this is reality. It’s happened and is happening, not just in Los Angeles, but in all major cities,” San José explains. “This story makes us question growth. Is growth always great? Is construction always necessary? I don’t know the answer to that, but I have a strong opinion having grown up in San Francisco and seen neighborhoods destroyed or changed in the name of progress, modernization, and commerce.”

Chavez Ravine was written and performed by Cultural Clash, a Chicano performance group composed of Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza that has roots in San Francisco. “Culture Clash is a ground-breaking group born in the Mission District, where they performed jokes and stories that looked like their neighborhood and the Chicano movement in the eighties,” says director Sean San José, who has long been familiar with the group’s work. “Their work reflects the stories of people of color. It’s fast, funny, cacophonous. It looks at big topics: Race (with a capital letter), cultures clashing, the beauty and boldness in living a life that includes immigrant history and the restructuring of what ‘culture’ and ‘consensus’ mean in this country. And they do it in a way that both pokes holes in it and allows us to laugh at ourselves.”

TDPS’s production will be the first staging of Chavez Ravine not performed by Culture Clash, as well as the first in the San Francisco Bay Area. This unique opportunity was facilitated by San José’s relationship with Richard Montoya: “I knew Richard as a collaborator and so he trusted that I understood their aesthetic and respected their words.” With the creators’ permission, the TDPS production has been reworked for a cast of 18, consisting of: Stephanie Benitez, Eddie Benzoni, Clara Choi, Isabel Cruz, Jordan Maria Don, Ran Flanders, Katherine Garcia, Linda Giron, Carolyn Hu, Farryl Lawson, Julian D. Marenco, Veronica Maynez, Guillermo Ornelas, Ely Orquiza, Samuel Peurach, Isaac Ramsey, Ciclady Rodriquez and Sage Ryan.

Production Details

Chavez Ravine opens Friday, March 4 and continues through Sunday, March 13, 2016 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are on sale through the TDPS Box Office at http://tdps.berkeley.edu/events/chavez-ravine/ or at the door.

Chavez Ravine features scenic design by Michael Locher, costume design by Wendy Sparks-Rehl, lighting design by Jack Carpenter, sound design by Alejandro Acosta and projection design by Kwame Braun.

#  #  #       

About TDPS

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Sean San José

Sean San José is co-founder of Campo Santo, the award-winning resident theater company of San Francisco’s Intersection for the Arts. As the Program Director of Theatre for Intersection for the Arts, San José has also helped create and curate a new program called the Hybrid Project, formed to bring together artists of all genres, that merges differing and emerging styles of performance in order to find a new performance language. He also conceived the theater project Pieces of the Quilt, a collection of short plays confronting the AIDS epidemic, and organized and created the AIDS service arts organization Alma Delfina Group-Teatro Contra el SIDA to distribute funds and present benefit performances. As Founding Director of the organization he has commissioned pieces and presented plays in theatres, schools, libraries, clinics and community centers. San José has been awarded an Audrey Skirball-Kennis TIME Grant Award, a San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Commission, two residencies at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from the Wattis Artist Residency, a Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award, the DramaLogue Award, Backstage West, the Cable Car Award, and the Bay Guardian Goldie Artistic Achievement in Theatre Award. Productions he has conceived, created and produced have also garnered numerous awards in excellence, including: Bay Area Reporter Best of the Season, Cable Car Award, DramaLogue and Bay Area Critics’ Circle Award.

About Culture Clash

Founded in 1984 in San Francisco’s Mission District, Culture Clash is Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza. They have become the most prominent Chicano/Latino performance troupe in the country, with work ranging from sketch comedy to an adaptation of Aristophanes, to the full length play Chavez Ravine, to co-writing Frank Loesser’s long lost musical Señor Discretion Himself based on a story by the legendary Bud Schulberg. For the last fifteen years, Culture Clash has been focused on site-specific theater, weaving personal narratives culled from interviews into an ongoing dramatic tapestry. Theater companies in Miami, San Diego, New York, Houston, Boston and San Francisco, among others, have commissioned Culture Clash to create performance pieces specifically for their cities. Their work gives immediate dramatic voice and expression to people in a certain time and place. It is theater of the moment, written and performed first for the people and communities on which it is based, and secondly for a broader audience.

Culture Clash is the recipient of numerous awards, commissions and grants, including a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Latino Spirit Award, the Los Angeles Hispanic Media Award, the Nosotros Golden Eagle Award for Outstanding Theater Group, The Liberty Hill Foundation award and dozens of city and state proclamations commendations. Their videos, short films and art exhibits have been shown at The Smithsonian; The Whitney Museum of American Art; Sundance Film Festival; The San Juan, Puerto Rico Film and Video Festival; The Art Institute of Boston; Palm Springs Film Festival; and The Los Angeles Film Festival, among others. Culture Clash has published several books of compilations: Culture Clash: Life, Death and Revolutionary Comedy, Culture Clash in AmeriCCa, and Oh Wild West.

January 2016 Alumnus Spotlight: Francis Pepper Tarson, ’48

Frances Pepper Tarson with her family.

Frances Pepper Tarson with her family.

2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. In honor of that anniversary we are reaching out to alumnus from each decade to share memories of their time in the drama department at UC Berkeley. Frances Pepper Tarson graduated from the University of California in 1948 with a major in Dramatic Arts.

Frances Tarson Pepper attended UC Berkeley from 1943-1948 and experienced firsthand the early years of the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, when it was then known as the Department of Dramatic Arts. Frances has a unique perspective of the time because, as she recalls, “The people that set up the department were Professor Durham and Professor Lehman from the English Department and Professor Pepper, my father, who was a professor of Aesthetics and chairman of the Art Department at that time.” Frances continues, “They hired Fred Harris and Henry Schnitzler to man the Department of Dramatic Arts. Those are the two people I started studying with—from Schnitzler I learned style and from Harris (and his wife Mary, who was an adjunct) I learned acting.” Frances was not what you would call a natural talent: “When I started it was clear that I didn’t know anything about acting. I was grateful for a chance to be taught to use the the qualities I have, since I needed an outlet for my emotions at that time in my life, and I found it in acting.”

Frances’s early years of college coincided with WWII, which meant there was a dearth of college-age men. As such, she recollects, “They did Journey to Jerusalem with an all-female cast, and I played Herod.” After taking a year off, Frances returned to UC Berkeley for her junior year, along with an influx of GI’s. “Those of us fresh from high school had the advantage of working with people who had been out in the world and were using their GI Bill to go to the University of California,” Frances remembers. “One of Fred Harris’s first shows was King Lear, and that was a very powerful show because most of the young men who were in it had seen war and knew its horrors.”

One particular moment during that production of King Lear became an unforgettable memory for Frances: “I was playing Goneril and a very talented man who had been overseas, Sam Levine, was playing Lear. Fred staged it on a very wide platform, and he had one of us on each side of the platform lit with blackness between us, then Lear tells Goneril that ‘Into her womb convey sterility./Dry up in her the organs of increase,That she may feel/How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/ To have a thankless child.’…Sometimes an experience I had onstage was so powerful that it has become a primary memory, instead of just a memory of being in a play. Well, that moment is so real to me—even now—that it’s as though it had happened to me.”

King Lear was one of three major productions that took place each year at that time, all of which were performed in Wheeler Hall. As Frances points out, depending on who taught classes in Wheeler on Saturday mornings, the cast and crew would have to take the set down on Friday night and put it up again on Saturdays. “My father, who often had a class there, said ‘If I can’t keep the attention of my class in front of your set, then I’m not a very good professor,’ and he allowed us to keep our sets up,” recalls Frances with a laugh. “The sets were built in the bottom of Eshleman Hall. It was a cave, and half of it was full of costumes that were just thrown in there haphazardly. Sometimes when we had late rehearsal, the next day I would lie down on the costumes and sleep so I wouldn’t have to walk home for a nap.”

When Frances was a student, in addition to the Department of Dramatic Arts, there was also a trio of honor societies which drama students belonged to. As Frances explains, “You had to be in three major productions to qualify for Mask and Dagger, which was for acting. There was Thalian, which was for directors. And then there was Hammer and Dimmer, which was the society for those who worked backstage.” Of course, Frances belonged to all three.

But it wasn’t just the students who were acting in those days, Frances recalls. The University had something called The Drama Section, where the professors would get together and read a play. “They would carry the script, dress to the hilt and act to the hilt!” Frances doesn’t remember the Drama professors ever taking part, but plenty of other university professors participated. “In those days, particularly during the war, the West Coast rarely got any productions of the shows playing in New York. But we could get the scripts and read them and that’s the way we knew what was going on in New York and what was going on in the drama field.” Frances says, “I remember seeing one play where a professor was carrying a script printed out on various sheets of paper and it slipped out of his hand and fell to the floor. Everyone rallied round to pick up the script and it turns out his next line was ‘Oh No!’”

Frances’s most memorable role came when she played Catherine in The Heiress, a then-new play by Ruth and Augustus Goetz. “That was probably the best thing I ever did,” says Frances. “I was directed by Mark Patterson and he invited Mary Harris, who was my coach, to come to the dress rehearsal. She came backstage afterwards and said ‘You have built a beautiful lamp but you haven’t turned it on.’ She gave me some very good advice, reminding me of things I already knew, and I turned it on. I think that’s the best thing I ever did since it was deeply and completely understood. And felt.”

After graduating from UC Berkeley, Frances moved to Washington to complete an MA in Drama at the University of Washington, and then joined the outdoor theater group The Mountaineers. “And then I started looking for a husband,” she jokes. “I went to Princeton and didn’t get one and so I went to Yale, where I was a secretary. There I met my husband in a play. It was Danton’s Death; I played Mrs. Danton and he played Robespierre and he killed Danton and married me!” It was an exciting time on the Yale campus, with talented young people like Dick Cavett, Carrie Nye, Austin Pendleton, Sam Waterston and the future director Peter Hunt as students. “The drama school had women but there were no women on campus so I was able to be in their plays and they were happy to have me there and surprised to find a secretary who could act!”

Frances willingly gave up her career to start a family, and is the proud mother of two boys. However, she could not let theater leave her life. She joined the Elmwood Playhouse, a 99-seat theater in Nyack, where Frances resides, that has been in existence for almost 70 years. “I’ve been a member of it for about thirty years, and my husband for forty years,” says Frances. The Playhouse puts on six shows a year, one of which is usually a musical. “We have extraordinary people working with us, very capable people and we put on tremendously good productions. That doesn’t mean that we don’t, every now and then, kind of groan and say ‘how do we get this one up and running?’ but it’s very interesting and exciting.”

Frances is so inspired by the work of the Playhouse that she even used her recent 90th birthday party as a fundraiser for the theater. “We advertised to theater members and my friends, inviting them to buy a ticket to my birthday party. You could make a donation of $15 for a card, $30 for my years of service, or $90 for my years of life,” Frances explains. “For the event, we put on a show, and I decided on the songs. After all the songs they interviewed me in the style of Inside the Actors Studio. And we raised, after expenses, over $8,000.”

For young people entering the theater world today, Frances has two pieces of advice. First, she says, “I once heard a very competent opera director tell students, ‘Look on your playbill. How many people are actors, and how many people are doing other important things to make the production?’ There are many opportunities if you are open to them.” And secondly, “If you love the theater, but find that professional theater is not what you want to pursue, remember that there are theaters in many, many communities and they offer a place to engage and share one’s love of theater.”

 

January 2016.

January 2016 Faculty/Staff Spotlight: Alan Read

Prof_AlanRead_MG_1148Alan Read is the Department Chair of Theater at King’s College London, director of the Performance Foundation, author of numerous titles on theater, and writes and broadcasts for BBC Radio 4. In Fall 2015, he taught “Theater Capital” to Berkeley students in London as part of UC Berkeley’s Global Edge program. 

Global Edge is an exciting program where newly admitted Berkeley freshmen spend their first semester abroad in London while earning Berkeley credit towards their degree. Click here for more info.

“From the West End to Westminster Abbey and many performances in between, plus a pair of gold lamé boots”

We’re delighted to have you working with our Berkeley students in London. Can you tell us how you became involved in the Berkeley Global Edge program?

My esteemed colleague Professor Catherine Cole at UC Berkeley contacted me asking if I could suggest anyone in London who might take on this new program. Catherine and her team were looking for a class that met the rigorous standards and imagination of their own Berkeley theatre programmes. I did my PhD at the University of Washington in Seattle in the 1970s and had always looked south down I-5 with admiration for what Berkeley represented, not least of all in the performing arts. So, while pretending to think of other potential course leaders for this, I always knew I wanted to do it myself.

What does the “Theater Capital” course entail?

Theater Capital has a self-explanatory subtitle: Performance in London/London in Performance. King’s College London – Strand Campus (where I first developed the course) is at the heart of ‘Theatreland’ (the West End, a vibrant, highly-profitable center of world theatre), which offers untold opportunities. But I also want students to explore the broad spectrum of performance beyond these stages—from the performances evident amongst lawyers in the Royal Courts of Justice, to the ceremony on the street as part of the Lord Mayor’s annual procession, and amongst clergy in Westminster Abbey—events which are all a few minutes walk away from King’s College and the Berkeley base at ACCENT.

800th Lord Mayor's Show

800th Lord Mayor’s Show

For the Global Edge program, I rethought the course with first-semester Berkeley students in mind: students whose initial engagement with the “Berkeley way” (of which I am a huge admirer) would be their London experience. I will leave it to my first class to spread the word of what they thought worked and did not, but over the semester of fourteen classes, four site visits and six performances we had a 95% attendance rate, which, given how easy it is to catch a cold during the fall in the London, was not bad.

Can you give us an overview of the semester?

It was a very full program of work. Before we even sat in class we were sitting in the The Purcell Room seeing Western Society performed by Gob Squad, one of Europe’s leading performance companies whose work combines media technologies, virtuosity of practice, contemporary themes and political forms of participation. Indeed only some of us were in the audience as within half an hour of the show Western Society starting, two members of the Berkeley group had been taken up onto the stage alongside six other audience members to participate in the second hour of the show.

Gob Squad, Western Society, featuring Alvin and Rosie

Gob Squad’s “Western Society,” featuring Alvin and Rosie

Ivan He and Ruby Armstrong were integral to the performance and received a standing ovation alongside other members of the company. It is an honour as a professor of theatre to find that one’s first act of ‘assessing’ a student is as an audience member applauding those students to the rafters. They were courageous and funny, cool and clever, which is what I expected of Berkeley students, but did not expect to see manifested quite so soon on a prestigious London stage in front of a packed, cheering auditorium.

After this start, the course fell into place beautifully. There were 40 Berkeley students in the class, which made for a full and coherent classroom. Each Friday, we had three hours of concentrated study at the ACCENT base about the experiences we had of theater, and site visits to the Royal Courts of Justice, the Old Bailey, Tate Modern, and the 800th staging of the Lord Mayor’s Show. What we were aiming for was a rigorous introduction to performance in London without excluding the manifest ways in which the city itself is a Theatre capital, a constant churn of multifarious performances through which London establishes what it can be and do (and cannot do).

800th Lord Mayor's Show

800th Lord Mayor’s Show

Our discussions also took seriously what was happening around us during the semester, including, for instance, considering the Paris atrocities at the Bataclan for what they were: a savage attack on the students’ own generation within what was a ‘theatre’ in the midst of a performance.  We worked on an idea that comes from a Parisian writer, Roland Barthes, that ‘texts’ are not just written things, but complex sign systems that exist in the world, within which ambiguous meanings are generated. Our task, following Barthes, was to reveal ways in which such performances can help us to understand our surroundings better, and of course to live more fully and justly within that world alongside others with very different understandings of that ‘same’ world.

In one assessment exercise, titled ‘Theatre Capital’, groups of five students each presented twelve images of the city that they had captured on their mobile phones, and analysed ways in which these images of urban life were saturated with performances.

Where are the performances other than the pan player?

Where are the performances other than the pan player?

If you cannot see the embedded performances that make up this image (other than the obvious image of the pan player to the right of the proscenium frame), then you might want to seek out a member of this class and ask them where the performances are, what they are, and why they make a difference to everything happening here. Or, you might want to come join next year’s Theatre Capital program in London – you would be welcome.

What other plays did the class see? Out of all the cultural opportunities in London, why these?

We were graced with a very fine season of theater this fall, and were brilliantly supported by Sara in the London ACCENT office who has a magic way of getting a large number of tickets for very hard-to-attend shows. For instance, we saw one of the first nights of Martin McDonagh’s (scriptwriter of In Bruges) celebrated play Hangmen at the beautiful Royal Court Theatre, which received 5-star reviews, and has since transferred to the West End to huge acclaim. We saw the new play Pomona, a dystopian drama exploring a void space in a city where something appalling is happening, staged at the National Theatre’s experimental space, The Shed. We then saw a classic work, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good on the huge Olivier Stage of the National, and to offset this spectacular political historical drama we spent an evening at the Young Vic with the amazing Belarus Free Theatre and their captivating production of King Lear. This company is in exile from their home country – threatened with incarceration or even death were they to return.

Belarus Free Theatre Buffet after "King Lear" at Young Vic Theatre

Belarus Free Theatre buffet after “King Lear” at Young Vic Theatre

Now, I have seen many King Lears, but only one student within the group had seen a performance of the play, so this was a big call to introduce students to the Bard’s greatest work in this way (not at the Royal Shakespeare Company or the Globe). I knew it was really no risk as the Belarus Free Theatre artists are preeminent performers in world theatre and showed us why with a dizzying, coruscating staging of the play that, again, brought the audience to its feet. Two hours after the show ended, the Berkeley students were still in the auditorium, having downed Belarusian herring snacks brought to them by the company, discussing the relationship of the work to issues of gerontology with a specialist from a neurological centre in a London hospital. Intellectual stamina indeed – just what I expected.

Our final and sixth show was Wallace Shawn’s Evening at the Talk House. The group could not believe that Wallace Shawn, who has always acted in his own complex work, turned out to be the short, round guy from Gossip Girl. He is a brilliantly imaginative and scabrous writer, evidenced by this strangely topical play about a world in which theatre has disappeared and actors are either in long-running TV series or assigned to operate as marksmen deploying drones that execute people.

What was your impression of Berkeley students?

Well, I am missing them on Friday mornings. They brought the sun and extended summer well into fall. They were alert, focused, collegiate and supportive of each other in discussion.

I am a demonstrative teacher in front of a class and tend to talk quite a lot. But amongst this company I always felt that the commitment was to the experiences we had shared, and from the first night at Gob Squad’s Western Society I knew we would be fine. The show started with a clock to the rear of the stage counting through the digits of the last million years, in front of which entered two of the actors dressed in thigh high gold lamé boots – and nothing else. Since the ending of censorship in London theatre in 1968, no one turns a hair at such things on the London stage, and the group similarly took everything in stride – from being covered in liquids during Belarus Free Theatre’s King Lear, to discovering that the strange person sitting next to them in their underpants in Pomona was one of the psychopathic characters about to enter the scene. In short, Berkeley students seem to recognize that in the end, contrary to Shakespeare, all the world is not a stage, and that in performance there are very specific constraints that police the borders between theatre and life. It might be challenging but you are probably in as safe a place as you can be amongst theatre people. They’re not a bad lot.

With all these tremendous experiences, can you pin down what was, to you, the most exciting part of this course?

Spending the very last Friday of the semester sitting together on the floor of the Turbine Hall in Tate Modern amidst the Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas’ vast installation Empty Lot. We discussed whether the plants that surrounded us had any kind of parliament of their own, who might speak up for them in the current environmental crisis, and whether performance offered any rhetorics (modes of expression) that might help bring them close to the human collective.

Empty Lot, Tate Modern, 2015

Empty Lot, Tate Modern, 2015

Deadline Festival at the Tate Modern, 2015

Deadline Festival at the Tate Modern, 2015

The installation work, which had a strong ecological element, had, rather ironically, been funded by the car-maker Hyundai, which raised some interesting questions about arts sponsorship and Tate’s dependency on fossil fuel centered-funding. We were there helping them to kick the habit and were fully borne out by our commitment, some days later, when the Paris Climate Accord was eventually signed. The Berkeley students had great insights to offer weighing up the many sides of these challenging arguments.

Hearing back from each student over tea at the beautiful Wallace Collection later on that last Friday, before they left for home, of what it had meant to them to have this opportunity to be in London, to live and to learn, was more than a pleasure. Roll on next year.

 

 

 

January 2016

January 2016 Student Spotlight: Natalie Rutiezer

NatalieRutiezer2

Photo: Lola Ulugova

Natalie Rutiezer is a junior transfer student majoring in Near Eastern Studies and minoring in Dance and Performance Studies. She has studied Middle East and Central Asian dance for years and is currently the director of Adara Dance Company and UC Berkeley’s Central Asian and Middle Eastern Dance Company, Sorayya.

When Natalie Rutiezer arrived in Tajikistan last summer, she had memorized the Cyrillic alphabet and spoke some Persian, but knew she would rely most on the universal language of dance. Having studied Middle Eastern and Central Asian dance in the Bay Area for years, she embraced the opportunity to travel to a country she had studied and read about, and learn regional dances and their history firsthand from Tajik performers and teachers.

Natalie first became interested in Middle Eastern and Central Asian dance when she jumped into a Persian Dance class six years ago on a whim. She had taken jazz, hip hop, modern, ballet and belly-dancing previously, but this particular class sparked a whole new passion. “The music and dances were so beautiful,” recalls Natalie, “and I just became fascinated by Central Asian dance forms and the varied cultures that exist in these regions. There are some similarities between the classical dances because of Russian influences predating the post-Soviet states, but ultimately the many different regional dances are unique and distinct.” At the time, Natalie was taking a break from college in order to work and save money to transfer from San Francisco City College to UC Berkeley. “I worked and danced a lot during that six-year gap, and taught kids’ dance classes, fitness classes, and did silly things like dress up like a princess for birthday parties,” says Natalie. She also made time to start learning Persian and continued to pursue her interest in Middle Eastern and Central Asian dance, enrolling at UC Berkeley in 2014 as a major in Near Eastern Studies and a minor in Dance and Performance Studies.

Since most forms of Middle Eastern and Central Asian dance are passed down orally and through practice, from teacher to student, Natalie knew that travel would play an important role in her studies. “There’s not necessarily a lot of literature or scholarly writing about these dance styles, their techniques or their cultural significance,” Natalie says. “I want to create a base of knowledge for myself, and to share with others, and the way to do that is to travel there.”

Natalie4Last summer, Natalie was able to expand that knowledge base by traveling to Tajikistan as  a 2015-2016 Haas Scholar, a distinguished award bestowed annually on 20 talented UC Berkeley undergraduates that comes with research support and financial funding. In Tajikistan, dance — the sweeping gestures of the body, the symbolism, the hand movements and fast ecstatic spins — is an integral part of ritual, tradition, and expression of daily life. Using connections forged in the Bay Area dance community, Natalie spent two months researching regional styles and variations of Tajik dance, including the Soviet-influenced style of Shashmaqam, the Badakhshan style and the Kulobi style. Based in the capital city of Dushanbe and staying with host families, she also traveled around the country to observe and practice. “There are so many regional dances, and it’s fascinating how different each one is from the other and how much there was to learn,” Natalie says of her trip. “All of my instructors in Tajikistan were very excited to teach me all they knew about their local dances,” Natalie adds. “Hopefully I will be able to give back by sharing my knowledge back here in Berkeley, and also bringing them here on a cultural exchange.”

Natalie3

Photo: Lola Ulugova

Natalie is sharing the knowledge gained during her travels in several ways. She is currently the director of the UC Berkeley student-run dance company Sorayya: Middle Eastern and Central Asian Dance Troupe, and taught its members a Kulobi dance last semester. She also taught the DeCal course “Middle Eastern and Central Asian Dancing: Culture and Communal Dance Practice” in Fall 2015 and will teach it again in Spring 2016. Last semester the class focused on Turkish, Roman, Saidi and Persian classical dance, and also addressed Orientalism, the idea of “The East,” and how belly dancing is a Western interpretation of regional forms. “The DeCal students, a mix of dancers and non-dancers, initially struggled with the rhythms and complex steps of unfamiliar dances,” says Natalie, largely because the dances in these regions are often done with odd counts. “Normally Western dance works in counts of eight, but these dances work in sevens and elevens and nines.” To add a live music element to the class, Natalie brought in musicians to play and share their knowledge of the music and their own experiences of the dance.

In the long term, Natalie is interested in doing more scholarly work on Middle Eastern and Central Asian dance forms (she’s applied for a Fulbright fellowship to travel and research more), but currently is excited to focus on her own dance practice and her teaching. “I love teaching. I’m going to be teaching the DeCal course this semester, presenting a workshop on Cal day in April, and I’ll be part of TDPS’s Exploration of Forms Series in the spring,” she says. “It’s great to feel so supported by my Berkeley community and to feel that these dance forms have a place in this community and that people are interested in helping me share what I’ve learned.”

 

January 2016

December Alumnus Spotlight: Huan Dong, Class of ’07

Huan1Huan Dong, Class of ‘07, is currently a medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He continually finds parallels between medicine and theater, and says that his theater training is helping him become a compassionate physician.

TDPS graduate. Kaiser Permanente Theater Program Performer Educator. HIV Prevention teacher in Tanzania. Medical student. While only 30, Huan Dong has an impressive resume, and a career path that’s encompassed many disciplines and taken him to multiple countries. Through it all, his love of theater remains constant, as has his passion to find the career that best suits his talents.

Huan’s love of theater began in elementary school and, despite his parents’ reservations about pursuing theater in college, he continued to perform onstage, dance on Lower Sproul, and work backstage at UC Berkeley. He knew he wanted to double-major, and studying Theater and Performance Studies was an easy choice. The other major was harder to pin down. Says Huan, “I have many different hobbies and had to find out what I wanted to learn more about and use as a foundation for a career and personal life in the future.” Huan first studied Astrophysics, then switched to Architecture, before finally settling on Integrated Biology. “My parents never really supported me in theater,” Huan relates, “but when I graduated with a double major and received the Mark Goodson Prize (for Distinguished Artistic Talent) they were very proud.”

During Huan’s last year at Cal, he volunteered in Vietnam as an English teacher and found theater games to be excellent teaching tools. “People who had studied English for years hesitated to speak it because they were nervous about mispronouncing words or using them out of context,” Huan explains. “I was adamant about them speaking English and used improv activities to encourage them to think on the spot.” While in Vietnam, he also volunteered at an orphanage and was recruited for a medical mission in the country’s rural hills. Huan recalls, “Even though I was just assisting and had no medical knowledge, I was touched by the experience. I realized how much impact you can have on the life of a person, and that began my path to medical school.”

After graduation, Huan’s interests in health and theater aligned when he became a member of Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre. The touring theater troupe performs shows for school-age children and other community members that address topics like obesity, non-violent conflict resolution, and STI and HIV prevention and education. “I utilized both majors (Theater and Biology), made an incredible impact on the community, and further invested in a career in health,” says Huan of this convergence of his passions.

Huan also drew from his theater background when he traveled to Tanzania with Support for International Change, a nonprofit organization that aims to limit the impact of HIV/AIDS in underserved communities. Huan educated students in Tanzanian villages about HIV in an effort to reduce stigma about the disease. To personalize the disease, he dug into his theatrical toolkit to create the fictional character of Kaka Bob:

“Many people refuse to get tested because they are afraid of what the community will think of them. I challenged that mindset by creating the character of Kaka Bob for my classroom (kaka means “brother” in Swahili). Kaka Bob sat in on the basic skills class I was teaching, becoming a friend to the students, and at the end of class he was tested for HIV and found out he was positive. This prompted a discussion about whether Kaka Bob was now any different, and how we could help him. The children rallied around Kaka Bob. The character was a powerful tool to start dialogue about fighting the stigma of HIV. I wouldn’t have thought to create, or been able to create, this character without my training at TDPS and my experience at Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theater Programs.”

During the next phase of Huan’s career, getting a Masters in Human Nutrition and Metabolic Biology from the Institute of Human Nutrition of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, he also managed to include theater. To compliment his intense study, he joined the Bard Hall Players, one of the longest running and operating theater groups at a medical school in the country. There, he stage-managed, played Brutus in Julius Caesar (and also designed the lights), and choreographed a production of Urinetown.

Currently, Huan is a medical student at the special Charles R. Drew University—David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA program. Reflecting on his interview process before being admitted, Huan muses, “It’s interesting how in medical school applications and interviews, I ended up talking most of the time about my involvement with theater. Theater has given me the ability to empathize and connect with patients through universal human traits. That’s what’s going to help me to become a compassionate physician.”

As an MD candidate, Huan is still deciding on a specialty. “My first choice is infectious diseases because I enjoy investigating how the ecology of viruses and bacteria becomes our pathophysiology as they live in our bodies.” His second choice is Emergency Medicine, since, Huan ruefully admits, “I feel I am a very anxious person and tend to talk fast, but many of my friends in medical school say I stay calm under pressure and that’s why they think I should go into emergency medicine.”

Whatever specialty he chooses, he plans to connect to his future patients by utilizing the art of listening. “In theater we are taught to be in the moment. Performers actively pay attention to a character’s narrative and that’s exactly what you do in a medical office,” Huan explains. “Just as performers are vulnerable onstage, so are patients in a doctor’s office. When I interview patients as a medical student, even though I might be nervous, I am a sympathetic and active listener. In both performing and interacting with patients, you learn to listen and be in the moment with someone who is telling you their story.”

Active listening is not the only parallel Huan has noticed between medicine and theater. “In theater there’s months of preparation for one performance and in medical school we also prepare in detail for a surgery we may perform only once.” He continues, a bit surprised at how his two majors have matched up into a career, “We do all this preparation and everything comes to a pinnacle where you try to connect with an individual under the lights of the surgery room, or under stage lights. You are under bright lights, you have a team you have to trust and it’s an amazing dance of life.”

 

 

December 2015.

December Faculty/Staff Spotlight: Lisa Wymore

www.barbarabutkus.comAssociate Professor and Department Vice Chair of TDPS Lisa Wymore is Co-artistic Director of Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts with Sheldon B. Smith. Recently appointed artists-in-residence at ODC Theater San Francisco, they are working on their newest production “Zero Return.” Lisa’s interests lie in the intersection between technology and dance performance. Below, Lisa elaborates on her passions and her projects.

Can you tell us about Disappearing Acts?

Disappearing Acts is a collective with my husband and partner Sheldon Smith. We started the company in Chicago years ago and have been in the Bay Area since 2004. Over the years we’ve added a new collaborator, Ian Heisters (a technologist, dancer and improviser), and we often perform with James Graham (a TDPS alumnus) and Peiling Kao (a Bay Area dancer).

Sheldon and I founded the company because we were interested in layering video with performance. We engage with video, sound, and digital elements and also use Kinect cameras(1)  to look at gesture movement through space in three dimensions. Ian is a more formal computer programmer, and he uses programs like Open Sound Control and Python to build more complicated algorithms to expand our interactive performances.

Recently we did a piece called Number Zero: A Space Opera, a fun take on a group of people living in space after “the singularity”(2) takes place, where the human race is being partially controlled by computer interfaces and is deeply embedded in relationships with computer intelligence. The piece draws on sci-fi tropes used in iconic films such as Logan’s Run and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

What project are you working on currently?

Well, out of Number Zero: A Space Opera came the score Zero Return (0⏎). The score is a program that takes our names, puts them in a cache, and uses an algorithm to draw them out and issue commands. For example, the program will say Ian, step into the space, and Ian will then create a series of movements in the space. Then the program says Return and Ian retraces his steps to his original place and attempts to re-perform the same set of actions. At any point the program can be triggered to have the performers start remembering their improvised movements; this is denoted by the command “Zero,” which acts like a kind of bookmark on the movement phrase. The “Return” command requires that the dancer return to the beginning of the movement phrase and repeat it using memory and sensation.

The program and algorithm change over time, eventually giving commands like Wrestle Sheldon to the floor or Lisa, go away or Ian, stand in a corner. We can tweak the voice of the computer so it can be kinder, or more dogmatic. The audience feels like the computer has intelligence or agency in the score, but it is only a series of algorithms.

We will perform Zero Return in Chicago this January for a durational performance that runs an hour; for reference, the original score was just ten minutes.  We are experimenting with how the score can evolve to include the audience so they understand it is not a memorized piece of choreography. We may even give the audience a chance to plug in commands throughout the script, or put their name into the cache so that they are called into the piece as well.

When did you first realize you wanted to incorporate technology into your work?

My mom is a visual artist (a photographer) and my father was an early adopter of the VHS camcorder, so I’ve been interested in visual images, film, and video technology since I was a kid. In graduate school I did a lot of video archival footage and taping for the graduate program at the University of Illinois and helped establish a program in video and video editing. After I graduated with my MFA, to make ends meet I starting taking archival videos for local dance groups and that’s when I met Sheldon. He had an interest in technology and photography, and was making electronic music. We started our video company, Superstar Productions, and did a lot of work with independent dance artists and theater artists in Chicago.

In the late 90’s, digital cameras became much more affordable. At the same time, new programs like Isadora and Final Cut Pro became affordable and available, and that’s when we started to incorporate moving images and dance together.

Earlier this year, you and Sheldon became artists-in-residence at ODC. Congratulations! What does that mean for your work?

Yes, Sheldon and I are ODC resident artists for three years and we are about six months in right now. We are currently working on ideas taken from Zero Return, and exploring body sensors, Fitbits(3) and other sensing technologies that process rhythms and habits of the body. We are thinking of data-tracking the audience to see how that intertwines with the story we are building, and creating a series of vignettes on the subject of human relationships and what is often called the augmented self.

As artists in residence, ODC gives support, helps us plan, provides administrative support, and supplies physical space.  Eventually we will co-present at one or two points in the residency. Disappearing Acts has never had a problem with creative ideas. In order to expand, what we need are the underpinnings of it, the administrative aspect. Now, with ODC support, we are planning a fundraiser, we are getting an intern, and we are building up our infrastructure. It’s great to have a supportive moment to work on the company.

It’s common for theaters of ODC’s size to have a residency program but they are usually six months or a year instead of 3 years. So special thanks to Christy Brolingbroke, the Deputy Director for Advancement at ODC, for being fantastic and visionary.

Can you give us insight into what to expect from Berkeley Dance Project 2016, which you are directing in the spring?

In addition to directing the entire program, I am choreographing a piece for the concert as well. For that piece, I will be working with 5-7 dancers from TDPS and collaborating with Berkeley alumnus and sculptor Bruce Beasley, as well as Ian Heisters from Disappearing Acts. We plan to project large rings, based on Bruce Beasley’s sculptures, that the dancers will interact with. There will be sensors in the dancers’ costumes tracking their movements and those monitors will be coordinated with the rings; so these beautiful large projections will be tied to human motion. Ursula Brown, a Ph.D. candidate in New Media and Music, will perform live music and the sound will be processed and spatialized in relationship to the dancers’ movements. Essentially, everything will feel very alive in relationship to the rings and the motion in the room.


1. Kinect cameras can recognize users and track their movements in 3-D. They can also interpret specific gestures and voice commands, allowing for hands-free control of electronic devices.
2. The technological singularity is a hypothetical event where technology evolves beyond our understanding, and the capacities of the human brain are surpassed by artificial intelligence.
3. A Fitbit is a small wireless-enabled wearable device that can track one’s activity, measuring data such as the number of steps walked, quality of sleep, stairs climbed, and other personal metrics.

 

December 2015.

December Student Spotlight: Karin Shankar

KarinWebKarin is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies. She recently launched P[art]icipatory Urbanisms, a web-based publication that examines the intersections between performance, urban environments and politics.

Karin Shankar’s interest in cities can be traced to growing up in Mumbai, a city with a population of about 20 million, the biggest film industry in the world, and a vibrant tradition of theater. This early introduction to the intersection of performance and city life was the seedling for Shankar’s latest endeavor, the web-based publication P[art]icipatory Urbanisms. Says Shankar, now a PhD candidate in Performance Studies at UC Berkeley, “The interdisciplinary study of cities today is so important. We live in a moment in which the world is more urban than ever before. As a scholar, I’m passionate about thinking about many aspects of urban space—the impact of rapid urbanization, public art and performance, marginalized spaces in the city, raced and queer spaces, and power and networks in the city…Performance is a very useful lens to think about these issues.”

P[art]icipatory Urbanisms began when Karin and her collaborator Kirsten Larson, a graduate student in Architecture and City Planning, were awarded a grant from the Mellon Foundation’s UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative to create and edit the publication. The two scholars decided to focus on the metropolises of New Delhi, India and São Paulo, Brazil due to their similar size and positions in the global urban imaginations, the histories of participatory urban activity in both spaces, and for their own personal and research connections in the two cities.

In the summer of 2014, Karin traveled to New Delhi and Kirsten went to São Paulo to interview participatory urban practitioners and collectives, including urban NGOs, performance and art collectives, journalists, city planners and builders, activists, waste-workers, educators and graffiti muralists. Karin says, “We wanted to see the various ways in which people defined and practiced ‘taking part’ in their cities, across the realms of art and politics in both these spaces.” She continues, “Our interviewees spoke of their incredibly creative and political urban initiatives, [ranging] from mobile performances of poetry and theater, to citizen journalism on gentrification, to radical neighborhood education initiatives. In São Paulo, for instance, a feminist dance collective, Coletivo Pi, is exploring how to create ‘urban kindness’ through movement and dance works in the city.”

After returning to UC Berkeley, Karin and Kirsten began to compile and condense their materials. P[art]icipatory Urbanisms officially launched in October 2015 and is comprised of two components. The first is an online bilingual (Brazilian Portuguese and English) publication of twenty interviews from São Paulo and New Delhi. To show connections between the cities, the interviews are formatted as a diptych—two interviews, one from each city, are laid side by side. Karin explains, “In visual art, a diptych is often used to extend the canvas, and draw parallels between two sides. We chose this conceptual format so that readers and interviewees from the two cities could form unexpected connections, and see productive relationships in the various art, performance and activist initiatives across the two cities.”

The second component of the project is a peer-reviewed anthology of scholarly articles on the themes of urban participation and its relationship with politics and aesthetics. After putting out a call for submissions, Karin and Kirsten received over 70 contributions from emerging and established scholars within the US and from across the globe, and ultimately chose 18 for the publication. The research articles address a variety of current topics, including the occupation of a theater in Athens during the Greek economic crisis, the ‘right to housing’ protests in Madrid and Rome, and Black urban studies and its relation to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The online publication, and the accompanying limited print-run, of P[art]icipatory Urbanisms was received well, with over 4,500 hits on the website in the first week and academics writing in to say they will refer to the anthology as a resource for classes on public space, urban performance and activism. In addition, the publication facilitates creative exchange and advocacy for the interview participants. Explains Karin, “The groups in São Paulo and New Delhi will be using the publication in their advocacy initiatives—which is important to us as we wanted the publication to be useful. They are also enthusiastic about making connections with artists and activists in their own city, as well as from this other city, 9000 miles away, that is facing similar urban challenges.”

Karin will be graduating this spring and is currently hard at work completing her dissertation, which examines the work of five contemporary artists and performers in New Delhi and looks at how they offer aesthetic tools to contemplate rapid urban change. Karin’s experience with P[art]icipatory Urbanisms is informing her dissertation, and has also opened new research avenues and provided practical experience in editing an anthology. Reflecting on what she learned from the project, Karin says, “Seeing the ideas that emerged from the interviews was inspiring. In the anthology, we got to work closely with 18 authors. Aside from learning about their compelling research, we learned so much about the editorial and publication process. This was a wonderful experience of collaborative scholarship.” Though the online anthology may be complete, Karin has no plans to conclude her research: she and Kirsten are thinking about curating an exhibition based on P[art]icipatory Urbanisms in São Paulo next fall.

View P[art]icipatory Urbanisms

 

December 2015.

BIG GIVE is happening right now – November 19th!

BIG GIVE 2015 is happening now! Make your gift to the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies today – Thursday, November 19th, 2015

 

ATW_0536

The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies is a home for creativity, a stage for performance, a platform for engagement and a launchpad for innovative research. Here, our students develop the confidence, abilities and communication skills necessary to succeed in any path they choose. Some will go on to become professional actors, dancers or designers; some will become respected researchers; some will work in other fields but all will be enriched by the experience of creating, sharing and studying performing arts.

We are constantly striving to better serve our students. Every dollar donated to TDPS goes directly to bringing together the best academic and performance opportunities for our students: creating a unique place where research meets practice and public engagement.

Your gift will help us support students’ artmaking, provide scholarships, host workshops, and bring distinguished visiting artists from around the world to work with our students. Your tax-deductible donation will also help us continue to keep our ticket prices low, allowing the entire Bay Area community to experience great theater and dance at an affordable price.

BIG GIVE is a 24-hour campus-wide fundraising campaign where alumni, parents, students and YOU can show your support for UC Berkeley.

If you have never donated before, please consider a gift of $20 (or more!) to TDPS – a little goes a long way.

If you have donated before, we would like to thank you again, and ask you to renew your commitment.

GIVE_NOW

November Faculty Spotlight: Shannon Jackson and Angela Marino release new books

9780262029292Shannon Jackson, Associate Vice Chancellor for the Arts and Design, TDPS Professor and the Cyrus and Michelle Hadidi Chair in the Humanities, has just released The Builders Association: Performance and Media in Contemporary Theater, a new critical retrospective of the award-winning intermedia theater performance company The Builders Association, together with the company’s artistic director and founder Marianne Weems.   

What inspired you to write The Builders Association: Performance and Media in Contemporary Theater?

I learned about The Builders Association when they performed in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. I met Marianne Weems, the artistic director, and she discussed how much she enjoyed working in the creative landscape of the Bay Area. I was Chair of TDPS at the time, and we were able apply for an artist residency program at the Arts Research Center. In that residency the Builders created the first version of a show called Continuous City; this was a piece about digital connection in a globalizing world. It ended up being a collaboration that involved students from across the campus and TDPS students served as primary actors in technical theater and design.

Having The Builders Association in residency made me realize how much research they did toward every show and how deeply they were experimenting with the theatrical apparatus. When Marianne mentioned she’d been talking to different editors about a book on the Builders, and asked obliquely whether I would do it, I jumped at the chance.

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

I hope readers get a sense of how hard these artists work at the arguments and aesthetics of their pieces. When we designed the book we looked for terms that gave readers a sense of theater-making as a process of construction: “R&D,” “Operating Systems,” and “Storyboard.” The Builders deeply research every topic, whether it is ethnographic work, archival work, or secondary literature reading. They think imaginatively about technology and new media systems as artistic forms; they are a theater company that uses new technology and also provokes reflection and debate about the role of technology in our lives.  I also hope that readers come to an understanding of the courage and perseverance required to sustain a company over different iterations for 20 years. It takes a great deal of labor and personal sacrifice, commitment, friendship and love to sustain an artist group.

What was the most intriguing fact/story you uncovered while working on the book?

What’s interesting about The Builders Association is that they are billed as a “new media” performance group, yet what’s really striking is how much of their theatre is about investigating “old media.” The excavations of 19th century popular culture, early cinema and the “cinema of attractions” have all inspired the Builders’ sense of what theatre can be now. In a climate where we wonder and worry about new media evacuating the essence of our art forms, the Builders recognize that technology has been embedded into the deep history of theatre — and embedded into all art forms  —  for centuries.

 

To get your copy of The Builders Association: Performance and Media in Contemporary Theater, visit here.

 

December 2015.

51zD6Qem1tL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Angela Marino, Assistant Professor at TDPS, will release her new book Festive Devils of the Americas in December. Edited with Milla Cozart Riggio and Paolo Vignolo, Festive Devils of the Americas is the first volume to present a transnational and performance-centered approach to this fascinating, feared, and revered character of fiestas, street festivals, and carnivals.

What inspired you to write Festive Devils of the Americas?

For me, inspiration came from collaboration. Once I knew that others were working on this fascinating figure of the devil in performances all over the hemisphere, it almost felt like I had to write this book. I was at a conference in Bogota Colombia, dedicated entirely to research on fiestas and carnival in Latin America, and it was then that I proposed the idea to Zeca Ligiéro, one of the preeminent scholars in performance studies at the Universidade de Rio de Janeiro in Brasil, and Paolo Vignolo who was just then getting tenure at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. From there the book grew, over several encounters with Zeca and Paolo and Milla Riggio who would later become a co-editor. Collaboration fuels inspiration, which I think is also much of what makes up the fiesta experiences in which the devils are performed.

What do you hope your readers will take away from the book?

My hope is that readers of this book come away with a genuine appreciation for how large-scale outdoor, public performance practices like festival, fiesta and carnival can be a source for healing the very real violence of devil-beliefs and so-called evil. The devil as an embodiment of evil was always a political strategy to demoralize an adversary, take over land, and justify war. People were associated with the devil figure in a deeply racist and imperialist ideology over centuries in this hemisphere and beyond, and to think that these cultural, political, spiritual and economic consequences have not taken their toll to the present day is to underestimate or ignore the impact of our social world. In many ways, the devil figure in festive performance is a way of exposing these histories and also healing from them. In the fiesta there is a communal production that transforms fear into familiarity, creativity and marvel.

What was the most intriguing fact you uncovered while working on this book?

One of the most intriguing things to learn is how important a figure like the festive devil is for telling afro-descendant, indigenous and Jewish histories. These were the groups who were most often performing devils; it was not the Spanish-blood white elites of Latin America. People were at times forced or cajoled into the role, especially during the Inquisition; at other times there were incentives and very often favors that were issued through the Church. Despite the friars’ belief that some didactic ‘bad’ would stick to the performers, the devil performances grew to become extraordinarily popular by virtue of the songs, instruments, costuming and movements that were important to those who produced them. As they grew in popularity, they carried with them all of these forms and styles, from the steps of the dancers, a particular way of making or wearing the masks, the rhythms or percussion of the music and so forth. Now the devils easily upstage the priest in some of these performances.

 

For more information, visit festivedevils.org. To preorder your copy, click here.

November Alumnus Spotlight: Doug and Cessna Kaye, Class of ‘70

TheKayesDoug and Cessna Kaye met and fell in love in the UC Berkeley Drama Department (as it was called then). They graduated in 1970, Cessna with her masters degree and Doug with his bachelor’s degree, and have been together ever since. Below, the couple shares about their experiences at Berkeley, their love of theater arts and the ways in which a theater degree can positively influence every aspect of a career arc.   

What is the strongest memory of your time at UC Berkeley?

Cessna: Oh my goodness there are so many! I hardly know how to answer that. From a classroom perspective it was a bit daunting, because I had taken a few years off before getting  my masters at Berkeley. The classes were challenging and exciting.

Doug: Mine was meeting Cessna.

Cessna: We met in directing class. Doug asked me out to a party that he and his roommate were throwing and that was it. We’ve been together ever since.

Doug: Let’s see, I won the [Roslyn Schneider] Eisner Prize for Continuing Creative Achievement in 1969 or 1970. That was exciting.

Cessna: I want to add that the time we were going to Berkeley was when People’s Park was erupting and there was tear gassing from helicopters and such. It was quite a turbulent time.

Can you tell us a little bit about where life took you after graduation?

Doug: After graduation, Cessna worked in the ACT costume shop at the Geary theater in San Francisco and I worked next door at the Curran, as a stagehand for the local union. A year later, in the summer of ‘71, we moved to NYC where I went to grad school for film and television. Cessna pursued acting and we got stuck there for 13 years. [They now live in Marin County.]

Over a period of years Cessna left acting and went into nursing. I produced a few films and together we produced a documentary. I worked in television and news as a sound man, covering the Senate Watergate hearings and then went into the computer software business. I was a CEO for many years and then decided to work my way down the corporate ladder. [Laughs] I got very involved in the early days of podcasting, ran a number of podcasts and developed a non-profit podcast network. Life’s never been boring!

How did the skills you acquired from studying theater apply to your careers?

Cessna: A theater background is excellent preparation for an adult life. It informs the way I look at the world, from learning very practical stuff—how to build a set, use a hammer and nail, and change a plug on a light—to learning about the world. I learned about the world through drama and I learned about world history and different ways of thinking through dramatic art history. It’s part of who I am.

I found that nursing, like theater, is very much about working as part of a team and being responsible for your part. It’s not just one person on their own; you are working together toward a common goal. When I put on my nursing uniform, it was similar to putting on a costume. There’s a transformation that takes place when you’re getting into character, and I would get that same feeling when I got ready for the day. Similar to theater, I knew that the role I was about to play as part of a team was important.

Doug: Because I worked in the technical side of theater, to me it’s all a continuation. I was a technical theater person, doing sound and lighting design, then moved into directing film. Filmmaking was always a relatively technical process for me (and maybe that’s why I didn’t stay in filmmaking). Then I worked with computer software, which is technical, and now do photography, which has technical elements. It’s been a continuum really.

What are you spending your time on these days?

Cessna: For me, my nursing career morphed into what is known as complementary care, or care that goes along with western treatments. I perform a form of Japanese acupressure, called jin shin jyutsu, working one on one with patients that are dealing with cancer. Jin shin jyutsu helps them deal with the western treatments they are receiving, whether it’s surgery, chemo, or radiation. The jin shin jyutsu helps them tolerate treatment and recover more quickly.

Doug: About 2009, I went back to photography which was an old passion of mine. Since then I’ve been a nonstop photographer. I now teach quite a bit of photography and photoshop, and I lead photo tours to Cuba. [Doug is currently in Cuba on his fourth photography trip to the country.] I have a trip in November and then another in January with a group of students. I refer to myself as a full-time amateur photographer. That’s become a new passion for me.

Cessna: When talking about retirement and Doug, the two words are never said in the same universe.

What role do the arts play in your lives currently?

Doug: It’s in our blood. It is literally the foundation of our relationship as a couple. And even though we are not professionally involved in theater currently, we have always felt close to it. We go to New York frequently and see shows there; we see shows around the Bay Area.

Once you have worked with a group of people in drama, it’s an experience you never forget. Just that experience of collaboration and camaraderie and what it takes to put on a production and the appreciation of everything—from playwriting to directing to working as an usher—every little bit of it is something you relate to if you have ever worked in theater.

Cessna: I just can’t imagine theater not being a part of my life. It influences how I see the world.

As donors to TDPS and other theater organizations, what motivates you to support the arts financially?

Cessna: We really believe in supporting education and the arts, specifically the performing arts. That’s our big passion.

Doug: The apparent decline of support for the arts is something that makes us sad. With shifts in emphasis in education, it seems like academics are doing fine and sports are high on the donation sphere, but all of the arts seem to be suffering. And it’s sad, because in drama, you are exposed to performing arts, to written materials, to theater, to dance, to the visual arts. Performing arts really gives you the broadest background in the arts you can possibly get.

So that’s the reason that we donate to the arts. It’s obviously our personal connection to it, but it’s the importance of the arts in general.

 

November 2015.

November Student Spotlight: Sumire Shimojo

Sumire Shimojo is a first semester junior transfer who is majoring in Nutritional Science and Toxicology and performed as a dancer in the recent TDPS production of THE CHERRY ORCHARD. 

Growing up in Japan, Sumire was enchanted with acting. “Ever since I was young, I have really liked expressing myself, and acting is one way to do it,” she says. “I went to see shows and was so inspired with the idea of acting and being on stage, but unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to do that.” With no acting classes offered at her school, Sumire was encouraged to focus on her strengths, which lay in the sciences and ballet, and shelf her dream of appearing onstage.

Then, at the age of 18, Sumire moved to the United States and everything changed. “I feel like people here are pursuing more than just what they are expected to do, or what they are good at,” she muses. Sumire spent two years at Bellevue Community College before transferring to UC Berkeley this semester, where she is now majoring in Nutritional Science and Toxicology. Says Sumire, “There are so many opportunities at UC Berkeley. It’s really fun to have a lot of friends and join a community and find so many resources here.” Sumire is also delighted to finally focus on the passion she has always wanted to explore: the stage.

In addition to taking an acting class in TDPS this semester, Sumire played a dancer in the Department’s recent production of the Chekhov classic The Cherry Orchard. Though it was her first theater production, “to my surprise, being onstage for The Cherry Orchard was very natural for me,” Sumire reflects. “I learned a lot from the actors, the director, and everyone involved in The Cherry Orchard: how they developed their characters, how and why they added particular movements, how they utilized certain exercises.”

Looking back after the show’s closing, Sumire is adamant that her involvement in the production helped her become a better actor. “Before I joined the production, for me, acting was ‘performance’ and something separated from my own life. I did not understand how to be authentic and bring real life to the stage,” she muses. In a testament to her growth she adds, “Now, I think I understand better.”

 

November 2015

This November, TDPS presents A Murder of Crows, a caustic apocalyptic comedy by Mac Wellman

CrowsBanner2Berkeley, CA – November 2015 – This November the UC Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents A Murder of Crows, Mac Wellman’s dark comedy on humanity and hypocrisy. Directed by TDPS associate professor Peter Glazer, this surrealist story of a young woman railing against a decaying world runs November 19-22, 2015 in Durham Studio Theater on the UC Berkeley campus. Tickets are $13 to $20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS box office or at the door. Playwright Mac Wellman will be in residence at TDPS the week of the performances; he will speak about his work during several free events (more info below).


Set in a hellish ecological nightmare, replete with gassy yellow miasma and oil-polluted oceans quivering like custard, A Murder of Crows follows a dysfunctional small-town family overwhelmed by economic disparity and blurred moral lines. Unmoored by the gruesome death of her father and resentful of her long-suffering mother, rebellious young Susannah attempts to anchor herself by predicting the erratic weather. With her war veteran brother turning into a golden sundial in the front yard, and the rest of her family growing ever more noxious, Susannah wavers between subverting the degraded society she inhabits or withdrawing completely. Overseeing Susannah’s struggle is a Greek chorus of softshoe-dancing crows who offer philosophical commentary on the meaning of heaven, god, and life on earth.

Exploring environmental destruction, rampant consumerism, and the rise of xenophobia, A Murder of Crows hilariously exposes humanity’s hypocrisy and its poisonous effect on the world. Originally written in response to the Gulf War but as relevant as ever, this disruptive depiction of America challenges audiences to evaluate their impact on the world and those around them.

Director Peter Glazer has long been fascinated by playwright Mac Wellman, an icon for contemporary innovative writing. “As someone who not only directs, but also studies how plays work and how playwrights think and how theater functions, I find his ideas very powerful and beautiful,” says Glazer. In particular, Glazer is intrigued by A Murder of Crows because of the play’s vibrant, poetic language and resonant message. “It’s relevance feels immediate, and the stakes feel extremely pertinent to what’s going on in the country right now. ”

Glazer reached out to Wellman, who runs the MFA playwriting program at Brooklyn College and has trained a number of now sought-after playwrights, to see if he’d be interested in coming to Berkeley as an artist in residence. Says Glazer, “the whole residency developed because Mac’s a living playwright and he’s an educator. It just seemed like a great possibility if he was interested—and he was!”

Mac Wellman will be in residence for the entire run of A Murder of Crows. In addition to visiting classes and meeting with students, he will participate in What’s the Story: Oracles of Lost Realism on Friday, November 20 from 4:00-5:30PM in Durham Studio Theater, along with Rude Mechs, a theater collective based in Austin, Texas that has been influenced by Wellman’s work. The event gathers a poet, a playwright, a theater collective, a director and a dramaturge to muse on theatrical realism, narrative tropes, and contemporary unsettlings.

Additionally, following the 2:00PM performance of A Murder of Crows on Saturday, November 21, Mac will join in conversation with Carey Perloff, Artistic Director of ACT in San Francisco, to discuss the play and answer questions from audience members. Says Glazer, “Mac’s visit gives us an opportunity to go beyond just reading the play. We get to expand our intellectual and theoretical experience by interacting with and asking questions of the playwright who created this world. It raises the stakes and deepens the pedagogical experience.”

Production Details
A Murder of Crows opens Thursday, November 19 and continues through Sunday, November 22, 2015 in the Durham Studio Theater on the UC Berkeley campus. Performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8pm and Saturday and Sunday at 2pm. General admission tickets are $18 online and $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online and $15 at the door. Tickets are now on sale online through the TDPS Box Office.

A Murder of Crows features the acting talents of UC Berkeley students H. Nicole Anderson, Ran Flanders, Sean Fortenberry, Anna Easteden, Tiana Randall-Quant, Samuel Peurach, Cecily Schmidt, Mia Semelman and Sahori Tiffany Sumita, as well as the work of Chrissy Curl (set design), Balentin Lugo (costume design), Dylan Feldman (lighting design), Danyel Mann (choreography) and Maya Kronfeld (composition).

About TDPS
The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Peter Glazer
Peter Glazer is a playwright, director, and Associate Professor at UC Berkeley in the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies. For TDPS, he has directed plays by José Rivera, Maria Irene Fornes, Howard Barker, Harold Pinter, and now Mac Wellman. Two of his own plays have been produced by TDPS as well: Foe, based on the novel by J.M. Coetzee, and his own musical theater piece, Woody Guthrie’s American Song. Next fall, TDPS will mount Heart of Spain – A Musical of the Spanish Civil War, co-written with composer Eric Bain Peltoniemi, to mark the 80th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War.

About Mac Wellman
Mac Wellman is a playwright and poet. His recent work includes Muazzez at The Chocolate Factory as part of the 2014 PS 122 COIL Festival; 3 2’s; or AFAR at Dixon Place in October 2011. His books of poetry include Miniature (2002), Strange Elegies (2006), Split the Stick (2012) from Roof Books, and Left Glove (2011) from Solid Objects Press. His novel Linda Perdido won the 2011 FC2 Catherine Doctorow Prize for Innovative Fiction. He is Distinguished Professor of Playwriting at Brooklyn College.

October Alumnus Spotlight: Robert Cohen, ’61

41Dv59fzGFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_TDPS Alumnus Robert Cohen (‘61), the founding chair of Drama at the University of California, Irvine, has had a long career in theater — as an educator, director, actor, theorist, playwright, critic, and author of a dozen-plus books on acting, auditioning and theater. However, before he arrived at UC Berkeley, Robert seemed destined for another path. Despite a love of theater throughout his youth, he chose to attend college at Dartmouth and had decided to become a lawyer, like his father. A random road trip in his junior year led him to Berkeley — where he stayed.

Below, in select segments from his 2014 memoir, Falling into Theatre…and finding myself, Robert recounts his first impressions of Berkeley, the Department of Dramatic Art (as TDPS was known then), and how one fateful night catapulted him into a lifelong career in the theater.


“Berkeley was heaven. I had left the elite, preppy, snow-bound, all-male, frat-rat Dartmouth for a warm, urban, coeducational, multinational public university (ranked number one in the country at that time, I soon found out), plopped down in the midst of espresso shops, experimental film theatres (one run by the yet unknown Pauline Kael) and constantly beaming sunshine, redwoods, palm trees, a thriving International Club, and a Socialist Party recruitment booth on every corner.

I saw virtually all the plays of San Francisco’s Actors Workshop. Meeting cast members after some of the shows, I volunteered to work backstage for their productions. My new adventures in the San Francisco theatre did not prompt me to study or participate in Drama on the Berkeley Campus, however, as I was still planning on going to law school. But on one fateful evening in 1959 I happened to walk by a classroom that served as a dressing room for the campus’s Department of Dramatic Art, which at that time used an ordinary lecture hall in that building (Wheeler Hall) for it’s main theatre. Passing an open door, I was overwhelmed by, yes, the iconic “smell of the greasepaint.” I peeked in to see the actors—they were preparing for a production of Ivan Turgenev’s A Month in the Country—and I was as hooked as an ex smoker being offered a free carton of Pall Malls.”

One eventful evening, Robert stumbled to the hospital with a terrific pain in his chest and was diagnosed with pulmonary pneumothorax—a collapsed lung. After an emergency surgery, Robert’s recovery required him to lie patiently on his back, for days.

“This was anything but a tragedy, however. Indeed, it was perhaps the luckiest break of what was to be my professional life. Alone, immobile, and in fact flat on my back for a week, without a telephone in the room and with nobody—even my parents—having any idea where I was, I found myself in total isolation. All I could do was think—and think I did. It was the week when I realized I didn’t want to be a  lawyer. What I really wanted to do was stay at Berkeley for the rest of my life. And that meant going to graduate school, getting a doctorate and becoming a professor.

But a professor of what? I had enjoyed my Political Science studies, but the field seemed to be stagnant at the time. A professorship in Drama, on the other hand, offered everything that excited me; intellectual adventure, artistic creativity, hands-on practical application, a great potential for opening new fields, and even a thrilling approach to Political Science. So I would go to Drama school, not law school. And I would become a professor of Drama!”

So when I finally walked out of the hospital, my lungs now breathing air freely, I did not amble back to my apartment but rather strode right back to the Department of Dramatic Art office and begged to add a major in Drama to my nearly-completed major in Political Science.”


After graduating from UC Berkeley with degrees in Dramatic Art and Political Science, Robert  went on to receive a Doctor of Fine Arts from the Yale School of Drama in 1965, then became the founding chair of Drama at the newly-founded University of California, Irvine. Robert only retired from the faculty last year, having spent 50 years as a faculty member and directed more than eighty stage productions at Irvine, including new plays, classics, experimental works, musicals and operas, often of his own authorship or translation.

Beyond the campus, Robert directed more than a dozen professional productions at the Utah and Colorado Shakespeare Festivals and numerous other venues. He is also a longtime theatre critic for the London-published Plays International and formerly for Contemporary Literary Criticism. His written works include Theatre: Brief Edition, Working Together in Theatre: Collaboration and Leadership, and Acting One, one of the most popular acting textbooks on college campuses.

Of his recent retirement and newfound free time, Robert says that teaching is the one thing he worries about missing, since “working with bright, youthful, eager and often rebellious students has kept me young at heart, lively in spirit, and curious in all things.” But Robert doesn’t seem to be slowing down too much—he just released his latest book, Shakespeare on Theatre: A Critical Look at His Theories and Practices, is preparing to give lectures at UC Irvine for the campus’s 50th anniversary, and will soon release the 11th edition of his textbook Theatre. Happy retirement, Robert!

 

October 2015

October Faculty/Staff Spotlight: Annie Smart

Scenic design for RHINOCEROS (TDPS, 2014) by Annie Smart.

Scenic design for RHINOCEROS (TDPS, 2014) by Annie Smart.

Annie Smart is a professional scenic and costume designer and has been a Continuing Lecturer in UC Berkeley’s Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies since 2004. Born and raised in England, she is now based in the Bay Area. Her scenic design can be seen in TDPS’s upcoming production of THE CHERRY ORCHARD.

Tell me about what you do.

I am a set and costume designer based in the Bay Area. Traditionally, American theaters employ separate set and costume designers for a production, whereas the UK more traditionally employs a single designer to do both. I very occasionally get to do both these days.

I tend to be interested in new plays because there’s nothing like designing a new play that no one has ever seen before. There is a zeitgeist that exists around any show — not just the writer’s story, but also a hidden history within the play, almost like the ghost in the walls. Have you ever heard of morphic resonance? Morphic resonance is the idea that as we sit in a room all of our ideas and experiences are absorbed into the architecture and, if you know how, you can plug into that reserve. I think plays carry morphic resonance and it’s fun to design for that. You end up putting a stamp on the show, stylistically and design-wise, even though the play then goes off into the ether and becomes a thousand other things.

Do you have a standard, or systematic, design process?

I design every single show differently. Several years ago, I had dinner with Athol Fugard and we were talking about teaching when he asked “how do you approach your work?” I said, “You know, every time I start to design a show I have no idea what I am doing. Not a clue. I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t know how I’m going to get it out there, I don’t how it’s going to develop.” And he said that’s exactly how you should work — it’s the Buddhist way of being alert with child eyes, and that’s when you do the best work. And I think that’s true. I really do think that’s true.

Can you tell me about some of your favorite productions to design?

My favorite things are nearly all new plays where I was the first designer and I feel that the play went out into the world well-conceived. This includes productions like Fen and Mouthful of Birds by Caryl Churchill, Big Love and Wintertime by Charles Mee, and In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) by Sarah Ruhl.

I also really enjoyed designing for Sarah Ruhl’s version of Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. There’s a trend of reapproaching classics in a deconstructed way, especially since the 80’s, which I completely understand and find fascinating. But in other ways I think those classics became classics because they are just brilliant. So finding a way to reanimate a play without taking it to pieces is something one wishes to do. Working on The Three Sisters with Sarah, our approach was to not mess with it. Let’s just try to make it lively and relatable and filmic. We tried to make it feel like you were sitting in the room with people, and I think we did that.

Did that experience impact your design work for TDPS’s upcoming production of Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard?

Well, our version of The Cherry Orchard is the opposite of filmic. We are certainly not trying for verisimilitude because of the fact that we don’t have, for example, a 50-year old actress, and we don’t have an 80-something-year-old actor playing the old retainer.

I think verisimilitude in theater is really tricky. You pretend you are doing a ‘slice of life’ at your peril. Because theater is inherently contrived: every single thing on stage is the result of a choice by a designer, director or actor. This play is happening in the room with me, but I haven’t moved to 1905 Russia, so it can’t be real. But if you can accept the fact that you are doing something inherently contrived and embrace the idea that theater is in the realm of visual poetry, then you, as a designer, can say wonderful things.

So the limits of verisimilitude and the idea of human relationships being shown in all their three-dimensionality were the starting points for the design. And it’s led to a very blank-page set where we’re leaving the thing very unprotected emotionally. The focus is on the acting, the emotions and the relationships. I want the audience to follow who’s talking to whom, and ask “why are they talking to them?” And are they listening or aren’t they listening? Or are they overhearing? Did they pass through the hallway and just hear that little end bit of a sentence? It’s all to do with the complexities of the inter-relationships. Lura Dolas, the director, has her work cut out!

How do you approach teaching?

I don’t teach fixed techniques and fixed methods and fixed theories. I spend a lot of time trying to get into the head of each student and see what wonderful thing they can produce. I try to teach the undergraduates almost as if they are graduate students; I approach the work as if they are capable of taking on a sophisticated level of analysis about what they are doing. The poor students, sometimes they don’t know what’s hit them. My reviews at the end of a semester are always a version of “there’s an awful lot of work in this class.” But I think it’s better to feel challenged and achieve than not to feel challenged and achieve.

And do you find they rise to the occasion?

Last semester we designed costumes for the play Mr. Burns, a post-electric play and I invited Mark Rucker to come to our class, since he had just directed Mr. Burns at ACT. I was so proud to ask him to look at the designs — they were all so different and so well-developed and showed such a clear understanding of the play. You could have taken many of them to any repertory theater in America and said, “here’s your designs for the play,” and they would have been completely acceptable and worked really well. And half of the students had never done this sort of thing before. So wow, I’m very lucky.

Berkeley students, when they decide to get behind something, they are so excellent. There’s a hell of a lot of talent that comes in the door and if you don’t expect students to be single-minded in their dedication — if you accept the fact that some are going to create wonderful costume designs and then go off and be social workers — then you are going to be happy with working here. If you think “I’ve got to find every costume designer and change their life path,” then that’s a false expectation. My mindset is that there’s a lot of talent here, so let’s help them bring it out and put it out on the table and appreciate it and celebrate it — and that’s enough. That process may change how a student thinks about their creativity, and they can then take their creativity and those new ways of thinking out into those other fields they are going to work in, out into the world.

 

October 2015

October Student Spotlight: James Lewis

JamesLewisJames Lewis is a senior double majoring in Theater and Performance Studies and English. He is performing in TDPS’s upcoming production of The Cherry Orchard and is a TDPS Student Liaison for the 2015/2016 year.

James Lewis has always felt comfortable on stage. From middle school shows to TDPS productions to performances at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, he unfailingly delights in connecting with an audience. “I think in theatre I’ve found a way of reaching out to people that makes sense to methrough story, through language, through embodiment,” James says. “Being onstage is where I am most vulnerable, and yet empowered by the idea that anything is possible. I’ve yet to get tired of that feeling.”

Currently, James is in rehearsals for TDPS’s upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, which opens on October 23 and runs through November 1.  As idealistic and intellectual Trofimov, James portrays a perpetual student“a post post post grad student,” he jokesin pursuit of truth. Rehearsals are going well, he says, in part because, “This group really clicked. It’s a huge cast and everyone brings so much energy and life [to the stage].” James goes on to say of his castmates, “It’s so much fun to watch everyone work. We’ve been focusing a lot on Act I recently and I only appear in two small moments in Act I, so I’ve been getting to watch everyone else work and it’s really exciting to see.”

James operates best when he is busy, and he has certainly kept himself busy over the past couple years, appearing in TDPS’s Rhinoceros and Kid Simple, as well as BareStage’s In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) and Macbeth. When asked how his theatrical experiences are impacting his time at Cal, James laughs. “They’re defining my time at Cal!” Every performance is a unique experience, and each one creates new connections between his performances, class work and offstage life. “Sometimes with an experience like a play, you don’t always see the way it’s going to connectuntil you walk out of the theater or the rehearsal space and you realize it is completely parallel to what you are studying or what you are experiencing in life at that moment.”

With a love of theater and a desire to give back, James is a natural fit for the role of TDPS Student Liaison. Each year TDPS Student Liaisons, who are selected through an application process, serve as a bridge between students and faculty and work to foster increased community and communication within the department, as well as the larger campus. “As liaisons, we occupy an interesting liminal space between leaders and helpers,” James says, “Our goal is to create spaces where we can all come together as a department and be a community.”

This year, the seven 2015/2016 Student Liaisons will coordinate a number of events, including the annual Alumni Panel, the 2nd Annual Senior Picnic, and an informal town hall meeting to discuss topics of interests to the students. They will also host regular office hours to ensure that fellow students’ questions, ideas, concerns and thoughts are heard.

James will graduate in the Spring and plans to pursue an acting career in the Bay Area. While he will be sad to say goodbye to TDPS, he hopes that his work with the Student Liaisons will leave a legacy of knowledge that benefits future students: “I love the ephemeral nature of Theater and how it doesn’t last, but I want to leave something behind too.”

You can see James perform in The Cherry Orchard October 23 through November 1st. More information and tickets here.

Learn more about the TDPS student liaisons and their office hours here.

 

 

October 2015

TDPS presents The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov’s tragicomic tale of family, social status and returning home

Berkeley, CA – This fall the UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) presents Anton Chekhov’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD, directed by TDPS senior lecturer Lura Dolas. Combining heartfelt performances, intricately-constructed period costumes, original music and a new translation by Libby Appel, TDPS’s production illuminates the humanity at the heart of this classic tale of twentieth-century social upheaval.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD opens Friday, October 23, 2015 at Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley Campus and runs through Sunday, November 1, 2015. Tickets are $13-$20, and can be purchased online through the TDPS Box Office or at the door.

About THE CHERRY ORCHARD
THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Chekhov’s great classic and the last play written before his death, features a rich tapestry of humanly-flawed characters trapped on the wheel of fortune. As Russia rolls toward revolution, Lyubov Ranevskaya, a once-wealthy landowner, returns home after years abroad to find that her ancestral property and beloved cherry orchard are slated for the auction block. A family friend, Yermolai Lopakhin, proposes that Ranevskaya save the estate by clearcutting the orchard and building summer rental cottages on the land. Meanwhile, Ranevskaya’s beloved brother Leonid Gayev vows to save the property, her daughters Anya and Varya dream of a future free from the orchard, and her servants fear for their positions in the money-troubled household.

Compounding these varied motives are tangled love affairs, reckless spending and the complications that come with filial duty. As the characters attempt to avert, ignore or broker the imminent sale of the orchard, each sees a change in their own fortunes—sometimes for the better, but often for the worse.

While written in the early 1900’s, THE CHERRY ORCHARD addresses topics recognizable in, and relevant to, today’s communities: the vast disparity between the wealthy and the poor, the intellectualization of society’s ills in order to avoid taking action and the hold that the past often has on the present.

Director Lura Dolas, a thirty year veteran of the stage, is interested in exploring and discovering how the recognizably flawed characters move through difficult transitions. “It’s a play about love and hope, fear and denial,” Dolas says, “as well as  giving up treasured beliefs and ways of life, and looking to the future–rushing headlong into it.” Dolas first discovered THE CHERRY ORCHARD years ago when she was a student at UC Berkeley herself, majoring in dramatic art. She recalls,“I was moved by the play’s depiction of the inevitability of time and the ironic and gentle way Chekhov presents the everyday interactions that define our lives and pave the path to the future.”

Now, Dolas is sharing her artistic vision with a new crop of UC Berkeley students. “I’ve worked at UC Berkeley for decades,” she says, “and yet I am still surprised by how talented and dedicated and intelligent our students are.” She is excited to bring THE CHERRY ORCHARD to life—“approached with respect and awe and a sense of fun”—with the talented cast, which includes: Eddie Benzoni, Lily Berger, Beth Connors, Christina Cook, Isabel Cruz, Emon Elboudwarej, Roger Kuo, James Lewis, Julian Marenco, Alexander Matos, Diane McKallip, Dela Meskienyar, Ely Orquiza, Armand Parajon, Isaac Ramsey, Tori Schniedewind, Alex Scoolis, Sumire Shimojo, Jessica Slaght, Alyssa So and Mary Zhou.

The production features direction by Lura Dolas, scenic design by Annie Smart, costume design by B Modern, lighting design by Jack Carpenter and sound design and music composition by Chris Houston.

About TDPS
The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies teaches performance as a mode of critical inquiry, creative expression and public engagement. Through performance training and research, we create liberal arts graduates with expanded analytical, technical and imaginative capacities. As a public institution, we make diversity and inclusion a key part of our teaching, art making and public programming.

About Lura Dolas
Lura Dolas’s acting credits include work with CalShakes, the Aurora Theater of Berkeley, the Oregon, San Francisco, and Santa Fe Shakespeare Festivals, The Empty Space Theater of Seattle, Sacramento Theater Company, Theater Emory of Atlanta, the Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts, and the Ensemble Theater Company of Santa Barbara.  Her most recent credits include Queen Atossa in THE PERSIANS at the Aurora for which she received a San Francisco Critic’s Circle Award Nomination and a one-woman show based on the life of Carlotta Monterey O’Neill, produced by the O’Neill Foundation.  She has taught and directed student productions at the Boston University Theater Institute, the American Conservatory Theater, CalShakes (where she was founding director of the CalShakes Conservatory), Berkeley Repertory Theater, Mills College and the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. Her TDPS directing credits include The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Cradle Will Rock, for which she was awarded a Consortium for the Arts grant. Dolas is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies and holds an MA from Antioch International in conjunction with the London Drama Studio and the American Conservatory Theatre.

September Alumnus Spotlight: Megan Lowe ’12

Photo: Afshin Odabaee

Photo: Afshin Odabaee

Megan Lowe has been spending a lot of time creating movement in unexpected places lately, such as stairwells, alleys, ladders and doorways, to name just a few. The TDPS alumnus and staff member (Office Manager) is dancing in two new works that open soon, one in a warehouse and one suspended in the air in an alley, and also recently completed a dance film in which she explores the architecture of an empty auditorium.

Beginning this week, Lowe will perform in Lizz Roman & Dancers’ This Beautiful Space “DANCING@CIVICORPS,” a site-specific dance project that journeys through the multileveled expanse of the CIVICCORPS Center, located opposite the West Oakland BART station. As live music performed by the band Watersaw creates a sonic playground, dancers explore the unique site and its topography– stairs, railings, ladders, hallways, alcoves and rooftops. Lowe, who has been dancing with Lizz Roman & Dancers since 2012 and working on this particular project since May, describes the piece as “a multi-level experience where the audience moves through the building with the dancers in a sort of immersive dance rock concert.”

To construct the piece, the nine dancers first explored the space and discovered if they had an affinity for any locations. “I resonated most with the stairwell and the ladder,” Lowe says, “I enjoy the thrill of being up high and I like interacting with things that I can touch with my hands and my body; I find it more inspiring than dancing in a traditional empty space.” She elaborates, “I am a functional movement generator, so there isn’t much gesture or affect. ‘Hey, there’s a railing–what happens if I put my hand on it? What happens if I push up on it? What happens if I try to invert myself without diving to the floor and hitting my head? Can I support all of my weight on the ladder with one hand? Well, maybe I can’t, so how can I readjust my body to support that inspiration? And from this moment, what naturally comes next?”

Choreographer Lizz Roman allowed each dancer to explore in their location and generate movement organically, then applied her eye for directing, shaping and editing. The resulting piece, which opens September 11 and continues through September 26, weaves the dancers through a series of solos, duos and ensemble dances inspired by each site.

While preparing to open This Beautiful Space, Lowe is also in rehearsal for another piece, Needles to Thread: Dancing Along These Lines in Continuum Alley, choreographed by Jo Kreiter and presented by Flyaway Productions and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. This free dance show is the third in a trilogy of site-specific aerial dances about urban poverty and shines a light on San Francisco’s garment industry and the women who make our clothes. In Continuum Alley in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, Lowe dances dozens of feet in the air, suspended by a rope and harness. “There’s dancers on both sides of the alley and since it’s narrow, you can actually jump across to connect with your partner and suspend midair, which allows for many possibilities,” she describes, “though gravity and the harnesses come with constraints so you constantly have to adapt.” This piece, too, was largely dancer-created, with the choreographer on the ground offering suggestions and critiques. With the alley as performance site, the dancers activate the roofs, walls and fire escapes.

If you still can’t get enough of Lowe dancing in unusual and interesting spaces, check out her dance film Never Finished: Explorations at the Finnish, which features Lowe dancing in a stairwell, balancing in a door frame, climbing walls, spinning off a bench and exploring the architecture of an empty room. An abridged version of the film, which was created, composed and performed during a recent residency at The Finnish Brotherhood Hall and also features original music by Lowe, was just accepted into the Twelfth Annual Sans Souci Festival of Dance Cinema and will be screened in Colorado in October. “I didn’t plan to enter it into a film festival, but I got a lot of encouragement to do so,” Lowe says of her film’s unexpected journey. “They had hundreds and hundreds of submissions, so I feel very proud of the fact that my film was one of the ones chosen. My film will open the evening and it’s the only representation of USA on that night, as the other films are European.”

Lowe also makes sure to give a shout-out to fellow UC Berkeley alumnus Danny Nguyen, who filmed Never Finished, and emphasize the importance of keeping in touch with alumni contacts. “I built a lot of awesome relationships while at UC Berkeley, and had many incredible experiences,” she says. “I built valuable skills that prepared me for the real world, and also gained a network that I continue to reach out to today.” For example, while still a TDPS student, Lowe regularly took Lizz Roman’s Saturday classes at ODC in San Francisco for a year before expressing an interest to work more closely with Roman’s company. After graduating from TDPS in 2012, Lowe began dancing with Lizz Roman & Dancers, and later became the Company Manager for the group as well. Additionally, Lowe says, “I studied under Joe Goode, both at UC Berkeley and outside the university, which was a valuable connection. When I graduated in 2012, I became a teaching artist for his company and have been teaching, specifically youth education, with Joe Goode Performance Group ever since.” She also notes that she usually teaches a master class for contact improvisation and partnering every semester for TDPS, a tradition she began while still a student, and has since expanded to teach contact improv at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center and KULARTS–opportunities that she would not have been able to have without her experiences at TDPS.

These days, Lowe balances her dancing and teaching with part-time work as TDPS’ Office Manager. “One of the great things about working at TDPS (aside from getting to work for a department I love) is that it is flexible,” she says. “I can hold a steady job but also dance, perform, and attend rehearsals and classes.” She has also gained many skills from her TDPS position that she applies to other dance-related pursuits, including being the Company Manager for Lizz Roman & Dancers, a House Manager for Joe Goode Performance Group and Z Space, and in the past, a Production Manager for Fog Beast and a Company Administrator for RAWdance. “Since my day job is still in the arts, it allows for a lot of overlapping interest and skill building, which is really valuable. Some of my peers struggle to perform and find other jobs that relate this well to their interests. I am lucky to have a job in an educational institution that is focused on theater and dance and performance studies–my passion.” Lowe plans to continue wearing many hats and dancing around the Bay Area, so keep up with her via her website Megan Lowe Dances and look for her performing in unique and unconventional places near you.

 

September 2015

September Faculty Spotlight: Four TDPS faculty members and lecturers present world premieres this month!

FourWorldPremieresOne of the core strengths of the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies is our faculty, and the expertise each faculty member brings in their respective field. TDPS is fortunate to have internationally renowned practitioners in our midst—practicing professionals with diverse, exciting professional careers who also bring their talents, skills and experience to the classroom. This month alone, we celebrate four world premieres in the Bay Area by TDPS faculty members and lecturers! We hope you will join us in recognizing and supporting their work.


PHILIP KAN GOTANDA & SEAN SAN JOSÉ

MONSTRESS by TDPS Professor Philip Kan Gotanda and TDPS lecturer Sean San José premieres at A.C.T. on September 16. Commissioned by A.C.T. and based on the acclaimed short story collection by San Francisco author Lysley Tenorio, this evening of two new plays is a contemporary take on Filipino-American Life in California. The headline-making eviction of Filipino residents from San Francisco’s International Hotel in the 1970’s sets the stage for Gotanda’s stirring Save the I-Hotel, while Sean San José’s retelling of the title-story “Monstress” explores the resilience of a community struggling to find a place in the American Dream.

More info about MONSTRESS, playing September 16-November 22 at ACT.


JOE GOODE

Joe Goode’s latest piece Poetics Of Space, presented by Joe Goode Performance Group, opens September 24. Inspired and named after the book “The Poetics of Space” by French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, choreographer and TDPS Professor Joe Goode’s latest work is an immersive performance installation that breaks the fourth wall to explore the intricate relationship between audience and performer. As the spectator makes decisions about how to travel through the installation, they encounter a series of intimate, up-close spaces, and their own physical actions influence the action they are witnessing and participating in.

More info about “Poetics of Space,” presented by Joe Goode Performance Group September 24-October 11 at the Joe Goode Annex.


AMARA TABOR-SMITH

ODC Theater presents the premiere of Amara Tabor-Smith’s EarthBodyHOME on September 24. Inspired by the life, work and legacy of Cuban artist Ana Mendieta (1948-1985), EarthBodyHOME weaves together a dreamlike allegory of exile, disruption, spiritual longing, patriarchy in the art world, and a spirit’s return to mother earth. Commissioned by ODC Theater, TDPS lecturer Amara Tabor-Smith’s evening length multi-media dance theater piece encompasses varied aspects of performance to present a ritual-based work that contemplates myth in our contemporary society.

More info about ODC Theater’s presentation of Amara Tabor-Smith EarthBodyHOME September 24-26.

 

 

September 2015

September 2015 Student Spotlight: Ely Orquiza

ElyHeadshotCropThis summer, TDPS student Ely Orquiza participated in the five-week course “Irish Theater” (Theater 113A). Along with 23 classmates, he studied for one week in Berkeley and four weeks in Ireland—two weeks each in Dublin and Galway. In addition to studying the origins and history of Irish theater, the class attended numerous performances, visited Galway’s renowned International Arts Festival and even found time to experience pub culture. Here’s what Ely had to say about his study abroad experience:

Name: Ely Orquiza
Year: 3rd Year
Major: Double major in Theater and Performance Studies & Dance and Performance Studies

On deciding to go to Ireland: I have friends who had taken “Irish Theater” in the past and they all kept telling me about their incredible experiences in Ireland, so I thought just GO. Ireland has such an incredible history and culture in terms of theater. Artmaking and theater are embedded in their community. I was inspired and felt welcomed the whole time. People were very hospitable and willing to engage with me. It’s such a small place that you’d run into playwrights and artists on the streets, and they were always willing to talk about their work. And pub culture! I loved pub culture–just spending time together with friends after a long day of class. The course is rigorous, with class all day and shows each evening, so we tried to find time at night to spend with each other. We’d have fun and make the most of it. Bonding with my classmates was a joy.

Favorite play attended: I particularly enjoyed seeing “The Match Box” at Town Hall Theater as part of the Galway International Arts Festival. It was a one-woman show (starring Cathy Belton) about the grief of losing a child. It was a painful experience to watch the actress’ emotional struggle, but also a very moving theater experience.

Differences between Irish and American theater: One major difference is that Irish theater is in conversation with the country. Their art is very political and speaks to the wider community. In the US, I feel like theater is seen more as just entertainment than as a social or political commentary about the world we’re living in.

On the effects of studying abroad: This experience abroad has given me a new lens to view dramatic text and literature. I’ll definitely be able to apply that to furthering my studies here at UC Berkeley. Also, being in a different culture gave me experience in life. It impacted how I study theater, how I look at the world and how I look at life in general.

Advice for students considering the Ireland program: I definitely encourage you to apply, be adventurous and go for it! There’s so much to see and there’s so much to learn; being immersed in a new culture, seeing amazing arts and meeting amazing people is wonderful to experience. And the friendships you’ll make abroad will last a lifetime. I hope other people say yes to this transformative and enriching experience.

2015-2016 Season Announcement

We are thrilled to announce that the TDPS 2015-2016 season includes Chekhov’s poignant and amusing classic The Cherry Orchard, Mac Wellman’s darkly hilarious A Murder of Crows, about the end of the world and other minor tragedies, and Culture Clash’s freewheeling Chavez Ravine, that tells the true story of the displacement of Mexican-American communities from the eventual site of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Also on our lineup is Berkeley Dance Project 2016, featuring work by Bay Area-based choreographers Katie Faulkner, Amara Tabor-Smith and Lisa Wymore. For your enjoyment, we have put together a video featuring each director talking about their production. We will also be sharing more news about next year’s student-produced work, guest artists and public events over the coming months. We look forward to welcoming you to the theater next year!

May Alumnus Spotlight: James Graham, ’05

James Graham is a performer, choreographer and teacher. During 2014-15, he taught both the introductory and advanced levels of Modern Dance Technique in TDPS, and was also featured in our 2015 Alumni Panel. [See bottom of page for full bio.]

Photo: Lance Iversen

Photo: Lance Iversen

Can you briefly talk about your career journey from graduation until now?

After graduation, I lived in SF for a couple years, dancing project to project, living in the Haight and working at a raw food restaurant. I wanted to continue my studies, so I went to The Ohio State University from 2007-10 for an M.F.A. in Dance. I returned to SF, working with Joe Goode, Lizz Roman, and started to make my own work professionally. In 2011, I moved to Tel Aviv, Israel for a year and studied with Ohad Naharin/ Batsheva Dance Company to pursue becoming a Certified Gaga instructor. In the Fall of 2012, I moved back to SF and began teaching Gaga, making more of my own work through my company, James Graham Dance Theatre, and dancing with Hope Mohr Dance and Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts. I have also been on faculty at Dominican University (LINES Ballet BFA Program), Shawl-Anderson, SF Conservatory of Dance, and right here at UC Berkeley.

You majored in Theater and minored in Dance but actually ended up using more of your dance background in your current career. What drew you to major in Theater, and how has that course of study also informed what you do today?

I was drawn to study theater at UC Berkeley because of the performance studies aspect of the department.  I loved that I could take Classics, Rhetoric, Film, Queer Studies, Dance, and Theater courses in one major. As a Theater and Performance Studies major, it only took me one semester to find dance.  I loved it and, with great encouragement from former Lecturer Christopher Dolder, started to pursue dance seriously.

Being able to speak in front of a room, talk about my choreography in a clear and easily understandable way, and be in charge of a dance technique class—ready to set the tone or atmosphere—all come directly from my theater skills.  I know that using my voice and understanding movement and human behavior has fed and imbued my dancing with qualities that are compelling. Being a well-rounded dancer (one who can speak or act) or actor (one who can move or act with their whole body) is incredibly valuable.

Congratulations on your recent Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Individual Performer for your entire season of performance with James Graham Dance Theatre (which is a great honor since usually people are just nominated for one piece), as well as your nomination in the area of Choreography for “Guilty Survivor.” Can you tell us more about “Guilty Survivor” and how it came to be?

Thank you!  It is a great honor to be recognized in this way.  I presented “Guilty Survivor” at the Joe Goode Annex in the Fall of 2013. The piece deals with paying homage to the gay men who died of AIDS, feeling their presence in the city, and honoring those who helped these men (nurses, families, clergy).  I had been feeling this energy and the need to create something from these ideas since I moved to the city in 1999. I was finding my way as a young gay man, but had the intense awareness of something great and huge just occurring in this place, these streets, those homes. It was out of my reach, I had just missed the “party.” Men my age, who grew up roughly in the 1980’s, sometimes have an odd relationship with HIV/AIDS. It shaped us as children, into our coming of age years, and once we found ourselves as adults, we had few if any mentors around us, and felt a sense of guilt for being alive, a sense of “I’m sorry.”

These issues of being a gay man and what it is to deal with self-perception, interpersonal relationships, history, gender, and American culture continue to be central to my artistic and choreographic focus today.

Can you share a favorite memory of your time in TDPS?

Dancing in Janice Garrett’s “Hither Thither” in 2013-2014. Up until this point, I hadn’t thought of myself as a dancer.  I was not confident in counting while dancing. I did not have as much experience as everyone else in this piece.  However, after rehearsing for the entire year, when it was in my body and I didn’t have to think so hard about every single movement or count, it was one of the most exhilarating, joyful dances I have ever been in.  So much so that I think Janice had to ask me to tone it down.

What advantages did your TDPS education give you?

I left Cal and TDPS feeling full. I knew something about Shakespeare and Greek Tragedies, Martha Graham, Augusto Boal, myself as an artist and a thinker. I had a relationship to my moving body that was positive and brimming with curiosity. The world was clearer because of my education. And I had connections with people that would serve me in my future. A degree from Cal opens doors.

 

James Graham is a performer, choreographer and teacher. Graham is currently on faculty at UC Berkeley, the Dominican University/LINES Ballet B.F.A. Program, and at the SF Conservatory of Dance where he teaches GAGA People classes on Tuesday evenings. Graham was chosen by Ohad Naharin (Batsheva Dance Company) to be a Certified Gaga Instructor and to take part in his pilot training program of international Gaga teachers. He has taught extensively on the West Coast, the Midwest, as well as Canada, South Korea, and Israel. He presents his choreographic work through his company James Graham Dance Theatre, while also curating the work of others, namely in Dance Lovers, his annual Valentine’s show of duets. He will be premiering “Homeroom” an evening-length show looking at male relationships at ODC December 10-12, 2015. This year he won an IZZIE award for Outstanding Achievement in Individual Performance (for his Entire Season) and was nominated for an IZZIE award in Choreography (“Guilty Survivor”). Graham received an M.F.A. from The Ohio State University in 2010, and a B.A. from UC Berkeley in 2005 where he Majored in Theater and Minored in Dance. www.jamesgrahamdancetheatre.com.

 

May 2015

May Faculty Spotlight: Margo Hall, Domenique Lozano and Lisa Anne Porter

This month, the Bay Area community is in for a treat when three TDPS lecturers take the stage to star in Shakespeare’s classic comedy of mistaken identity, desire and intrigue. Margo Hall, Domenique Lozano and Lisa Anne Porter have the rare opportunity to collaborate in a predominately-female version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at California Shakespeare Theater (May 27-June 21). “It’s probably my favorite comedy of Shakespeare,” says Lozano, “because I think the journeys that the characters take are extraordinary. It starts massively tragically but ends with weddings. And it has the right combination of comedy and poignancy.”

Considering the comedy’s popularity, it is not a surprise that Hall, Lozano and Porter all have history with Twelfth Night. Hall, who plays foppish Sir Andrew Aguecheek, has seen the show performed many times, but this is her first time acting in it, whereas Lozano has performed in three separate productions of the piece, as well as directed it. “I’ve played all the women,” she laughs. In the Cal Shakes production Lozano takes on the role of conspiring Maria. “Maria is the first Shakespeare character I ever played, in grad school,” recalls Lozano, “It’s nice to come back to her.” Meanwhile, Porter, who is playing both of the twins Viola and Sebastian (and who has also directed the play), is returning to a role in a different way. “I was up for the role of Viola before, and right after I auditioned I found out I was pregnant. I turned it down and thought, ‘Well, that was it, that was your chance to play Viola.’ But it came back!”

Despite their familiarity with the play, all three women are still making discoveries in the rehearsal room. “The director, Christopher Liam Moore, is a jewel,” raves Hall, a sentiment enthusiastically echoed by the others. “Chris is an actor himself,” Lozano elaborates, “and it’s just lovely to be directed by a director who is an actor. There’s a language we share.”

The production features six female actors, with only Olivia’s fool Feste being played by a male. While audiences will certainly enjoy the fresh perspective that these women bring to traditionally male roles, the casting choice is also a treat for the actors. “How often do you get to do one of your favorite plays with a room full of women?” exclaims Hall. Seconds Lozano, “It’s extraordinary—we never get to be in plays together since we’re always auditioning for the same part. I’ve known Margo for 25 years but I’ve never been onstage with her!” For Porter, working with such talented women is a pleasure; “it’s like a basketball team: you know when you throw the ball that people will catch it, and you know what they are going to throw back will be really good.”

So how does working as a professional inform these TDPS lecturers’ work in the classroom?  Porter finds that understanding what it is like to put yourself at risk constantly informs her empathy as a teacher.  “I think it also lends you humility,” she says. “I know how hard it is; I know what it’s like to be scared, to not quite understand text, to not get the part. I’m not asking my students to do something that I have not had to do, and what I haven’t struggled with.” Lozano, too, finds it critical to cultivate a professional career outside of the classroom. “It takes a tremendous amount of courage to be an actor and you can forget that if you’re just teaching,” she says. “My acting work informs every moment of my teaching so it’s very important that I stay connected as a practitioner.”

Don’t miss this opportunity to see TDPS lecturers Margo Hall, Domenique Lozano and Lisa Anne Porter in Twelfth Night at Cal Shakes from May 27 to June 21. Learn more about the production and purchase tickets at calshakes.org.

CalShakes-blog-photo-1024x822

Fun TDPS Fact: One of the earliest Bay Area all-female versions of Twelfth Night was staged in TDPS in 2004, directed by Crystal Finn (T&PS minor, class of 2004). Finn was a recipient of a UC Berkeley Humanities Fellowship that enabled her to travel to London and conduct research on cross-gender portrayals in the performance of Shakespeare. She received her MFA in Acting from Brown/Trinity in 2007 and is now a playwright in New York.

 

May 2015

May Student Spotlight: Guillermo Ornelas

GuillermoGuillermo Ornelas is a second-year transfer student double majoring in Theater and Performance Studies and Sociology. He is passionate about researching and sharing the experiences of people from marginalized identities. For his senior thesis, Guillermo is researching performances of masculinity in theater.

Guillermo Ornelas always wanted to attend UC Berkeley, primarily because of the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies’ offerings in both practice and performance studies. “My interest is in human behavior and studying the social aspect of theater so it is a perfect fit,” he says.  Now a transfer student in his second year on campus, Guillermo is double majoring in Theater and Performance Studies and Sociology. “One of the most important things I’ve learned here at Berkeley is new ways of thinking about how we divide up our resources, and how some people end up being marginalized as a result,” he shares. “Because of my background and growing up as a child of undocumented parents, I already knew this in practice. But coming here to Berkeley gave me the vocabulary to start talking about my experiences as a person who has been marginalized—and that was very empowering for me.”

Earlier this semester, Guillermo had the opportunity to put words to his life story as part of Open Lab: Identity and Belonging. The original production, a senior project by TDPS student Juan Manuel Mendoza, drew upon students’ personal experiences to address such topics as mental health, sexual assault, immigration and LGBTQ issues. Listening to other students bare their souls during the developmental process, Guillermo worried that he did not have a valuable story to contribute. However, his worry soon vanished as Juan cultivated a community that validated everyone’s story. Guillermo reflects, “I was able to say ‘my story has importance.’ Maybe it didn’t have importance to anyone else, but to be able to say that to myself was very powerful.”

With new-found confidence in himself and the power of his own story, Guillermo hopes to research and write about the experiences of people from marginalized identities. He is especially interested in “interviewing trans folk, specifically people who want to be perceived as male,” he says. Influenced by Kristen Schilt’s research about how female to male trans* individuals are perceived in the workplace when they are seen as masculine, he’s curious about the performative element of presenting yourself as masculine. What is it that defines masculinity for each person?

For his senior thesis, Guillermo will research performances of masculinity in theater. “I think theater is a great place to begin looking at masculinity because everything is purposeful and, supposedly, has a clear objective. I think there is very conscious effort on the part of male performers to perform a masculine part in a masculine way,” he explains. Guillermo hopes to inform his research by observing rehearsal spaces and casting processes, as well as interviewing and observing actors and directors. Guillermo’s research will be guided by his chosen thesis advisors, TDPS faculty members Joe Goode and Angela Marino. Guillermo approached them for this role because “Joe Goode works in movement and one of his areas of interest is gender performance, so to have him help me and guide me next semester is going to be such a big asset. And Professor Marino does work in ethnography and uses it to support her theater research, and that is what I am attempting to do myself. So I feel like, having these 2 advisors, I’m using part of their strongest suits and I’m hoping it benefits me and my research.”

Guillermo’s research will also benefit from his participation this summer in The Center for Ethnography Research Summer Workshop, where he will work with graduate student researchers to learn how to do in-depth research, gather qualitative data, refine interview skills, and gather analytical data through observation.“I see my research as a form of activism in a way,” Guillermo says. “In the future I want to research the experiences of people from marginalized identities. I want to embrace things that aren’t known and share stories that aren’t heard.”

 

May 2015

April Faculty/Staff Spotlight: Ben Motter

Ben Motter joined TDPS as Technical Director in December 2014. He comes to the department from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera and has an extensive background in technical theater management. Ben sat down with TDPS to talk about his career arc, his passion for teaching and how Berkeley compares to NYC.

BenMotterTell us about your career arc so far.

Like a lot of people, I started doing theater in high school, and then decided I liked it enough to continue studying theater in college. I attended the University of Michigan for Theatre Design and Technology and soon fell into a job working as the Technical Director (TD) for a small theater. The job was full-time, supervising about 10 shows a year and also running a shop. That job was basically how I paid for college; it was that or work at Starbucks!  We rented theater spaces across town so we’d build the shows in our shop, then drive them across town to install. Doing that, oh, 40 or 50 times helped me cultivate certain skill sets.

Additionally, every summer I went away to do something different–work somewhere new, learn something new. One summer I was the lead technician for Six Flags Great America. Other summers included jobs as TD at Theatre West Virginia, TD at Jenny Wiley Theatre in Kentucky and Production Manager at Theater Aspen in Colorado. I also worked at a local Michigan high school; they had aging lighting equipment and needed someone to break down their equipment into parts. After that project went successfully, they asked me to stay on. Over time, I eventually helped remodel all of the high school’s performance spaces, including new lighting, sound and fly systems.

After I graduated in 2012 with a B.S. in Theatre Design and Technology it was time to leave Michigan. I started graduate studies at Boston University, which shares a shop with Huntington Theater, where I got to work with many great designers that I would not have met otherwise. I worked on David Cromer’s Our Town, Mary Zimmerman’s The Jungle Book and the out-of-town tryout of Betrayal before it moved to New York. When I decided not to continue my graduate studies, my next adventure was the Metropolitan Opera in New York City

As Technical Projects Manager for the Met at New York City’s Lincoln Center, about 60-70% of my job was technical direction and 30-40% was production management. I managed production budgets for shows, sometimes up to $4 million or $5 million per show. I generated construction drawing for the scene shop and the metal shop, sat in on rehearsals and interfaced with designers. I spent most of my time developing new productions, including a new version of The Marriage of Figaro and Two Boys. Notably, I was also there when the Met through the biggest labor dispute in their history, with a potential lockout. I was right there in the thick of it.

What drew you to UC Berkeley?

I’ve always known that I wanted to teach. I’m really passionate about theater, and especially building scenery. I’ve always been interested in investigating how things work, and constructing and deconstructing things—I got in trouble as a kid for taking things apart. I wanted to share that passion and energy with others. I had a great role model as an undergrad student: the university’s Technical Director. I was so inspired by what he gave to the students. People would come in to his classes, not sure if they liked technical theater or didn’t like it—mostly it was a requirement—and he always got them excited about making theater, making art. That really shaped how I approached this job.

Part of the appeal of this job is the Bay Area. I’m an outdoorsy person: I like to rock climb, hike, bike, kayak. Wait, I can do those things year-round? No snow or ice?! Cool! I essentially called Wil Leggett, the Production Manager, and said “Listen, you have to hire me.” And I soon as I came here to interview, I knew for sure that I was going to live in California for the rest of my life. “Well, now you have to give me the job, because I’m not leaving!” This area has the greatest combination of art, culture, climate, environment and people.

What does your job as TDPS Technical Director entail?

The main function of my job is serving as Technical Director for all departmental productions. I am also the primary instructor for THE 60: Introduction to Technical Theater and Production and THE 168: Technical Theater-Shop Practice, which is about 15 hours of labs each week. I am helping to build infrastructure and repair infrastructure, as well as support any larger building needs. Because teaching is part of what lured me here, I am actively seeking opportunities to teach more. This semester I am teaching an individual study on Structural Design for the Stage, which I would describe as an engineering course. I am also working with a student to design an independent study on Mechanical Engineering.

How are you enjoying working with students?

Most times my students are starting from ground zero. Some universities have degree programs in Technical Theater, and there the students come in with a lot of knowledge, like knowing how to weld or something. That’s not the case here. But it’s fun because we don’t have to help them unlearn bad habits or make any corrections. I have the opportunity to teach from a blank slate to some of the smartest, most intellectually gifted students in the country. It’s exciting. I teach at a very high level and I teach very fast. In half a semester, I went from having students who couldn’t tell a hammer from a screwdriver, to having a full complement of capable, very knowledgeable theater technicians.

 

April 2015

April Student Spotlight: Heather Rastovac

Heather is a PhD candidate in Performance Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexualities. Her work extends upon 15 years as a dancer, choreographer and artistic director among diasporic Iranian communities in the U.S.

Rastovac_SkinOfLimes1_cropHeather Rastovac, a dance artist, dance scholar and graduate student in Performance Studies, was recently awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award for The Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) by the Graduate Division. The award criteria includes innovation in teaching, ability to motivate students, and exceptional engagement in departmental and campuswide activities that promote teaching and learning. Heather’s response to learning the news: “I feel so honored and lucky at this moment.”

Of course, luck has little to do with it. Time and again, Heather has proven herself to be a dedicated instructor to undergraduate students, as well as a community member committed to inclusivity who generously contributes her time and expertise to TDPS. For the upcoming Cal Day on April 18th, Heather is once again giving her time; she will facilitate a workshop entitled “Experimenting with Embodied Histories: Social Memory as a Source for New Dance Techniques.” The workshop is from 2:30-3:30 PM in Bancroft Dance Studio and she invites all community members and alumni to participate, regardless of their movement background.

Heather’s CalDay workshop is modeled after, and informed by, the course of the same name that she developed and is teaching this semester. The course involves both practice and theory and invites students to see dance as related to the world outside the studio, and the format is inclusive of all dance forms and the varying movement backgrounds that students bring with them into the classroom. Explains Heather, “The course honors students’ diverse dance lineages while facilitating experimentation based on these lineages and other inherited ways of moving in the world.” Through readings and practice, she also asks the students enrolled in Experimenting with Embodied Histories to “interrogate the hierarchies historically constructed between Western dance forms and those categorized as ‘Ethnic’.” The responsiveness of the students is satisfying. “I feel privileged that I’ve had the opportunity to teach at UC Berkeley,” says Heather. “I am always amazed by the students, their openness, and how willing they are to put themselves out there. I gain so much through watching their growth.”

Heather began dancing in her late teens, taking every type of dance class she could find, from ballet to hip-hop. “My interest in dance practice and performance has always been one that approaches dance holistically,” Heather says. “I’m interested in more than a technique or representation of a form, but rather how any given form is rooted in multifarious contexts, histories, and relations of power.” In her dance practice,  Heather traveled internationally to study various dance forms, and her interest in Middle Eastern languages, poetry, literature and politics eventually led to intensive study of Middle Eastern dance forms.

“Dance was really my entry into an international involvement and study of the Middle East as an academic field,” says Heather. Following the events and aftermath of September 11, Heather’s engagement with the field deepened, she explains, as “a response to this disconnect between this community I was so privileged to be involved in, and the rampant racial profiling of that community that I observed.” Heather began taking community college classes at age 24, then transferred to the University of Washington where she studied Persian Languages and Literature, as well as narrowed her dance performance practice to an Iranian focus. Simultaneously, she enjoyed a semi-professional career in dance, co-directing and performing with various companies, including Delshodeh Dance Ensemble, until she left Seattle to attend graduate school at UC Berkeley in 2009.

Despite her intense study of Iranian dances and her work as a professional dancer of these forms, for years Heather regarded herself as a guest to the form. As she continued to study Iranian dance during her graduate coursework, questions of the style, the marketing of the style and her representation of, and participation in, the style became amplified. However, she eventually found the focus of her dance practice shifting. “Rather than statically representing a form, I am increasingly interested in conceptual questions about how embodied histories are animated and reconfigured in the present, or, more simply, how to experiment with tradition,” Heather says. “I am exploring how these questions can manifest themselves in emergent movement forms that simultaneously nurture the forms in which I’ve been trained and the communities of which I’ve been part.” Thus, through her doctoral research, she is able to remain closely involved with Iranian communities and dancers, many of whom she considers to be extended family.

Currently, Heather is working on an article for a special edition of the Islamophobia Studies Journal that focuses on issues of race, gender and sexuality. In the article she explores ways in which Iranian artists in France are situated in what she refers to as ‘a hierarchy of benevolence.’ “Because of the ban on public dance performance in Iran, I suggest that French media construct Iranian dancers as what transnational feminist scholar Inderpal Grewal calls ‘objects of rescue’.” says Heather. “I am drawing parallels between Euro-American ‘imperatives to save’—which we’ve seen through the West’s missions to ‘save’ the veiled Muslim woman—but I’m thinking about it through the case of Iranian dancers. My concern is how these saving narratives surrounding émigré Iranian dancers become a means of upholding the neo-colonial narrative of the West as the beacon of exceptionalism, freedom, and benevolence.” As in the rest of her research, she also examines representations of these artists’ works through the lenses of race, gender and sexuality.

Heather is also hard at work on her dissertation, “Performing Iranianness: The Choreographic Cartographies of Diasporic Iranian Dancers and Performance Artists.” In it, she looks at the work of Iranian dancers and performance artists in North America and France and analyzes the ways in which geopolitical landscape impacts their lives and artistic works. This fall, Heather will focus on finishing her dissertation and entering the job market, with a goal to work as a professor at either a research or teaching institution. Ultimately, she hopes that her work with diasporic Iranian dancers and performance artists makes critical contributions toward the fields of Dance and Performance Studies, as well as in other interdisciplinary fields such as Gender and Women’s Studies. If Heather’s tenure at UC Berkeley is any indication, she will certainly succeed in the goals she has set for herself.

 

April 2015

Berkeley Dance Project 2015 Brings Three Exciting Works to Zellerbach Playhouse April 16-25

tdps_BerkeleyDanceProject_long

BERKELEY DANCE PROJECT 2015 BRINGS THREE EXCITING WORKS
TO ZELLERBACH PLAYHOUSE APRIL 16-25

Berkeley, CA – April 1, 2015 – UC Berkeley Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS) concludes its 2014/2015 Mainstage season with Berkeley Dance Project 2015, featuring three distinct works by acclaimed choreographers Jo Kreiter, Ann Carlson, and Lisa Wymore. Performed by student dancers, this intimate production showcases the power of moving bodies to tell stories and explore contemporary social issues. Berkeley Dance Project 2015 (BDP), directed by Lisa Wymore, opens Thursday, April 16, 2015 and continues through Saturday, April 25, 2015 in the Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus. Tickets are $13-$20 and can be purchased online through the TDPS Box Office at tdps.berkeley.edu/berkeley-dance-project-2015/ or at the door.

In Berkeley Dance Project 2015, guest choreographer Jo Kreiter leads students in a new piece that utilizes her unique and award-winning style of apparatus-based dance. Combining devised dance with skillful maneuvers on low-flying apparatuses, the piece explores concepts of rescue, vulnerability and interdependence. Kreiter, an award-winning San Francisco-based choreographer with a background in political science, “dances at the intersection of social justice and acrobatic spectacle,” as she puts it. She is also the founder of San Francisco-based Flyaway Productions.

Berkeley Dance Project 2015 also features a new work by director and TDPS Professor Lisa Wymore. The piece explores elements of protest, community and embodiment, examining how large masses of people engage with each other and the environment. Dancers provide their own movement vocabularies, creating a diverse array of choreographic language that enhances individual uniqueness. The diversity is mixed with large uniform choreographic patterns out of which solos, duets and group improvisations erupt.

Wymore’s piece highlights the power of masses of people gathering in public spaces, as well as the power of observing such masses. “To witness bodies moving, particularly in this dance concert, is almost a political act in and of itself,” says Wymore. ” To witness people moving is to acknowledge the presence and power of the body. Moving bodies tell stories and have histories and say things. Each individual is telling a story through their movement.”

For the final piece in Berkeley Dance Project 2015, New-York based choreographer, performer and conceptual artist Ann Carlson restages Flag, a dance that the New York Times called “a convincing symbol of a politically troubled nation.” Originally performed in 1990 as a response to the first Gulf War and the censorship wars of the early 90’s, the piece asks performers to engage in highly physical and emotional actions exploring the performance of nationhood — while dancing on an American flag or a representation of the flag.

Carlson says of her piece, “Flag investigates the presence of a symbol for a particular land mass, in this case the United States, and the rules and performances around the flag: the rituals, care, presentation. What does it mean to willfully play against the ‘rules’ of this symbol?  And what does it mean to have a cultural symbol inside a theater?  Do the rules still hold?” She continues, “It’s a very different world now than in l990 . . . it will be interesting to see what unfolds as we unearth some of these questions together in this re-mounting.”

Carlson was inspired to remount the piece as part of Berkeley Dance Project 2015 because she is drawn to the historical energy around UC Berkeley as a place of protest, activism, dialogue, and the questioning of the status quo. Carlson is excited to re-stage Flag, especially  in the wake of the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. After all, she says, this piece “illuminates the fact that we CAN dance on our flag. It’s an act of inquiry, defiance, love, but it won’t get us imprisoned or killed to participate.”

Berkeley Dance Project 2015 opens Thursday, April 16 and continues through Saturday, April 25, 2015 in the Zellerbach Playhouse on the UC Berkeley campus (at Spieker Plaza across from the Haas Pavilion). Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturday, April 18 at 4 PM and Saturday, April 25 at 8 PM. General admission tickets are $18 online / $20 at the door; Tickets for students, seniors, UC Berkeley Faculty & staff are $13 online / $15 at the door. Tickets are now on sale through the TDPS Box Office at tdps.berkeley.edu/berkeley-dance-project-2015/ or by calling 510-642-8827.

For further information, contact:
Marni Davis
marni@berkeley.edu
510-642-9925

Download the Press Release for Berkeley Dance Project 2015