John returned to the Kalamazoo College campus (and stage) in late February. The timing was fortuitous. John played the role of a fireman in the 1964 production of Max Frisch’s The Firebugs, directed by Nelda Balch. Fifty years later, to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College (founded by Balch), Ed Menta staged a reprise of The Firebugs. John returned to campus to meet with the 2014 cast and crew before opening night. He also was part of an audience-performer conversation that occurred after the opening night performance. John (left) is pictured with Menta, the James B. Stone College Professor of Theatre Arts.
Carrie recently appeared in the world premiere of The Summoners, a play staged at the C.O.W. in New York City, and in International Falls at the Roundabout Theatre Company, also in New York. After earning a B.A. in philosophy from K, Carrie received her M.F.A. degree from University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she received the Louise Lamont Award for Excellence as well as honors in all areas of performance. She has appeared off-Broadway and performed in the United Kingdom, Poland, Russia, and Malaysia. Among many other plays, she has acted in The Mystery Spot, directed by K alumna Holly Hughes ’77. Carrie is also a teaching artist with Roundabout. You can read more about her at her website.
Ryan accepted a position as assistant professor of modern and contemporary drama at California Polytechnic University (San Luis Obispo). He will build the drama curriculum from the ground up and teach courses in contemporary avant-garde theater and performance as well as queer theory and psychoanalytic theory.
Megan was assistant stage manager for the recent Ann Arbor-based Performance Network Theatre production of the David Ives play, Venus in Fur. Megan earned a double minor in French and sociology/anthropology at K. Her Kalamazoo College Festival Playhouse directing résumé included: Bringing Home the Bones, director, and Into the Woods, assistant director. Her acting credits include Violet Venable in Suddenly Last Summer and Clara in Alison Shields (by K alumnus Joe Tracz ’04). She continues her apprenticeship at Performance Network Theatre. Her eventual career goal is to be the artistic director of a small theatre company. Founded in 1981, Performance Network Theatre reaches 40,000 theatre patrons and children each year through its Professional Series and the Children’s Theatre Network. Performance Network Theatre also presents the Fireside New Play Festival and a series of classes on theatre-related topics.
June has published, at age 90, From the Inside: A Look at Nursing Homes and Their Patients in Today’s Elder Care System. The book provides her insider look at the day-to-day happenings of nursing homes both as a resident and a friend to residents. Central to those observations is her unique mix of humor, introspection, and occasional depression as she faced the work of getting well and coping with pain.
During the last decade June spent nine months in three different nursing homes in Montana and the Midwest. “People need to know what it’s like to be in a nursing home,” she said.
Though it occurred decades ago, her father’s nursing home stay in New York remains seared into her memory, and was the impetus for the book. “I was so furious,” she remembers. “It was so negative. To be in a nursing home is to truly be someone different.” But, over the years, she says, she learned that “Nursing homes are NOT the worst thing in the world. I came to scorn and stayed to praise,” she concludes.
June enrolled in Kalamazoo College at the age of 16. She majored in English and theatre. The latter may not be surprising, given the fact that she had been a child performer at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. During her student days at K, a weekly campus segment she did on the local radio station eventually became a full-time job with CBS-WKZO in Kalamazoo. She worked on a feature called “News of Women Today,” which carried stories on women’s responses to World War II throughout the world and the effect the war had on women’s status and work.
June and her husband, Wayne, have lived near Whitehall, Montana for 20 years. They spent most of their marriage in East Aurora, N.Y., where Wayne worked for Fisher-Price. June earned her M.A. at Syracuse University and taught there. She also directed plays at both the Buffalo and the East Aurora theaters. And she performed her own material in a series of one-woman shows. She and Wayne eventually moved west to be closer to their two sons and five grandchildren. She helped establish a theatre group in Whitehall. For four years, “Jefferson Valley Presents” staged an outdoor dinner theatre production on the Lewis and Clark expedition. June wrote the script, performed, and helped with the costuming.
Two Muses Theatre (West Bloomfield, Mich.) presents the award-winning play Love, Loss, and What I Wore (by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron), May 30 through June 15, and Lila (in the role of Gingy) will headline the cast of the production’s second weekend. Each weekend’s performance features a unique cast with a local celebrity. A former news anchor, Lila runs a production company, Lila Productions, and currently hosts the award-winning Discover Remarkable series on WXYZ. The Two Muses stagings are a collaboration with Closet NV to raise clothing donations for Dress for Success, a worldwide organization whose mission is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire to help them thrive in work and in life. Lila is no stranger to hard work on behalf of important causes. She swam the Straits of Mackinac (a 5-mile swim) to raise money and awareness for Mentor Michigan, and each fall she climbs from one end of the Grand Canyon to the other (21 miles) and back again. In 2007, she was appointed to the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness. An avid motorcyclist, Lila was recently named Michigan’s Ambassador of Motorcycle Safety. She is active in many community and charitable organizations, serves on multiple boards, and is currently President of Kids Kicking Cancer. She’s also very involved with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. She’s been a Big Sister for 20 years.
Phoebe is the deck manager at Indiana Repertory Theater in Indianapolis. IRT is the state’s largest equity theater.
Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College celebrated its Golden Anniversary in academic year 2013-14. In tribute, BeLight published short profiles of some FP alumni. We conclude that feature in this issue of BeLight with spotlights on Mary Mathyer ’14 and David Landskroener ’14.
Mary Mathyer ’14 graduated this past June with majors in theatre and biology – each equally demanding and surprisingly complementary. Biology requires precision, but theatre teaches tenacity. Mathyer worked behind the scenes and acted on stage, experiencing first hand that each and every role in theatre is crucial for the success of the production – not unlike sundry scientists collaborating on an important research question.
Majors: Theatre arts and biology
Study Abroad: Nairobi, Kenya. “This incredibly challenging and fulfilling program took me out of the familiar and forced me to adapt and grow as a person.”
Senior Individualized Project: “Carbon and Nitrogen Cycling by Nitrospina in the Dark Ocean.” “It is essentially using genomic evidence to investigate the metabolic pathways of a specific bacteria found deep in the ocean. This research was conducted at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine.”
Key K Experiences: Summer 2011 at the Chautauqua Theatre Company in Chautauqua, New York, as the carpentry and scenic paint intern. “Through the course of 10 weeks, we built and struck three sets for five shows.” Summer 2013 at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences for SIP research as a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU) intern.
Past Theatre Experience
“I was heavily involved in my high school theatre department, in a few shows as an actor but mostly as a member of the crew. My roles included carpenter, painter, props master, and stage manager among others. I also had an internship with Sideshow Theatre Company in Chicago during my senior year of high school. I worked with them mostly on the set but also on various odd jobs involved in running a store front theatre company.”
“I have been involved in eight shows at K, both main stage and at the Dungeon. I have acted (Granny, among other roles, in Into the Woods), sound designed, been a spot op and board op. I have stage managed both Dungeon and main stage productions. I am often found in the shop working on building and painting the sets. I have received certificates of merit from the American College Theatre Festival for my video design of Stuff Happens in the fall of ’11 and for my stage management of Cloud Nine in the winter of ’12. I have taken classes in all areas of the department. It has all been extremely rewarding.”
“I plan to continue by biology education in graduate school. And though I don’t intend to continue my education in theatre, I definitely want to stay involved in theatre on the side. It has been a key part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I have no intention of giving it up.”
On Kalamazoo College
“I have taken classes with most of the theatre faculty, and they all bring unique views to what they do. It’s impossible for me to pinpoint my most influential professor or class because they all have impacted my theatre experience. I found every class challenging in some way, and all broadened my knowledge of the theatre world. Theatre is very hands-on. It is time intensive, but it is easy to put in the necessary dedication when you are doing something you love. Sometimes I felt like the theatre department has taken over my life, leaving me no time for anything else, but then I missed it when I wasn’t there. Theatre has taught me how to balance everything and still give my all. It’s addicting, but not a habit I want break.”
On Festival Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary
“It was exciting to be on campus for this year-long celebration, furthermore because it was my senior year. Everyone wants to go out with a bang, and having my final Playhouse season correspond with such a department milestone made the year unforgettable!”
David Landskroener ’14 thinks failure teaches as much, or more, than success. In theatre Landskroener honed his storytelling skills and developed friendships that he expects will be with him long after graduation.
Major: Double major in theatre arts and English with a writing emphasis and a concentration in media studies
Study Abroad: Aberdeen, Scotland. “I had an incredible experience abroad in Aberdeen. The city felt like a breathing entity all of its own, and the windswept greyness was very inspiring to me as a writer. I had so many great experiences, but my favorite two were visiting Loch Ness on a perfect blue sky day (saw a ripple in the water too, which was definitely Nessie), and seeing my favorite show ever, Matilda the Musical, on the West End in London.”
Senior Individualized Project: “I wrote a novel called Coffee Dog, about, naturally, coffee and dogs, and the combination of the two.”
Key K Experience: “I completed an externship at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis the summer after my sophomore year. I was able to observe new plays being developed and see what a potential theatre/playwriting career could be like.”
“The winter of my freshman year (2011), I acted in a blocked stage reading of local playwright G. William Zorn’s new play Trinity at the Theatre Kalamazoo New Playfest. That spring I played keyboard for the Festival Playhouse production of The Who’s Tommy. Fall quarter of sophomore year I was dramaturg for Stuff Happens, and in winter I had a staged reading of a play I wrote in Ed Menta’s playwriting class put on at the New Playfest. I was also a spotlight operator for Cloud 9 and assistant stage manager for Back of the Throat.
“My best theatre experience was when I took Directing I with Ed Menta. It was a demanding course, but when I saw my final scene that I directed—a scene from the film Precious—come to life, I instantly knew that all the writing and charts were worth it. I had brought this story to life in front of an audience, a feeling which I can only call a theatre high.”
“I want to continue writing and hopefully wrangle that into a career. I’m considering eventually enrolling in a screenwriting program, or perhaps the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. A career in film also excites me, because I’m very interested in both screenwriting and film marketing. But my ultimate goal, no matter what happens with my life, is to just be happy.”
On Kalamazoo College
“K has been an environment conducive to my growth, nurturing my gifts and enriching my knowledge of the world. I have loved the majority of my classes, especially the writing ones, but the two classes that have shaped my K experience the most are “Playwriting” and “Intermediate Fiction” with Andy Mozina.
“I had never written a play before taking “Playwriting,” and boy, did I discover something incredibly fun and exciting. I learned how to make a story immediate and connect with an audience on a visual and auditory level. Professor Menta was (and still is) a very caring force in helping me cultivate this new interest. I even had a play I wrote in that class accepted at two new play festivals.
“’Intermediate Fiction’ influenced me tremendously. Professor Mozina is incredibly smart and funny and really knows how to connect with an individual on a personal level. The students in my workshop were some of the best writers and thoughtful people I’d ever met, and their varied critical perspectives really helped me pare my writing into something better, into the distinct voice that I have now.
“The K theatre department has been enormously significant in my time at K. I have made mistakes, learned new skill sets, seen the glory of success and the underrated glory of failure, grown as both an artist and an individual, and, best of all, made some of my dearest friends, who will definitely stick with me for the rest of my life. I have also become a better storyteller, which is the aspect of my life that I’m most eager to improve. I’m even sure my life after K will be in theatre, but my time with the theatre department of Kalamazoo College has played one of the biggest roles in shaping me into who I am.”
On Festival Playhouse’s Golden Anniversary
“I am incredibly happy that Festival Playhouse is still going strong after 50 years and continuing every year to give birth to a dizzyingly diverse array of plays. Unfortunately, Nelda Balch is no longer with us, but I think that Festival Playhouse has kept her vision alive through the hard work and artistic genius of those who followed in her footsteps. The future is full of stories just waiting to have their covers torn off and displayed proudly on the stages at Kalamazoo College.”
Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College celebrates its Golden Anniversary this academic year and, in tribute, BeLight will publish short profiles of some FP alumni—two each in this year’s three issues of the e-magazine. May features Lisa Kron ’83 and Joe Hamlin ’02.
The Long Road
When Lisa Kron was nominated in 2008 for a Tony for her play, Well, the applause could be heard on the Kalamazoo College campus. Kron’s plays have walked the boards on and off Broadway, and Kalamazoo College was the first college to stage Well, a play about Kron’s experiences attending a predominantly African-American elementary school as a girl with a Jewish heritage. During that staging, Kron spoke to K students as well as to students from Western Michigan University about her career as an actress and playwright, illustrating once again how theatre at K incorporates every discipline into a liberal arts education, going Well beyond simply staging a play. Kron credits her experience at K, both on and off campus, to her success in theatre. The playwright/actor lives in New York City and is a member of the Class of 1983, though she notes she’s “still missing a science requirement, so no degree. But I did finish my SIP!”
Study Abroad: London. “Loved it!!!”
SIP: Lecture/Performance on the dearth of roles for women in theater called “There’s Nothing Like a Dame.”
Key K Experience: “GLCA Philadelphia Urban Semester – LOVED!”
First Job in Theatre/TV
ANTA Company National Tour – Auditioned while representing K at the regional ACTF.
“Hmm. I don’t think there generally are big breaks. For me, as for many if not most people, it’s a long road, through many different landscapes.”
“My work on the screen resembles my work at K–limited to bit parts. Some Law and Order. A couple of films, most notably, my turn as a waitress in the final scene in the first Sex In the City movie.”
Playwriting fellowships from the Lortel and Guggenheim Foundations, Sundance Theater Lab, the Lark Play Development Center, and the MacDowell Colony.
The Cal Arts/Alpert Award, a Helen Merrill Award, grants from the Creative Capital Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts.
A three-year playwriting residency through the American Voices New Play Initiative at Arena Stage.
Obie, Bessie, GLAAD, L.A. Drama-logue, and Lilly Awards.
Nominations for Tony, Drama Desk, Lortel, Outer Critics Circle, and Susan Smith Blackburn Awards.
Fun Home, a musical adaptation of Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel, with lyrics by Lisa Kron, music by Jeanine Tesori, directed by Sam Gold. Fun Home premiered at the Public Theater October 2013.
Also appeared in the return of Foundry Theater’s acclaimed production of Good Person of Szechuan, directed by Lear de Bessonet, starring Taylor Mac, at the Public Theater, October 2013.
On Kalamazoo College
“Lowry Marshall changed my life. I still draw on my theater studies in London. And that beautiful thrust stage at K is still one of my favorite stages.”
Joe Hamlin ’02 is the man behind the production, making what theatre goers see on stage possible. He has worked on hundreds of plays, including Broadway-bound productions, and it’s a passion that was fostered on the stages at K. Hamlin is technical director at the Center Theatre Group in California, overseeing The Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum, and the Kirk Douglas Theatre. He is also production manager for The Ahmanson Theatre. He studied theatre with Ed Menta and Lanny Potts, and earned a master’s in technical design and production from Yale School of Drama.
Hamlin is passing it forward: Lee O’Reilly, a K grad and current student at the Yale School of Drama, worked with Hamlin last summer during a 12-week assistantship in technical directing.
Major: Theatre with a concentration in the classics.
Study Abroad: Athens, Greece
SIP: “After Genocide: A Three Week Journey Through Croatia”
Kalamazoo College Theater Experience: Dr. Faustus; Marat Sade; Twilight
First Job in Theatre
Assistant technical director, Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont
“I did summer stock work in my first theatre job in Massachusetts, and then the previous technical director was fired. The job became mine—it was a crazy time, the hardest time of my life, but it was also wonderful.”
Joe has worked on hundreds of shows. He’s particularly proud of: Clybourne Park at the Mark Taper Forum; End of the Rainbow at the Ahmanson Theatre; and The Second City’s A Christmas Carol Twist Your Dickens! at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.
U.S. Institute of Theatre Technology’s “The Golden Hammer Award” (usitt.org)
Recent shows on which Hamlin worked as the production manager: The Sunshine Boys, a revival of the Neil Simon play, starring Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch; and Harmony, a musical revival by Barry Manilow.
On Kalamazoo College
“I planned to go into political science, not theatre, when I first came to K, but as time went on, I realized I was finding myself in theatre. A lot of exciting things were going on there. It was a great environment, and the people became like family. Lanny Potts was a great mentor to me.”