The University of Utah Department of Theatre’s faculty continues to find ways to collaborate even while they practice social distancing.

Assistant Professors Jennifer Jackson (PADP) and Robert Scott Smith (ATP) needed to get creative for their final class projects as the semester shifted to the digital world. Jackson was researching projects for her sound designers while Smith was trying to figure out how the juniors in his ATP class could perform As You Like It. They had been preparing all semester for the performance and now students and faculty were looking for ways to create self-isolated art. That’s when Jackson had the brilliant idea to create a radio play of the Shakespeare classic.

Radio plays don’t contain a visual component, so they rely on the keen skill set of sound designers in order to enhance the dialogue and set the tone of the scene through sound effects and music.

To start the design process Jackson asked Smith to provide a director’s concept and research images for the designers. She held virtual production meetings where the three students discussed the thoughts and symbols that were shared and what each of them heard when they looked at the images. Overall, they thought the concept evoked simplistic, naturalistic, bohemian and mystic vibes which would be enhanced with acoustic instruments.

With a concept and a design in place, the ATP Juniors individually recorded themselves speaking their lines on their cell phones, as this would give the designers the most control to balance their voices, background and feedback. In order to get the best quality each designer pieced and edited the dialogue on top of the other audible design choices until the final play came together. Very time consuming – but so worth it!

Aaron Hoenig, one of the design students, said “The biggest challenge was probably the fact that everyone was recording their lines in different homemade recording studios. Because of this everyone had different audio qualities so there was a lot of manipulating the lines on my end to get them to sound as similar as possible.”

Under Jackson's intuitive mentorship the three designers Aaron Hoenig, Gerry Black, and Emily Chung did not disappoint. "The direction for my students was to initially compose one piece of music that was original and all three of them, despite varying levels in composition skills as well as differing access to technology while in quarantine, went above and beyond and composed all of it. So every piece of music in this radio play is original! Each third of the play has some unique flair, you can hear the musical voice of each student shining through." - Jackson

“During a global pandemic where all theatre has been canceled we still managed to create a theatrical piece that can be enjoyed by everyone. And most of all we did this without anyone ever meeting in person.” -Hoenig

Click here to listen to our radio play of As You Like It.

The Department of Theatre would like to send a thank you to the composers who gave us permission to use the following songs:
“Under the Greenwood”, “Lusty Horn”, “Lover and His Lass”
Music performed with permission from Midsommer Flight. Songs originally composed by Elizabeth Rentfro for Midsommer Flight’s 2016 production of As You Like It in Chicago, IL.
“Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind”
Composed by Tim Sutton


Jessica Graham  | Rosalind

Ashley Bostrom | Celia

Keira Stogin | Jaques, Charles, Phoebe and Hymen

Alison Stroud | Amiens, 2nd Lord, Sir Oliver Martext, and Jacques de Boys

Shelice Warr | Audrey and Le Beau

Connor Johnson | Orlando 

Jack Gardner | Touchstone

Tom Roche | Silvius, Oliver and 1st Lord

Liam Johnson | Duke Frederick, Duke Senior, Corin and William

Robert Scott Smith | Adam

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The University of Utah Department of Theatre is busy preparing for their upcoming production of “She Kills Monsters,” coming to Kingsbury Hall January 16 -19. A story of friendship, loss and acceptance, “She Kills Monsters” follows young woman Agnes Evans who, in the process of grieving, discovers that her late sister Tilly was a well-known Dungeons & Dragons player. Learning through loss, Agnes delves into this fantastical world.

In a special course in the Department of Theatre, guest artist Matt Sorenson worked with students to bring Dungeons & Dragons creatures to life through crafting original puppets. “The students working on this project are from several different areas of study; theatrical design, stage management, computer science, and writing programs, so they are all bringing and taking away a wide array of skills and experiences from this class” Sorenson explained.

Using ethafoam (a type of polyethylene foam commonly used for packing materials or floatation devices) and PVC pipe, Sorenson and the students made a range of creatures from the D&D universe. “The script specifically calls for creatures from that world, including Kobolds, Bugbears, a Gelatinous Cube, a Beholder, and the five-headed dragon called Tiamat,” Sorenson said. “ There are other generic monsters in the script that Director Jamie Rocha Allen, Peter Terry, and I worked together to flesh out, like zombies, a Kraken, and a Mind Flayer.  It was important to Jamie and the artistic team to remain as authentic to the source material as possible.”

Contemporary puppetry extends way beyond the boundaries of most mainstream associations. From a design and fabrication standpoint, creating puppets for theatre poses creative challenges that lead to innovative solutions. “When most people hear they will be building puppets, they are likely thinking about foam and fabric hand puppets like the Muppets; small, cute, and manageable. I think many of the students were surprised to find how unique and widely varied each of the puppets for this production are,” Sorenson said.

Used in integration with other theatrical tools, the puppets in "She Kills Monsters" allows the audience imagination to go further. As Sorenson describes, “Puppets are wonderful, and can enhance a production in many ways that other elements of live theatre can't, but we still utilize the same time-honored theatrical storytelling techniques. Using puppets still relies on the audience to use their active imagination and to suspend their disbelief in the moments being created onstage, as theatre practitioners have done for centuries.”

Get your tickets now for “She Kills Monsters” at Kingsbury Hall.
January 16 - 19 @ 7:30 PM, plus 2:00pm matinee on 18th and 19th
Don’t forget U of U students get in free with ArtsPass!
Original article from The Finer Points Blog

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