From The Director’s Desk: The Joys of a High-Stakes Match Well Played

5 Sep , 2018  

Championship chess is a thrilling world, filled with larger than life personalities, intrigues, and fast paced action. Who knew that watching hyper-intelligent people think could be so interesting? Mix chess with the dynamics of take-no-prisoners international diplomacy, crossed with complicated interpersonal entanglements, and you have the basis of a compelling story. The story of these various attempts at manipulation come together compellingly in Tim Rice, Benny Anderson, and Bjorn Ulvaeus’s musical Chess.

Why this play? This play has been tried in different forms between the West End and Broadway. It has been pretty commonly understood in the industry that neither form worked perfectly. Tim Rice, whose idea this play was, invites a director to continue the work of shaping the telling of this story, its character development, and the interplay of those different worlds. That alone was a compelling reason to work on this material.  ABBA’s score is well known and well loved, and Tim Rice’s lyrics give fuel to the world. It was an exciting prospect for me to dissect this wonderful story, script, and score, and to reimagine the intersections of the characters in order to make their journey touch us across the footlights.

Why now? Current Russian–American sparring cannot help but remind us of the deadly diplomatic tensions of the Cold War. How do we relate to each other as nations and as individuals? How do we know what the other side really wants, really means? How we really function productively?

We in the Chess company have a tremendous respect and admiration for the amazing minds that compete in chess at the championship level. We’ve come to understand the dominance of Russia in the game and the support they have given their most skilled players. The obsession and focus required to participate at this level attracts minds that just don’t turn off. Unfortunately, minds that ignore other aspects of life are easily mis-used. We hope that you will love these characters and their story in this rarified world as much as we have loved creating it all for you.

The collaborative nature of theatre requires that artistry and co-operation from many specialists come together. Our team has been especially brilliant. We have an amazingly talented cast. Musical Director Alex Marshall’s orchestration underscores the drama with passion. Halee Rasmussen’s tilted, raked chess board is a constant tweak to the predicatable. Cole Adams’s inspired lighting keeps us on edge and guessing at what will happen next. Adam Day masterfully brings the voices front while still letting us feel the band in the room. Brenda Van der Wiel created our edgy, surprising costumes. Amanda French wig’s and make-up have added to the off kilter nature of the characters. Amber Lewandowski and her skilled stage management team have kept us focused and on schedule. The Musical Theatre Ensemble supports and broadens the score allowing us to expand the sound.

We have been so blessed with a team that has bonded, and who serve the show with definitive focus and unique sensitivity and talent.

We hope you enjoy the show!

–Denny Berry
Director and Choreographer of Chess The Musical

Musical Theatre Program Head


It’s time to party like a rock star at Arts Bash

20 Aug , 2018  


On Wednesday, Aug. 29 from 11A – 2P, the arts at the University of Utah are taking over the Marriott Library Plaza. We’re talking live performances on a massive stage, interactive art, free food, free T-shirts, free swag, and all the info you could ever want on the different ways to experience the arts on campus.

Hold on,  you know about Arts Pass, right? It’s the one-of-a-kind program that makes it so you can use your UCard to get free or deeply discounted tickets to literally hundreds of arts experiences on campus each year. So you can attend dance performances, concerts, plays, exhibitions, film screenings, and more on the super cheap — and it even includes special student access to the Utah Museum of Fine ArtsUtahPresents and Pioneer Theatre Company.

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Why? Because more and more research is showing the positive impacts of the arts on education. The findings are significant: exposure to the arts is linked with better critical thinking skills, greater social tolerance, a greater likelihood of seeking out art and culture in the future and better workforce opportunities. (Maybe that’s why we issue tens of thousands of tickets to students every year.)

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But, back to the Bash: First things first, pick up a passport from any of the booths, visit other booths to collect stamps, and when your passport is full, visit the Info booth to redeem it for a super soft mint green Arts Pass t-shirt that you can take to get your choice of design screen printed on it right in front of your eyes. Then you’ll grab some food and catch a couple acts on stage.


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We’re so excited to have all five academic units in the College of Fine Arts there to let you know what non-major classes you can take to spice up your class load, how to major in the arts, and give you the scoop-diddy-whoop about what experiences they’re providing throughout the year for all U students, faculty, and staff.


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Plus, we’ll have all three professional arts organizations (UMFA, UtahPresents and Pioneer Theatre Company) there along with our friends from ArtsForceArts Teaching, the Marriott Library’s Creative & Innovation ServicesASUULassonde Entrepreneur Institute, and the Union Programming Council.

And we’re stoked to welcome to the main stage:
• A proper bash kick-off from the U’s new Associate Vice President for the Arts and Dean of the College of Fine Arts, John Scheib
• The Department of Theatre’s musical theatre program will perform numbers from their season opener “CHESS” directed and choreographed by Denny Berry
• Ballet grad student James Wallace will take the stage for a stunning performance
• The School of Music’s Percussion Ensemble will host a not-to-be-missed drum circle
• And the modern dance freshman class will do its famous improv jam on the plaza (fan favorite every year!)

Not to mention, we have a couple surprises up our sleeves…

So, come. Experience. And start thinking differently.

Original post from The Finer Points Blog


Recent Graduate, Mark Macey premieres his play “Shooter” at Salt Lake Fringe Festival

31 Jul , 2018  

Recent University of Utah Theatre graduate, Mark Macey, will premiere his play Shooter at the Great Salt Fringe Festival, August 3-12, 2018.

Shooter had it’s first staged reading on April 23, 2018 as part of the New Plays Workshop class taught by Department of Theatre Professors Tim Slover and Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell. During the New Plays Workshop class taught every spring semester, plays are developed through discussion and exploratory workshops over the course of the semester. The development process culminates with student-run staged readings where members may serve variously as actors, directors, dramaturgs,stage managers or producers depending upon area of interest and the requirements of each play.

Shooter tells the unusual story of a man and his gun. Macey says he began writing the play after recognizing similarities between the perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States, himself, and men in general.

Shooter is rated R for violence, strong language, and nudity.

Tickets for the Great Salt Fringe Festival are available at:

Pictures from Shooter rehearsal for the Great Salt Fringe Festival 2018


Alumni Spotlight: Mark Fossen

20 Jul , 2018  

Welcome to our series highlighting graduates who are surviving (and even thriving!) out in the “real world.”

Tell us about yourself.

I’m Mark Fossen, a Salt Lake actor and director. I graduated in 2014 with a BA in Theatre Studies. I act and direct locally, including upcoming work at The Grand Theatre and PYGmalion Productions. I also teach in the department, as well as at Westminster College.

How did your experience in the U’s Department of Theatre help you as a professional?

While I had been acting and directing professionally for some time before finishing my degree, my experience in the Department allowed me to achieve my goal of teaching. I was able to TA in the department for Dr. Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell and Dr. Bob Nelson, as well as work with the Undergraduate Student Experts on Teaching program. It also, of course, let me finish my degree (at the age of 44) so I could then go on to complete an MFA and be able to teach at the college level.

What is your favorite Utah memory?

Not that I don’t have many wonderful memories, but after returning to school at 40, finding professors who helped me every step along the way, and then finally graduating after 20 years of thinking I might never finish my degree … it’s hard to not say “graduation.” It meant a lot to walk that day, with my wife and daughters in the audience.

What advice do you have for recent grads?

Life is long, and a lot is going to happen. Get started on your career and your life, but if you hit bumps along the way (and it’s likely you will) you should know that it’s ok. It’s not all going to go according to plan, but you’ll find surprises along the way.

Share your story! Are you an alum with a story to share? We want to hear about it! Email


Recent Grad Spotlight: Kelsey June Jensen

20 Jul , 2018  

Tell us about yourself.

Hi! My name is Kelsey June Jensen and I am from Salt Lake City, Utah. In May of 2018, I graduated with a BFA from the Actor Training Program. Currently, I am residing in the Hollywood Hills with an internship at the renowned Groundlings Theatre and School. My internship mainly consists of ticket sales, customer service, and making sure the theatre is running efficiently overall. In exchange for my work in their box office, I am being rewarded with free classes, which is such an incredible honor to study and train alongside some of the best comedians of our time. Being in Los Angeles has been amazing thus far and feels like exactly where I need to be. There is so much opportunity out here! In my free time, I am constantly auditioning/submitting for different projects in Los Angeles and have been fortunate to work on some already! It’s been incredible so far.

How did your experience in the U’s Department of Theatre help you as a professional?

I would not be the woman I am today without the ATP’s discipline. I am far more hardworking, diligent, persistent, and passionate than I was freshman year of college… And I truly owe that all to the ATP. This is a cutthroat industry and if I hadn’t had this rigorous education to whip me into shape, I don’t know if I would be pursuing my dreams in Los Angeles right now. It gave me the confidence, training, and motivation I needed to become the artist I aspire to be. Any audition room I walk into, one of my professors pops in my head to say, “be confident and breathe.” Seriously. Every. Single. Audition. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What is your favorite Utah memory?

I miss the sunsets. I also miss the grid system. A LOT. But I think one of my best memories happened during my senior project. There was a moment after an awkward stage kiss occurred and the audience completely lost it. They were laughing hysterically for quite some time and it took my partner and I every inch of our being’s not to break character and join in with them. It was the absolute best feeling in the world. I felt like I had worked so hard for the past 4 years just to reach that one small moment of pure exhilaration… It was one of the most rewarding and amazing experiences of my life.

What advice do you have for current students?

I remember thinking as a freshman, “Am I really cut out for this?” It turns out, I absolutely was and so are YOU! You are much smarter and stronger than you think. Push yourself, listen to your professors, and know that it’s all going to be worth it! Seriously. It may not seem like it now, but you are going to miss the late nights, early mornings, over-caffeination, and insane schedule. Cherish every moment you have.


Share your story! Are you an alum with a story to share? We want to hear about it! Email


MAGNIFYING, No. 13: Josiane Dubois

19 Jun , 2018  

For this episode of MAGNIFYING we spoke with Communications and Marketing Coordinator for the Department of Theatre, Josiane Dubois. Our creative community here at the College of Fine Arts is diverse and wide spread. With the goal of gaining a deeper knowledge and awareness of the people within our community, we bring you MAGNIFYING, a series dedicated to showcasing the talent of our students, faculty, and staff.

Tell us about yourself: Name, where you are from, what you do and how you got into in your field of work.
My name is Josiane Dubois. I was born in Lima, Peru, and moved to Salt Lake at the age of 9. I’m the Communications and Marketing Coordinator for the Department of Theatre. I started working in the Department when I was studying Strategic Communication as an undergrad. This summer I’m finishing a Master’s degree in Health Promotion and Education at the U. Through my research in nutritional label literacy, I’m redesigning Front-of-Package Symbols (FOPs) to make nutrition information quicker and easier to notice, understand, and use in low-health-literacy populations. In the future, I hope to work with health programs that utilize art to promote wellness.

What has surprised you the most in your life?
The need to go back to my roots. The older I get, the more interested I am in Latin American writers, poets, musicians, and other artists. As a child, I dreaded listening to the music my grandparents played at family parties, but now those are the same songs I play to feel connected to my family abroad and to my memories of Peru. I never thought that I would play “La Flor de la Canela” by Chabuca Granda on my Spotify at work, or that I would be humming “En Barranquilla Me Quedo” while walking my dog.
For a long time, I neglected reading or listening to music in Spanish because I wanted to assimilate into the neighborhood where I grew up. I’m really thankful that during my time at University I was encouraged to embrace the different cultures I had lived in. TV series like “Jane the Virgin,” “Mozart in the Jungle,” and “One Day at a Time” similarly portray my experience of growing up around multi-generational Latinx people who speak Spanish, English, and other languages interchangeably. I love working in a community of storytellers who create bridges through art.

What do you wish you had known/been told?
I wish I had learned earlier the power of speaking for myself. In a Conflict and Resolution class during my undergrad, I learned about using “I” statements. Ever since, I feel as if I have been able to communicate more effectively with others.

Originally Published by: The Finer Points


Bill Parkinson retires from the U after 44 years

15 Jun , 2018  

Professor William “Bill” Parkinson has been teaching Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation and Movement at the University of Utah since 1974. This summer, he will be retiring after teaching over 10,000 students during his career at the University of Utah.

Bill graduated from the University of Utah Department of Philosophy in 1972. He was initiated into the Ananda Marga International Yoga Society in 1970, receiving the title Yogi Viirishwara in 1974. He implemented Utah’s first accredited college courses in Tai Chi and Yoga at Westminster College from 1972 to 1974. He began teaching Tai Chi for the University of Utah Modern Dance Department in 1974. He has taught Tai Chi and Yoga for the Exercise and Sports Science Department since 1979, and for the Department of Theatre since 1987.

Bill is listed as an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher of the highest level (5,000+ hours of teaching experience) with the nationally accredited Yoga Alliance. He is a Tai Chi Chuan Master who is authorized to administer teacher-training and certification in both Tai Chi and Yoga. He has sponsored World Tai Chi Day at the University of Utah since 2002. This free event invites people of all ages and physical conditions to learn and practice different Chinese forms of exercise. He has been recognized by Governors Mike Leavitt, John Huntsman and Gary Herbert for his leadership of World Tai Chi Day (WTCD). WTCD has been declared a state holiday.

After his retirement, Bill will continue to teach his craft at a local Yoga and Tai Chi studio in Salt Lake City.

Please join us for a midday celebration to honor Bill for his decades of service and accomplishments at the University of Utah on June 20, at 12:00 p.m. in the Performing Arts Building.


Please Welcome Our New Department Chair, Harris Smith!

31 May , 2018  

The Department of Theatre is pleased to announce that Harris Smith will be serving as the next chair of our department beginning July 1, 2018.

Smith is joining us from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he served as an Associate Professor in Acting and Movement, the Director for the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, and as the former Head of the Professional Actor Training Program.  

His research and creative work focus on psycho-physical character development for the actor and choreographing violence for stage and film. He is a Certified Teacher of stage combat through the Society of American Fight Directors and a member of Actors Equity and SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild). He has worked as an actor and fight director at a number of regional theatres including Utah Shakespeare Festival, ACT in Seattle, St. Louis Black Repertory, Sacramento Theatre Company and Illinois Shakespeare Festival. He received the Meritorious Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival for Fight Choreography. His film and television credits include; Runaway Train Singles, Past Midnight, Amazing Grace & Chuck, Seven Hours to Judgment, Chips the War Dog, Lookin’ Good and Pandora’s Clock.  Recently, he served as the stunt coordinator and fight director for the short film, The Healing of Harmon (2018). He has been invited to present the lecture, “Characters in Conflict,” this summer at Sichuan University as part of the 2018 University Immersion Program in Chengdu, China.

“I’m enthusiastic about joining the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah. As an alum of the PAC 12, I’m excited to return to this excellent conference. I look forward to building upon the excellence of the department and commitment of the faculty towards their students.  It is my hope to deepen our relationships with communities in the Greater Salt Lake area and the state of Utah, as we continue to grow our national and international impact.”

In welcoming Harris Smith to his new position, the Department also thanks Gage Williams for his service and commitment to the Department of Theatre throughout his term as Chair.


Professor Gage Williams Celebrates Over 20 Years of Service in the Department of Theatre

2 May , 2018  

Gage Williams has been a highly valued member of the Department of Theatre for 24 years, serving as Department Chair the last 10 years. His expertise in stage design and film and TV production design have given him many experiences at the U, and at numerous professional companies, including the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Great Lakes Theatre Festival, and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare.

Williams first discovered a love of theatre by chance his sophomore year at Arizona State University, when he signed up for a non-majors acting class in order to keep his athletic eligibility. He immediately found a deep love for theatre and gave up playing football shortly thereafter. “My early goal was to be a film actor, and I assumed acting was the path to take,” Williams said. “I did love the few roles I played on stage, acting class, and rehearsals. But deep down I knew I was not that good, and I was not progressing as an actor.” After three years of acting courses, he took a required course in set design, which felt like a natural fit for him. He then switched his major and finished his BFA in Theatre Design and Production at ASU, and then earned his Master of Fine Arts Degree from Southern Methodist University, where he was mentored by the famed Broadway musical design team of Bill and Jean Eckart.

During his time at ASU, Williams got a job as a technical intern at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, where he was eventually promoted to Resident Assistant Set Designer. He assisted world renowned designers such as Ralph Funicello, sitting in on meetings with Jack O’Brien, and even assisting on a set for the world premiere of Neil Simon’s Jake’s Women. He then moved to LA and worked as a TV Art Director for the production designer Bruce Ryan. During that time he art-directed the MTV Music Awards, the Soul Train weekly show, and countless shows for MTV, ABC, CBS, and NBC, and won a CableACE award for his art direction of the Showtime special “Mastergate.”

Williams has been a member of the United States Institute of Theatre Technology since 1997. This year at their annual conference, his set design was selected to be featured in the summer edition of the Theatre Design & Technology magazine. This is the third time since 1998 that he has been selected for publication. This year was the seventh consecutive year that he was able to travel with a group of theatre design and stage management students to the conference. He says, “It’s a wonderful five-day event, every year, with workshops, distinguished guest speakers, and an opportunity to celebrate design production and management for the performing arts.”

At the conclusion of this school year, Williams will be stepping down as Department Chair and will take a year-long sabbatical. What he has loved most as Department Chair is empowering faculty and staff to provide students with transformative learning and on-stage opportunities: “I have always looked for ways to protect faculty and staff from too much busy work that keeps them from teaching, researching, and serving. Those three areas are where faculty can have the most impact on students and the institution as a whole.” During his sabbatical he plans to use some time to re-examine his teaching strategies, spend time traveling, seeing theatre and film, and reflect on the next chapter in his professional life.

To any aspiring artist, he provides these words of advice: “Do the math! Don’t graduate without understanding healthcare, retirement investing, how to get a mortgage, and how to do a personal balanced budget. You need to know what a personal budget looks like at $20,000 a year or less, at $30,000 or less, etc. Remember, it takes a ten-year commitment to become an artist. When you start the clock is your choice. At the end of the ten years, evaluate and learn to need less during the next ten years, so you can put the majority of your time into your personal development as an artist. Don’t saddle yourself with debt for things that are not necessities. Being a starving artist is a real thing. Embrace it!”

By Adam Griffiths, CFA

2016 University of Utah Theatre Department, Hello, Dolly!


Natural Shocks: Theatre Activism Against Gun Violence

18 Apr , 2018  

Support local artists and a fantastic organization this Friday, April 20 by attending “Natural Shocks” at 7:30 p.m. in the Babcock Theatre.

Directed by Department of Theatre Instructor Mark Fossen and starring Professor Sarah Shippobotham, this theatre activism piece against gun violence is a one night event produced by Pussycat Productions.

Modeled after her Inauguration Day project when she made her play The Taming available to theaters for royalty-free readings on January 20, 2017, Lauren Gunderson and her team of producers have coordinated an ambitious national campaign of theater activism against gun violence with royalty-free readings of her new play Natural Shocks taking place across the country April 19-23, 2018.

That timing is intentional: April 20 is the 19th anniversary of Columbine and the day of the National School Walkout, organized by the students activists in Parkland, Florida. Professional theaters, universities, high schools, and community groups are pairing their readings with town halls, audience talkbacks, and fundraisers for nonprofits like Everytown For Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action.

Learn more about the nation-wide campaign, here:

The Department of Theatre is lending our Babcock Theatre to Pussycat Productions for this event. Donations for Everytown for Gun Safety will be taken at the door in lieu of tickets.

RSVP at the event Facebook page:


Martin C. Alcocer, 2018 Outstanding Senior

17 Apr , 2018  

Congratulations to Martin C. Alcocer, our 2018 Department of Theatre Outstanding Student!

Martin was born in Mexico City and grew up in Salt Lake City. He is a dedicated and compassionate leader in the department who is graduating with a BFA in Stage Management.

During his time in the Department, Martin has served as stage manager for many productions in our department and in local theaters. Most recently he served as stage manager for Steel Pier in the Marriott Center for Dance and assistant stage manager for Newsies! at Pioneer Theatre Company.

Martin also has a passion for lighting design and has done the lighting design for Love’s Labour’s Lost (Studio 115), How Long Can You Stand… (Sackerson and Flying Bobcat), and Our Country’s Good (Babcock Theatre). He was the assistant lighting designer for HIR, Streetlight Woodpecker, and Harbur Gate at Salt Lake Acting Company.

The Department of Theatre faculty nominated Martin because of his commitment to the department, his fellow students, and the theatre community. He has taken leadership several years in a row by organizing and mentoring other students to go to the USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology). He describes his work as “high quality work that is achieved and demonstrated through collaboration, strong communication, and the understanding that we are all human.” He is a recipient of the Elizabeth Warner Scholarship, the Salt Lake Acting Company Scholarship, and Fine Arts Advisory Board Scholarship.

During his time in the College of Fine Arts

Most memorable moment:

I’ve had many memorable moments and it is not easy to pick one. Out of all the things I have enjoyed during my time in the College of Fine Arts, my most memorable moments are those in which I had the opportunity to create and collaborate with my peers. There are two times in particular which took place over a period of a few weeks: one was during the Department of Theatre’s production of Hello, Dolly!, and the other was during the production of Steel Pier. Both are memorable for similar reasons. They were both fairly large productions, and because of the large scale, they were both high stress. Despite this, everyone in the room was committed to creating a great production. The experience I gained from each show was immense, and the memories created are unforgettable. Having the opportunity to work on these shows will be of the most memorable.

One thing you learned at CFA:

During my time in the CFA, I learned about the power of networking, and the importance of balance. In this industry, networking is critical. The arts are often times heavily reliant on who you know. Having this knowledge early on has definitely aided me as I progressed through undergrad and started to build my network in Salt Lake and around the country. The other lesson I have learned is the need for balance. Even though I love what I do and am fortunate enough to be able to work doing what I love, I learned that only working was not healthy. You have to be able to step back and do something else, like spend time with family or friends, or have a hobby that is not related to work. Having learned this has greatly improved my stress levels, and I also feel like it has helped me better my craft.

What Inspires Martin

A main component from where I find my inspiration is through the reactions that I, along with everyone else I work with on a project, are able to evoke from an audience. With theatre, or any other type of performance art where I have been fortunate enough to work, I have been able to see and hear the impact that we, as artists, have on people’s lives. Whether we take them away from their worries and stress through a production, or we are able to spark a conversation and debate, what I, and everyone in the arts is able to do, has an impact. Knowing that I have a part of this is what inspires me.


While I was in the College of Fine Arts, I have had many fantastic opportunities. Within the Department of Theatre, I have worked, in some capacity, on nearly all of the productions whether it was as an electrician, light board programmer, or last-minute help. I also assistant stage managed and stage managed eight productions. I have been able to work at professional theatre companies, such as Salt Lake Acting Company and Pioneer Theatre Company, where I started in more entry level positions, like light board operator, and worked my way up to assistant stage manager on larger productions, such as The Count of Monte Cristo at PTC, or Saturday’s Voyeur at SLAC, where I even spent some time in the role of Stage Manager. I have also interned with Utah Opera on their production of Moby Dick. In addition to stage managing I have also assistant lighting designed at SLAC on Streetlight Woodpecker, Harbur Gate, and HIR. For the department, I designed lights for Love’s Labour’s Lost and Our Country’s Good. I currently work for Salt Lake County Center for the Arts as an On-Call Technical Director where I work at their various spaces, such as the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, Capitol Theatre, and the new Eccles Theatre. In this position I ensure that their policies are followed, provide technical help, and verify that everything is done safely. Through this I have been able to interact with local art makers as well as with Broadway tours like, Something Rotten, An American in Paris, and Hamilton. Nationally, I have been a part of groups within the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), which is the largest organization for theatre, entertainment, and performing arts professionals involved in the areas of design, production and technology. I was a part of the Gateway program, which aims to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in the industry as both a mentee and a peer mentor, and I was also a part of the Stage Management Mentorship Program. In the Stage Management Mentorship Program, I, along with twelve other students or young professionals from around the country and Mexico, was paired with a mentor who gave me the opportunity talk to and network with other stage managers who have worked on touring musical productions and opera, as well as with the Walt Disney Company, Cirque du Soleil, and on events like the Super Bowl. I was also assigned to stage manage the Keynote Address that opened the annual conference in Fort Lauderdale, FL this past March. I have also served as president of the University of Utah’s chapter of Young Designers and Technicians, a club which secures funding, and organizes the trip to send students to the USITT conference. conference. Through this club, we have sent between eight to fifteen students, each year to attend the conference.



“And Here We Are…” Senior MTP Showcase

5 Apr , 2018  

“And Here We Are…”

A story of our years in the MTP


The Musical Theatre graduating class presents “And Here We Are…”  The showcase is both a reflection and capstone for our graduating seniors of the Musical Theatre Program and will feature their wide-ranging and phenomenal talents.

The seniors have created a show that shares the story of their lives over the past four years–including the hard work, friendships, and lots and lots of dancing! Come and see the Class of 2018 in their very last University show!

The production runsApril 20-22 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on April 22 at 2:00 p.m. in Studio 115. FREE tickets with RSVP at:

Musical numbers in And Here We Are… include:

“If You Knew My Story” – Bright Star

“For Forever” – Dear Evan Hansen (Part 1)

“Someone in the Crowd” – La La Land

“Soft Place to Land” – Waitress

“Everything I Know” – In The Heights

“Cell Block Tango” – Chicago

“I Don’t Need a Roof” – Big Fish

“And Here We Are…” by Lloyd Livengood, Zach Marquez, Makayla Cussen, and Bailey Cummings


A Talk with Ty Burrell and Chris DuVal

2 Apr , 2018  

Ty Burrell, best known for his role as Phil Dunphy in the ABC sitcom Modern Family, visited the Department of Theatre Friday, March 30 to talk about his life and career in front of Theatre students, faculty, and staff.

ATP Head Chris DuVal joined him on the Babcock Theatre stage where Ty shared his views about preparation, commitment, and his perspective about acting.

Ty Burrell is a long time Utah actor and resident. He worked for both the Pioneer Theatre Company and Utah Shakespeare Festival before he developed fame in his current role in Modern Family. He is a theatre trained actor from Penn State and has worked in London, Broadway, and in many regional theatres across the country. Ty and Chris originally acted together in Cedar City in the late 90’s and have remained close friends since that time.

Ty’s wife, Holly is an alumna of our Actor Training Program. Ty and his wife Holly are valued supporters of the Department of Theatre at University of Utah.

Thanks for visiting and spending your morning with us!

Photos by Todd Collins Photos



We close the 2017-18 season with “Our Country’s Good”

29 Mar , 2018  

We close the 2017-18 season with Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker, based on the novel “The Playmaker” by Thomas Keneally, April 6-15 in the Babcock Theatre. Directed by Actor Training Program Professor Sarah Shippobotham, this play-within-a-play is a story in which justice, power and the possibility of redemption come under scrutiny.

In Jan. 1788, the first of the British prison ships arrived at Botany Bay, Australia and settled the penal colony at Port Jackson, the site of current-day Sydney. Many of the prisoners had committed minor crimes and their wardens were military men who fought and lost the war against the American colonies. When hope and supplies run low, a lieutenant tries to increase morale by staging a comedy, The Recruiting Office” by George Farquhar, using the convicts as the cast.

The creative set of this modern classic designed by Department of Theatre’s technical director and associate professor Kyle Becker, aims to put the themes of this inspiring play at the fore. Performed by a cast of highly talented actors from the Actor Training Program and Musical Theatre Program, this production is set to be an innovative portrayal of the struggle for justice, power and humanity.

Stay after the show for a conversation with the cast and creative team about the production following the Friday, April 13 performance.

Our Country’s Good at a glance:

Dates and Times: April 6-8 and 12-15 at 7:30 p.m. with matinees on April 14 and 15 at 2 p.m.

Post-Performance Discussion: April 13.

Location: The Babcock Theatre, located at 300 S. and University Street (1400 East) in the Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, lower level. Free parking is available to the south of the theatre and at Rice Eccles Stadium.

Tickets: General Admission tickets are $18, University of Utah faculty and staff are $15, University of Utah students are free with UCard and all other students with valid student ID are $8.50. Tickets can be obtained by calling 801-581-7100, online at or at the Performing Arts Box Office, located at Kingsbury Hall. 


Public Presentations for Theatre Chair Candidates

28 Mar , 2018  

Please join us for the Public Presentations of our Theatre Chair Candidates

All presentations will happen in PAB/Studio 115 at 9:00 a.m. the following dates:

Candidate Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell March 29

Candidate Joe Price April 3

Candidate Kate Moncrief April 10

Candidate Harris Smith April 17


Cece Otto 2018 CFA Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher

9 Mar , 2018  

Cece Otto is a senior in the Actor Training Program and Student Advisory Committee President for the Department of Theatre. She won the 2018 College of Fine Arts Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award for the creation of her original piece, Hyperthymesia, which she performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2017. Cece was awarded a UROP grant two semesters in a row, allowing her to fund the project under the supervision of her mentor and Assistant Professor, Robert Scott Smith.
“Scott taught my acting class the second semester of my freshman year, and ever since then I have been enamored with his passion for the theatre and creative ideas. His talent as a theatre maker is incredible, and working with him was so delightful. I knew he had a vast background in devising work with his theatrical laboratory, Flying Bobcat, and decided to take the opportunity to absorb some of his wisdom. He pushed me to work harder, while allowing me plenty of room to grow on my own.  I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had to spend time with him as a mentor.”
Recent projects Cece has worked on include The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at Pioneer Theatre Company, Harbur Gate at Salt Lake Acting Company, and Self Defense, or Death of Some Salesmen at the University of Utah.  She is the Marketing and Outreach Intern at UtahPresents, and was chosen to be an intern at Pioneer Theatre Company this past fall.  Additionally, she is a co-founder of WHO’S LOUIS?, a devised theatre company based in Salt Lake City, and enjoys being a “Big Sister” for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Utah.   She will be playing the part of Dabby Bryant in the Department of Theatre’s upcoming production of Our Country’s Good this April.  She is grateful to her family, friends, and teachers for their endless love and support.

Congrats, Cece!


Follow your dreams with “Up (The Man in the Flying Chair)”

6 Mar , 2018  

The Department of Theatre is thrilled to present the dramatic comedy written by Bridget Carpenter Up (The Man in the Flying Chair), a story that captures the essential truth about the lure of the impossible dream, its freedom, and its danger. Directed by Head of the Actor Training Program Chris DuVal, the production runs March 9-17 in Studio 115.

Up (The Man in the Flying Chair) is based on the real-life escapade of truck driver Larry Walters who attached 45 helium-filled weather balloons to a lawn chair and found himself 16,000 feet above the world, 20 years ago. He rose up from his backyard in San Pedro, California, was seen by commercial airliners, and drifted into controlled air space near Long Beach airport. Today he’s furiously holding onto his dreams and the faded memory of that glorious day, doing everything he can to keep his feet from touching the ground.

This is a story about breathtaking tension between hope and despair, “I love how we get to see inside Walter’s mind as he’s chasing a dream of who he is,” DuVal says. He creates an environment that doesn’t sacrifice the communal nature of making theatre—the inherent love of art making. “Theatre must always retain its joyful attitude,” he explains.

This production shows what it is to pursue one’s dream. To go on a hero’s journey where the destination is unknown, and the path uncertain, but that it is a calling of something that must be undertaken. “It’s a story that is needed now more than ever.”

“A brilliant play…original, poignant, moving, sad and funny. I have rarely sat in a theater audience that laughed so hard at one moment and, at the next, sat so still you’d swear you could hear the actors’ hearts beating together on stage.” – Eugene Register-Guard



“Up (The Man in the Flying Chair)” at a glance:
Dates and Times: March 9-11 and 15-17 at 7:30PM  with a matinee on March 17 at 2PM
Post-Performance Discussions: March 16
Location: Studio 115 in the Performing Arts Building, 240 S. 1500 East. Parking is available in the visitor’s lot to the south of the theatre, at Rice-Eccles Stadium or on Presidents Circle.
Tickets: General admission tickets are $18, U faculty and staff are $15, U students are free with UCard and all other students with valid student ID are $8.50. Tickets can be obtained by calling 801-581-7100, online or at the Performing Arts Box Office, located at Kingsbury Hall.
Age Recommendations: Ages 14+


‘Eclipsed’ To Be Performed at Regional Festival

23 Jan , 2018  

University of Utah Theatre Department’s Eclipsed Will Be Performed at Regional Festival The University of Utah Theater Department’s production of Eclipsed from last season was chosen by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival to perform at Festivention from February 14 to 17 at Mesa Community College, Arizona. This is one of only six productions that has been chosen to perform from our region, comprised of schools from Utah, Southern Nevada, Southern California, Arizona, Hawaii, and Guam.

Eclipsed is a powerful production based on real life stories of the women and girls who helped bring peace to the African nation of Liberia during its second civil war. It became the first play with an all-black and female cast and creative team to premiere on Broadway in 2015. The U of U’s production followed this example by casting an all-black cast and hiring Stephanie Weeks, New York resident, as artistic director. Of their performance, Utah Theater Blogger stated, “The five women on stage of this production took on material that has the ability to bring empathy, understanding, and advocacy that is desperately needed.”

U of U Theatre professor Bob Nelson currently serves on the board of KCACTF, and has been serving there for 10 years. In fact, this year he was honored with a Gold Medallion for his years of dedicated service with the organization. Nelson said this year there were over 70 eligible applicants, and the U was one of 6 selected.

Some of KCACTF’s goals are “to encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs, to provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight . . . [and] to encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays.” Professor Nelson said of the festival, “I particularly appreciate working with KCACTF because this organization, more than many, focuses on the students’ experience. It gives students an excellent opportunity to interact and work with other individuals and institutions at the festival.”

Participating in the festival is no small undertaking. The entire company will be returning for their three performances at the festival, including recently graduated students. The company will also transport their entire set and costumes to the venue. While at the festival, they will get the opportunity to participate in workshops and seminars on such topics as dramaturgy, theatre criticism, playwriting, auditioning, voice, movement, stage combat, theater for children, scene painting, and scenery construction.

Speaking of Eclipsed, Artistic Director Stephanie Weeks was quoted in the Daily Utah Chronicle saying as, “Often when we talk of prisoners of war we talk about the soldiers who have been captured, tortured, and killed. Rarely do we talk about the women and children who are also in the trenches and are, in fact, prisoners of war themselves . . . trapped by their circumstances. So how and why do we imprison the women who gave us life and nurtured us?” Audiences who attended this production last year were deeply moved, and the University of Utah is proud to be able to send our talented cast and production team to this festival to share this important story.

By Adam Griffiths, CFA




‘Legacy’ A Memoir of Maud May Babcock

4 Jan , 2018  

Maud May Babcock is remembered at the University of Utah through its Babcock Theatre and the Babcock Performing Readers. Babcock was a determined and talented international figure who set the pace for students, politicians, businesses, fortune hunters, and noted Utah entertainers.

Utah’s first lady of theater and physical education, Babcock founded the Department of Speech and the Department of Physical Education at the University of Utah, and she was also the first woman given full professorship at the U. During the course of her lifetime, Babcock produced and directed over 300 plays, including Eleusinia, the first play produced by a university in the United States, and she was the driving force behind the Social Hall, the first university-subsidized professional theater in the United States. In addition to her work with drama and speech, Babcock served as president of the board for the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind as well as Chaplain of the Utah Senate, the first woman in the country to hold such a position.

Her story, Legacy will be performed by the Babcock Performing Readers and Murray Heritage Readers on January 11, 2018 at 7:30pm in the Union Building (Union Theatre). This  event is free to the public. For more information visit the Facebook event page or call 801-942-2431.


‘Eclipsed’ selected to attend KCACTF Region 8 Festival

20 Dec , 2017  

Eclipsed written by Danai Gurira, directed by Stephanie Weeks, produced by our Department in March of 2017, has been invited to attend Festival 50 in Mesa, Arizona at Mesa Community College February 13-17, 2018.

Eclipsed is one of six productions chosen to attend the KCACTF Region 8 festival in 2018. Other productions chosen include Where Words Once Were by Finegan Kruckemeyer, directed by Tracy Callahan, Weber State University (Utah); The Government Inspector by Nikolai Gogo, adapted by Theatre Movement Bazaar and directed by Tina Kronis, Los Angeles City College (California); Man of La Mancha by Mitch Leigh, Joe Darion and Dale Wasserman, directed by bree valle, Cuesta College (California); Story Theatre by Paul Sills, directed by Kevin Dressler, Mesa Community College (Arizona); and Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage, directed by Linda Bisessti, California Polytechnic University, Pomona (California).

Eclipsed tells the story of five extraordinary women brought together by the upheaval of war in their homeland of Liberia. “A driving force behind the resolution of the conflict were the women of Liberia who came together because they were tired and angry at what war was doing to their country,” said director Weeks. Drawing on reserves of wit and compassion, Eclipsed reveals the courage and strength of the women who are often overlooked in a world where war endures, and women are still fighting to survive.

The brilliant all-black female cast traveling to Arizona includes Madelaine Lamah as Maima, Terryn Shigg as Bessie, Darby Mest as The Girl, ATP alumna McKenna Jensen as Helena, and local artist Dee-Dee Darby-Duffin as Rita. Other members from the original University of Utah production will also be traveling to the festival including scenic designer Megan Branson, lighting designer Michele Collins, costume designer Kerstin Davis, sound designer Shea Madson, stage manager Tahra Veasley, properties designer Lesli Spencer, dramaturg Catherine Heiner, and director Stephanie Weeks.

Congratulations to everyone involved with the University of Utah’s production of Eclipsed.


Alumnus William Copper Howell in “Hamilton” parody called “Spalmiton”

14 Nov , 2017  

Musical Theatre Program alumnus William Cooper Howell plays Lin-Manuel Miranda’s character in “Hamilton” parody called, “Spamilton.”

Read the entire the LA TIMES ARTICLE by Charles McNulty below.

‘Spamilton’: Musical spoof lands its punches softly, and with a smile

Gerard Alessandrini, the man behind the popular “Forbidden Broadway” series, has made his theatrical career spoofing his musical theater betters. He’s turned theatrical lampooning into an art form, sending up the excesses of bloated shows and caricaturing the mannerism of divas.

Alessandrini has had much to mock over the span of 25 “Forbidden Broadways,” from the fervid pop operas of Andrew Lloyd Webber to the empty-headed jukebox musicals that, until recently, had a commercial stranglehold on the American musical theater.

The success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” has inaugurated a new and more promising era. The show, too much a game-changer to be crowded into a skewering revue, is the target of Alessandrini’s “Spamilton,” which opened last weekend at the Kirk DouglasTheatre.

The show (created, written and directed by Alessandrini) tweaks the familiar logo of “Hamilton” to leave no doubt about the teasing intentions. A pianist (music director James Lent) pounds away discreetly at the keys on a mostly bare stage. The ensemble is surprisingly populous, but the production still has the feeling of a small-scale cabaret.

“Spamilton” substitutes the story of Miranda, a Broadway revolutionary, for the story of Alexander Hamilton, the original American revolutionary. The rhymes of “Alexander Hamilton,” the opening number from “Hamilton,” are rejiggered to introduce Broadway’s reigning king, whose Tony-winning show has become one of the hottest tickets in the land.

How does a whipper snapper

Student of rap

And a Latin

Trapped in the middle of a

Manhattan flat

With Broadway accolades

While other writers kiss

The corporate dollar

Grow up to be a hip-hop op’ra


These words are sung by Wilkie Ferguson III, who plays Leslie Odom Jr., the “Hamilton” cast member who won a Tony for playing Aaron Burr. Hamilton’s rival is still bitterly competitive, though in “Spamilton” the two characters argue about artistic integrity, not politics.

Everyone knows that Lin-Manuel (William Cooper Howell) is destined to “build a better Broadway,” but it’s not going to be an easy road. Audiences like to stick to the familiar, and the commercial temptations and traps have grown only more extreme.

But this hot young talent means business. In “His Shot,” Lin-Manuel roars, “I am not gonna let Broadway rot” — and both the swagger and nobility of his ambition come through.

The structure of the show seems jury-rigged. The story readily gives way to gag numbers. Impersonations of Liza Minnelli and Barbra Streisand are de rigueur. The spirit of “Spamilton” is mostly adulatory, but Alessandrini, a shrewd observer of musicals, takes a few gentle shots at Miranda.

“Be terser in your verse, sir/You’re no Johnny Mercer,” critiques Odom in a rhyme that demonstrates Alessandrini’s own rap prowess. After “Hamilton” becomes a blockbuster, Lin-Manuel comes on and self-deprecatingly introduces himself: “I’m slightly obnoxious/Too broad, too pained/My voice is strained/and thin/I’m Lin-Manuel!”

The “Spamilton” cast infuses the show with nonstop energy. Zakiya Young summons Renée Elise Goldsberry as effectively as she conjures Audra McDonald and J-Lo. John Devereaux simulates the cool, lanky, big-haired eccentricity of Daveed Diggs.

Glenn Bassett, who plays crazy King George, camps it up in “Straight Is Back,” a “Penny Lane”-like ditty (converted, if you will, from “You’ll Be Back”) bemoaning the way “Hamilton” has made Broadway conspicuously less gay.

Some of the raillery, while funny, feels like overkill. The mash-up of shows, combinations that are like Frankenstein’s monster (“The Lion King and I”), might be more amusing in a nightclub serving drinks.

Yet Alessandrini detects more lyrical kinship between these composers than might be obvious to a civilian theatergoer. Sondheim’s deft wordplay seems like a precursor to Miranda’s rap style by the end of a section in which Renée repeatedly sings, “And another hundred syllables/Came out of his brain.”

“Spamilton” infuses original insights into a show that without these kernels might seem tiresomely broad. The musical unfolds as a sort of dream of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, who made “Hamilton” the “Camelot” of their administration. The production can get surreally silly at points, but Alessandrini treats Miranda’s masterpiece with the rambunctious love this watershed musical deserves.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦


Where: Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City

When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays (call for exceptions); ends Jan. 7

Price: $55-$99 (subject to change)

Info: (213) 628-2772 or

Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes (no intermission)


Brian Manternach: Taking the Art of Singing to a Whole New Level

27 Oct , 2017  

by Adam Griffiths

Brian Manternach, Assistant Professor (Clinical) in the U of U Department of Theatre, is a man of many hats. Like most voice teachers, he has an extensive performance career, but what makes him stand out are his numerous achievements in vocal science and pedagogy research. Brian is the chapter head of the local division of NATS (National Association for Teachers of Singing), an organization which meets regularly to discuss how to improve vocal pedagogy in the voice studio. Additionally he serves as Associate Editor, and regularly authors and co-authors articles in the NATS periodical The Journal of Singing. He also writes regularly in a book review column, “The Singer’s Library,” for the Classical Singer magazine.

Brian uses his love of vocal science to directly affect those he teaches. Last year he gave a talk at TEDxSaltLakeCity about why singing is an activity people should all be able to benefit from and enjoy. In that talk, he cited studies that indicate how singing can lead to increased physical and psychological well being. By the end of the talk, he had the entire audience singing “You Are My Sunshine” with him.

He says, “What draws me to singing the most is the opportunity to collaborate with others and to build relationships through the shared human experience of singing together. In the same way, the research projects in which I’m most interested do not involve one person hidden away in a lab somewhere. For me, it’s all about like-minded people who are enthusiastic about a topic sharing what they have to contribute in order to hopefully learn something new. And when we do find something new, it’s exciting to be able to share that through presentations, publications, and in our teaching.”

Coming from the performance and teaching world, Brian says that he doesn’t have the research background to do a lot of work on his own. He states, “I rely on others who have a much greater understanding of research methods and acoustic analysis techniques to help carry out the studies we do. I’m particularly indebted to the U’s National Center for Voice and Speech and their associate director, Dr. Lynn Maxfield — a brilliant voice scientist who is truly committed to bringing vocal science and art together.” This past June, Brian and Dr. Maxfield presented research in Philadelphia at the Voice Foundation’s Annual Symposium: Care of the Professional Voice. “For that study we played audio clips of professional and student singers for professional casting directors to see how the casting directors would evaluate their sound.” That research has recently been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Voice, which is “widely regarded as the world’s premiere journal for voice and medicine and [voice] research.”

This month Brian presented at the Pan American Vocology Association (PAVA) Symposium in Toronto, in collaboration with Dr. Maxfield and Dr. Jeremy Manternach (his brother), an Assistant Professor of Music Education at the University of Iowa. He will also present at the NATS Conference in Las Vegas next summer. Regardless of how busy he gets, he will always prioritize his work as a teacher. “I have had wonderful, inspiring, patient teachers throughout my life and I’m really passionate about doing my best to fill that role for others.”


On Artists and Inclusion

25 Oct , 2017  

By Dean John W. Scheib

In an environment where creativity is the currency, being different is of great value.

At the University of Utah College of Fine Arts, individuality is part and parcel to success. The ability to think unlike others is celebrated, the ability to communicate in ways that cross cultural boundaries is nurtured, and the ability to reflect even the less refined parts of our humanity is recognized as beautiful.

At our core, we deeply respect diversity.

Yet, on this campus, like many campuses across this nation, we find ourselves fraught with opportunity (need) to reiterate our commitment to inclusivity. And we’ll take every chance we get, because showing up every day to risk failure in the journey toward personal growth requires extraordinary courage – courage that we’d rather not be expended on the pursuit of personal safety or respect. Those, we hope, are innate and assumed here.

While we recognize that some of the greatest art comes from the expressions of devastation and heartbreak, we also know that senses of safety and belonging are paramount to fostering spaces where people feel secure enough to explore and create.

We have said before that All Are Welcome Here, and I’d like to reiterate it again. I acknowledge that none of us is perfect in this endeavor (and welcome the feedback when we’re not fully successful), and promise that the goal of nurturing and increasing the diversity in our classrooms, studios, theatres, halls and galleries will be among our top priorities as we embark on the College’s new strategic plan.

Authentic inclusivity is an art, and we look forward to mastering it with you.


Jesus Christ Superstar

16 Oct , 2017  

Department of Theatre student group, Open Door Productions presents Jesus Christ Superstar with an all-female cast, November 3-4 in Studio 115.

With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice, Jesus Christ Superstar has wowed audiences for over 40 years. A timeless work, the rock opera is set against the backdrop of an extraordinary and universally-known series of events but seen, unusually, through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

Loosely based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Superstar follows the last week of Jesus Christ’s life. The story, told entirely through song, explores the personal relationships and struggles between Jesus, Judas, Mary Magdalene, his disciples, his followers and the Roman Empire.

The iconic 1970s rock score contains such well-known numbers as “Superstar,” “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and “Gethsemane.” This production is being performed by a top-notch all-female cast from the University of Utah Department of Theatre. Reserve tickets to see this incredibly famous story told from a completely different point of view.

Reserve free tickets


Playful, Poetic, Language-obsessed “Love’s Labour’s Lost”

10 Oct , 2017  

Terri McMahon from Oregon Shakespeare Festival joined us this fall to direct Shakespeare’s sophisticated early comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost, showing in Studio 115 October 20-29.

Terri has been an artist at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for over 25 years acting in nearly 50 productions playing over 75 roles from Shakespeare, Moliere and Ibsen to new works by Robert Schenkkan and Lynn Nottage. She has directed as well as adapted OSF School Visit Program touring performances; devised an OSF Green Show called Give It Up for Elizabethan-ness; directed OSF staged readings and has both acted and directed multiple times in OSF’s The Black Swan Lab for new play development. She wrote and directed Sweetly Writ, a collaboration between OSF and the University of Oregon which played at the Hult Center in Eugene celebrating the University’s Shakespeare First Folio Exhibition.

In addition to her classical work, Terri is sought after for developing new plays, both as director and actress, and has collaborated with numerous award-winning contemporary playwrights. Her extensive teaching career spans from third-grade arts education students to professionals working on high-performance communication. During her time at the U, she was been working closely with the cast members of Love’s Labour’s Lost to perform Shakespeare as authentically as possible. “We looked at Shakespeare language support books that define every word in every play, sonnet, and narrative poem that he wrote,” Terri said, “After you have performed Shakespeare, almost any other playwright can seem so much easier because of the workout your brain, your vocal apparatus and your ability to sustain long difficult thoughts has offered you with Shakespeare.”

Through witty and playful banter, Love’s Labour’s Lost tells the story of the King of Navarre and his three court followers, who swear they will speak to no women during their three-year “academy” study period. But the instant they take that vow, the Princess of France arrives with her three captivating female attendants, and all bets are off.

Guest Director Terri McMahon says, “Love’s Labour’s Lost has more sexual innuendo, more puns (just under 200), and more triple layers of philosophical meanings on top of the puns’ double meanings, that Shakespeare manages to out-funny bone any YouTube trender.” Terri says that Shakespeare humor “has endured because when an actor understands the joke inherent in the language and their need for their character to say it, the same kind of builds, pauses, and punch line deliveries span the centuries. Watch Jim Gaffigan. You’ll see a Shakespeare standup clown.”

Buy tickets for Love’s Labour’s Lost

By Adam Griffiths, CFA Grad Assistant
and Josiane Dubois


Professor Jerry Gardner to present at Annual Multifaith Public Conversation in Edinburgh

5 Oct , 2017  

Lama Thupten Rinpoche (Professor Jerry Gardner) will present at this year’s Annual Multifaith Public Conversation. His title is Compassionate body: spiritual practice and development. At the lecture Gardner will bring the wisdom and compassion  of his Buddhist practice and his expertise in dance and theatre. His presentation will involve word and movement.  Gardner says about his work, “In our theatre program at the University of Utah, our focus is on creativity, the body and its expressive, compassionate nature.”

Professor Gardner teaches coursesin movement to students in the Actor Training Program at the U. He holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies with an emphasis in ritual and meditation from the Ngagyur Samten Chockhorling Institute, located in the city of Manali in Himachal Pradesh, India. He performs and teaches numerous movement systems including Butoh, Viewpoints, Noh Theatre, illusionary and corporeal mime, mask work, ballet and contemporary dance, Pilates, Laban/Barteneiff, and the martial arts of karate, kung fu and tai chi.

In 1994, Professor Gardner established the Urgyen Samten Ling Gonpa (the Tibetan Buddhist Temple), and was ordained a Lama in 1997 by the late Khenchen Thupten Ozer and Khenpo Konchok Monlam Rinpoche.

Professor  Gardner is the co-owner, director and master instructor of Red Lotus School of Movement where he teaches advanced courses in Wing Chun Kung Fu and Tai Chi Chu’an. “Sifu” Gardner has earned the titles of Seventh Level Black Sash in Wing Chun Kung Fu under Master Sifu Duncan Leung, a direct disciple of Grandmaster Yip Man; Fourth Dan Black Belt in Neisi Goju under Master Chaka Zulu; and Fifth Dan Black Belt under Master Ronald Van Cleif. In Tai Chi Chu’an, Sifu Gardner studied Yang Style with disciples of Master Cheng Man Ch’ing

(Jonathan Gaines, Maggie Newman, Ed Young, Lou Kleinsmith, and Jane and Batan Fargo), Tung Style with Master Bing Lee, and Chi Quiong with Master Chan.

Professor Gardner is an accomplished teacher and dancer of Butoh. He studied in Japan with the co-founder of this unique art form, Kazuo Ohno; Yukio Waguri, a disciple of Tatsumi Hijikata; and Yushito Ohno, the late Kazuo Ohno’s son and current director of the Kazuo Ohno Dance Studio. He has also studied with Diego Piῆon of Butoh Ritual Mexicano. He is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Allen Gardner Dance Theater, a company dedicated to the integration of numerous movement and dance forms to create engaging theatrical performances.

Read the article, The Way of Motion here.


Professor Xan Johnson on Autism study

2 Oct , 2017  


Harrison Bryan, left, as Christopher Boone and Michael Rudko as Voice Four in Pioneer Theatre Company’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” Brent Ubert

Professor Xan Johnson is in the process of launching a theatre-based intervention program for the development social communication skills, theory of mind skills, and drama skills in preschoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Social skill deficit is a hallmark feature of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that contributes to significant disability. An effective intervention fostering generalizable social skill development in children with ASD remains elusive.

Children and adolescents with autism have a surplus of synapses in the brain, and this excess is due to a slowdown in a normal brain “pruning” process during development, according to a study by neuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). The over-pruning hypothesis proposes that social skill impairments, among others, derive from an aberrant neural pruning process that occurs during early childhood.

As pruning targets weak neural connections and experience strengthens connections, interventions occurring just before critical pruning periods in the neural areas supporting targeted skills should be most effective. Peak synaptic number in areas involved in social skills occurs between age 3 and 5, just prior to pruning, which potentially make it a time most optimal for intervention.

The intervention proposes that theatre programs may offer an effective intervention to foster social skill development in this population. Theatre may be a particularly effective medium due to its ability to create specific learning experiences in a manner that provides embodied cognition and emotional experiences without conscious commitment to abstract social skill improvement goals. The scenes can be tailored to emphasize social and emotional cues and explicit identification of scene-related feelings for the formation of social cognitive and emotional memories that can be recalled as the basis for later social functioning.

However, children with ASD have unique needs surrounding communication, cognition and sensory processing. While theatre teachers are not typically trained to address these problems, speech language pathologists and occupational therapists are adept at addressing those issues. Therefore, the intervention hypothesizes that an interdisciplinary theatre program that combines creative process drama, story dramatization, play devising, and other children’s theatre techniques adapted using speech language pathology, and occupational therapy techniques provided to children with ASD who are between the ages of 3 and 5 will enhance the social skills in this population.

Original article from the Deseret News below:

SALT LAKE CITY — Researchers and scientists preparing to conduct a study are accustomed to reading existing literature, finding a pool of test subjects, applying for funding and filling out approval paperwork.

But for a team of researchers at the University of Utah, their preparation process also included a night out at the theater.

Xan Johnson, head of the University of Utah’s theater teaching program, is in the process of launching a study with a team of researchers involved in occupational therapy, communication studies, psychology and brain imaging to determine how providing early exposure to drama classes can benefit children with autism in the long run.

The group is currently looking for participants for the study, and as they prepare to move into the next phase of the project, Johnson had the idea to attend a production of Pioneer Theatre Company’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” which runs through Sept. 30 and follows the experiences of an autistic boy.

“It was very important for me to take my research team (to the play), who are not theater people per se, and they were deeply moved,” Johnson said in an interview with the Deseret News. “I said to Chris Lino (PTC’s managing director) as I was walking out, ‘The scientists cried.’”

In the play, which is based on the novel by Mark Haddon, actor Harrison Bryan plays 15-year-old Christopher Boone, who is autistic and struggles in social situations but has a great talent for math. When Christopher is wrongfully accused of killing his neighbor’s dog, he embarks on a quest to figure out what actually happened to the dog.

Harrison Bryan, left, as Christopher Boone and Sara Shippobotham as Voice One in Pioneer Theatre Company’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
Brent Uberty

“I thought the way (Bryan) portrayed (Christopher) was pretty accurate based on my own patients and what I’ve experienced in my clinic,” said Michael Johnson, a neuroscience-imaging researcher and child and adolescent behavior health specialist at the University of Utah who is part of Xan Johnson’s research team. “So for people who don’t know autism, I thought the play did a great job for opening people’s eyes of how a person with autism tries to interface with the world.”

Xan Johnson’s area of academic interest is in social cognitive neuroscience as he understands it from the perspective of theater. He has spent his career using theater as an educational tool to help teens and elementary school-aged children. He and several of his other team members knew they wanted to do a study to see how participating in theater can train children with autism in life skills, but it was Michael Johnson who suggested they focus on preschool-aged children.

“If you intervene early and aggressively with lots of intervention earlier — as early as you can — then you increase probability that you’ve changed the longterm outcome of whatever the biology is that’s driving the autism,” Michael Johnson said. “There’s more brain cell plasticity that we might be able to take advantage of if we hit this early.”

The study will expose a group of children with autism and a group of typically developing children to drama therapy multiple times a week for several months. Along the way, evaluations will be done to see the effects of the therapy on the children. The therapy will be led by Penny Caywood, artistic director of Youth Theatre at the U.

“We did a feasibility study last summer … and now we’re ready to go; now we’re fired up,” Xan Johnson said. “We’re going to launch as soon as we find our population of at least five (autism spectrum disorder) 3 and 4-year-olds and three or four typically developing to be in our drama group.”

Many other types of intervention have been tested through the years to help children with autism with social skills, but Michael Johnson said the potential benefits offered by drama therapy are unique.

“I think the drama interventions have the potential to go beyond what more limited social skills groups do to bring the child more into the role of understanding others and taking on perspectives,” he said.

Harrison Bryan as Christopher Boone in Pioneer Theatre Company’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
Brent Uberty

“There is a great dependency for individuals with autism on the skill of scripting,” Xan Johnson also explained. “Immediately when you say scripting, you think instantly of theater and scripts.”

Michael Johnson said he didn’t have any theater experience before he began working with Xan Johnson, but he’s seen how the study provides an opportunity for multiple disciplines to work together.

“It’s been part of this collaborative effort with how can we bring psychiatry, neuroscience and the humanities together,” he said. “The humanities have long sustained mankind in multiple ways through multiple centuries and millennia and we know that there’s healing potential.”

Both Xan and Michael Johnson said PTC’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is an important play because it brings community awareness to what someone with autism experiences. According to the Center for Disease Control, autism affects 1 in 68 children in the United States.

“What we hope about using theater as an intervention to help preschoolers with autism better navigate a complex social world is the same hope we have for theater patrons attending (‘The Curious Incident’),” Xan Johnson said. “Such a transformational impact on theater patrons might change lives, and we hope the same is true for our preschoolers.”

The researchers are currently seeking preschool-aged participants for the study. For additional information, contact Megan Raby at 612-325-9802 or



2017 Distinguished Alumnus, Odai Johnson

11 Sep , 2017  

The Distinguished Alumni Award was created to recognize the extraordinary achievements and contributions to the arts by alumni of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Utah. The Legacy Assembly began ten years ago during the 60th anniversary celebration of the founding of the College and since then it has honored over 50 distinguished alumni.

This year, the Department of Theatre will honor Professor Odai Johnson who received his MFA from the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah and his PhD from the University of Texas at Austin. His articles have appeared in Theatre JournalTheatre SurveyNew England Theatre JournalTheatre Symposium and the Virginia Magazine of History as well as contributions to numerous anthologies. His books include Rehearsing the Revolution (University of Delaware 1999), The Colonial American Stage: A Documentary Calendar (AUP: 2001), Absence and Memory on the Colonial American Stage (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005),  London in a Box (Iowa 2017), and Ruins: Classical Theatre and the Archeology of Memory (University of Michigan), as well as contributor to the Oxford Handbook of Dance and TheatreOxford Handbook of The Georgian Theatre, the Oxford Handbook of American Drama. His courses range from the classical past, to the Baroque, the Early Modern, the Long 18th century, and historiography. Professor Johnson holds the Floyd and Delores Jones Endowed Professorship in the Arts.

The festivities will officially begin on Tuesday, Sept. 26 where Professor Johnson will teach a master class designed for interaction with students and faculty of the Department of Theatre. On the same day, College of Fine Arts student leaders from the ArtsForce program will get the opportunity to have lunch with Professor Johnson and the other recipients. The Distinguished Alumni Awards Legacy Assembly will begin Sept. 27 at 12:00 p.m. in Kingsbury Hall. Students, faculty, staff, as well as the general public, are all invited to honor and celebrate Professor Johnson, and the other Distinguished Alumni Award recipients from the College of Fine Arts at the assembly.

by Josiane Dubois


“Life is a party, Why don’t you come to the Steel Pier?”

6 Sep , 2017  

The University of Utah’s Department of Theatre opens the 2017-18 season in full swing with Steel Pier, a crowd-pleasing musical that will have audiences toe-tapping from their seats. Directed and Choreographed by Musical Theatre Head Denny Berry, the production runs Sept.15-24 at the Marriott Center for Dance, 330 S. 1500 E. Onstage seating for Steel Pier will be available first come, first served, with general admission ticket. 

Set on the famous Steel Pier in Atlantic City, this energetic musical brings together an assortment of relentless souls, eager to dance their way into fame and prizes. Bill Kelly, an adventurous pilot, falls out of the sky and into the arms of Rita Racine, a dancer and the wife of evil Steel Pier manager Mick Hamilton. Entertainment and plenty of razzle-dazzle dancing ensue when Rita and Bill pair up for the marathon competition. Created by John Kander and Fred Ebb who wrote the music and lyrics to Chicago, Cabaret, and other Broadway classics, Steel Pier perfectly captures the vivacious rhythms of the 1930s-dance era. 

Dancing competitions have made a big comeback, thanks to shows like ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ Department of Theatre Chair and Set Designer for this production Gage Williams, has designed a set that allows several audience members to sit onstage during the entire performance to experience the phenomenal music and infectious singing up-close. 

“Life is a party, why don’t you come to the Steel Pier?”

“Steel Pier” at a Glance

Dates and Times: Sept. 15-17 and 21-23 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinees Sept. 16, 17, 23 and 24 at 2:00 p.m.

Location: Marriott Center for Dance at the University of Utah is located at 330 South 1500 East. Free parking is available to the south of the theatre and at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Tickets: General Admission tickets are $18, University of Utah faculty and staff are $15, University of Utah students are free with UCard and all other students with valid student ID are $8.50. Tickets can be obtained by calling 801-581-7100, online at or at the Performing Arts Box Office, located at Kingsbury Hall. 

Content warning: Recommended for patron ages 14 and up. Mature audiences only.

by Josiane Dubois


2017-18 Season Brochure

31 Jul , 2017  

The Department of Theatre’s 2017-18 Season Brochure is now available.

This year’s brochure includes our productions, professional affiliates, partnering productions, and a section spotlighting featured students. Pick up a copy in the Department of Theatre’s main office PAB 206 or view online now.


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

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.