Theatre Festival Welcomes 12, Honors Two From K

Two Kalamazoo College students were honored last week with new recognitions given at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) Region 3 in Madison, Wisconsin. The festival is a chance for college students in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin to share their skills and learn from others through workshops; collaborate as actors, directors, designers, dramaturgs and playwrights; and celebrate a mutual interest in theatre and its importance in society.

Theatre Festival Attendees
Twelve from Kalamazoo College recently attended the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival (ACTF) Region 3 in Madison, Wisconsin. They were (from left) Rebecca Chan ’22, Sedona Coleman ’23, Sophie Hill ’20, Director of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts, Aly Homminga ’20, Mars Wilson ’20, Teyia Artis ’21, Angela Mammel ’22, Milan Levy ’23, Professor of Costume Design and Stage Makeup Lori Sands, Visiting Professor of Theatre History, Directing and Playwriting “C” Heaps and Festival Playhouse Company Manager Laura Livingstone-McNelis ’89.

Milan Levy ’23 earned the Golden Collaborator Award for her excellence in organization and collaboration through the festival’s devised theatre project. Devised theatre, for the sake of the festival, involved methods of theatre-making in which a script originates from collaborative and improvisatory work by attendees.

“The process was challenging, requiring a high level of patience and compromise and I am honored to be recognized for my creativity, hard work and collaboration skills,” Levy said.

Aly Homminga ’20 — a co-captain of K’s improv group, Monkapult — earned the Collaboration and Devised Theatre scholarship for her work in theatre festival improvisation. The program, which will take her to the California State University Summer Arts program in Fresno for two weeks, focuses on collaborative and devised theatre, helping students develop talents in acting, directing, designing and writing.

Theatre Festival 2
Angela Mammel ’22 (left) participates in Design Storm, a competition that puts together a group of students from different schools to conceptualize and design a show in 24 hours.

“I am excited about this scholarship because I’m going to be part of an intensive that is about creating theatre in every sense,” Homminga said. “In devised theatre, all people in the ensemble get to be actor, director, playwright and designer. I will be growing and sharpening my skills in all areas. It was such an honor to be awarded this scholarship and I am thrilled to be able to immerse myself in theatre.”

This recognition is significant for both students because more than 1,000 students attended the festival, including several from much larger schools such as the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin and Ball State University.

Six other K students attended the festival with Levy and Homminga: Rebecca Chan ’22, Sedona Coleman ’23, Sophie Hill ’20, Mars Wilson ’20, Teyia Artis ’21 and Angela Mammel ’22. K faculty and staff who attended included Director of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts; Professor of Costume Design and Stage Makeup Lori Sands; Visiting Professor of Theatre History, Directing and Playwriting “C” Heaps; and Festival Playhouse Company Manager Laura Livingstone-McNelis ’89.

Kate Kreiss ’19, who works as a marketing coordinator for the Grand Theatre in Wausau, Wis., and Livingstone-McNelis, led a workshop on theatre arts administration and marketing.

“We’re very proud of our program here at K, and we welcome you all to attend our next production, Silent Sky, a real story about women astronomers, during Week 8 in the Festival Playhouse,” McNelis said.

Afrofuturism Artist Offers Talk, Workshop at K

This art from Stacey Robinson’s portfolio, titled Cosmic Listening, is inspired by a helmet from the 1970s American version of Gatchaman anime called Battle of the Planets. The young woman’s technology is all about flight, escape and mental preparedness in leaving a place of unrest.

A University of Illinois assistant graphic design professor spending the year at Harvard University as a Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellow will visit Kalamazoo College for two events next week.

Stacey Robinson’s multimedia work centers on Afrofuturism, which is a movement in literature, music and art that features futuristic or science fiction themes incorporating elements of Black history and culture. As part of the collaborative team “Black Kirby” with artist John Jennings, he creates graphic novels, gallery exhibitions and lectures that deconstruct the work of comic book creator Jack Kirby to re-imagine resistance spaces inspired by Black diasporic cultures. His current project focuses on his emerging sound practice, in which he creates the sonic experience of the Afrofuture through collaging House, Hip-Hop and other music to craft a harmonious soundscape that converses with the aesthetics of a corresponding art exhibition.

Robinson will conduct an artist talk at 5 p.m. Jan. 15 and a workshop at 5 p.m. Jan. 16 at the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership.

In the artist talk, titled Designing a Cooperative World Future, Robinson will discuss his artistic practice as a method of world-building by creating self-determined Black liberated futures.

Robinson’s workshop will be titled Afrofuturism: Character and World Building as Methodology. The event, open to up to 25 people, will focus on thinking about Afrofuturism through theories and lessons put into practice. It’s designed for all levels of familiarity with Afrofuturism, visual creation, sound and space. Robinson will lead participants in learning specific methods and practices of Afrofuturist methodologies so that they can build their own characters and worlds that use speculative design methods to create liberated worlds.

All of the events are free and open to students, faculty, staff and the community. For the Jan. 16 workshop, please email Fine Arts Office Coordinator Sarah Gillig at to reserve your spot in advance.

Prints of Robinson’s work will also be on display in an exhibition titled Afrofuture Worlds from Jan. 13-24 at Light Fine Arts. The lobby gallery hours are from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Organized by Dr. Anne Marie Butler, assistant professor of art and art history and women, gender and sexuality, Robinson’s visit is sponsored by the Kalamazoo College Department of Art and Art History, the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, and the Women, Gender and Sexuality program.

Percussion, Jazz, Classical Concerts Coming Soon

Three exciting days of concerts will feature music from jazz to percussion to classical collections as Kalamazoo College students showcase their talents in fall performances.

Taiko drummers concerts
The International Percussion Ensemble concert scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 13, will feature Kalamazoo College’s Taiko drummers.

The International Percussion Ensemble will perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, in the Dalton Theater at Light Fine Arts. The ensemble unites individuals with varied musical backgrounds from K, nearby institutions and the general community in West African and Japanese Taiko drumming. Carolyn Koebel manages both of the International Percussion Groups. Nathaniel Waller helps instruct the West African group.

Kalamazoo College’s Jazz Band, led by Music Professor Tom Evans, will perform a free concert, themed “Autumn in Madrid,” at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, in the Dalton Theater. The Jazz Band plays contemporary and classic jazz arrangements that deliver an enjoyable musical experience to delighted audiences. Dancing is encouraged by audience members, so have a wonderful time!

The Kalamazoo Philharmonia, under the direction of Associate Professor of Music Andrew Koehler, will perform a concert themed “Among Friends” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, in Dalton Theater. The performance will feature returning guest pianist Weiyin Chen, performing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  The orchestra will also perform works by composers Sir Edward William Elgar and Grażyna Bacewicz. Chen, a Taiwanese-American pianist who has studied with and received accolades from renowned masters such as conductor Leon Fleisher and pianists Richard Goode and Claude Frank, has performed recitals in France, Italy, Denmark, and India abroad, and New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Utah and Chicago in the U.S.

The Philharmonia is an orchestra of Kalamazoo College and the community. The group brings together students, faculty, and amateur and professional musicians. The group won the 2014 American Prize Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award for Orchestral Programming and has produced several CDs. It also has appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, and collaborated with the Bach Festival Chorus, as well as many renowned soloists. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for children and free for K students, faculty and staff who present a College ID.

For more information on any of these concerts, contact the Music Department at 269.337.7070 or


Spitfire Grill Opens Season of Women-Focused Plays

Three Performers from Spitfire Grill
Rebecca Chan ’22 (right) will play Percy and serve as the dramaturg for the Festival Playhouse production of Spitfire Grill. Sedona Coleman ’23 (left) will play Shelby and Sophie Hill ’20 (middle) will play Hannah.

Can a former prison inmate one day be redeemed, have healthy relationships and feel free from the person who once attacked her? The fall Festival Playhouse production of the musical Spitfire Grill examines these issues for parolee Percy Talbott, who tries to forge a new place for herself in the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin. There, she combats town gossip—mostly about herself—in a place that represents freedom, far from where she was attacked.

Rebecca Chan ’22 will play the lead role and serve as the production’s dramaturg.

“When (Percy) was in prison, she found a picture of Wisconsin in a travel book,” Chan said. “It looked open and free, so she decided she wanted to go there when she was released.”

As the dramaturg, Chan is responsible for working with the director, Visiting Professor “C” Heaps, on background research and how current events and perspectives might inform or shape the production. That means in addition to performing a critical role, Chan is preparing a lobby display and writing an essay that will further discuss the play’s themes including female empowerment, domestic abuse, redemption and the mistreatment of veterans, especially Vietnam War veterans.

The theme of female empowerment is especially important to Chan, who feels honored to participate in the Playhouse’s 56th season, which recognizes women in theater under the theme “HERstory: Forgotten Female Figures.”

Chan notes that many storylines in theatre productions are male-dominated, even as a majority of those participating in college theatre settings are women. “It’s nice to do a show where a majority of the performers are women and they’re a big influence on the show,” Chan said.

Spitfire Grill has three main characters, all of whom are women. Shelby, played by Sedona Coleman ’23, is a woman in her 30s who struggles to find connections outside of her emotionally abusive husband. Hannah, played by Sophie Hill ’20, is an elderly woman and the owner of the grill. Hannah has a son, Eli, who left to fight in Vietnam and has never returned. Like Percy, both are characters trying to find their place in Gilead.

“The town falls apart because Eli had been a symbol of hope and the future,” Chan said. “Eli’s missing status is the catalyst for everything falling apart. The play’s progression starts in the winter, and the costuming and dialogue reflect the progression of seasons. That’s followed by rebirth and more life in people’s lives before it ends in fall with the colored leaves.”

By the end, the three female characters who once were isolated and lonely become strong friends.

“It’s almost like they build their own family,” Chan said.

The show is accompanied by a live, five-person orchestra, performing on a piano, a guitar, a mandolin, a violin, a cello player and a keyboard tuned to sound like an accordion. Their folk-like music, derived from Appalachia, reflects Percy’s background as a West Virginia native.

The performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, through Saturday, Nov. 9, with a 2 p.m. showing on Sunday, Nov. 10. Tickets for all four shows at the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse are available by visiting or by calling 269.337.7333. Adults are $15, seniors are $10 and students are $5 with an ID. Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff are admitted free with their College IDs.

Learn more about Spitfire Grill at

Pianist Slates Free Concert at K

Pianist Sookkyung Cho
Pianist Sookkyung Cho will perform a free concert Thursday, Oct. 17, in Kalamazoo College’s Dalton Theater at Light Fine Arts.

A Korean-born professional pianist noted for her career appearances at venues such as Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and the Chicago Cultural Center will perform in a free concert at Kalamazoo College.

Sookkyung Cho will perform pieces by composers such as Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin and Alexander Scriabin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in Dalton Theater at Light Fine Arts. A founding member of the New York-based Almava Trio, Cho has been featured in major music festivals including Yellow Barn, Norfolk and Sarasota, and was a performing associate at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine.

Before her appointment as an assistant professor of piano at Grand Valley State University in fall 2015, Cho was a member of the piano and chamber music faculty at New England Conservatory Preparatory in Boston and the music theory faculty at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Cho earned her Bachelor of Music degree from Juilliard, where she was honored with the prestigious John Erskine Graduation Prize. She also has a Master of Music degree from the Peabody Institute and a Doctor of Musical Arts from Juilliard.

For more information about this concert, please contact the Music Department at 269.337.7070 or

Festival Playhouse to Amplify Women’s Voices in 56th Season

Kalamazoo College’s Festival Playhouse will celebrate its 56th season by honoring a tradition of empowering women through a community of theatre.

Festival Playhouse cMUMMA Twelfth Night
The Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College produced “Twelfth Night” last spring in its 55th season addressing assumption and confusion. Its 56th season will amplify women’s voices with Spitfire Grill, Silent Sky and Water by the Spoonful.

Under a theme of “HERstory: Forgotten Female Figures,” the three main stage plays will provide a realistic and meaningful look at women whose voices aren’t always heard—let alone amplified—and will reflect the work the Playhouse strives to accomplish offstage.

In the fall production of the musical Spitfire Grill by Fred Alley and James Valcq, parolee Percy Talbott tries to forge a new place for herself in the small town of Gilead, Wisconsin, as she combats town gossip, mostly about herself. In addition to female empowerment, the production’s themes include redemption, the economic problems of small towns, and the plight of Vietnam War veterans. The show will run Nov. 7-10.

Silent opens in the darkest months when the stars are brightest and runs Feb. 27-March 1. The play by Lauren Gunderson honors astronomer Henrietta Leavitt for the discoveries she made without recognition in her lifetime. In 1900, she has the opportunity to work at Harvard College Observatory, but is denied he opportunities of her male counterparts. Regardless, she enthusiastically begins tracking changes in Cepheid stars, leading to scientific discoveries that have long-term implications in the field of astronomy.

The season will conclude May 14-17 with the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes. The play follows Odessa Ortiz, who uses the screen name Haikumom to moderate a chat room that ministers to those struggling with addiction as her own family life falls apart.

All three shows will be produced at the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for seniors 65 and older, and $5 for students in the general public. Tickets are free to patrons who present a Kalamazoo College ID. Tickets will be available  beginning Sept. 16 at or by calling the box office at 269.337.7333.

Visit the Festival Playhouse website for more information on the upcoming theatre season and additional student productions.

World-Famous Cellist Performing with Philharmonia

World-Famous Cellist Amit Peled
Amit Peled, a world-famous cellist, will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday with the Kalamazoo Philharmonia at Light Fine Arts.

The Kalamazoo Philharmonia will welcome a world-famous cellist in one of two concerts taking place this weekend at Kalamazoo College.

Amit Peled, an Israeli musician acclaimed for his profound artistry and charismatic stage presence, will perform with the Philharmonia at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 1, in Dalton Theatre at Light Fine Arts. The concert, titled “True Virtuosity,” features Strum for String Orchestra by contemporary composer Jessie Montgomery, and Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski’s folk-inflected piece, Concerto for Orchestra.

The Philharmonia, directed by Kalamazoo College Associate Professor of Music Andrew Koehler, is an orchestra of Kalamazoo College and the community. The group brings together students, faculty, and amateur and professional musicians. The group won the 2014 American Prize Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award for Orchestral Programming and has produced several CDs. It also has appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, and collaborated with the Bach Festival Chorus, as well as many renowned soloists.

Tickets for the Philharmonia concert will be available at the door. They cost $5 for adults and seniors, and $2 for students. Kalamazoo College students are admitted free.

The College Singers will also perform this weekend in a free concert titled “America: WTF,” exploring freedoms, fears and fairness as they relate to American democracy. The performance is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. Sunday at Stetson Chapel. Admission is free.

The choir will sing a variety of songs ranging from selections predating American colonists, to a modern rhythm-and-blues selection from Janelle Monae titled Americans. The program, while weighty, entertains and informs, through the group’s 32 singers. Songs such as Thomas Tallis’ Audivi vocem di caelo will be performed in four-part polyphony interspersed with a chant to question concepts such as Manifest Destiny. Musical theatre repertoire from Jason Robert Brown’s New World, one of his earliest works, is also presented in a quartet of K seniors.

The College Singers is led by Assistant Music Professor Chris Ludwa, who is also the director of the Kalamazoo Bach Festival. The ensemble includes music majors and non-music majors alike, offering a different approach to choral singing.

For more information on either concert, email Susan Lawrence in the Music Department or call 269-337-7070.

Academy Street Winds, Jazz Band to Perform Spring Concerts

The Academy Street Winds will put the zoo in Kalamazoo with a spring concert titled “Animal Crackers” at 8 p.m. this Friday. It’s one of two Kalamazoo College music ensembles scheduled to perform this weekend in Dalton Theater at Light Fine Arts.

Academy Street Winds Spring Concert
Music Professor Tom Evans will lead the Academy Street Winds in one of two spring concerts scheduled for this weekend.

This spring concert will feature pieces about animals, from Eric Whitacre’s The Seal Lullaby to Lion King Highlights by Elton John. Music Professor Tom Evans, serving as the ensemble’s conductor, will weave the animal world together from sky to land and sea to convey that animals provide us with great benefits we would otherwise miss in our lives.

The Academy Street Winds provides a performance outlet for woodwind, brass and percussion students. Community musicians joined the ensemble in winter 2016 to expand the group’s sound and capabilities.

The group performs one concert each term, playing exciting arrays of challenging band music. The ensemble is a favorite of audiences as the programs are coordinated around diverse themes, which allow for performances of much-loved pieces, both classic and contemporary.

A second ensemble, known for encouraging audience members to dance and twist at performances, will invoke a theme of “Dizzying” this weekend.

K’s Jazz Band will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday. This band, also directed by Evans, pulls together an eclectic collection of contemporary and classic jazz arrangements to provide both the student performers and the audience with an electric experience.

Evans, in an International Jazz Day interview, said the band’s play list will include some early jazz, swing, bop, fusion, funk and Latin varieties. Hear past performances through the music department’s Jazz Band website.

For more information on either spring concert, please contact Susan Lawrence in the Music Department at 269.337.7070 or

Twelfth Night Coming to Festival Playhouse

A Shakespearean comedy featuring a shipwreck, a love triangle and a secret identity is coming soon to Kalamazoo College. The Festival Playhouse will present Twelfth Night, known as one of Shakespeare’s liveliest comedies and a complex look at love and gender identity, as its spring production.

Twelfth Night dress rehearsal cMUMMA lo 0059
Sophie Hill ’20, Jorence Quiambao ’21, Trevor Loduem-Jackson ’21 and Kate Kreiss ’19 rehearse for their roles in the Festival Playhouse production of Twelfth Night.

In the play, Duke Orsino of Illyria falls in love with Olivia, who rejects him. Viola shipwrecks on Orsino’s shores. With the help of a captain, Viola disguises herself as a man, calling herself Cesario to enter Orsino’s service. Orsino sends Cesario to woo Olivia for him not realizing Cesario is really Viola, who begins to fall in love with Orsino. As Cesario charms Olivia, Olivia falls in love with Cesario, again rejecting Orsino.

Everybody got that? Welcome to the final installation in this season’s Playhouse theme, Assumption and Confusion.

“With Shakespeare, you know (the comedy) is going to be funny,” said Rebecca Chan ’22, who is serving as the play’s dramaturg. “You just never know how much until you act it out. Both (Director Karen Berthel) and the actors have been good at finding those moments. People love Shakespeare, but this play is one of Shakespeare’s more accessible works.”

In her role as a dramaturg for Twelfth Night, Chan is responsible for working with the director on background research and how current events and perspectives might inform or shape the production. Chan will oversee a lobby display, which will promote the idea that queerness isn’t a modern phenomenon, emphasizing the character Viola, who poses as Cesario. Chan said she hopes the display will be educational and help debunk some misconceptions about gender and queerness, while contextualizing those themes for the audience.

“In classic literature, many characters were gender queer or presented differently from how you would expect,” Chan said. “The myth is that queerness is a modern concept. It’s really as old as time.”

The play will run from Thursday, May 16-Sunday, May 19. Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday show will start at 2 p.m. All shows are at the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse Theatre, 139 Thompson St.

Tickets are available through the Playhouse’s online box office. They cost $15 for adults, $10 for seniors 65 and older, and $5 for students. Tickets for Kalamazoo College students, faculty and staff are free when they present K-IDs at the door.

For more information on the play, visit the Playhouse’s website.