A Kalamazoo College alumnus has a plan to ensure all the world’s a stage for the theatre industry now and in the future, despite the drama that COVID-19 has caused behind the scenes.
Cody Colvin ’18 traveled the country in about 45 days this spring with the staff of his business, Colvin Theatrical, to film 11 of the 12 Outstanding Production nominees at this year’s American Association of Community Theatre (AACT) Festival. His travels to cities from Lexington, Massachusetts, to Spokane, Washington, helped Colvin show the industry how recorded or streaming broadcasts of theatre events have the potential to widen audiences from the few sitting in theaters to thousands more regardless of their location.
“There’s one element to the filming, which was protecting theaters during the pandemic and helping them get back some of the revenue they might have lost,” Colvin said. “But what we’re really excited about is the prospect of growing the industry. We’ve found that there are companies that are doing better with streaming than they were in person, and the reason for that is scale.”
Scale is the opportunity to increase revenue at a faster rate than costs, which is one of the ideas Colvin studied as a business major at K.
“Scale in the theatre industry is basically impossible when you have a limited number of seats that you can sell,” he added. “Theaters at every level, whether they be community colleges or Broadway companies, could only sell so many seats, and their costs continued to rise. Filming creates an interactive experience that allows companies to scale their audience and reach people all over the world.”
Colvin’s filming opportunities developed when he first helped K’s Festival Playhouse rethink its plans for the 2020 productions of Kokoro and K. His streaming services gave a silver lining of optimism to what otherwise might’ve been a lost season and Colvin was grateful for the work experience.
That work was key for Colvin in attracting the attention of the AACT Festival, which affirms, supports and nurtures actors, directors and producers in community-theatre companies. The event, normally conducted every other year in person, needed to be virtual in 2021 because of the pandemic. That meant the Outstanding Festival Production nominees needed to be filmed with a presentational touch absent in the single-camera video submissions they initially provided festival judges. Colvin’s services provided the solution.
“With our cameras, our broadcasting equipment and the way we shoot these productions, it’s very interactive and theatrical,” Colvin said. “You occasionally have moving shots, you have multiple cameras, and you have really good audio so you’re able to get an experience that is a mix of theatre and film to take a story to the rest of the world. Video has a place in every level of theater and there’s always going to be an expanded audience that any theater at any level can find.”
Colvin and his team used Blackmagic Design products, including video-editing tools and digital film cameras, to produce film with a cinematic quality that drew rave reviews from the theatre companies. Colvin Theatrical is also partnering with Blackmagic Design to create a website, FilmingTheatre.com, that will launch in September. The interactive site will help teach theaters around the world how to film and broadcast their shows. There also will be a documentary film of their work on the site to show the production process.
“When you have the trust of all those people, you want to do it as well as you possibly can and they were very happy with us,” he said. “When you’re able to look back and say, ‘Yes, we did that as well as we possibly could have and it was a success,’ that’s an amazing feeling. The reactions are just amazing.”
Colvin admitted some might still prefer an in-person theatre experience to streaming even if they have to pay a premium for tickets. However, filming and streaming can only widen opportunities for audiences and theatre companies alike.
“Anything that you once knew as live, whether it be a few years ago or a couple decades ago, is finding a home on television,” he said. “We think theatre’s going to be no different. When I watch a Lions game, I actually prefer watching on TV because I see the best angles that way. I can hear commentary, I can see pretty much every angle of the game, and I can do it from the comfort of my own home. It’s not a direct parallel, but I think it’s where the theatre industry is headed.”
Colvin often worked at the Festival Playhouse at K. That and his experiences as a business major are fueling what stands to be his success now and in the future with much of the credit going to faculty members such as Professor of Theatre Arts Lanny Potts, Edward and Virginia Van Dalson Professor of Economics Patrick Hultberg, L. Lee Stryker Associate Professor of Business Management Amy MacMillan and Associate Professor of Economics and Business Timothy Moffit.
“The College gave me an education that allows me to be an entrepreneur at 25,” Colvin said. “I use what I learned in the business department and the theatre department every day. I use the negotiation skills I learned with Patrik Hultberg, accounting with Dr. Moffit, and marketing with Professor MacMillan. So much of how I think about business is structured based on how they taught me. I couldn’t be more thankful for my time at K.”
A deluge of trouble floods characters in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Water by the Spoonful, coming this week to the Festival Playhouse at Kalamazoo College.
In the play, moderator “Haikumom,” also known as Odessa Ortiz, leads a chat room for recovering drug addicts. From behind their screens, the participants don’t expect to ever meet each other in person yet develop helpful bonds that assist them in recovery.
Off the internet, however, Odessa’s real-life family is suffering through separate issues in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Her biological son, Elliot, has returned from the Iraq War with post-traumatic stress disorder, and her sister is dying of cancer. Alonte Mitchell-Presley ’21 plays Odessa and Trevor Loduem-Jackson ’21 portrays Elliot.
In other roles, Rebecca Chan ’22 plays “Orangutan;” Petra Rodriguez ’21 takes the role of Yazmin Ortiz; Natalie Markech ’21 portrays “Fountainhead;” and Arman Khan ’24 plays Elliot’s ghost. Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Bianca Washington will serve as director. The play is the second in a trilogy of plays by Quiara Alegria Hudes. The first was Elliot, a Soldier’s Fugue. The third was The Happiest Song Plays Last.
“I really think this a play that can appeal to everyone,” said Meaghan Hartman ’23, who is serving as the play’s dramaturg. “There might be some parts that are more relatable for most of the audience, but it’s such a powerful story about trauma in families. I just think it’s super impactful, really for anyone.”
As the dramaturg, Hartman researched the history behind the play, which is set in 2009. Although the Great Recession was of primary concern then, Hartman needed to know what troops experienced with PTSD during the Iraq War and learn about the implications of crack and opioid addiction. That exploration helped her create a lobby display at the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse that will help audiences better understand the characters in Water by the Spoonful. That lobby display is available in an online format for virtual audiences.
“This can be a very triggering show for some people, and the lobby display will help set the tone,” Hartman said. “There are a lot of facts about how the themes apply to life here in Kalamazoo, especially with crack addiction and opioid overdoses in our own city. It’s been interesting to figure out how to illustrate those feelings and experiences to the audience.”
Playhouse staff have implemented strict Actors Equity Association COVID-19 compliance safety guidelines and protocols that will allow for live audiences in socially-distanced pods in the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse, 129 Thompson St. Live productions will be available at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Reserve your tickets through the Playhouse’s Ludus system box office. Adult tickets 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. No tickets will be sold at the door because of the limited number of tickets available.
A virtual broadcast will be available with the Friday production. To watch for $5 from the comfort of your home, purchase your access online.
“We’re just excited to start doing live theater again,” Hartman said. “Professor Lanny Potts opens just about every single play meeting with how grateful we are, recognizing that there are actors, theatre technicians and directors who are unable to do it. We’re pleased and thankful.”
If you’ve ever wanted to choose a character’s fate when you’re watching a play, Kalamazoo College’s Festival Playhouse has a production coming this week you’ll want to see.
Originally devised and produced at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, The Compass explores technology’s impact on decision-making. When an app tells Marjan, played by Xochitl Robertson ’23, to commit a crime to prevent a mass shooting at her school, the audience helps decide her fate by answering whether she should be held accountable.
“The Compass poses several questions that we seek to answer together with the audience,” said Visiting Professor of Theatre Arts “C” Heaps, the play’s director. “What role does technology play in our lives? When does the greater good outweigh the strictly lawful? What, ultimately, is the right thing to do?”
Through a series of flashbacks and real-time scenes, the in-person audience learns the full story of her decision, and ultimately influences the trial’s outcome.
“The audience acts as a jury for the trial at the heart of the play,” Heaps said. “Juror facilitators lead discussions with them at key points in the play and then represent their section’s opinions on stage. The biggest challenge was finding a way to seamlessly take a vote, collate those responses and get them back to the jury foreperson, who is on stage the whole time, so he can announce the verdict. We also had to provide multiple options for sound cues to account for different choices by the audience.”
The cast includes Trevor Loduem-Jackson ’21 as Chaz Perez and Kenneth, Isaac Presberg ’24 as an entrepreneur and Mr. Ferguson, Meaghan Hartman ’23 as Ada and Blanca, Emma Fergusson ’22 as prosecutor and Ms. Ellis, and Matthew Swarthout ’22 as a defense lawyer and principal. Arman Khan ’24, Abby Nelson ’24, Brooklyn Moore ’24, John Carlson ’23 and Melody Kondoff ’24 serve as jurors and facilitators.
Playhouse staff have implemented strict Actors Equity Association COVID-19 compliance safety guidelines and protocols for The Compass that will allow for live audiences in socially-distanced pods in the Nelda Balch Playhouse, 129 Thompson St. Live productions will be available at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Reserve your tickets through the Playhouse’s Ludus system box office. Adult tickets 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.
A virtual broadcast will be available with the Friday production. To watch for $5 from the comfort of your home, purchase your access online.
A Festival Playhouse production written over the past two years by Kalamazoo College students is challenging administrators and faculty to better fight institutional racism, and students to consider their own biases.
In the play, simply titled K, Aija Turner ’23 portrays Juanita, a student who encounters the ghosts of former Kalamazoo College President Weimer K. Hicks, played by Isaac Presberg ’24, and Festival Playhouse Founder Nelda K. Balch, played by Claire de Vries ’24.
The dialogue, presented in virtual conversations, shows how the College’s policies and historical events are still leading to friction between students, and injustice on campus through issues the institution never publicized, examined or resolved, especially as K’s faculty demographics don’t match the diversity of its students.
The play was written with Jens Rasmussen of the Bechdel Project providing exploratory scenarios, Emilio Rodriguez of the Black and Brown Theatre Company providing guidance and sustaining support, and dramaturgy provided by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts “C” Heaps. Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Lori Sands served as the costume designer.
Watch K at any time through Vimeo. Stay online after the play for a discussion with some of the writers and actors. Read the online program, assembled by Rebecca Chan ’22, at the Festival Playhouse website.
More than 250 students were recognized Friday during the annual Honors Day Convocation for excellence in academics and leadership. Students were recognized in six divisions: Fine Arts, Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, Humanities, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Social Sciences, and Physical Education. Recipients of prestigious scholarships were recognized, as were members of national honor societies and students who received special Kalamazoo College awards. Student athletes and teams who won Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association awards also were honored. The students receiving Honors Day awards or recognition are listed below. Watch the recorded event at our website.
FINE ARTS DIVISION
Brian Gougeon Prize in Art
Awarded to a sophomore student who, during his or her first year, exhibited outstanding achievement and potential in art.
Margaret Upton Prize in Music
Provided by the Women’s Council of Kalamazoo College and awarded each year to a student designated by the Music Department Faculty as having made significant achievement in music.
For a junior or senior showing excellence in a piece of creative work in a Theatre Arts class: film, acting, design, stagecraft, puppetry or speech.
Given for the best oral presentation in a speech-oriented class.
Theatre Arts First-Year Student Award
Given to a sophomore for outstanding departmental efforts during the first year.
MODERN AND CLASSICAL LANGUAGES AND LITERATURES DIVISION
LeGrand Copley Prize in French
Awarded to the sophomore who as a first-year student demonstrated the greatest achievement in French.
Hardy Fuchs Award
Given for excellence in first-year German.
Margo Light Award
Given for excellence in second-or third-year German.
Romance Languages Department Prize in Spanish
Awarded for excellence in the first year in Spanish.
Clara H. Buckley Prize for Excellence in Latin
Awarded to an outstanding student of the language of the ancient Romans.
Provost’s Prize in Classics
Awarded to that student who writes the best essay on a classical subject.
Classics Department Prize in Greek
Awarded to the outstanding student of the language of classical Greece.
Allen Prize in English
Given for the best essay written by a member of the first-year class.
John B. Wickstrom Prize in History
Awarded for excellence in the first year’s work in history.
Department of Philosophy Prize
Awarded for excellence in any year’s work in philosophy.
L.J. and Eva (“Gibbie”) Hemmes Memorial Prize in Philosophy
Awarded to a sophomore who in the first year shows the greatest promise for continuing studies in philosophy.
NATURAL SCIENCES AND MATHEMATICS DIVISION
Department of Chemistry Prize
Awarded for excellence in the first year’s work in chemistry.
First-Year Chemistry Award
Awarded to a sophomore student who, during the first year, demonstrated great achievement in chemistry.
Lemuel F. Smith Award
Given to a student majoring in chemistry pursuing the American Chemical Society approved curriculum and having at the end of the junior year the highest average standing in courses taken in chemistry, physics and mathematics.
Computer Science Prize
Awarded for excellence in the first year’s work in computer science.
First-Year Mathematics Award
Given annually to the sophomore student who, during the first year, demonstrated the greatest achievement in mathematics.
Thomas O. Walton Prize in Mathematics
Awarded to a member of the junior class for excellence in the work of the first two years in mathematics.
Cooper Prize in Physics
Given for excellence in the first year’s work in physics.
SOCIAL SCIENCES DIVISION
Departmental Prize in Anthropology and Sociology
Awarded for excellence during the first and/or second year’s work.
Wallace Lawrence Prize in Economics
Awarded annually to a student who has done outstanding work in the Department of Economics and Business during the sophomore year.
William G. Howard Memorial Prize
Awarded for excellence in any year’s work in economics.
Wallace Lawrence Prize in Business
Awarded annually to a student who has done outstanding work in the Department of Economics and Business during the sophomore year.
Irene and S. Kyle Morris Prize
Awarded for excellence in the first year’s courses in the Department of Economics and Business.
William G. Howard Memorial Prize in Political Science
Awarded for excellence in any year’s work in political science.
Department of Psychology First-Year Student Prize
Awarded for excellence in the first-year student’s work in psychology.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION DIVISION
Division of Physical Education Prize
Awarded to those students who as first-year students best combined leadership and scholarship in promoting athletics, physical education and recreation.
Maggie Wardle Prize
Awarded to that sophomore woman whose activities at the College reflect the values that Maggie Wardle demonstrated in her own life. The recipient will show a breadth of involvement in the College through her commitment to athletics and to the social sciences and/or community service.
Henry and Inez Brown Prize
National Merit Scholars (Class of 2024)
Awarded annually to a student who, in the judgment of the faculty, submits the most creative essay on the year’s topic.
Yung Seo Lee
Alpha Lamda Delta
Alpha Lambda Delta is a national honor society that recognizes excellence in academic achievement during the first college year. To be eligible for membership, students must earn a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 and be in the top 20 percent of their class during the first year. The Kalamazoo College chapter was installed on March 5, 1942.
Mary Margaret Cashman
Violet T. Crampton
Charles Pasquale DiMagno
Nathaniel Harris Fuller
Ian Becks Hurley
Emily Robin Kaneko Dudd
Benjamin Tyler Keith
Isabella Grace Kirchgessner
Sofia Rose Klein
Lena Thompson Klemm
Am Phuong Le
Alvaro J. Lopez Gutierrez
Kanase J. Matsuzaki
Aleksandr V. Molchagin
Arein D. Motan
Stefan Louis Nielsen
Jenna Clare Paterob
Sheyla Yasmin Pichal
Isabelle G. Ragan
Abby L. Rawlings
Hannia Queren Sanchez-Alvarado
Madeline Gehl Schroeder
Alex M Stolberg
Clara Margaret Szakas
Chilotam Christopher Urama
Elizabeth G. Wang
Margaret L. Wedge
Ryley Kay White
Enlightened Leadership Awards
These teams earned the 2019-2020 MIAA Team GPA Award for achieving a 3.3 or better grade-point average for the entire academic year:
Men’s Cross Country
Women’s Cross Country
Women’s Swimming and Diving
MIAA Academic Honor Roll
Student Athletes 2019-2020
The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association each year honors students at MIAA member colleges who achieve in the classroom and in athletic competition. Students need to be a letter winner in a varsity sport and maintain at least a 3.5 grade point average for the entire academic year.
After assembling, shipping and delivering several large kits, Kalamazoo College Theatre Arts Professor Lanny Potts can say, “Let there be light.”
Normally, Potts’ lighting design course, conducted each fall, would use a light lab filled with hundreds of lights and pieces of lighting equipment to guide his students. This term, though, required some quick thinking for their three projects when classes were moved online.
“We couldn’t bring the students to the light lab, so we were going to bring the light lab to the students,” Potts said.
It took four weeks and many assistants to pack all the materials, yet he sent 15 kits containing items including seven lightbulbs, several feet of wiring, dimmers and a professional mannequin head. You can watch a video of Potts and student workers assembling the materials through YouTube. FedEx delivered one kit to Texas and five throughout the Midwest. He personally delivered the other nine to students living locally.
“Lighting design is very unique,” Potts said. “It’s an ephemeral art form. It’s there and when the light changes, it’s gone. That’s a challenging thing to learn in isolation.” However, it’s beneficial for students to study lighting regardless of their major and where they’re doing it from, especially in the liberal arts.
“Lighting is always about problem solving,” Potts said. “I can’t think of a better thing to engage in than doing live event production or lighting design. I always end up doing something I’ve never tried before. Sometimes you ask, ‘What are the tools you have in your tool box?’ You then try some things and see what works.”
In the first project, students find an image of a painting and reproduce it at the size of a postcard. The second project involves taking 30 to 60 seconds of music without lyrics and making a video that includes light cues to that music. Finally, students use their lights to help them re-create a scene from a play through a lighting plot, similar to an architectural blueprint. In all these projects, the intensity, color, angle and distribution of light are important.
“It’s been fun,” Potts said. “I do know that by receiving these lighting kits, the students will be able to do everything we do here. They won’t have access to the hundreds of lights we have, but they will all be able to show all the things a light does.”
Potts, a professional lighting designer and consultant, has worked in international lighting and production design; national tour designs for opera and dance; and regional designs for opera, modern dance, ballet, drama and corporate events. He also earned his third Best in Lighting Design Wilde Award from EncoreMichigan.com in 2019 for his work in a 2018 Farmers Alley Theatre production of Bridges of Madison County in Kalamazoo.
“I absolutely love light,” he said. “How lucky am I to do something I love to do? Most of my students aren’t going to be professional lighting designers. But I feel when you learn a lot about light, it teaches you to be a keen, critical observer. And being a great observer of things around you, that’s a great life skill.”
The Kalamazoo College Festival Playhouse is producing two plays this fall with the first available now through a performance that was recorded October 23.
Kokoro, meaning True Heart, was directed by Ynika Yuag ’21 as a part of her Senior Individualized Project (SIP). The play, filmed in front of a small audience of socially distanced invited guests in the lobby of the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse, explores the struggle of a young Japanese mother as she tries to navigate the foreign culture of the United States. The countries’ cultures and moral codes clash after Yasako, played by Rebecca Chan ’22, commits a horrible crime.
Other cast members include Fadi Muallem ’24 as Hiro, Autumn Buhl ’21 as Angela, Milan Levy ’23 as Evelyn, and Karly Paige Im ’21 (of Western Michigan University) as Shizuko. Costume Designer Marie Townsend ’21, Scenic Designer Chris Diaz ’21 and Stage Manager Teyia Artis ’21 also worked on the play for their SIPs.
A second production, simply titled K, is an original script that was devised by K students last spring to explore systemic racism. More information will be coming soon about how you can see it November 5-8.
Much like an astronomer who draws constellation patterns, Aly Homminga ’20 is connecting the dots.
Homminga serves as both the dramaturg and lead actor for the Kalamazoo College Festival Playhouse production of Silent Sky. As the dramaturg, Homminga researches topics and time periods addressed in the play to assist Director Ren Berthel in teaching the actors about their characters and the play’s settings. As the lead actor, she connects those ideas to her portrayal of real-life astronomer Henrietta Leavitt.
“Dramaturgy is important, especially for Silent Sky as a period piece,” said Homminga, a theatre arts and religion double major from East Lansing. “If a director’s job is about artistic vision, dramaturgy is about facts and the time period of the play. This play goes on an arc of about 15 years, so I have to make sure Henrietta is different at the beginning than at the end. Playing Henrietta has given me a chance to test my skills and create a character who’s real yet flawed and different from me.”
The production is set in the early 1900s, as Leavitt begins working at the Harvard College Observatory, part of Dr. Edward Pickering’s “harem,” as they were known. Leavitt and her female colleagues mapped stars by taking pictures of glass plates and analyzing them, receiving no scientific credit for the discoveries they made along the way. Leavitt’s discoveries related to cepheids, which are stars that brighten and dim, and how they can be used to measure astronomical distances. Edwin Hubble, the namesake of the Hubble Telescope, confirmed the validity of Leavitt’s discoveries about 20 years later, and her work has been credited with transforming the field of astronomy.
Leavitt’s work with fellow scientists Annie Cannon and Williamina Fleming, portrayed in Silent Sky by Sophie Hill ’20 and Milan Levy ’23 respectively, builds a theme of feminism in the play. It’s the second of three plays in the Festival Playhouse’s 56th season following forgotten female figures. Other actors include Rose Hannan ’23, who plays Leavitt’s fictional yet inspirational sister Margaret; and Rigo Quintero ’22 as Peter Shaw, the head astronomer’s apprentice.
“I think this play is unique in the season because much of it is historical,” Homminga said. “It also marks an intersection between theatre, women’s studies and science, when science isn’t talked about or explored a lot in theatre. We want to reach out to science professors and classes, and let them see this as an opportunity to see their history, especially that of women in science.”
Scientific minds are bound to appreciate a set design developed by Wynd Raven, a local artist who was commissioned to paint the Festival Playhouse stage as a nebula, which is a cloud of gas and dust in space sometimes visible in the night sky. In addition, Homminga is creating a lobby display in her dramaturgical role. The display will focus on life at the Harvard observatory and the roles of women at the turn of the century to create an atmosphere in the context of the play that will appeal to scientists and general audiences alike.
Silent Sky will run from Thursday, Feb. 27-Sunday, March 1. 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, 129 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 are free when they present K-IDs at the door. Faculty and staff may receive up to two tickets free with their IDs. For more information on the play, visit the Playhouse’s website.
Theatre Kalamazoo’s 10th annual New PlayFest will highlight Kalamazoo College talent thanks to playwrights Rebecca Chan ’22 and Emma Fergusson ’22, and Director Trevor Loduem-Jackson ’21.
Their plays, Record,Harold and Taco, and Old Friends respectively, will premier during the event, along with five other plays written by local playwrights and performed by local actors and directors.
The festival focuses on playwrights and play writing, rather than the production of plays, making it different from most festivals. Playwrights attend all the rehearsals and watch the directors work with actors to bring their scripts to life. Playwrights are encouraged by the festival producers to continue to edit their scripts all the way through technical rehearsals. That means actors are told not to memorize their lines because the lines might change. The public presentations are staged readings, meaning scripts must stay in the actors’ hands, even during the performance. The New PlayFest was established by K Professor Emeritus Ed Menta in collaboration with Steve Feffer of Western Michigan University in 2010.
Each of the plays is about 10 minutes long, and — in their own ways — examine human relationships and reconciling the past. Chan’s Record, for example, is about two strangers who meet on a bench in Central Park. Ally compulsively writes in a journal and Gale desires new connections in the big city.
Through small talk and journal entries, they contemplate which of their memories are worthwhile, how much people should let their past affect their present, and whether anyone has any control over their past or their present.
“I wrote this play because reconciling the past is a struggle we all face,” Chan said. “Sometimes, under the burden of regret, we forget that the shame and embarrassment in our personal histories can provide us with the motivation to change for the better. Record is not an optimistic play, but I think it provides some avenues for self-reflection, allowing audiences to think more critically about how they deal with their own memories.”
Chan also had an additional motive for writing Record.
“I also wanted to provide opportunities for individuals often marginalized in theatre,” she said. “Throughout the play, Ally stims, which could be interpreted as a sign of autism or anxiety, and Gale is scripted using gender-neutral pronouns. I wanted to provide actors from marginalized communities with the opportunity to play characters like them and present these characters without their marginalization defining them.”
Chan added she is thrilled to have her play premier at Theatre Kalamazoo’s New PlayFest after acting for the event last year.
“The ability to work with actors and a director to refine my script has been a true joy, and I’ve learned a lot about my own writing and progress,” Chan said.
Fergusson’s Harold and Taco is a play she wrote in a K play writing class led by Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts C Heaps.
“Over the course of the class, I was able to develop the play and present it in the form of a staged reading,” Fergusson said. “It was also through this class that I learned about Theatre Kalamazoo’s New PlayFest.”
Harold and Taco are hamsters. Their existence and disappearance are the reasons why the two main characters, Michael and Nadine, must face each other and address their relationship problems.
“It’s real and painful, but also very comedic in a lot of ways,” Fergusson said. “Kalamazoo has such a strong, wonderful theatre community and I’m really glad to be a part of it. To have the opportunity not only to present my work to the public, but to collaborate with local artists and bring the script to life is one of the greatest experiences I could hope for as a writer.”
Loduem-Jackson is directing Old Friends, written by Shelby Alexander, a Kalamazoo high school student. In the play, Natasha struggles to handle the pressures of being a modern American teenager. That leads to her humidifier, Mrs. Peanuts, coming to life and giving advice.
“It has been such a learning process and I am so grateful for the cast and the playwright for trusting the process,” Loduem-Jackson said. “As the director, I am learning what it means to build meaningful relationships between the characters. It is hard to find those connections, especially in a 10-minute show. The cast has been great at finding those connections.”
“Truly, there is nothing better than seeing the precious words you crafted form into a beautiful work of performing art,” Alexander added.
New PlayFest begins Friday, Feb. 14, with Romance Guaranteed, a romantic comedy by Art Nemitz, at the Civic Theatre. More information is available at the theatre’s website.
All plays will premier Saturday, Feb. 15, with two presentations each: Old Friends and Record at 2 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m.; Harold and Taco at 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 16. All are at the Judy K. Jolliffe Theatre inside the Epic Center in downtown Kalamazoo. All Feb. 15 and 16 New PlayFest events are free and no reservations are required. More information about New PlayFest is available at Theatre Kalamazoo’s website and its Facebook page.
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.
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.
“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.