Jessica Dudley-Rodriguez Returns to the Department of Theatre

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Four alumni of the U Department of Theatre, now roommates in Brooklyn, are busy devising a new piece of theatre to be presented digitally.

“In response to the pandemic!” you may be immediately thinking.

But, these four Utah grads turned New York City-based actors, and now known as WHO’S LOUIS?, were actually hard at work on their digital installation piece, “I’m Not Playing” well before COVID-19 changed season programming across the nation.  

Cece Otto, Katryna Williams, Monica Goff, and Dominic Zappala met as undergraduates in the Actor Training Program. When post-graduate fellow Julie Rada brought a group of students together to make a new piece for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF), Otto jumped to get involved. Soon, local theatre producer Sackerson announced a 24-hour theatre festival. Eager to keep performance momentum going, Otto recruited classmates and friends to enter a new work in the festival. Little did they know, this would be the first project of their future theatre company. They won first place. The next year they made another piece for KCACTF, with help from special funding from the College of Fine Arts.  Soon after graduation, the four relocated to NYC. “The work itself is a mix of movement and sometimes poetry, sometimes a story line…” Otto said. “Everything we have done thus far has been really different. And we produce all of it ourselves.”

We started talking about where theatre meets game play, or interaction with the audience. And then as those conversations were happening, we found ourselves quarantined for the pandemic, all four of us in the same apartment. It was the perfect timing.


When 2020 began, Otto was reaching the finish line on her online master’s degree in arts administration from SUU. Her final capstone project was approaching. “I was looking at my resources in NYC as a young artist, and was thinking to myself how few resources we have: money, time — all of us work a number of jobs — space is very limited,” she said. Wanting to do something that would also further WHO’S LOUIS?, she began to think outside the box. “I thought of how Screendance is becoming very popular, and I had seen a lot of it while I was at the U, because I had friends in modern dance. I didn’t think there was any equivalent for theatre, or anything I considered a true equivalent.” When her advisor reacted positively to the idea of a digital piece as her capstone, she couldn’t wait to tell her collaborators.   

“As we were having this conversation about Cece’s capstone project, we were also having conversations about convention and our ideas about how to break theatrical conventions,” Williams said. “We started talking about where theatre meets game play, or interaction with the audience. And then as those conversations were happening, we found ourselves quarantined for the pandemic, all four of us in the same apartment. It was the perfect timing.” 

They started holding two rehearsals every week, right at home. Their walls were covered in notes. They created a huge paper timeline that spanned their common space. Sometimes they would wake each other up in the middle of the night with an idea that couldn’t wait for morning.

Goff explained, “In developing it, we thought about things people might do after thirty days in quarantine. We built from there — thinking of strange and quirky things that might seem normal after a long period of time spent alone. From there, we developed characters: one who is spiritual, one that is a stereotypical stoner, one who is into self-help, and one who is obsessed with her work. Then we figured out the relationships. It is the story of four roommates trying to deal with the breakup of two of them.” 

Filmed and edited in advance, viewers will be able to experience “I’m Not Playing” from many different angles of their own choosing. From several cameras throughout the apartment, audience can select to follow characters or even explore an empty room.

It is a technological undertaking that would be daunting to some. Luckily, Dominic Zappala is the secret weapon every theatre company desperately needs this year. With a background in computer programming in addition to his theatre training, he knew how to build the site that would host the piece. “Basically, we had written the show, we had come up with the concept, and we knew how we were going to film it and then we thought, 'How do we host this? What kind of platform do we put this on? Do we go to Twitch? Do we use YouTube?' Dominic coded our website and he said, ‘You know what? I think I can do it.’ He edited the whole project as well,” Williams explained.  

“I’m Not Playing” has already been picked up by the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival (July 30-August 9), the Minnesota Fringe Festival (July 30 - August 9), and the Rochester Fringe Festival (September 15-26).

The group is excited to have theatre engagements on the calendar, especially at a time of such extreme cancellations in the arts. Using this time in quarantine to move forward without hesitation, WHO’S LOUIS? has not only come up with a great final product, but have learned invaluable lessons in the developmental process.

“I am someone that is always worried about the future, always worried about money,” Otto confided. “You know, I want to make something of quality — and how do we do that when we have so few resources? I think we spent $40 total on things we didn’t already have. We filmed it on our phones and our computers. It really proved to me that you don’t need money to make something of quality. You just need the time and the energy to dedicate yourself to your project.”

Beyond the importance of adaptability, this strange time has offered a chance for reflection on the future of theatre at large. Goff explained, “This is the time to rethink theatre and to think about why we are stuck in traditional forms when there are so many ways to make this craft accessible. As we are seeing the world crumble, this is the time to rebuild.”

Stay tuned on more details on upcoming shows by following WHO’S LOUIS? on social media! @whoslouisco

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Nicholas Dunn graduated from the Actor Training Program in 2007 which led him to an extensive resume on and off the stage. A few highlights include acting on stage with Pioneer Theatre Company and on film with Magnolia Pictures, playwriting featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, script coordinating for HBO, and owning a film production company titled Overcranked Pictures LLC. 

While Dunn continues to create impressive art he inspires students as an adjunct instructor for the Department. Did we mention you don't need to be a Theatre major to take one of his classes? We caught up with him to discuss how the U impacted his career and what advice he would give to our recent graduates. 

How did you get into film?  

I started auditioning for films and commercials while in the ATP, and right after my internship at Pioneer Theatre Company ended, I was cast in a feature film in a role that would give me four consecutive weeks on set. I loved every second of it, but found as much as I was exhilarated with the acting opportunity of every take, I was also drawn to what was happening behind the camera. In fact, on one particular day, I was hanging out in video-village and having a great conversation with the script supervisor. She was walking me through what she does and the techniques she uses. The Assistant director had decided to throw a few more members of the cast into the scene (we were a baseball team, and they needed more of us in the shot for a rousing speech by the coach) and I chose not to be the in scene so that I could stay behind the monitor and watch the Script Super work. It was an early indication of where my interests truly were. Over the following years, while still doing commercials, film and theatre jobs, I started to learn the ropes of filmmaking. I participated in the Salt Lake Film Society's Screenwriter's Workshop, their Digital Director's workshop, and worked Sundance venues. Eventually, I went back to grad school for Playwriting and Dramatic writing.” 

How was the idea sparked to create a film company with fellow adjunct faculty member, Matthew Whittaker?   

As luck would have it, right out of the ATP, I met Matt on the set of that same first feature film. Matt also has quite a bit of theatre experience and so we were fast friends. I was getting very into screenwriting, and had made a couple of short films, and I had expressed to a few friends my desire to create a production company as an avenue for producing my own stuff. I was teaching a filmmaking class at the University of Utah Youth Theatre with Connor Rickman, another U of U alumn, and we entered a filmmaking competition hosted by the Salt Lake Downtown Alliance and we won! The cash prize gave us a fair amount of seed money, so we finally formally incorporated. Matt had been working on a number of video jobs already, so it made sense to join forces with him, and that's ultimately how Overcranked Pictures came to be what it is today.” 

What do you most enjoy about teaching?  

I really can't express how much I love teaching the acting classes I get to teach each semester. To be honest, the more work I was doing in the film industry, the less acting I was doing, until I stopped pursuing auditions all together. And I didn't miss it. But teaching these classes has reminded me of what brought me into the artform in the first place, and has rekindled that fire. Last year I acted in two plays with Pinnacle Acting Company and had an excellent experience. So I'm getting back into it. More than anything else, I love connecting with the students and having discussions about the human condition, and exploring empathy and the dramatic story behind every human. Seeing it click when we connect the artform with their personal experience is very rewarding and gives me a lot of hope for the future.” 

What advice do you have for recent grads?   

Don't wait for anyone to give you permission to do your art. We hear so much about how competitive the industry is, and how rejection is just part of the job. True enough, but we currently live in a world with greater access to each other than any time in human history. We all carry in our pockets technology that indie filmmakers would have killed for only fifteen years ago. With platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, formats like webseries and podcasts, the ability to share a story is literally boundless. So while you're grinding it in audition after audition, hook up with other dedicated artists and do your craft. Always be practicing it, always be studying it, and always be sharing it.” 

Dunn will be teaching Acting for Non-Majors next year and to see all of our classes offered to non-majors click here

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Eroticism and the Creative Process

All right everyone, I’m here to talk today about eroticism. Now, don’t run away or get too excited because I think the conversation will steer into a different direction than you’re anticip……..ating. (Shout out to all of the Rocky Horror fans out there.) Okay, I’m done with the bad jokes. Probably. Anyway, drawing on the thoughts of Anne Bogart in her book A Director Prepares, along with those of psychotherapist Esther Perel, I’m going to tell you how I think eroticism relates to the process of making theatre. Here we go!

After reading the chapter about eroticism in A Director Prepares and listening to Dax Shepard’s interview of Esther Perel (it’s on his “Armchair Expert” podcast and it is delightful, I’d highly recommend checking it out), I’ve come to the conclusion that eroticism is mainly about things like attraction, tension, and stimulation. If you think about it in sexual terms, that would mainly entail physical interaction, but when I think about eroticism in the theatre, all of those elements are represented in other ways. I also feel like using terms like these can help to take us out of the sexual realm that most people jump to when they hear the word “erotic.” When you’re looking at a play as an actor or director or even as an audience member and you’re trying to find where the eroticism lives, it may be helpful to ask yourself where is the attraction? Where is the tension? How do the characters stimulate one another? These kinds of questions can be incredibly helpful in keeping the play alive.

I really love how Esther Perel defines eroticism in her interview. She refers back to the original definition of eroticism, coming from the Greek word Eros, meaning life force. She consistently refers to eroticism as a sense of aliveness and vitality. Now of course she is talking about that in the literal sense of life, but I think it can also apply to the energy and presence of a play. A big goal that actors and directors have is to keep the play alive, to keep the audience’s interest and attraction alive. The best pieces of theatre I’ve seen are those that seem to be living and breathing, where the energy in the space is palpable and the stakes are high. Eroticism is key to creating and maintaining this energy. Anne Bogart focuses the first big chunk of her chapter on the idea of a play or a moment “stopping you in your tracks” and then continuing to hold your attention as it slowly reveals itself. Learning how to find and create moments that will grab an audience’s attention and then continue to keep them on their toes is one of the main goals of theatre professionals. Keeping the erotic tension between the actors and the audience is imperative. Here again, nothing sexy is going to go on between the actors and the audience, but the excited and charged energy between everyone in the theater needs to remain through the whole show. 

I mentioned something in that last bit about a play slowly revealing itself, and I want to dive into that a little bit. I mentioned earlier that eroticism involves tension, and that is key to every play. I mean, who wants to sit through a two-hour show where everything just goes perfectly? Playing with the concept of eroticism in this sense can be a huge tool in the actor’s belt. Knowing when to release and (more importantly, in my opinion) when and how to hold back is a key skill to have as an actor, and it’s something that a director needs to keep an eye out for. It goes back to the tried and true idea of using different tactics. If an actor figures out how to manipulate the attraction between themselves and another character, and especially if that other character is doing the exact same thing back, the interactions are bound to be much more interesting. Anne Bogart has a quote in her book that says, “When you feel ten in your heart, express seven.” For example, I have always found it much more interesting when someone fights back tears instead of bursting out crying, or when someone threatens someone else calmly and softly rather than flying into a rage. This technique of balancing eroticism leaves a lot to question and is necessary to keep the audience intrigued through the end of the play.

I’ve touched on this a bit, but eroticism lives throughout the entire process of making a play. It probably comes as no surprise that erotic tension builds up between actors in a rehearsal room. (Again, maybe sexual, but we won’t get into that.) Actors tend to be emotionally intuitive and connect with people really quickly, and that kind of connection can lead to some really exciting moments on stage. As important as it is for actors to feel that erotic tension amongst themselves, it is also important for that kind of energy to develop with the director. As I’m sure many of you have experienced, there are moments in a rehearsal room where it feels like there’s an electrical charge running through everyone. This typically happens when the actors involved along with the director are creatively open and vulnerable and willing to try different things and are both in sync and challenging one another at the same time. Now this doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, it’s magical, and it’s a perfect example of erotic tension! There’s nothing overtly sexy about these moments, but the connection between everyone in the room is exciting and motivating and yields beautiful results in the final product. I look at it as a kind of chain, if the actors and directors find some kind of erotic tension amongst themselves, and find moments of eroticism in the play, then that energy can carry on to the audience.

Perhaps my favorite thing that Esther talks about are two basic human needs: the need for stability and the need for change. This relates directly to what Anne Bogart talks about in accordance to eroticism within a play. A good play starts with a moment of imbalance, something to set both the characters and the audience on edge, and this moment creates the all-important sense of attraction (so it’s very important to get this moment right). After that, the rest of the play essentially deals with how to get back to a state of stability. I love that as humans we crave both of these things, and good theatre is so exciting because it contains all of that in a couple of hours. Plus, you can live and breathe within this world of imbalance without it directly affecting your life. Whether they know it or not, this sort of progression is exactly what an audience wants. They want to be taken out of their comfort zone for a minute, be exposed to some sort of conflict, and then hang on for the ride as the characters find some sort of stasis. It’s the push and pull of life, and if actors and directors can find and manipulate moments using a sense of eroticism, they’ll be golden.

There are probably a million more things I could say about this topic and what these two wonderful women had to say about it, but I’ll spare you the pages. With that said though, I would highly recommend reading Anne Bogart’s chapter on eroticism as well as listening to the podcast with Esther Perel and see what conclusions you come to! Thanks for reading!

by Savannah Moffat, Actor Training Program class of 2019

Savannah Moffat is a recent graduate from the University of Utah Actor Training Program. She was most recently seen as Lydia in The Rivals at the University of Utah. Other credits include Miss Bennet Christmas at Pemberly (Anne DeBourgh) at Pioneer Theatre Co., American Idiot (Whastername) with Good Company Theatre, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940 (Helsa) at the Grand Theatre, and Love’s Labour’s Lost (Rosaline) at the University of Utah. She absolutely loved her time in the ATP and can’t wait to see where future theatre adventures take her!

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The new CFA Gala combines the former Distinguished Alumni Awards and Scholarship Event in one exuberant evening, celebrating generations of success under one roof--complete with exciting performances and highlights of the creative work and research of our talented students and faculty. 

This year, the Department of Theatre will honor alumnus, Claybourne Elder who received his Bachelor's degree in dramaturgy and directing from our Theatre Studies program. He starred on Broadway in Bonnie and Clyde, Sunday in the Park with George (with Jake Gyllenhaal) Torch Song and Sondheim on Sondheim at the Hollywood Bowl. He can be heard on the cast recordings of Bonnie & Clyde, Road Show, Venice and Sunday in the Park with George. Claybourne Elder is a Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel nominee. 

Off-Broadway, Elder appeared in the original companies of Stephen Sondheim's Road Show, Tennessee Williams' One Arm (Drama Desk Nomination Best Actor), and in the revivals of Allegro (Lucille Lortel Nomination Best Actor), Two by Two (with Jason Alexander), and Do I Hear a Waltz? He has premiered works by Stephen Sondheim, Frank Wildhorn, Bill Finn, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. 

His regional credits include George in the Helen Hayes award winning Signature Theatre revival of Sunday in the Park with George (Arlington, VA), Wolf/Prince in Moises Kaufman’s Into the Woods, Angels in America (KC Rep, dir. David Cromer), Oklahoma (Curly), West Side Story (Tony), Cinderella (Prince), Passion (Giorgio), and Pippin (Pippin). 

Elder was a series regular, Pete O'Malley, on the WB's “The Carrie Diaries.” Film credits include “Flatbush Luck,” and “It Could Be Worse.” He made his cabaret debut at 54 Below in NYC and his solo show You and Me and Sondheim has played to sold out houses around the country and in London. He lives in New York with his husband Eric Rosen who is a playwright and director. They have one son, Bo, who is two years old.

The College of Finer Arts Gala will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25 in Kingsbury Hall. Students, faculty, staff, as well as the general public, are all invited to honor and celebrate Claybourne Elder, and the other CFA award recepients at the assembly followed by a dessert reception. The festivities will continue on Friday Sept. 27 where Elder will teach a master class designed for interaction with students and faculty of the Department of Theatre.


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You are cordially (nay, enthusiastically!) invited to join us celebrate the College of Fine Arts at the CFA Gala. On September 25th, Kingsbury Hall will fill to the brim as current students, faculty and staff, alumni, generous donors, and valued members of our community join together to celebrate a vibrant history and a promising future. The new CFA Gala combines the former Distinguished Alumni Awards and Scholarship Event in one exuberant evening, celebrating generations of success under one roof -- complete with exciting performances and highlights of the creative work and research of our talented students and faculty. Here’s all you need to know: Doors open at 6:30 pmGala show starts at 7 pm

“Kayak”Performed by School of Music Jazz Ensemble students Art & Art History presentationProfessor V. Kim Martinez DRACULA, THE MUSICAL (excerpts)'How Do You Choose''Fresh Blood'Performed by Musical Theatre Program students “Le Jardin Anime”Performed by Ballet students

Film & Media Arts student film "Tea Time”by Taylor Mott and Lorena Mendoza 

Dessert reception to follow -- (that’s right, FREE dessert.) Classy comfortable attire (wings optional) Please let us know by September 18, 2019 if you’ll be in attendance: And since you are curious, a bit about our fantastic 2019 Distinguished Alumni:  TAUNA HUNTER, Legacy AwardTauna Hunter is a retired Professor and Chair of Dance at Mercyhurst University (1994-2019). She began her dance training with Willam F. Christensen and continued at the University of Utah where she earned her BFA and MFA degrees in ballet performance and choreography. During her affiliation with Ballet West, she worked under the guidance of Bruce Marks and Toni Lander and received critical acclaim as one of the company’s leading ballerinas. She toured internationally and danced as a guest artist with numerous regional companies throughout the United States. In 1985, she co-founded DANSOURCE, a national networking and information service that connected dancers and companies for over ten years. As its’ Managing Director, she was highlighted in “Megatrends 2000” and featured in “Success” Magazine as a trendsetter in the future of the arts. Ms. Hunter has appeared in all the major roles of the classical repertoire and has taught for companies, universities and private schools throughout the United States and in China. She has staged numerous full-length classical ballets and choreographed over twenty-five contemporary works. For 10 years she acted as Guest Artist in Residence for the Interlochen Arts Academy summer dance program. She has been honored with the Chautauqua Artist Teacher Award, Erie Arts and Culture Life Time Achievement Award, and was highlighted in the July 2017 issue of Dance Teacher Magazine. She served on the University of Utah Artistic Advisory Council and currently serves on the Advisory Boards of Ballet Concerto (TX) and Dance Now Miami! (FL). She acted as artistic advisor to Lake Erie Ballet for eighteen years as well as serving as President and Chairman of the board for the Erie Dance Consortium (Erie, PA) from 2000-2010. She is an active member of DanceUSA, the CORPS de Ballet International and serves on the boards of Erie Arts and Culture and the National Association of Schools of Dance. Ms. Hunter has been married to Michael S. Gleason for 32 years and they have a 25-year-old daughter, Caitlin. She enjoys traveling with her family, gardening and spending the cold months in their pied à terre in Florida. As a breast cancer survivor, she actively supports breast cancer awareness.

CLAYBOURNE ELDER, Horizon AwardClaybourne Elder is a Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel nominee. Originally from Springville, Utah, he earned his Bachelor's degree in dramaturgy and directing from the University of Utah. He starred on Broadway in “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Sunday in the Park with George” (with Jake Gyllenhaal) “Torch Song” and “Sondheim on Sondheim” at the Hollywood Bowl. He can be heard on the cast recordings of “Bonnie & Clyde,” “Road Show,” “Venice” and “Sunday in the Park with George.” Off-Broadway, Elder appeared in the original companies of Stephen Sondheim's “Road Show,” Tennessee Williams' “One Arm” (Drama Desk Nomination Best Actor), and in the revivals of “Allegro” (Lucille Lortel Nomination Best Actor), “Two by Two” (with Jason Alexander), and “Do I Hear a Waltz?” He has premiered works by Stephen Sondheim, Frank Wildhorn, Bill Finn, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. His regional credits include George in the Helen Hayes award winning Signature Theatre revival of “Sunday in the Park with George” (Arlington, VA), Wolf/Prince in Moises Kaufman’s “Into the Woods,” “Angels in America” (KC Rep, dir. David Cromer), “Oklahoma” (Curly), “West Side Story” (Tony), “Cinderella” (Prince), “Passion” (Giorgio), and “Pippin” (Pippin). Elder was a series regular, Pete O'Malley, on the WB's “The Carrie Diaries.” Film credits include “Flatbush Luck,” and “It Could Be Worse.” He made his cabaret debut at 54 Below in NYC and his solo show “You and Me and Sondheim” has played to sold out houses around the country and in London. He lives in New York with his husband Eric Rosen who is a playwright and director. They have one son, Bo, who is two years old.

JONATHAN HALE, Arts EducatorJonathan Hale is a visual arts educator and licensed art therapist with specialization in special education. Hale earned his BFA in painting and drawing at the University of Utah and his MFA in drawing from Colorado State University. Following a growing interest in arts-integrated learning, Hale went on to earn a Masters of Education with a concentration in Art Therapy & Art Education Certification from Wayne State University. During his pursuit of his Masters of Education, Hale taught at Woodmont Academy, a public charter school in Detroit, Hale incorporated coursework that sampled 2-D and 3-D techniques facilitating self expression in elementary and middle school students. Returning to Utah in 2012, he developed a therapy and art education hybrid classroom at Provo Canyon School where the art education curriculum and state standards served as a framework for teaching self-awareness and processing personal experiences. Since 2015, Hale has taught in the Canyons School District through the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program using arts-integrated coursework to teach core concepts for students K - 5th grade, behavioral special education units, students with multiple and severe disabilities of elementary, middle school, high school, and students of transition age. Additionally, Hale developed and facilitated “Art Integration, Art Inclusion” research which allowed students with severe disabilities from Jordan Valley School to participate in mainstream art integration classes with peer partners at Sprucewood Elementary. He is the recipient of the Sorenson Legacy Award for Excellence in Arts Education, and the Sorenson Award for Excellence in Art Education for the Canyons School District. In 2018, Hale became an Adjunct Instructor of drawing back at the College of Fine Arts at the U.  2019 Scholarship recipientsMichael Judson (Film & Media Arts)Nadia Sine (Theatre)Ryan Stroble (Dance)We look forward to celebrating these exceptional members of our community along with our scholarship recipients, connecting with new and old friends, sharing our gratitude and reveling in that thing we all share: love of the arts.

Original blog post from THE FINER POINTS. Last modified on September 18 2019

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September 09, 2019

Student Series: Emily Nash

Of all the gifts the ATP gave me, the ability to create my own work is one of my most cherished.

My formal introduction to composition and original work began my 2nd year of undergrad. Under the guidance of our fearless faculty mentor, myself and nine other students devised a show almost entirely comprised of material we’d generated via composition prompts. The process at times felt erratic and tangential, but every moment of it served to texture the work, some composition pieces presenting literally, some living in the shadows of the piece.

I can say with complete confidence, it was unlike any other way I’d worked before.

Time, plenty of experimenting, and lots of good old fashioned failures have carried me beyond that initial project and into my own work. Over the years my text collection has deflected from that of a classically trained actor to reflect an emerging, eclectic devisor. But in all my menagerie of workbooks, I have yet to find a golden formula detailing how to fold composition pieces into larger works. I’m eons away from establishing my own methodology, but in articulating how I’m beginning to approach this task, the vocab that interests me most is connective tissue and constellations.

Running parallel to my last year in the ATP was my massage therapist training, and with it, my intro and subsequent fixation with connective tissue. Connective tissue presents differently depending where in the body its found, but it’s fundamental function remains the same: it connects tissues. Every muscle, bone, organ, and nerve is embraced and unified by connective tissue. It literally holds us together. In approaching original work, I think our job as devisors can be taking the bits and bones of composition pieces and laying down the connective tissue to unify a series into a whole. Some bones are more prominent than others (in bodywork we call these bony landmarks), but it’s the deeper systems that provide the organism its structural integrity. Visible or buried, each piece works in tandem to aid the function of the whole. An example of a work I feel lives in this realm is the National Theatres Jane Eyre- there are moments where composition work bubbles to the surface, but more than composition I see a body at work.

On the other hand are constellations. If each composition is an independent point of reference, a star, our job is to receive a field of light and selectively chart a path. I love the sentimentality of star informed navigation, that constellations have a sense of reorientation and forward motion. They take us somewhere we were not. Frantic Assembly’s Lovesong, a relationship depicted over a collage of composition work, is a show that presents like a constellation to me.

The commonality I’ve arrived at for these metaphors is that it takes an incredible amount of pressure to create bone or star. The products and processes vary, but the pressure is always exquisite. The same can be said for creating new work, whether it resemble bodies or constellations. It’s the capability to manufacture and thrive under pressure that I carry into these next chapters of my career. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and those I have yet to encounter, but for now it’s time to get back to work. Pressure’s on.

by Emily Nash, Actor Training Program class of 2019

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Department of Theatre Performing Arts Design Program alumna, Iris Salazar premiered her play, American Pride as one of four short plays that comprised “…Of Color” at Plan-B Theatre Company in March, 2019. Story below retrieved from

Mexican playwright Iris Salazar on creating “American Pride” for …OF COLOR

Nov 27, 2018


Playwright Iris Salazar was born in Gomez, Palacios, Durango, Mexico. She has lived in Salt Lake City since she was eight months old and became a citizen in 2000. A member of Plan-B’s Theatre Artists of Color Writing Workshop, she makes her playwriting debut this season with a very, very dark comedy about making America great again: “American Pride” is one of four short plays that comprise …OF COLOR, premiering in March of 2019.

I knew when I signed up for the Theatre Artists of Color Writing Workshop that I wanted to write a piece that reflected my political thoughts. I am not a politician, and I have never been able to articulate or debate politics in any way. I went through a torrent of emotions as I watched Donald Trump attack groups of people and brag about his sexual predatory behavior during his campaign but I naively believed that we would never allow this man to preside over our country. My disappointment, anger, and sadness were far too large to measure and simply get over as some would suggest. I found myself posting everything anti-Trump that I could post on social media. In the process, I discovered that people who I knew, went to church with and even admired were supportive and defensive of this individual.

One day I saw a picture of an acquaintance on social media standing next to Mike Pence. She is an educated, well-to-do and respected Christian Lady. She studied politics, is in-the-know when it comes to political policies and she is persuasive. That picture was the beginning of my short play. As a person of color, I didn’t think I could write a play about white racists, but white people write about people of color all the time, and not always in a good light. So I took what I saw and created “American Pride.” This was not only a fantastic writing workshop for artists of color but, on a personal level, it was a way for me to work through my emotions surrounding our current political state.

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World premiere play, Silent Dancer starring Musical Theatre Program alumni Mikki Reeve, Alice Ryan, and Makayla Cussen is now playing at Salt Lake Acting Company April 10-May 12.

Described as "dance/play/romance" by Utah-based playwright Kathleen Cahill, Silent Dancer is a world of dangerous love, secret identities, maids, dancers, criminals, silent movies, and the most famous couple in New York--Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. A groundbreaking theatrical experience which expresses the pulse, the change, and the infinite possibilities of life in America.

Department of Theatre Professors Michael Horejsi (lighting design) and Jen Jackson (sound design) are part of the creative team in this Jazz Age romance.

This play contains adult themes.

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The Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company presents, 'the live creature and ethereal things'
Feb. 1-2 at 7:30 p.m. at the Capitol Theatre
This production is in collaboration with Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory, founded by University of Utah Assistant Professors, Robert Scott Smith and Alexandra Harbold.

the live creature and ethereal things' draws inspiration from the Red Fred Project which collaborates with children living in extraordinary circumstances (rare diseases, critical illnesses, life-limiting situations) and asks them the question: If you could write a book for the entire world to read, what would it be about? Their stories are full of colorful characters both humorous and wise. Guest performer Robert Scott Smith joins the company on this curious, shapeshifting, and theatrical quest. Flying Bobcat’s adaptation with storytelling with both English and Spanish, explores the power of storytelling and forming connections in a magical theatrical quest to prove that every voice matters. Choreography by Artistic Director Daniel Charon, storyline in collaboration with Alexandra Harbold and Robert Scott Smith of Flying Bobcat Theatrical Laboratory, and original score created by John Paul Hayward. Additional support provided by Mary Jane O'Connor, the Price Family Foundation, and Zions Bank. Music commissioned by the Charles and Joan Gross Family Foundation. Tickets: $35 ($40 day of)

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All photos by Tori Duhaime

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