Rhonda Blair

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

Meadows Theatre serves up SLAVS! Oct. 23-27, 2013

SMU Meadows main stage production of SLAVS, Oct. 2013

L to R: SMU students Russell Jonas, Andrew Gonzales (on ground), Brandon Potter (facing front), Tom Gelo and Joshua Kumler (on ground) star in the 2013 Meadows Theatre production of SLAVS! by Tony Kushner, directed by Rhonda Blair. Photo: Linda Blase.

For its latest Main Stage production, Meadows Theatre takes on a Pulitzer Prize winner’s darkly comic exploration of the last days of the U.S.S.R., from perestroika to its ultimate collapse.

Tony Kushner’s SLAVS! Thinking About the Longstanding Problems of Virtue and Happiness is “a rambunctiously funny, seriously moving stage piece that is part buffoonish burlesque and part tragic satire,” wrote New York Times theatre critic Vincent Canby.

Kushner, a 2013 Academy Award nominee for his Lincoln screenplay, wrote SLAVS! in 1994, shortly after he received the 1993 Pulitzer for his epic Angels in America.

“A lesser writer would have followed [Angels] with something smug and sweeping. As though Kushner feared such a fate, he instead has returned to where he started: a place of healthy confusion,” wrote Marc Robinson of The Village Voice. “Kushner’s humor buoys his political anguish, his lyricism draws dry ideas into rhapsodies and elegies, his interest in character won’t let even the most vaudevillian individual conform to type.”

The Meadows production is directed by Rhonda Blair, professor of theatre in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, and runs Wednesday, Oct. 23-Sunday, Oct. 27 in the Margo Jones Theatre, Owen Arts Center. Tickets are $7 each for SMU faculty, staff and students. Buy tickets online at Vendini or contact the Meadows Ticket Office, 214-768-2787 (214-SMU-ARTS).

Find a full cast and crew list below the cut.

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Calendar Highlights: April 10, 2013

Meadows Percussion Ensemble

Meadows Percussion Ensemble

Percussion double feature: Indonesian master musician Ade Suparman performs with the Meadows Percussion Ensemble and World Music Ensemble at noon  Wednesday, April 10, as part of the Expanding Your Horizons Brown Bag Concert Series. It serves as a preview for the Percussion Ensemble Spring Concert that same day at 8 p.m. The spring concert features different faculty artists and composers:  Andrés Díaz, Meadows cello professor, Dr. Lane Harder, Meadows alum and composition faculty member, and Suparman, who plays the zither and bamboo flute. The noon performance is in the Taubman Atrium; the 8 p.m. performance is in Caruth Auditorium. Both are free and open to the public.

Drone strikes: Is the United States legally obliged to explain its drone policy? This and other topics will be discussed on Thursday, April 11, during Drone Strikes: Security, Human Rights and Morality. The lecture will include perspectives from Jeffrey Kahn, SMU Dedman School of Law professor, Naureen Shah, Columbia Law School associate director, Michael Lewis, Ohio Northern University Law School professor. The panel is moderated by Chris Jenkins, SMU Dedman School of Law professor. The event begins at 5 p.m. in Karcher Auditorium, Storey Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

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Poetry and pain: Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences presents an interdisciplinary discussion, The Languages of Pain: What Poetry Can Tell Us about Pain, and What it Can’t. The panel will be led by Willard Spiegelman, Hughes Professor of English, who will be joined by Thomas Mayo, Law; Robert Howell, Philosophy; and Rhonda Blair, Theatre. Each will discuss the role poetry plays in their specific discipline and how people use poetry to give words to inexplicable pain, both physical and mental. Spiegelman is the editor-in-chief of Southwest Review and has authored books, essays and reviews as well as contributed to The Wall Street Journal. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. in Room 133, Fondren Science Building.

Afternoon Gallery Talks: Join Meadows Curator Nicole Atzbach for Martín Rico and His Circle, an afternoon gallery talk Friday, April 12. Atzbach has been with Meadows Museum since 2010 and became a curator in 2012. She will discuss the current Meadows exhibition, Impressions of Europe: 19th-century Vistas by Martín Rico. The talk begins at noon and is free with regular admission to the Meadows Museum.

Jampact: The eclectic Jampact band brings a mix of jazz, funk and world music to campus Saturday, April 13. The band includes some of SMU’s own faculty members; the musicians are Meadows Dean José Bowen, piano, with SMU professors Kim Corbet, trombone and synthesizer; Akira Sato, trumpet; and Jamal Mohamed, drums; with musician Buddy Mohamed on bass. The concert begins at 8 p.m. in the Greer Garson Theatre, Owen Arts Center. Tickets are $7 for faculty, staff and students.

Meadows Theatre opens season with classic ‘Our Town’

Our TownSMU theatre students are bringing out a classic to open the 2010-11 theatre season: Thornton Wilder’s groundbreaking, Pulitzer-winning, fourth-wall-shattering Our Town.

The hit 1938 play, written as a social commentary on the everyday lives of middle-class Northeastern America, is famously known for its subdued, bare-bones production: little scenery, zero set design, and minimal props (some performers even reduced to miming actions). Traditionally, the play is performed in close settings, and the ever-prescient character known only as the Stage Manager is fully aware of the viewers’ existence, making for a uniquely close experience between actors and audience.

Or, in Wilder’s shorter description, “I wished to record a village’s life on the stage, with realism and with generality.”

SMU’s production opens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 29 and will run through Sunday, Oct. 3 (all times and tickets can be found here). The play is directed by veteran SMU theatre professor Rhonda Blair. Blair, who has directed and acted in more than 70 productions, cherishes the ideals represented by Wilder’s unusual production design.

Beverly Johnson“It’s very hard to tamper with Our Town because the story and its form are, to my mind, inseparable. Simplicity, story, and a focus on imagination – both the actors’ and the audience’s – are fundamental to Wilder’s desire to have us pay attention to the meaningfulness of the characters’, and therefore, our, daily experiences,” said Blair.

Eighteen Meadows theatre students make up the cast of Our Town, with Assistant Professor of Voice Jack Greenman joining the cast as the omniscient and soliloquy-replete Stage Manager.

“I hope people who come to spend the evening or afternoon with us feel as though they’re part of our town, and that, maybe, they have a deeper engagement with the beauty of Wilder’s play,” said Blair.

For more information, call 214-768-2787 or visit the SMU Meadows website.

Find a full list of the complete cast and crew after the jump. (Above, senior Beverly Johnson as Emily Webb.)

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Calendar Highlights: Sept. 9, 2009

'Darwin's Evolving Legacy' logoThe joy of science: SMU professors from multiple schools and disciplines will participate in a faculty symposium on “The Year of Darwin” 9:30 a.m.-noon Sept. 12 in McCord Auditorium, 306 Dallas Hall. Participants include David Meltzer and Ronald Wetherington, Anthropology, Dedman College; Larry Ruben and John Wise, Biological Sciences, Dedman College; Louis Jacobs, Huffington Department of Earth Sciences, Dedman College; and Rhonda Blair, Theatre, Meadows School of the Arts. Presented by the Office of the Provost, Dedman College, Meadows School of the Arts, and Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. For more information, contact Pia Vogel, 214-768-1790, or visit the “Darwin’s Evolving Legacy” homepage.

Adobe churchInterdisciplinary Dialogue: The interplay between basic social science research and action research will be at the center of “Research on Latino Religious Topics: A Challenge to Scholars,” moderated by Harold Recinos, professor of church and society, Perkins School of Theology; and Hector Rivera, assistant professor, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development. The event begins Sept. 16 in the Prothro Hall Refectory (Room 104) with a light dinner at 6:30 p.m. and discussion 7-8:30 p.m.

Going green: The City of Dallas and more than 20 vendors will present sustainable products and other green solutions as part of SMU’s first Sustainability Fair for students, faculty and staff. The event takes place 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sept. 17 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Ballroom. Hors d’oeuvres will be served along with tea and lemonade. Presented by SMU Purchasing.

Recycling logoGodbey Lecture Series: Associate Professor of Hispanic American Literature Francisco Morán of Dedman College will discuss “Why Poetry Matters: Playing ‘Ajedrez’ (Chess) with Language” Sept. 17 at Maggiano’s NorthPark Center. The lecture begins at 11 a.m., followed by lunch at noon. The cost is $45 for Godbey members, $65 for non-members. Register online or call 214-768-2532.

Research Spotlight: Reconciling mind, body and feeling in acting

to be or not to beActors often are asked to mine their emotions and conjure up memories to bring substance to their roles for the stage or the big screen. But many become too focused on getting a feeling or a memory exactly right – what Professor of Theatre Rhonda Blair calls a “neurotic preoccupation with authenticity.” On the other side of the issue are performance theorists who discount the validity and importance of emotions for actors.

Blair’s own work turns to cognitive neuroscience, the study of the relationship between biological mechanisms. Cognitive science shows that memory, imagination, emotion, physicality and reason are all connected – “and they are all, in many ways, a process, not pieces to be held onto and practiced individually,” Blair says. The goal of her research “is to teach actors to be less focused on themselves in a psychoanalytic sense and more on the role – on being as engaged as possible with the role and the audience. By doing so, actors can focus on what they can take from their experiences and imagination in service of the role.

Read more from the SMU Research magazine online.

By | 2008-09-26T12:15:07+00:00 September 26, 2008|Categories: Research|Tags: , , |

Five Ford Research Fellows named for 2008

2008 Ford Research FellowsFive innovative SMU researchers have received the University’s 2008 Ford Research Fellowships. This year’s recipients are Rhonda Blair, Theatre; Marc Christensen, Electrical Engineering; Rajani Sudan, English; Kumar Venkataraman, Finance; and Steven Vik, Biological Sciences.

Established in 2002 through a $1 million pledge from Gerald Ford, chair of SMU’s Board of Trustees, the fellowships help the University retain and reward outstanding scholars. Each recipient receives a cash prize for research support during the year.

Read more about this year’s recipients. Right, the new Ford Fellows were honored by the SMU Board of Trustees at its May meeting. Left to right: SMU Trustee Gerald J. Ford and his wife, Kelli; Vik, Blair, Christensen, Sudan and Venkataraman.

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“Stuff Happens” on the Meadows stage Sept. 26-30

Scene from 'Stuff Happens'The Meadows Theatre Division opens its 2007-08 season by taking on the Iraq war. Sir David Hare’s “modern history play” Stuff Happens, directed by Theatre Professor Rhonda Blair, runs Sept. 26-30 in the Margo Jones Theatre, Owen Arts Center. Read more about the production – and about the student actress who went straight to the source to hone her interpretation. (Right, seniors Carson Alexander and Durrell Cooper as George W. Bush and Colin Powell with junior Bianca Denis as Condoleezza Rice.)

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