‘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.