Theatre Artist-in-Residence Will Power receives 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award

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Theatre Artist-in-Residence Will Power receives 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award

Will PowerWill Power, Artist-in-Residence in Theatre, SMU, theatre artist-in-residence in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, is one of 21 national performing artists announced as recipients of the fifth annual Doris Duke Artist Awards, presented by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF).

Appointed in recognition of their creative vitality and ongoing contributions to the fields of dance, jazz and theater, awardees will each receive $275,000 in flexible, multi-year funding as well as financial and legal counseling, professional development activities and peer-to-peer learning opportunities provided by Creative Capital, DDCF’s primary partner in the awards.

Other recipients include Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, choreographer and MacArthur Fellowship awardee Mark Morris and Pulitzer Prize-winning musician Henry Threadgill.

Maurine Knighton, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, said, “The foundation is pleased to support this new class of Doris Duke Artists. The composers, musicians, theater artists, choreographers and playwrights who comprise this cohort are visionaries who have already made important contributions to their respective fields. We hope these awards enhance their capacities for exploration and experimentation, in keeping with Doris Duke’s adventurous spirit. DDCF looks forward to their continued creativity, as their work is not only important to the creative sector, but vital to the vibrancy of our society, as well.”

Power is an award-winning playwright and performer who combines classic folklore with modern elements. His recent musical Stagger Lee (2015) spanned the 20th century, tracing mythical characters in their quest to achieve the American Dream. Its deep-seated themes of racism and power were translated through Joplin-inspired tunes, R&B and hip-hop.

His other plays include Fetch Clay, Make Man, which enjoyed a successful run Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop; Steel Hammer with SITI Company (Humana Festival); The Seven (winner of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical, New York Theatre Workshop, La Jolla Playhouse); Five Fingers of Funk! (Children’s Theatre Company); Honey Bo and The Goldmine (La Jolla Playhouse); and two acclaimed solo shows, The Gathering and Flow, which toured over 70 cities in the U.S., Europe and Australia.

Power’s other awards include a United States Artist Prudential Fellowship, the TCG Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, a Jury Award for Best Theatre Performance at the HBO U.S. Comedy Arts Festival and the Trailblazer Award from The National Black Theater Network.

“I am thrilled and honored to receive a 2016 Doris Duke Artist Award,” said Power. “As an artist, the road is often unpredictable and nothing is guaranteed. I have tried to the best of my ability to travel this road and create stories the best I can. When you live life as an artist, you try to sustain your faith in what you’re doing, and you pray that you will also be able to adequately take care of your family. This award allows me to do just that – it is a public acknowledgment of what I am trying to say while giving me some long-term support to provide and care for those I love. I am forever grateful to receive this award from the Doris Duke Foundation.”

Power won the Meadows School of the Arts’ Meadows Prize in 2011, an international arts residency launched in fall 2009. During his residency at SMU, Power worked with Meadows student actors and designers to create a new theatre work, Alice Underground, a modern spin on the tale of Alice in Wonderland. His work in Dallas as winner of the Meadows Prize was a partnership between the Meadows School and the Dallas Theater Center.

Power was subsequently named an artist-in-residence at the Meadows School and is also the Andrew W. Mellon Playwright in Residence with the Dallas Theater Center, a position awarded through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and HowlRound. Stagger Lee, which was produced and premiered by the Dallas Theater Center in 2015, was partially developed in workshops in collaboration with the Meadows School as a part of Powers’ Meadows Prize residency.

He also conceived and directed The Shakespeare Project at SMU in 2013, which fused the rhythms of Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter with the contemporary beats of hip-hop, and used that rhythm to explore key Shakespearean characters. The Shakespeare Project was an extension of a work Power created for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the London Olympics in 2012, a hip-hop version of Caliban’s speech from The Tempest.

His film and television appearances include The Colbert Report (Comedy Central), and Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason (PBS).

Power was a guest of the U.S. State Department on five separate occasions, traveling to South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. On these trips and others, he taught community workshops in shantytowns, worked with poets in former regimes of the Soviet Union and lectured at various libraries, grammar schools and colleges.

Currently, he is working on Wade in the Water, which he describes as a “Nuvo-Gospel Musical,” or a work that brings a more contemporary viewpoint to a traditional Biblical or gospel tale. It is being commissioned and developed at Center Theater Group in Los Angeles.

> Read the full story from SMU Meadows News

May 12, 2016|Faculty in the News, For the Record, News|

New Visions, New Voices 2016 showcases student work, alumni involvement March 30-April 3

Rehearsal for New Visions, New Voices new play festival at SMU 2016

Rehearsal for the 2016 New Visions, New Voices Play Festival

Now in its 22nd season, the New Visions, New Voices play writing festival brings the raw stories, language and characters of graduating SMU Meadows theatre students to the stage.

The full-length plays written by students are presented as staged readings, without costumes or sets. The students are partnered with either an alumnus or a Meadows faculty member who directs the student’s play and provides mentorship. Each performance is followed up with a discussion between the audience, playwright, director and actors.

All performances will take place in the Greer Garson Theatre at the Owens Art Center from March 30 to April 3, 2016.

Students involved in the production learn an invaluable set of skills while seeing their own writing come to life. “One of the most important things New Visions has helped me develop is creative discipline. If I wish to be a creative professional, I can’t just make things when inspiration strikes. I need to show up every day, and be there waiting for inspiration when it finally decides to show up,” says Jeremy Arata, whose piece will be showcased on Sunday, April 3.

Here is this year’s dynamic line-up:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016 – 8:00 p.m.Tough Love by Holly Settoon, Directed by Jacob Nice ’15

The play looks at the lives of three young people who meet in a teen detention center somewhere in the American heartland, all of whom are struggling to survive the boredom, emptiness and anarchy of their time in the system.

Thursday, March 31, 2016 – 8:00 p.m.: Filth by Isaac Young, Directed by Alia Tavakolian ’12

In a tiny Virginia town, a young woman struggles to keep the family farm afloat. But between the memories that haunt her and the introverted ways that make her unable to keep a job in town, she’s going to lose everything. That is, until a man needs her farm for his low-budget porn films – and offers to make her a star. Based on an unbelievable true story, the play is a tale of survival in the face of tragedy. Adult language and situations; not suitable for children and pre-teens.

Friday, April 1, 2016 – 8:00 p.m.: Finale by Dylan Guerra, Directed by Samantha Rios ’13

If they can survive the Dolphin Apocalypse, how bad can graduation be? When the seam of the universe opens, four best friends and one uninvited guest find themselves sucked into an alternate world on the eve of their college graduation. Secret loves are revealed, lies are uncovered, milkshakes are shaken and tickets to the Sunday Church Carnival are sold. Will they make it home in time to graduate, or will they become insignificant casualties in the bloody uprising by man’s favorite mammal? Adult language and substances.

Saturday, April 2, 2016 – 2:00 p.m.: Siren’s Song by Sasha Davis, Directed by Kristen Kelso ’14

Eager to escape the ghettos of Detroit, Wren studies to get into any college far away. When tragedy destroys her plans for a future with Thomas, she disappears into her grief for a decade, until awkward, funny Arthur drops into her life. The play considers the questions of lost love, new love, and self-love: which one is the hardest to accept?

Saturday, April 2, 2016 – 8:00 p.m.: Knew You by Laura Dupper, Directed by Jenna Hannum ’15

What is love? What makes it spark between one couple, and fade between another? In Knew You, James and Ellie ask the questions people have been asking for centuries. They fall in love as they interview friends and dissect classic romances for a school project. But as they fall out of love, will they find the answers they need or will love stay as elusive and enigmatic as ever?

Sunday, April 3, 2016 – 2:00 p.m.: Tiber by Jeremy Arata, Directed by Associate Professor of Theatre Sara Romersberger

At a minor way-station in space, seven strangers find themselves gathered on the 25th anniversary of the Ceasefire. Old wounds and new griefs arise as former enemies and feuding family members confront one another. When the life and communication systems fail, everyone’s lives are threatened. The group will have to pull together – but can they forgive to survive?

Tickets are free for each showing. For more information, call 214-768-2787 (214-SMU-ARTS).

March 30, 2016|Calendar Highlights, News|

Meadows Theatre presents Look Homeward, Angel Dec. 3-7, 2014

LHA 9344The Division of Theatre in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts mounts its final production of 2014 with Look Homeward, Angel, running Wednesday, Dec. 3 through Sunday, Dec. 5, in the Greer Garson Theatre, Owen Arts Center.

Based on the autobiographical novel by Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel is an acclaimed 1957 adaptation by playwright Ketti Frings. Tracing the coming of age of Eugene Gant, the play is set in the small town of Altamont, North Carolina where Gant’s mother runs The Dixieland Boarding House.

The Meadows production is directed by Benard Cummings, professor of theatre in Meadows School of the Arts. Before returning to his alma mater to teach acting, Cummings performed in regional theaters across the country, as well as Off-Broadway and on episodic television. Additionally, Cummings has taught acting at SUNY-Purchase and Stella Adler/NYU, as well as the summer apprentice company at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey.

Tickets for faculty, staff and students are $7 and can be purchased online. For more information, call 214-768-2787. A full cast list can be found below.

Look Homeward, Angel

Dec. 3-5, 2014

Greer Garson Theatre, Owen Arts Center, SMU

LHA 9477Crew

  • Director – Benard Cummings
  • Scenic Director – Russell Parkman
  • Costume Designer – Amanda MacArthur (M.F.A. ’16)
  • Lighting Designer – Janet Berka (M.F.A. ’15)
  • Sound Designer – Jason Biggs
  • Vocal Coach – Anne Shilling
  • Movement Coach – Sara Romersberger
  • Music Compositions – Derrick Horne (MFA M.M. Composition, ’16)
  • Music Advisor – Pamela E. Pagels (Music Librarian, SMU Central University Libraries)
  • Stage Manager – Alejandra Flores (B.F.A. ’16)

Cast

  • Eliza Gant – Tiana Johnson (M.F.A. ’16)
  • LHA 9215W.O. Gant – Timothy Paul Brown (M.F.A. ’16)
  • Ben Gant – Kamen Casey (B.F.A. ’16)
  • Eugene Gant – Robert George (B.F.A. ’16)
  • Helen Gant Barton – Caitlin Galloway (B.F.A. ’15)
  • Hugh Barton – Jesse Karmazin (B.F.A. ’15)
  • Luke Grant – Nick Miller (B.F.A. ’16)
  • Laura James – Dagny Sanson (B.F.A. ’16)
  • Will Pentland – George Colligan (B.F.A. ’16)
  • Dr. Maguire – Taylor Harris (M.F.A. ’16)
  • Mrs. Marie Pert – Jenna Richanne (B.F.A. ’15)
  • Jake Clatt – Blake Rhett Murray (B.F.A. ’15)
  • Mrs. Clatt – Kathleen Bennett (B.F.A. ’15)
  • Madam Elizabeth – Andrea Flowers (B.F.A. ’15)
  • Miss Florry Mangle – Katy Tye (B.F.A. ’15)
  • Mrs. Snowden – Madeleine Boudreaux (B.F.A. ’16)
  • Mr. Farrell – Ian Hill (B.F.A. ’16)
  • Miss Brown – Joanna Coogan (B.F.A. ’17)
  • Tarkinton – Matthew Talton (B.F.A. ’16)

Meadows Theatre main stage season continues with Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls through Oct. 26, 2014

SMU Meadows Theatre production of Caryl Churchill's 'Top Girls,' October 2014, photo by Kim Leeson

SMU Meadows Theatre presents Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, directed by Professor of Theatre Rhonda Blair, through Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. Photo credit: Kim Leeson

Meadows Theatre continues its 2014-15 season with a new production of Caryl Churchill’s 1982 reflection on what it means to be a successful woman, declared by arts writer Mark Ravenhill to be “the best play in 20 years.”

Top Girls, directed by Professor of Theatre Rhonda Blair, will run through Sunday, Oct. 26 in the Margo Jones Theatre, Owen Arts Center. Tickets are $7 each for SMU faculty, staff and students. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early, as there will be no late seating.

> Buy tickets to the Meadows Theatre production of Top Girls online

Set in early-1980s Great Britain (and influenced by Margaret Thatcher’s celebration of individualistic achievement), the story focuses on Marlene, the newly promoted managing director of the Top Girls employment agency. A tough career woman who has buried her own empathy in pursuit of success, Marlene habitually exploits other women to get ahead – including her sister Joyce, who is charged with tending to their family responsibilities alone. Through their opposing points of view, Churchill critically examines a model of women’s achievement built on attributes traditionally regarded as “masculine” and questions whether it is possible for women to enjoy success in both career and family life.

The play features a famous opening sequence in which Marlene meets notable women from history and myth, including Pope Joan, Victorian traveler Isabella Bird, 13th-century Japanese courtesan-turned-Buddhist-nun Lady Nijo, Patient Griselda from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Dull Gret, the harrower of hell from Flemish folklore. The play also explores the commonalities these historical women have with Marlene and her circle.

> Find behind-the-scenes photos from Top Girls at the SMU Meadows Theatre homepage

October 23, 2014|Calendar Highlights, News, Year of the Faculty|

Theatre Professor Blake Hackler receives Fulbright Scholars Grant

Blake Hackler, assistant professor of theatre in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholars Grant to conduct teaching and research in Bulgaria.

Hackler will be in residence at New Bulgarian University in Sofia from January through June 2015, where he will teach and direct theatre, focusing on physical acting techniques. He will also observe and work with the Sfumato Theatre Laboratory, an internationally recognized theatre based in Sofia that produces highly physical interpretations of classic plays.

“My research and performance interests explore the ongoing disembodiment of the ‘actor-in-training’ as a result of deepening reliance on technology,” said Hackler. “Eastern Bloc theatre-makers, both pre- and post-Glasnost, have constantly pushed the boundaries of what the physical body can and should be capable of representing. It will be invaluable to spend time training and observing both the students and actors of Bulgaria and learning from them.”

Hackler joined the Meadows School faculty in fall 2011 and teaches four courses, including acting for both sophomores and first-year graduate students; theatre games and improvisation for graduate students; and “Acting in Song” for students pursuing the new minor in musical theatre. He also holds a teaching appointment at Yale University.

As an actor, Hackler has appeared in productions on Broadway, Off-Broadway and in regional theatres throughout the country, working with such acclaimed directors as Michael Mayer, Scott Ellis, Alex Timbers and Mike Alfreds. In New York, he worked with theatres including Playwrights Horizons, York Theatre, The Ohio, and Roundabout, as well as creating the role of Moritz Stiefel in the original New York workshop of the Tony-award winning musical Spring Awakening.

In Dallas, he is a company member at the nationally recognized Undermain Theatre, and has also appeared at the Trinity Shakespeare Festival, Dallas Theater Center, Second Thought Theatre and Theatre Three. Currently, he is the acting coach for comedian Lisa Lampanelli as she prepares her one-woman show, Skinny Bitch, for a Broadway run.

Hackler has taught at Roosevelt University, AMDA, the National Theatre Workshop for the Handicapped, and through the Kennedy Center as an Artist-in-Residence.  He also has studied with the SITI Company and its artistic director Anne Bogart and is a member of AEA and AFTRA. He received his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama.

> Read the full story from SMU News

March 24, 2014|For the Record, News, Year of the Faculty|
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