Saturday, November 18, 2017

This week’s Student Spotlight is on a junior, Morgan Olson! Morgan is pursuing a BFA in dance where is she hoping to continue to perform. She is inspired by “striving to improve by pushing herself to an unattainable satisfaction”. Come watch Morgan perform in this year’s Fall Dance Concert in the Ted Paul Theatre! 

How did you start dance? 
I started my first class just before I turned two years old. It was called Mommy and Me.  Toddlers pretty much just copied what mom did. That was the first time I got to perform onstage and I stuck with it ever since! 

What inspires you to be a dancer? 
I think what inspires me to be a dancer, and has for a very long time, is the feeling that dance gives me. I'm constantly striving to improve. Being a perfectionist when it comes to dance, I feed off the feeling of pushing myself to my unattainable satisfaction. 

Favorite MSU Dance memory? 
So far, my favorite MSU dance memory has been getting to work with so many different dancers.  Also, getting to know them really well. It's really great having such a close dance community!

What are your future plans after graduation? 
My exact plans for after graduation are currently nonexistent. However, I do know that I want to continue to perform!

Any advice for aspiring performers?
My advice for aspiring performers is to expect that you will encounter highs and lows. Doing what we love every day doesn't always mean that every day is going to be the best. You will hate it sometimes, and other times you will realize that you were meant to dance, which is a great feeling. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Spotlight on third year Graduate Student Kristen Fox as she gives us insight on her Thesis Project These Shining Lives...

What about the Minnesota State University Department of Theatre and Dance convinced you to pursue your Masters in Directing?

I had been working as a professional director and stage manager in the Twin Cities for about five years before I decided to start looking for schools to pursue my Masters degree. I had met lots of other working professionals from Minnesota State University Mankato and had heard good things about this department. I also considered it a good sign that the program had managed to produce so many people who are working in their field and who were good at their jobs and decided that this just might be the program for me.

How did you get involved in this production?

I first discovered this show about a year ago when a fellow graduate student gave me a copy and told me that I needed to read it. After the first scene gave me chills and by the end of the play I was hooked and I knew that I HAD to direct this play.

What was is like working with our production team?

I was fortunate to have such a talented and hard working production and design team. I brought a big concept to the table and challenged them to think outside the box when it came to all elements of design and I believe they were able to rise to the occasion.

What’s challenging about bringing this script to life?

The characters within this script are dramatic portrayals of real people and it was important to me that we gave a steady and respectful voice to these women who lived not so very long ago. From day one I stressed the importance of playing these women with strength and determination because they weren’t victims . . . they were just girls who wanted to work and wanted the right to work in a place that cared about their health an their safety.

Is there a character in the show that you feel you can personally relate to?

I would say that I can find something to relate to in each of the female characters within this show. Catherine is filled with quite determination to do the right thing even though it is hard. Pearl is filled with a bubbly joy and the ability to see the good in a bad situation. Frances holds herself to a high moral code while still wanting to fit in with the rest of the girls and Charlotte. . . Charlotte is bold and brassy. She is extremely good at her job and knows it. Charlotte doesn’t apologize for her honesty but fiercely guards her own emotions. She is an extremely loyal friend and although she says she isn’t fighter. . . she’s tougher than she lets on.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Spotlight on Derek Tomlinson a new BFA at MNSU. 

What drew you to Minnesota State University - Mankato to persue performing?
The welcoming and inclusive environment of the campus itself, the quality of the programs on offer here, and the warmth and professionalism of the Theatre program really blew me away and made choosing to come here really quite easy.

What will the audience be thinking about in the car as they drive home after this show?
I would hope that they think of the similarities between today and the 1940s. How even though they were demonized and blamed for all the difficulties of the nation and world by the Nazi regime, they were just a scapegoat to distract the populace from the atrocities of the Nazi party. The horror these people went through, and the pure heroism shown by Miep and the others who helped hide the people in the Annex, even though being caught could have, and probably would have, gotten them killed. That kind of selflessness and sacrifice isn't something we really think about these days.

What character are you playing and how is this character like you? Different?
I play a man by the name of Albert Dussel (a pseudonym chosen for him by Anne when she wrote her diary) In real life his name was Friedrich "Fritz" Pfeffer. He was a 49 year old dentist who fled Berlin after Kristallnacht. He was the last to join the family in the Annex. He was much like me in being soft spoken and reserved. He was a very traditional and Orthodox Jew. Anne describes him as being "stuffy" (she was 13) In reality he had a partner in the christian womanCharlotte Kaletta to whom he wrote many letters. Reading a few of those made it clear, the man had passion and love, he just didn't display the warmth within him in public or to strangers.

What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
The biggest challenge really is tuning into the environment of the time. The horror of the things going on around him, the terror of being found by the Nazi regime and getting torn from his family and friends. Living in this kind of adversity had to have been horrible and so i try my best to really capture the shock of that.

When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time 
Other than checking my phone? Ha! well, usually i spend those minutes trying to figure out what felt right and where i can improve.

(From time period 1918-1943)
By Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, newly adapted by Wendy Kesselman
Nov. 2-4 & 9-12, 2017

Tickets: $16 regular, $14 discounted (over 65, under 16 and groups of 15 or more) and $11 for current Minnesota State Mankato students.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Dance Spotlight: Aubrey Workman

This week for our Student Spotlight we are featuring dancer Aubrey Workman!
Aubrey is a dance major, pursuing Dance/Movement Therapy. She advises other dancers “to never give up and go for whatever you aspire to be."  Please come watch Aubrey as she dances in the upcoming Fall Dance Concert.

Here's a bit more about Aubrey ...
How did you start dance? 
I started dance when I was 4.  I was always flipping and jumping around the house, so my mom decided to sign me up for dance classes! 

What inspires you to be a dancer?
What inspires me to dance is how it lets me escape any problems.  It's also relaxing for me.

Favorite MSU Dance memory?
My favorite MSU dance memory is from my Contemporary class.  My professor Dr. Julie Kerr-Berry played Prince and had us go across the floor and “party party party." 

What are your future plans after graduation?
I plan on going to grad school for dance therapy and become a licensed dance therapist.  I am also interested in working with kids in hospitals. 

Any advice for aspiring performers?
My advice would be to never give up and to always go for whatever it is you aspire to be.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mitchell Evans is a BFA Musical Theatre student in his Junior year at MSU and playing Aeneas in the Production of The Aeneid.  Evans has been in rehearsal with this cast since the second day of this semester.  Here are some of his thoughts about the production.  

How is this character like you? Different?

Aeneas and I are similar in the fact that we both feel so deeply and care so much about the people we’re surrounded by, we definitely wear our hearts on our sleeve. We’re different in the simple nature of having two completely different stories making him not to be able to relate to parts of me and vise versa.

Is it easier to play this character or to be yourself on stage?

I mean it would naturally be easier to play myself on stage, but if I were playing myself I wouldn’t be acting. Not to say that I don’t have my personal attributes or habituals in the character, however, I enjoy relishing in the character more than playing myself.

What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?

Trying to work the script with the care and honesty it deserves, but also to bring verisimilitude to someone's story that I can’t relate to because I’ve never had to experience that he had.

Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite line of dialogue?

“The ink in your fountain pen is worth more than the blood in my veins!” Is a line that Sam Fairchild has within the show that just gets me every time because it's one of those gut punches of truth, which this show is full of.

If you could play any other character in this show, who would it be?

Honestly any role! In this show everyone has their moment to shine and their moments to sit in the shadows, even Aeneas. It would be so fun to be anyone in this show.

What makes a good scene partner?

Listening and chemistry is what I’ve learned makes a great scene partner, and being able to try new things with a scene and your partner just adjusting and taking it to another step with you. I’ve been so grateful to have experienced several times in this process.

(From time period 1993-2018)
By Olivier Kemeid; translated by Maureen Labonté; based on the epic poem by Virgil
Oct. 12-15 & 18-22, 2017
Tickets: $16 regular, $14 discounted (over 65, under 16 and groups of 15 or more) and $11 for current Minnesota State Mankato students.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dance Spotlight: Mio Yoshizaki

This week’s Student Spotlight is on one of our sophomore dancers Mio! Mio is a dance major all the way from Japan! She has found her love for dance when she was young, and is continuing to grow that love as she is 6,175 miles away from home. Mio is fascinated by contemporary dance and the artistry it brings to the stage. Come watch Mio as she performs in the upcoming Dance Concerts on December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd

This week’s Student Spotlight is on one of our sophomore dancers Mio! Mio is a dance major all the way from Japan! She has found her love for dance when she was young, and is continuing to grow that love as she is 6,175 miles away from home. Mio is fascinated by contemporary dance and the artistry it brings to the stage. Come watch Mio as she performs in the upcoming Dance Concerts on December 1st, 2nd, and 3rd

How did you start in dance?
When I was 4 years old, my mom wanted me to take dance classes because my sister already started and she really enjoyed it. However, dancing in front of people was too embarrassing for me. My mom changed her strategy and asked me to choose between dancing or playing sports with boys. So I made myself go to first dance class with my sister. Moving my body with the rhythm of music, I found out, was much more fun than I had imagined! Since then, I've been dance all the time and eventually tried different genres: jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary; even singing and acting too.  

What inspires you to be a dancer? 
When I was in high school, I saw contemporary dance for the first time and was fascinated. Previously, I thought of contemporary dance as mysterious and incomprehensible movement. That is still true to me, but now I understand  its artistry. It's really hard to explain with my limited vocabulary; however, I'll try. The way a body makes creative movements, not only isolated dancers, but the use of the space around them, and how that forms moment is interesting to me.  Also, how the different dynamics of each dancer creates a specific atmosphere.  I enjoy how energy going through movements can captivate an audience.  These new facets of contemporary dance have given me brand new options for my future as a dancer.  Each learned aspect has made me sure that contemporary dance is my passion and a way of life. This is what I want to do. This is the most creative art human being constructs. 

Favorite MSU Dance memory?
I love all the concerts and dance classes I've taken here. Every day I've spent here is my favorite memory. I like how each dancer contributes individual effort to every class. Observing other dancers always inspires me and gives me new ideas. I am so happy to have come here; even 6175 miles away from home, to work with these amazing dancers. I also participated in the American College Dance Association (ACDA) last spring, which is definitely counted as one of my favorite MSU dance memory. It opened my eyes to new style of dance, and built a connection between dancers to share experience. This great opportunity motivated me a lot. 

What are your future plans after you graduate? 
I'm still seeking out what I would like to do with a degree in dance after graduation. I realized just recently there are more jobs relating to dance besides performing and teaching. I'm planning to figure out here.  So far, I'm interested in performing on the stage rather than teaching. I have a desire to stay in the United States for a while and challenge myself to cultivate performing experience. Eventually, I would like to develop dance back in my home country. 

Any advise for aspiring performers? 

I would say, try everything and appreciate every opportunity provided. Last year, I came here from the other side of the earth. The environment was completely different and I didn't know what people were talking about. However, I participated in every audition opportunity and joined choreography projects whenever asked. Friends and teachers always helped me catch up in rehearsals. Because of these involvements, my life was full of excitement, even from my first semester. I didn't expect this big progress in my life before attending auditions and I really appreciate MSU for providing these opportunities. So my advice is to take a chance and always be excited about what is going to happen next in your life!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Only two days until the opening night of the Main Stage Production of Little Women.  Emily Kimball, a Graduate student has  been pouring all her time into her Thesis Project of designing and building the beautiful costumes.  

What is the most interesting bit of new information you've discovered working on this production?  I’ve really enjoyed learning more about Louisa May Alcott and her life before she wrote the novel.  It has brought out some interesting connections between her own parent’s relationship, their practical romance and partnership, and what type of woman the character Jo is.  As a little girl I was definitely annoyed that Jo and Laurie don’t end up together (Spoilers!). Knowing more about Louisa and the examples of relationships she had and what kind of things a woman could be back in the 1860s and 70s has made me understand what makes Bhaer a good match for her.  

What is your favorite part about working on a period piece?  Research for sure. I really like starting with the time period and identifying what trends or characteristics of that era to focus on.  It could be the fabrics, or the silhouettes and seamlines, or hairstyles.
Then I’ll usually figure out the color palette and move forward from there.  Color informs a lot of my decisions.  

Where do you go for inspiration?  It depends on the era.  Finding old photographs and images is usually the best sort of inspiration since it was real people.  I’ll sometimes just try and immerse my whole brain into a specific era or look…watch movies or TV set in that time period, listen to popular music, find advertisements or catalogues from then.  Other times inspiration might start with a much broader concept.  For this show I was getting a lot of ideas after seeing the house of the Alcott’s in Concord, MA.  I had the chance to visit it this summer and just getting an idea of the family and the space they inhabited was very helpful.  

What is the most difficult costume you've ever designed?  I can’t say it was the most difficult but I recently made a 1912 suit that had about 40 covered buttons on it.  That was pretty fun.  This summer I put an actor in a t-shirt with a cat and pizza on it.  There is never a dull moment working on costumes!  I love coming across something that perfectly fits into the show you’re working on and saying, “That’s it. That’s in the show!”

What has been one of your favorite pieces in this show to create?  In my initial research I came across a specific type of shawl that was very popular.  I found many photographs of women of all ages wearing this very practical knitted shawl that kept your top half warm and fastened in the back while keeping your hands free.  After some more digging I found a pattern for a “sontag”, also called a “bosom friend” from a Godey’s Lady’s Book from 1860.  I’ve been knitting since I was 12 and when I began costume designing shows I’ve tried my best to use a piece that I’ve knit in every show.  After a few swatch tests and some pattern adjusting to fit the actor I finished it.  It’s a shawl that the character Beth wears throughout the show and I really love it.

How have you approached this project differently being your Thesis project?  This project has been different definitely with just the scale of research.  Time period, the life and writing style of the author and how she fits into the world of not only literature but American female writers has been fascinating to learn about.

Little Women: Music by Jason Howland; lyrics by Mindi Dickstein; book by Allan Knee; based on the novel by Louisa May Alcott
Dates: Sept. 28-30 & Oct. 5-8, 2017 
Tickets: $22 regular, $19 discounted (over 65, under 16 and groups of 15 or more) and $15 for current Minnesota State Mankato students.