CMU School of Drama

Friday, March 24, 2017

Women of “The Great Comet of 1812”

THE INTERVAL: The Great Comet of 1812 by Dave Malloy and directed by Rachel Chavkin features an immersive set with audience members on stage and actors running through the audience; an eclectic score; a story loosely based on an excerpt from War and Peace; and the majority of actors in the cast making their Broadway debuts. Among those actors making their Broadway debuts are Brittain Ashford, Gelsey Bell, Amber Gray, and Grace McLean. The four of them come from performance backgrounds as diverse as the characters they’re playing. We recently sat down with them to discuss archetypes, the physicality of the show, balancing doing eight shows a week, and more.

Red Hot Chilli Peppers

TPi: One of the most awe-inspiring elements of the live events industry is the constant quest to raise the bar on what is possible. It’s an industry that strives to deliver the unthinkable. The latest tour to shatter expectations is none other than Californian funk rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) who, with the help of TAIT Towers and long-time Creative Director and LD, Scott Holthaus, have produced the largest-ever tourable kinetic light installation.

For the First Time Ever, An Asian-American Has Been Cast In a Classic Tennessee Williams Role

L.A. Weekly: When Linda Park takes on the role of Maggie the Cat in Antaeus Theatre Company's production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, she'll be the first Asian woman to portray the character in a professional production. “It was both a dream role and something that I never thought would happen,” Park says.

Park first discovered the role (and the play) when she was in high school and saw the 1994 film Double Happiness, which stars Sandra Oh as an Asian woman who dreams of becoming an actress.

Shining The Light: How One Teacher Brought The Ghostlight Project To His High School

Breaking Character: A lot of my students, right now, in 2017, are scared. A lot of that is the usual teenage concern about not fitting in, the changes in their bodies and the like, but lately something is definitely different. There’s an edge to the fear my students are feeling. I know because I feel it too. I am a British-born high school theatre teacher in America, I witnessed the results of the UK referendum to leave Europe, and then, well, November, USA happened. A consistent thread of these populist movements is the apparent normalization of being openly hostile to minorities, specifically people who are non-white.

Why High School Musicals Should Be As Respected As Sports Programs Are When I was in middle school and high school, I felt like I lived for the musicals that my school orchestrated. For those of you who don’t know, a musical is an onstage performance wherein actors take on roles that involve singing, and often dancing, to progress the plot of the story. While it may sound a little bit nerdy to get up in front of an audience to perform in this manner, this is something you cannot knock until you try it. For some reason, though, many public schools have de-funded arts programs that would allow these musicals to occur, while increasing the funding for sports teams. There are a few things that are being forgotten when sports are valued more than musical programs in high schools.

The Set Design Magic of ‘Good Grief’

Center Theatre Group:

The first page of the script of Ngozi Anwanyu’s Good Grief (onstage at the Kirk Douglas Theatre through March 26, 2017) specifies the time (1992–2005) and place (Bucks County, Pennsylvania) where the play’s action occurs.

But what caught scenic designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz’s attention was something much more abstract: “it is always night.” She explained that this was her first “aha” moment with the play, which captured her imagination from the very first read-through.

It’s A Time For Disobedience: MIT Media Lab Will Pay $250,000 To Support It

Fast Company: “You don’t change the world by doing what you’re told.” So says Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, on the nomination form for a new type of award: a prize for disobedience.

The award–a $250,000, no-strings-attached cash prize, funded by LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman–will go to a person or group responsible for an “extraordinary” example of disobedience for the good of society. While that might take the form of traditional civil disobedience, Ito defines disobedience broadly.

5 minutes with Candy Ma: 'Chinglish is increasingly relevant to today's world' Chinglish is about an American businessman who comes to China to establish a new sign business. In China the signs have beautiful letters, but the English translation is often totally stupid. Like a disabled toilet can be 'deformed men toilet'. It's very, very bad. So this business man has come to help companies fix this, but he encounters lots of multi-layered politics and has a complicated relationship with a woman called Xi Yan, who I play.

Think of the Children Before Scrapping the NEA, Says Mike Huckabee

Hit & Run : The $148 million allocated to the National Endowment for the Arts is fiscally trivial in the context of a $4 trillion federal budget. By the same token, however, the NEA is culturally trivial, a point that Mike Huckabee inadvertently makes in a Washington Post op-ed piece urging Congress to preserve the program.

Theatre After 11/9: What Now?

HowlRound: A week before the 2016 US presidential election, I was in North Carolina, where I tried to ignore the Trump signs that littered lawns. I returned to New York City. And then it happened.

On November 9, the day after, everything appeared bleak: the faces on the subway, the rainy sky. The chatter you hear in New York was suddenly muted. But I could also get on the A train in Washington Heights and know that my fellow passengers had probably voted for Hillary Clinton and were totally miserable with the results.

[Premiere] Algorithmic Filmmaking Experiment Creates a New Music Video Every Time You Play It

Creators: In the world of the internet, 60 seconds is a long time. On YouTube alone there are hundreds of hours of video uploaded every minute. A new "experiment in algorithmic filmmaking" taps into these vast swaths of video content, and turns them into an ever-changing music video for Manchester band Shaking Chains' debut single "Midnight Oil."

La-aadies and gentlemen, this 'Circus 1903' is the real thing

Chicago Tribune: I've never seen a show quite like "Circus 1903." Note that the title is not "Cirque 1903." This is not some dreamy, ethereal proscenium entertainment, designed to capitalize on the perennial appeal of the "Cirque du Soleil." This is dat-dat-dada-dada-dada circus. Roll up, boys and girls of all ages. Touch the elephants. Watch the contortionist wriggle.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cheerleading company can get copyrights, pursue competitors, Supreme Court says

Ars Technica: The Supreme Court issued a 5-2 opinion (PDF) today allowing cheerleading uniforms to be copyrighted. The case, Star Athletica v. Varsity Brands, is expected to have broad effect in the fashion world and beyond. A group of 3D printing companies had also asked the high court to take up the case, asking for clarity on how to separate creative designs, which are copyrightable, from utilitarian objects that are not.

Opera tells story of Negro Leagues baseball star Josh Gibson

New Pittsburgh Courier: An opera about Negro Leagues baseball star Josh Gibson, whose power hitting rivaled Babe Ruth’s, will have its world premiere in Pittsburgh in April.

“The Summer King,” presented by Pittsburgh Opera , premieres April 29. Gibson’s story also figured in “Fences,” the movie starring Denzel Washington that was originally a play by Pittsburgh native August Wilson.

Pittsburgh Fringe Festival is back and bigger than ever

NEXTpittsburgh: A rowdy bingo bash hosted by the glamorous drag queen Betsy Carmichael. A sociopolitical showdown between Hillary Clinton and Eva Peron. A high-octane, one-man recreation of Apocalypse Now. And that’s only the beginning.

Experience culture on the fringe for three exciting days and nights on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side. Back and bigger than ever with new programming components, an expanded format and a star-studded roster of performers, the fourth annual Pittsburgh Fringe Festival is gearing up to bring cutting-edge theater to town.

The National Endowment for the Arts Serves Us and Reflects Who We Are

Stage Directions: The value of the NEA speaks for itself as they speak for the artists of America.

How do theme parks make fake seem so real? People who work at theme parks throw around the word "magic" a lot. And they should, because that's exactly what the best theme park designers create. Now, I'm not talking about the sappy popular meaning of the word "magic" — I'm talking about magic as an act of stagecraft. It's a visual con, designed to make you believe that you are seeing something that can't possibly be in our normal, natural world.

'The Guard' dazzles on City Theatre stage

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: In Jessica Dickey’s witty and absorbing new play, “The Guard,” we are referred constantly to an unseen painting: Rembrandt’s famous “Aristotle With [or Contemplating] a Bust of Homer,” where the philosopher rests his right hand on the head of the blind poet, a mysterious image of classical philosophy and ancient epic poetry in contemplative juxtaposition.

The CMU School of Architecture breaks the mold in showcasing #allfemale architects

NEXTpittsburgh: This year, Carnegie Mellon’s School of Architecture invited only practicing women architects to its spring lecture series. While an all-female lecture series might not raise eyebrows in certain fields, it is unprecedented among architecture schools—internationally—and has been widely celebrated through social media. In Pittsburgh, it has also sparked a faculty-student discussion about the role of gender at the School of Architecture (SoA).

Say It With Me: Aliasing

Hackaday: Suppose you take a few measurements of a time-varying signal. Let’s say for concreteness that you have a microcontroller that reads some voltage 100 times per second. Collecting a bunch of data points together, you plot them out — this must surely have come from a sine wave at 35 Hz, you say. Just connect up the dots with a sine wave! It’s as plain as the nose on your face.

Ridgid 18V Flood Light Review – Dial Up Some Lumens

Home Fixated: Tired of third-degree burns and tripping over extension cords in your quest for a good work light? In their attempt to remove every power cord from the job site, the major toolmakers have all been introducing various cordless LED work lights. In previous attempts to light up your life – or at least the dark workday portions of it – we took a look at Ridgid’s folding work light and the more portable Ridgid Light Cannon. But wait – there’s more! If you’re looking for a more traditional-looking work light, join us as we take an illuminating look at the Ridgid 18V Flood Light they sent our way.

NEA shutdown? We learned its impact on theatre in the DC area

DC Theatre Scene: The imminent shutdown of the National Endowment for the Arts, promised in President Trump’s 2017-2018 budget, will result in fewer and smaller new plays, bring an end to cultural exchanges with theaters in other countries, sharply curtail a program to bring theater to rural America, and increase competition for the private donations that smaller theaters depend on, DC-area theatermakers told us.

NEA funding fight is also a fight about jobs, arts groups say

PBS NewsHour: In a hallway outside their congressman’s office on Capitol Hill, eight of Louisville, Kentucky’s top art leaders huddled Tuesday to figure out a plan. Representatives from the arts community descend every year on Washington, D.C., to lobby for arts funding. But this year was different.

A new incubator in Pittsburgh, FUTUREMAKERS Labs, debuts at Kelly-Strayhorn Theater

Blogh: If you're an artist or entrepreneur frustrated by a lack of resources and networking opportunities in Pittsburgh, a new incubator at Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, in East Liberty, might be what you're looking for. FUTUREMAKERS Labs is a 12-week incubator running from April to June that offers training, workshops and networking for Pittsburghers seeking to connect with the city's burgeoning arts and nonprofit communities, but are unsure where to start. That may sound vague, but the open-ended approach is no mistake.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

15 Great Books About The Theater

New York Theater: The 50 best plays and 10 greatest musicals of the last century are all available as books to read, but what are the best books about the theater?

‘The Guard’ Steps Out of the Ordinary

Entertainment Central Pittsburgh: Jessica Dickey’s The Guard, currently at City Theatre, is an interesting play. Please let me explain what I mean by that.

The system of rating plays or movies on a scale from one star to four or five stars is inadequate, because the works do not exist only on a spectrum of good-ness, from bad to best. They also come in many different species.

Robert Schenkkan's 'Building the Wall,' set in Trump's America, imagines the unimaginable

LA Times: How does darkness overtake a nation? The philosopher Hannah Arendt took up the subject in her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” which investigated the mystery of how ordinary Germans transformed into murderous Nazis.

The face of evil, Arendt discovered, wasn’t a demon lurking in the cellar but the factory supervisor in the nice house across the street. Those carrying out the orders that led to the extermination of millions of Jews along with other marginalized groups became part of the bureaucracy of genocide. This startling and still controversial insight — that the Holocaust was executed not by sadists but by conformist clerks and self-interested middle managers — inspired the famous subtitle of Arendt’s book: “A Report on the Banality of Evil.”

The Company That Launched Broadway’s Great Comet Reveals the Key to Finding Groundbreaking Art

Playbill: Ars Nova has earned a reputation for developing groundbreaking new work that defies the boundaries of traditional theatre—think Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, which the company debuted Off-Broadway four years before it hit Broadway’s Imperial Theatre this past fall.

Since its founding in 2002, the organization has continued to showcase emerging artists with fresh voices and produce innovative new theatre. Last week, Ars Nova paired with WP Theater to present Rachel Bonds’ new play with music, Sundown, Yellow Moon, which opened Off-Broadway to critical acclaim.

‘Iron Fist’ Creator Roy Thomas on Whitewashing and Royalties

Inverse: Danny Rand first graced Marvel comics in the May 1974 issue of Marvel Premiere #15. The Iron Fist, clad in a gold and green suit with a popped collar and gold slippers, was created by then-Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane. Over 40 years later, Danny is making the leap from Marvel’s comic pages, where he has dwelled as a little-known character, to the focus of its latest Netflix series.

Mythbusters: Event Themes Edition After airing in 2003, Mythbusters quickly took off; becoming one of the most popular shows in the early 2000s. With the show's fun take on the scientific method, special effect experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman test the validity in rumors and in societiy's everyday myths. Often, the show makes reference to iconic scenes from classic movies: “Can you really hold onto the roof of a speeding car?” or “Can a speeding car crash into a fruit stand, and keep on driving?” Thus, setting the premise for ever-thrilling episode.

Two Female Playwrights Arrive on Broadway. What Took So Long?

The New York Times: They are two of the nation’s pre-eminent playwrights. Each has won nearly every award their field has to offer, including the Pulitzer Prize. Each has written works that are staged around the world and have become required reading in college classes. And each has earned an admired position in the academy, teaching aspiring dramatists at Ivy League institutions.

One milestone, however, has long eluded Paula Vogel and Lynn Nottage: Broadway.

Chekhov like you've never seen - Three Sisters at Studio Theatre

DC Theatre Scene: The women chant their lines over one another above a rising swirl of offstage clamor that reaches a crescendo pitch. Masha (Caroline Hewitt),—the most troubled of the three Prozorov sisters—begins to scramble up a tree like a cat as the scene goes dark.

Your typical Chekov this is not. From advent to finale, Studio Theatre’s stirring production of the seminal Russian dramatist’s Three Sisters carries a virulent and wholly unexpected streak of madness throughout.

Women at Work: Meet the Audio Engineer Who Moves to Her Own Beat “Being a woman and a music producer and an engineer is a very special task,” says Ebonie Smith, who works as an audio engineer, music producer and studio coordinator at Atlantic Records.

While she’s always loved music, Smith says she got into audio engineering somewhat haphazardly. As an undergrad at Barnard College, Smith needed a way to record her own music. As a pianist, she often worked in isolation, but from that experience, her love for music and music production went from a hobby to a profession.

Tests Show CMU Water Supplies Are Safe Following extensive testing, Carnegie Mellon University has determined that drinking water supplies throughout its campus facilities are safe and free of elevated lead levels.

Universal Parks Files Patent for Interactive Puzzle Theater

Theme Park University: Moving forward, entertainment of all forms will push to be more and more interactive. Gone are the days where you’ll be able to sit and passively watch a theme park show, audiences now want to be an active participant. Take for example a patent filed by Universal Studios on March 7, 2017. Their creative division has filed a patent for what they are calling a puzzle theater.

Natasha’s Dream: a Foreign and Familiar Vision

HowlRound: Some works of art are political due to the issues of class disparity, gender bias, or racial discrimination that they explore. Other works are politicized by broader developments in the world around them. Natasha’s Dream, presented in a brief three-show run a the Mosesian Center for the Arts as a co-production by Arlekin Players and New Repertory Theatre, falls into both categories—the former by intention of the playwright, Yaroslava Pulinovich, and the latter by unpredictably shifting global forces.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sweet Charity

Pittsburgh in the Round: The girl who couldn’t hold on to a guy is the victorious heroine of Sweet Charity, on stage of the equally spunky and iconic Rockwell Theater at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in Oakland. The colorful and groovy Broadway and film hit showcases Point Park University student talent under the savvy direction of returning Michael Rupert in a Conservatory Theatre Company production.

Mnemonic takes a dramatic journey to discover our shared origin

DC Theatre Scene: So we know the what of history — Truman over Dewey, say, or U.S. and England over Germany, Italy and Japan in World War II — but do we know what history smells like? Knowing the past by facts is like knowing the Eroica Variations by musical notation. And so we struggle for more: to know what our ancestors loved, what they feared, how they ate, what they sought to achieve. What the sunrise looked like to them; how they felt when they came home; what filled their hearts with surprised joy. What made them laugh.

What Do We Really Want? Creating a Union for Actors in Romania

HowlRound: During the last few years, I have taken part in at least three aborted attempts to establish a Romanian equivalent of Actors’ Equity.

Each meeting followed more or less the same pattern: a group of actors, fed up of being abused by one of the two theatrical systems or by the two combined, organized a preliminary discussion with the purpose to create a working group that would eventually propose the rules and structure of an Equity-type theatre artists’ union. The two or three following meetings would be increasingly difficult to be kept within the limits of the agreed topics, fights would erupt, and a stalemate would eventually be the only outcome. Why is this happening, again and again?

Adam Savage's Maker Tour: Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

Tested: Adam visits the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, where he learns about how they nurture the interests and skills of the very youngest makers. While there, he also sees the PERFECT tape holder (that he later replicates for the shop) and learns how to operate a loom for the first time!

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