A special message from trip leaders Tim Slover and Jane England

13 Jul , 2017  

London on Stage | October 5-14, 2017

We are in London now and we want to tell you about the plays that we will see on this trip.

We just took a group to The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth, which we will see in October. It is over-the-top good, and will be talked about for years. It was the fastest-selling show in Royal Court Theatre history, and everyone wants in. The night we saw it, in the audience with us were Nicole Kidman, Dustin Hoffman, and (wait for it) Keith Urban.

Another play we’ve selected, The Girl from the North Country by Conor McPherson, is already getting significant buzz before it’s even opened, being called by The Guardian “the play to see this summer.” 

One more exciting opportunity we’ll have on this trip is great seats to J.T. Rogers extraordinary playOSLO, winner of the Obie Award for Best New American Theatre Work and nominated for a whopping 7 Tony Awards this year.

These plays, and Wings which we’re seeing at the Young Vic with the incomparable actress, Juliet Stevenson, and King Lear at the Globe, with one of the most creative minds in theatre, Nancy Meckler directing, are  superior plays and incredible productions compared to what we’ve seen in past trips. Remember that we have seen Cumberbatch’s Hamlet and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child previouslyThese plays are so very good.

Join us!

Tim & Jane



How long can you stand on the train tracks: a game for two sisters

7 Jul , 2017  

Sackerson and Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory present a new collaboration:

How long can you stand on the train tracks: a game for two sisters

In the basement of the Pioneer Memorial Building on the University of Utah Campus sits the Babcock Theatre. Sackerson and Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory will premiere a new play by resident playwright Morag Shepherd. A wild painting of two sisters facing trains barreling down the tracks, this play runs July 7, 8 , 9, 13, 14, 15, 16 @ 7:30 PM.

Tickets are $18-25 at https://sackerson.org/

A game. A train. An echo of death.
A game for two sisters. Two sisters: Charlie and Pepper—both in love with Grayson. Their father is a digger, a stranger. Their mother has kaleidoscopes for eyes.
A train and a question. It’s coming nearer, nearer; it’s almost here, it’s almost here — it was never here. Was it ever here?
An echo of love. Love that tastes like the ocean, and steel, and glass in your eyes.



About Morag Shepherd (playwright)
Playwright Morag Shepherd, originally from Scotland, is the resident playwright at Sackerson in Salt Lake City, where her plays BURN, THE WORST THING I’VE EVER DONE (performed in a box by one actor for an audience of one at a time), BEFORE THE BEEP (performed in weekly installments via voicemail) and POPPY’S IN THE SAND have premiered, the latter also playing Great Salt Lake Fringe and San Diego International Fringe Festivals.

Flying Bobcat is a theatrical laboratory dedicated to exploring the possibilities of storytelling in performance through language, movement, technology, and design. Recent collaborations include; In March 2016 the World Premiere of Climbing With Tigers, adapted for the stage by Troy Deutsch, based on the book by Nathan Glad and Dallas Graham Produced by Salt Lake Acting Company in collaboration with Flying Bobcat and Red Fred Project. Climbing was a new devised work involving animation and live action and was featured in American Theatre Magazine May 2016.

About SACKERSON (Salt Lake City, UT)
Sackerson is a nonprofit, Salt Lake City-based theatre company with a focus on new works, unconventional venues, and bold audiences. Recent works include the immersive dance theatre experience SONDER, yoga-studio-based BURN, and the mobile theatre box for one patron at a time production of THE WORST THING I’VE EVER DONE.


University of Utah names new dean of College of Fine Arts

22 Jun , 2017  

Photo: Marc Reyes

University of Utah Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Ruth Watkins announced that John W. Scheib, director of the School of Music at University of Kentucky, has accepted the offer to serve as the next dean of the College of Fine Arts.

Following the completion of the appointment approval process, Scheib will begin on July 1, 2017.

“We are delighted to welcome professor Scheib to this key leadership role at the U,” said Watkins. “His record of achievement as a scholar, educator, leader and champion of the arts is remarkable.”

After earning his master’s and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in music education, Scheib began his academic career at Ball State University where he held a number of leadership positions, including director of the School of Music. For the past three years, he has served as the director of the School of Music at the University of Kentucky. In that role, Scheib has implemented several well-regarded budget and personnel initiatives. He has significant experience with capital campaigns and has developed programming aimed at improving student and faculty success, as well as enhancing access to the arts. He is recognized for his talent as a keen listener who works with his team, including community members, to build and enact vision and strategy to advance the arts.

Scheib’s research in music education is rooted in his experience as a music teacher in the Wisconsin public schools for nine years. He focuses on, among other things, the beliefs and practices of music teachers and their students and music education reform. His work has appeared in numerous journals, including the Journal of Research in Music Education and the Journal of Music Teacher Education.

“I am excited to be joining a college and university with such a strong commitment to the development of creative and innovative leaders and citizens,” said Scheib. “Our roles as artists, arts scholars and arts educators are vital as we provide key opportunities for students to develop the wide range of intelligences and skills necessary for 21st century success.”

The search for the replacement of esteemed Raymond Tymas-Jones, who served as dean for 12 years and who will remain as the U’s associate vice president for the arts, began in fall 2016. The committee, led by College of Humanities Dean Dianne Harris and School of Music associate professor Jessica Nápoles, included members of the college’s faculty, staff, students and Advisory Board, as well as members of the community and professional arts affiliates on campus.


You Can Sing, Even if You Think You Can’t

5 Jan , 2017  

Dr. Brian Manternach recently appeared on KSL studio 5 with Brooke Walker to show that anyone can become a better singer with the right techniques and practice.

Watch a Tedx Talk by Dr. Manternach here.

View original post at KSL STUDIO 5.



5 Jan , 2017  

By Annalisa Purser, communications specialist, University Marketing and Communications

A new online repository of Pac-12 campus policies is now available to serve as a resource for faculty, staff, administrators and other interested individuals. The database will house information ranging from course sharing to faculty retention to faculty-student issues to budgetary issues to academic freedom to campus safety and sexual assault.

The online system is developed and managed by the Pac-12 Academic Leadership Coalition, or Pac-12 ALC, an academic organization run by faculty governance leaders, including the president of each university’s academic senate, as well as associated staff. The coalition focuses on issues of shared governance but has expanded to collaborate on a variety of topics relevant to higher education.

Xan Johnson (current Academic Senate president), Maddy Oritt (executive director of the Pac-12 Academic Leadership Coalition and U Academic Senate secretary), Bill Johnson (president of the Pac-12 ALC and past president of the U Academic Senate)

Two years ago, the group committed to focusing on campus safety and campus climates around sexual assault because it was an important concern facing all institutions in the Pac-12 and an issue faculty felt affected students’ abilities to fully participate in academia. As a result, the University of Utah’s Academic Senate formed the Academic Senate ad hoc Committee on Campus Sexual Assault to develop a campus climate survey for the U, review results, coordinate follow-up efforts and action plans and administer future surveys.

“Sexual assault and campus safety has been at the forefront of many people’s minds, and our Academic Senate takes a holistic approach to the issues facing our campus,” said Bill Johnson, U Academic Senate past president and current president of the Pac-12 ALC. “The safety and well-being of everyone on our campus is important to us, so it followed that the Academic Senate would instigate an effort to address these issues in a disciplined and thoughtful way.”

Since then, three member institutions, including the U, have completed campus climate surveys. In an effort to collaborate and build upon best practices, these survey questions will be added to the new online repository to benefit other Pac-12 institutions.

“While it is important for each school to complete its own survey to understand the unique circumstances facing its students, we felt that sharing resources and best practices with one another would only strengthen what we learn from the process and provide insights beyond what we learn as individual institutions,” Johnson said.

In addition to the climate surveys, the repository will also house information about reporting policies and campus resources. The database will allow member institutions to upload documents about myriad other interest areas, search through policies and peruse white papers that summarize policies from across institutions.

“The idea is to increase communication between Pac-12 universities in terms of the policies, procedures and best practices on issues affecting all of us,” said Chris Sinclair, associate professor of mathematics and Academic Senate vice president at the University of Oregon. “Oftentimes, we have similar types of questions, and we hope this database will be useful in connecting us to what others are doing about common problems. Additionally, the website will have an internal component for members of the Academic Leadership Coalition where they can ask questions of each other and take these ideas back to their senates to have a more informed discussion.”

Faculty and staff are encouraged to visit the online repository once it opens in January. Members of the Pac-12 ALC will contribute pertinent documents to help build it into a useful resource. The information gathered at the beginning of the year will be used to inform the agenda of the Pac-12 ALC’s annual conference, March 3-5, 2017, on the University of Utah campus.


*Xan Johnson is the current Academic Senate president at the U and a professor in the Department of Theatre.



An Afternoon with Visiting Professor, Michael Pinkerton

13 Oct , 2016  


Marketing and Communication Coordinator, Josiane Dubois sat down with Visiting Professor, Michael Pinkerton this September to talk about his career and his move to Salt Lake City, Utah.

J: What led you to want to move to Utah?

M: Well, this is really the first time I’ve ever spent any extended time in this part of the country.  Anywhere West of the Mississippi is new territory for me, growing up in the South. My last residence in the U.S. was in Washington D.C.. That’s where I lived for five years in grad school. Then I moved to Europe. My wife’s family lives in Florida. So when we come back to the U.S., we go to Kentucky, where I’m from, and Florida. We also travel to New York quite a bit. We have great friends –who are actually relatives in Seattle. So I’ve been there and I’ve been to Alaska a number of times. But this amazing expanse of beauty right in the middle I’ve always flown over and wondered what it really looks like.

J: We’re really happy to have you here. Did you work in the U.S. after grad school?

M: Yes, I worked in Washington, D. C. two years after grad school. Then I got a scholarship to study in Vienna, Austria. So I left the U.S. and went to Europe.

J: I know you have a very accomplished career as an educator, producer, artistic administrator and stage director. You were the department chair of Voice and Opera at the Konservatorium der Stadt Wien, which in English means the Conservatory of the City of Vienna. How long were you there for?

M: Ten years, right before coming here.

J: Could you tell us more about that experience? Any specific shows you got to do, people you worked with or highlights?

M: I would say some of the highlights of that time were getting to work with artists outside of the university conservatory who happened to be in the Vienna performing at major the big concert halls and the opera houses, or theaters. We would try to book them while they were already in town to come and speak to the students. We had very little money to pay them. It was always just a matter convincing them that they would have a meaningful and fun time with the students. What’s so exciting is that generally the more famous the artist, the more willing they were to give their time, usually for free. We would present master classes or sometimes talks to the students in an open forum. Daniel Barenboim was a particularly memorable guest – he came several times. It was really fun and inspiring to experience him in an informal, really intimate conversation group where we could ask questions and discuss all sorts of topics, not only music. He is such a strong political-minded person, as well as a genius and legendary musician. This was very inspiring for everyone present. It was an honor just to be able to experience this man’s aura.

J: How are you adjusting here? You’re working with a lot of students and people that are trying to learn, how’s your experience here?

M: One of the things that I’m realizing, learning, is that the learning process is exactly the same wherever you are in the world. There has to be a plan, a goal. The student has to give it a try. Then we have to think, ok, what’s good about it, how can this be better, how can it be improved? We communicate that, and then the student tries to get it. As simple as it sounds, this is like a cycle that never stops. That’s the same, really all over the world. One of the things that really fascinates me is the role body language plays in communication. Particularly when we’re working with multiple languages. In Vienna, German is the native language. Many students speak English, but not as their first language, and some don’t speak English at all. International students (and teachers) are confronted with many Asian languages, Russian, and several other complicated, eastern languages. Without a common language, how do we communicate? It’s so interesting how the intonation of the language, the melody, the eye contact, and body language reads almost as clearly as the words do – at least in basic conversation. That’s fascinating for me.

J: What advice would you give to the students here in the Department of Theatre and at the University of Utah with the experience you have?

M: I think what I would say –it is extremely important for everyone to experience cultural/social ideas and situations that are not familiar. Things that are different from their personal norm and comfort zone. Then use all of the energy that you can to try to understand, AND make yourself be understood. This applies to whatever you’re doing. Translated to the world of theatre and music, we must keep trying to make communication simpler. The situations or ideas are usually NOT simple. Just assuming that the audiences, or our students, will understand what we mean is NOT enough. There must be an intensity of purpose – the desire to express a specific idea. If an idea is presented with passion, conviction, intensity of purpose, and simplicity, the odds are very good that it will be understood. It’s fascinating. It’s so simple. Most of the characters that actors portray, or all the characters, are complicated. Maybe it’s more accurate to say, the situations in the stories are often complicated. But the characters themselves are quite simple. We (and the audience) get confused if there’s more than one emotion going on at a time. The audience can’t filter all those varied emotions at the same time. They need one specific idea or emotion to concentrate on. When the audience (like the actor) can focus on one emotion at a time, then as new emotions, desires and situations are presented, the audience understands that the character is experiencing the complexity of the story. The actor should play one emotion at a time, simply. However, there can be many new and contrasting thoughts that pop into the characters mind. These new elements can appear slowly or super fast. This series of clear, contrasting, simple thoughts reveals the depth and complexity of that character and/or story.

J: I’m sure that they’re all going to appreciate that advice. What do you see yourself doing in the future? I know your title right now is Visiting Professor. What do you hope to do? Would you like to stay in the States?

M: I would like to stay in the states, that’s one of the reasons I’m doing this now. In most European countries there’s a mandatory retirement age. This is part of the social system. Although I’m not at that age yet, it is in the near future. The majority of my professional life has been outside of the United States. It is an adventure for me to come back “home.” Much of my professional life in German-speaking Europe involved helping American and British creative teams deal with the concerns and fears that their musicals would not be understood in German. Their language of expression and experience was/is English. Can and will their intentions be understood? My job was (also) to help them trust in the universality of storytelling. This has been thrilling for me because bridging both cultures, I could help them trust that emotions and human situations are, indeed, translatable. Now here I am back in the U.S.A. working in my native language. I am learning so much! Our American culture is constantly changing, evolving, adapting. I love what I do. I adore teaching. And I feel that I’m getting better at it, too.

J: There’s a lot happening around social media thing here and the news, things happening in the U.S, a lot of social change that people are fighting for–do you think some of that affects your teaching or your students learning, things they think about or want to learn?

M: I do think it affects all of those things – what the students are thinking about, what’s bothering them, what’s on their minds. The same goes for me. We are all trying to put it together and figure it out, why is this happening, what’s going on, what does it mean? Where is my place in this story? When I can get some perspective and compare events here with what’s going on in Europe – that’s really exciting for me. Everything seems so immediate with the social media. It’s right up in your face, which has I think, for the most part, is good. But it has to be dealt with, we have to work through it. I don’t think we really know how to really work through it, yet. I know I don’t.

J: Personally, I think that theater is a great platform to express some of that, even if there’s not a resolution, it’s a good space to observe and explore.

M: That’s really true, theatre is very therapeutic that way. We’re lucky that we get to have an outlet for some of these thoughts. So we all try to think and articulate what is the role of the theatre in the 21st century. Maybe this is one of them, to help facilitate dealing with these issues. Maybe role-playing and dealing with these questions in a community situation can be helpful.

J: Thank you for coming and meeting with me.


10 Things You Didn’t Know About Robert Scott Smith

3 Oct , 2016  

Robert Scott Smith is a Visiting Assistant Professor  in the Actor Training Program this academic year. He graduated from the U with a BFA from the Actor Training Program, then went on to receive his MFA from the Old Globe University of San Diego. He is the Co-Artistic Director of Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory and acted professionally in New York and Salt Lake City.

For those who know him and those don’t, here is a list of 10 things you probably didn’t know about Robert Scott Smith.


1. Scott is a Virgo, with a Capricorn rising and a Sagittarius Moon.
2. His go-to song is Madonna’s Holiday.
3. He is definitely a dog person.
4. His spirit animal is a bobcat.
5. After Scott did a scene in his very first acting class, Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, he was sold on acting. It was the first time he realized how exhilarating, scary and rewarding acting could be. It was also the first time he felt like he belonged somewhere. Scott’s first play he was in was Child’s Play by Robert Marasco, he played Father Mozian. After being in his first play his love for acting really solidified and he said to himself, “you’ve got this”.
6. Scott is honored with the privilege of teaching at his alma mater. He never expected that he would be a teacher, let alone in the same program where he received his undergraduate degree. It is surreal for him when a student has a breakthrough just like he did in acting classes at the U. He is excited to continue this new passion that he has for teaching his craft.
7. The best advice that Scott has ever gotten is, “Respect the theatre, and it will respect you.” He said it is an all-encompassing statement. The theatre should be a respected space and you have to be willing to mop the floor. It’s not just about you being the star; there is team of people who have to work together to put on a show.
8. Scott has always had a great sense of exploration. From when he was 4 and he got lost in the Sawtooth National Forrest and found his way back to his parents to when he was 14 and spent a week being a Carnie in a traveling fair. From this exploration he developed a great sense of play and a willingness to lose himself.
9. Some of his dream roles include Tartuffe, the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. Also, he’d love to work with Kidd Pivot, Frantic Assembly and Wooster Group.
10. One of his favorite, challenging and rewarding roles was playing Batboy in Batboy: The Musical


A new role for research: Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell Becomes New Associate Dean

18 Aug , 2016  


Associate Professor Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell, has been appointed to the position of the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Fine Arts, effective July 1, 2016. This is a new position in the college, and emphasizes the importance of faculty research at an R1 University.

As associate dean, Cheek-O’Donnell will be responsible for supporting research activities of the CFA faculty–including facilitating efforts to increase extramural funding. Additionally, Cheek-O’Donnell will continue to provide leadership for the CFA’s burgeoning Arts & Health Initiative.

Cheek-O’Donnell earned a PhD in Theatre History and Dramatic Criticism from the University of Washington’s School of Drama in 2004 and served as the Head of Theatre Studies at the University of Utah since 2005. She is a proud member of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas and Editor of Review: The Journal of Dramaturgy.

In addition to her duties as associate dean, Cheek-O’Donnell will continue to serve part of her time in the Department of Theatre. In the department, she advises B.A. students and Theatre Minors, and teaches courses on Dramaturgy, Directing, Theatre and Theory, Gender on the Global Stage, Science on Stage, and the History of Theatre.

Please join us in welcoming Associate Dean Cheek-O’Donnell to this significant new role!

Original article can be found at The Finer Points.