By Guest Writer and Emerging Leaders Ambassador, Ashley Chin-Mark. Photos courtesy of Alex Vermillion.
Arguably, one of the major concerns of contemporary society is that the Millennial Generation is becoming increasingly removed from the human experience and losing the ability to form meaningful interactions. However, the progressive work of University of Utah English and Theater alumnus, Alex Vermillion, is shattering that perception by engaging the community and captivating new audiences through bold actions and meaningful language.
An advocate for gender free roles, Vermillion (ze/zir/zirs) has made it zer mission to advocate for free gender roles and a transgender individual, Vermillion is addressed with Ze/Zir/Zirs. Ze has made it zer mission to “represent less recognized communities” and “portray voices that are less heard,” through zir roles as a freelance Dramaturg, a Drag Queen, as the Communication Coordinator for the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA), and as the Editorial Intern/Writer/Contributor for the SLUG Magazine.
An accomplished educator and editor, Vermillion returned to the university last year to inspire students as the 2015 Humanities Department Convocation Speaker and, most recently, as the Dramaturg for the Theatre Department’s modern adaptation of “The Two Noble Kinsmen.” Ze explains zir interest in Shakespeare, “He really captures what humans are comprised of…[the nature of his work asks] ‘Are you connecting with the audience?,’ ‘Are you playing the role?,’ ‘Are you having fun?’” For Vermillion, the fun is found in the bard’s clever use of satire, which ze believes is “the best way to understand and relate to contemporary issues,” and the major focus of zir work in “The Two Noble Kinsmen.” Ze credits zir project mentor, Martine Kei-Green Rogers, in assisting zir research in the background of plays and forming an intimacy with the text.
Vermillion divulged that ze “loves working with magic in plays,” a staple in all of Shakespeare’s works, and, as a self-proclaimed Marvel superhero nerd, ze derived additional inspiration from the comic book and gaming technology industries. Similar to theatrical production aspects, ze considers the technological aspects, mentioned in comics and used in games and films, a great avenue for mixing logic, creativity, and imagination.” Alex Vermillion is accomplishing super feats. Through zir advising with “Out Loud,” an artistic platform for youth voices in the LGBTQIA+ community at the UMOCA (created by Elly Baldwin, UMOCA’s Curator of Public Engagement), ze develops inclusive programs for teens that help “students build positive social connections and share their experiences with others.”
Recently admitted into the Yale School of Drama’s Dramatic Criticism Masters Program, Vermillion plans to finish five years of intensive studies before opening an interactive, Queer Shakespeare Theatre complete with an underground Drag Show and Bar and a Homeless Center for Queer Youth with art education programs and performance opportunities. Of less represented populations, like the LGBTQ community, ze says, “We have to go to them, invite them in, and create a more inclusive environment by asking them, ‘How can we accurately represent you?’” Vermillion will continue to use this power in a positive light to frame live performances, artistic projects, and journalism compositions as “community–oriented activities” that encourage individuality and self-expression.
Original article can be found at The Finer Points.
Catherine (Cate) Heiner, Department of Theatre, 2017 Convocation Speaker
Cate Heiner grew up in Salt Lake City, and feels been lucky enough to pursue what she loves here at the U. Heiner works as a dramaturg, where she gets to explore the historical background and context of theatrical texts and work with casts and creative teams in creating productions. This allows her to analyze and observe the production in new and innovative ways. She is also a playwright and loves using theatre as an opportunity to open dialogue about current events and differing points of view.
Heiner chose to pursue Theatre Studies because she saw it as a way to connect her love of theatre with her love of history and writing. She believes that in order to have successful productions, it is important to create an understanding for the cast and creative teams in regards to historical context and connection to community. Next fall Heiner will be attending Carnegie Mellon University ato pursue an MA in Literary and Cultural Studies. She hopes to continue working in dramaturgy and playwriting, and hopes to return to Salt Lake since there are so many academic and artistic opportunities here. Heiner’s ultimate goal is to teach on a college level.
“I feel very lucky to have gotten my degree from the University of Utah. I have worked very closely with excellent faculty like Dr. Tim Slover and Dr. Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell, and I have had opportunities to expand my horizons as a playwright and as a dramaturg. I have loved being able to work on a variety of productions with directors and creative teams that bring different tools and skills to their work. I have also loved working for the Chronicle and exploring how the arts relate to journalism and how the arts community can connect with their local audiences. I am constantly amazed by the work my peers are pursuing, and I look forward to collaborating with them as we move toward our artistic careers.”
Read about all the CFA outstanding seniors at The Finer Points.
The Department of Theatre’s Student Advisory Committee is a group of student representatives from the ATP, MTP, BA, Stage Management, Theatre Teaching and PADP. SAC has various events throughout the year to promote the program and to bring the different majors together.
2016- 2017 SAC members:
Previous events and activities:
Why Are You Thankful for the Arts Poster
SAC Volleyball BBQ
SAC Halloween Movie Night
Students can check the SAC board in PAB and follow SAC on social media for updates.
Likes us on Facebook at SAC FUN
By: Kim Davison
Daniel Amsel (Septimus Hodge)
Arcadia is a very intense, intellectual show. My character, in particular, demands that I am smart and deceitfully emotional. This is something that is difficult for me to do in my personal life, so this rehearsal process has been full of a lot of self-reflection and I’ve grown a lot personally because of it. I love the wit of this show! Everyone’s ideas bounce off each other so smoothly and powerfully. When everyone in the cast is attuned to each other, the amount of energy between the lines is palpable. It’s really something amazing, and not all plays manage to create that! I imagine people think plays with people sitting around a talking sounds horribly boring. I’d like to prove then wrong. It’s a magical, exciting, dangerous 3-hour play that puts you in the edge of your seat!
Ashley Patlan (Lady Croom)
This rehearsal process has been really unique for me. We focused more on the text and understanding how the thoughts of the characters move through it, rather than just getting it up on its feet as soon as possible. This was quite refreshing, as I feel that this approach allowed me to understand what I was saying/what was being said about my character and how we were saying it before we could even get it blocked and into our bodies. Working with Sarah has been really quite wonderful and a dream come true. I’ve always admired her and her work and so it was truly lucky to have this opportunity. She doesn’t sugar-coat anything and pushes me to the maximum, but does so in a way that it stokes a fire in me to want to do better. I’ve never had a director who was so passionate to find and bring to light the absolute best in everyone’s abilities. She’s unique in the best way possible. I love everything about this show—from the time periods, to the dialect, to the language, to the lighting, attire, music, cast, crew, etc. This show is beautiful in every way possible. People should come see this show because it’s funny, heartwarming, and witty and makes you see things in ways you haven’t considered before. It has humor, language, maths, science, love, sex, fire, tortoises – It has it all!
Gavin Yehle (Gus and Augustus)
It feels amazing being in my first U of U show! I feel like I’ve been waiting these two years for this opportunity. But now that the whole thing is coming to fruition, it doesn’t really feel much different from any other show that I’ve been in before. I definitely think that the first two years of school have really prepared me for the show and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of the tools in order to make the acting the best it can be. This show is definitely quite complex. There are all kinds of things that come back later, or are referenced in a different part of the show, and it’s all of these little connections that make the show so interesting. I also really love that I get to play the character that becomes sort of the crossover between the two different time periods; the last scene, which is when this crossover comes to fruition, is definitely my favorite part of the show, and I really love the ambiguity of the two characters coming together. It is a really beautiful show with amazing costumes, set, lighting, and sound design that really adds to the show. I’m happy that I get to watch the beauty of the very last scene every night as I come onstage.
Kali Scott (Hannah Jarvis)
Arcadia is very complex and driven by energy, character, and relationships. There is a lot to play with and I always have to be on my toes! Also, everyone involved in the production is great to work with. Sarah Shippobotham has the ability to direct people into beautiful, human moments and the play is full of them. It’s funny, sarcastic, sexy, smart, and everyone shines. I’ve never done an accent before, so that’s been challenging and fun. It has been challenging for me to find the ease and subtly, yet driving energy of this world. This play focuses a lot on enigmatic complexity of the world and humans, so finding a way to fully express multiple aspects of a moment or character, giving each its equal due without focusing too much on the moment, has been an exciting adventure.
Joshua Wood (Bernard Nightingale)
It has been a lot of fun. We spent a lot of time analyzing the text as it is a hugely argument driven play. After analyzing language we spent some time building our characters and the world. It has been a very exciting show to work on and I feel like I have learned an incredible amount in the process. This show is a lot more language based than most. It also requires a huge amount of energy. I Love how funny and clever it is while exploring many subjects including sex, literature, math, science, and philosophy. Because it is funny, entertaining, and most of all, it will give you something to think and talk about! The most challenging part has been keeping up the energy and learning to think through each argument every time I say them.
Monica Goff (Chloe Coverly)
The rehearsal process for Arcadia has been really fun and exciting, particularly since we have been working extensively on a lot of different things so we’re always engaged and always working, even when we’re not in rehearsal. Working with Sarah has been really helpful because I have her as my professor for two classes, so we’ve been in constant conversation about acting, text, and how to apply what we’re learning to Arcadia and things we learn during rehearsal to our classes. I am so excited to be in my first show at the U! It’s really thrilling to finally get to apply the skills that we’ve been spending hundreds of hours working on for the past 2 years. I love that this show is really text heavy. It makes you think while you’re watching it and it’s really a challenge to stay in the moment on stage. People should come to see Arcadia because it’s funny, intellectual, and visually stunning!
Arcadia runs November 17-20 at 7:30 p.m. and 19 and 20 at 2:00 p.m. at the Babcock Theatre.
By: Kim Davison
The Department of Theatre students have the opportunity to work and audition for Pioneer Theatre shows located on the U campus. Students have been cast at all levels from regular roles to understudies. Students also have the opportunity to work backstage as dressers for their productions. Having this theatre on campus gives student the chance to meet people in the theatre community and see a behind the scenes look of professional productions.
Two student from the Department of Theatre were cast as swings in Pioneer Theatre Company’s production of The Last Ship. Swings are members of a cast who don’t go on every night, but they are prepared to go on for any of the ensemble roles they are assigned to. They have to be within 10 minutes of driving from the theatre when a show is happening in case someone in the cast cannot perform.
Jamie is from San Jose, California and has been doing theatre from a very young age. This was her first time being a swing, but not her first production at Pioneer Theatre, she was recently seen in Pioneer’s Count of Monte Cristo. “It was scary, but was a great learning experience,” Jamie said. She auditioned for The Last Ship and got called back for the part of Meg, but knew she was too young to play that part. She was offered the part of a swing and knew she would regret it if she didn’t take it.
As a swing, Jamie covered all of the female ensemble member’s tracks. “During the rehearsal process if a cast member was sick, I would have to cover roles I wasn’t originally assigned to, which was crazy,” she said. Even though she wasn’t in the show every night, she never felt like she wasn’t part of the cast, “sometimes being a part of what you love is enough.” She said that this skill set is something she is going to be able to take with her for jobs for the rest of her life.
Bailey got a little taste of what it’s like to be a swing when he was in Young Frankenstein at The Grand Theatre in 2015. “Being a swing was daunting, enlightening, and most of all hard,” Bailey said. He started doing children’s theatre when he was young and in high school he started thinking about pursuing a career in theatre.
He covered seven tracks in The Last Ship, two of which were speaking parts. It takes a highly organized person to be a swing, so he used the two scrips, one for making notes and the other to organize and color-code the blocking for the various characters he covered. The best-case scenario the swing will brush up on the part before going onstage, but that is not always the case, in case of an emergency the swing might have to go in immediately and rely on their memory and practice or the script.
During the production of The Last Ship nobody got sick or injured, so Jamie and Bailey never had to go on for a role. The director let them perform four of the ensemble scenes during the final performance and they got to take the last bow with the entire cast, an experience both Jamie and Bailey were grateful to have. Being a swing is not easy, but hard work can pay off in the end.
by Kim Davison