Co-writer Mary Holland ’07, stars in Hulu’s acclaimed holiday movie “Happiest Season”

Co-writer Mary Holland ’07, stars in Hulu’s acclaimed holiday movie “Happiest Season”

Mary Holland, a 2007 BFA graduate of the NIU School of Theatre and Dance is the co-writer and co-star of Hulu’s acclaimed new holiday movie, Happiest Season. Holland co-wrote the romantic comedy with Clea DuVall, whom she starred with on HBO’s Veep, and the film also stars Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Dan Levy, Mary Steenburgen, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, and Victor Garber. The film follows a woman (Davis) who brings her partner (Stewart) home to meet her family for the holidays while she struggles to come out to her conservative parents.

(more…)

Watch: Dr. Ellen Winner’s guest lecture, “How Art Works: Five Puzzles”

Watch: Dr. Ellen Winner’s guest lecture, “How Art Works: Five Puzzles”

In her lecture, “How Arts Works: Five Puzzles,” presented to NIU School of Art and Design, November 10, artist and experimental psychologist Dr. Ellen Winner discusses puzzles about the arts that have preoccupied philosophers as well as the general public. Can art be defined? Why do we seek out art that elicits negative emotions like sadness and fear? Why do we devalue a revered work once it is outed as a forgery? Is abstract art something “my kid could have done”? Does art enhance empathy? As a social scientist, she has tried to answer some of these questions through interviews, observations, and experiments. What she and other psychologists have found reveals surprising answers to these artistic mysteries, and helps us understand how art works on us.

Dancing Together Forward: Fall 2020 Dance Concert premieres Nov. 20

Dancing Together Forward: Fall 2020 Dance Concert premieres Nov. 20

The NIU School of Theatre and Dance presents Dancing Together Forward: Fall 2020 Dance Concert with six airings over the next two weeks, premiering Friday, November 20 at 7 p.m. on YouTube.

This screen dance was made in collaboration with the dancers and choreographers of the School of Theatre and Dance and the artists of NIU’s Integrated Media Technologies. It was filmed and produced at locations all throughout our NIU campus.

The artists want to acknowledge that the place where they study and make their art sits upon the traditional homelands of the Sauk, Meskwaki and Potawatomi nations.This collaborative project is the culmination of a classroom exploration, not a production to which they are selling tickets. The performance will only be available for viewing during the six live airings:

Friday, November 20, 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 20, 7 p.m.
Sunday, November 21, 7 p.m.
Thursday, November 26, 7 p.m.
Friday, November 27, 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 28, 7 p.m.

All participants of this project, including the dancers, videographer and crew, were socially distanced during its filming.

Credits

Production Team

Director / Marc Macaranas
Choreographers / Judith Chitwood, Paula Frasz, Rich Grund, Marc Macaranas
Stage Manager / Luke Harmon
Videography / Jim Barker, Len Lennergard
Editing / Jim Barker
Technical Coordination / Brandon Wardell
Lighting Design/Light Grips / Len Lennergrad, Aidan Murphy, Alexa Wiljanen
Master Electrician/Advisor / Chris Kursewski
Props Director / Dave Doherty

Dance Pieces by Order of Appearance

Dancer: Mat Skorupski
Choreography: Marc Macaranas

Dancer: Kai Poe
Choreography: Rich Grund

Dancer: Rachel Day
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Makenzie Tarpinian
Choreography: Marc Macaranas

Dancer: Abigail Kresno
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Abigail Kresno
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Katherine Taylor
Choreography Marc Macaranas

Dancer: Taryn Sarto
Choreography: Judith Chitwood

Dancer: Elisabeth Pierce
Choreography: Marc Macaranas

Dancer: Tianna Stubbs
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Sydney Hamill
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Natalie Sanchez
Choreography: Marc Macaranas

Dancer: Kate Drury
Choreography: Judith Chitwood

Dancer: Darya Ellickson
Choreography: Rich Grund

Dancer: Ashley Luoma
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: George Curtis
Choreography: Judith Chitwood

Dancer: Ashley Gale
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Taneya Ball
Choreographer: Rich Grund

Dancer: Victoria Herrera
Choreography: Rich Grund

Dancer: Gabrielle Knecht
Choreography: Rich Grund

Dancer: Madelyn Maxwell
Choreography: Rich Grund

Dancer: Ansley Pierce
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Amanda Schierer
Choreography: Rich Grund

Dancer: Jack Goings
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Madison Haag
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Renae Frank
Choreography: Rich Grund

Dancer: Anna Lindstrom
Choreography: Judith Chitwood

Dancer: Ariana Williams
Choreography: Marc Macaranas

Dancer: Shania Freelon
Choreography: Marc Macaranas

Dancer: Alexsandra Rockman
Choreography: Paula Frasz

Dancer: Gwen Jones
Choreography: Marc Macaranas

Girls and Dolls cast and crew take ‘explore the space’ to new limits

Girls and Dolls cast and crew take ‘explore the space’ to new limits

There is a certain satisfaction that can be achieved in finding a solution to a problem that you not only have never faced, but had never anticipated. The cast and crew of the recent production of Girls and Dolls in the NIU School of Theatre and Dance certainly know that feeling.

They started planning for the production in June, uncertain about what restrictions might still be in place in the fall for productions, rehearsals and even classes. As the semester drew closer, it became apparent that even a show with just four cast members was going to be a challenge.

Kay Martinovich, the director, and Associate Professor of Acting and Head of Performance in the school said that a summer full of planning did not have to be scrapped, but it did have to be reimagined.

“I had been working all summer with our scenic designer, Therese Ritchie, who is an MFA grad, our costume designer, Jeremy Floyd and our lighting designer Brandon Wardell, both of whom are faculty members, and we had this incredible design, and because it is set in Derry, Northern Ireland we had brought in Stanton Davis from our faculty to be the dialect coach,” Martinovich said.

“But then we had to pivot, because of all the restrictions that were still in place. Brandon asked the crucial question, ‘Can we be in the building.’ If we could, then we’d have more control over lighting and scenic design and staging. So when we determined it was a ‘yes’ to having thd show in the building, we had to figure out how to make our spaces work.”

The solution was to use four different spaces for the theater. Girls and Dolls features two characters played by four actors, two play the girls as children and two as adults.

“We decided to use the Sally Theatre and the Corner Theatre and two dressing rooms right next door to them,” she said. “We had the younger girls in the two smaller spaces and gave the larger theatres to the older characters to give them some depth and breadth of space.”

Girls and Dolls Photo Gallery

There was be no in-person audience for the show streamed on Zoom, creating the opportunity to switch back and forth between the spaces, but that brought forth a new set of hurdles.

“The technical challenges were numerous, including how are they going to hear each other in the four separate spaces,” Martinovich said. “With the assistance of our master electrician Chris Kursewski we tried different microphones until we found what would work. We could not have done the show without Chris. The actors could see each other from the different spaces on a monitor, but during rehearsal the night before we opened screen savers would pop up and the actors would sometimes have to give the monitors a little bump.”

After initial rehearsals on Zoom, they were able to move into the spaces a week before the show. “The most wonderful part was that everyone on the team was so excited to be back making ‘real’ theater again, all while being fully aware of the safety precautions. Our actors would wear their masks until we cleared the space and they were the only ones in the room,  then they would take their masks off to act. It felt like a real theater production and it looked like a real theater production, and even on Zoom it went seamlessly from scene to scene.”

Girls and Dolls was written by Lisa McGee, and features two women in their thirties, Emma and Clare who struggle to come to terms with the chain of devastating events that began that summer, to understand what they did, what they became and how they were judged.

Sylvie Mae Baldwin and Rachel Yoder played adult Clare and Emma, and Paige Larkowski and Sam Welch played the younger version of the girls.

Thousands Strong kickoff video features CVPA talent

Thousands Strong kickoff video features CVPA talent

The NIU Foundation kicked off its annual Day of Giving with a Thousands Strong video event, Wednesday, November 18, and the video featured a number of students and alumni of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The video is hosted by Kate Drury, a B.F.A. candidate in acting. The music for the video was performed by the NIU Jazz Orchestra and the celebrity interview was Joe Minoso, a 2004 M.F.A. acting graduate and the star of the NBC series “Chicago Fire.”

The Day of Giving runs through November 19. Gifts of all sizes will go a long way to helping ensure the next classes of Huskies have what they need to make the most of their time on campus.

Bobby Broom featured in DownBeat magazine’s annual reader’s poll

Bobby Broom featured in DownBeat magazine’s annual reader’s poll

DownBeat cover Dec. 2020Bobby Broom, assistant professor of jazz guitar and jazz studies in the School of Music was featured, for the second time in five years, in DownBeat magazine’s annual reader’s poll edition. In the December 2020 issue, Broom was chosen as one of the top guitarists in the industry.

The DownBeat readers’ poll is in its 85 year. DownBeat is an American magazine devoted to “jazz, blues and beyond,” the last word indicating its expansion beyond the jazz realm which it covered exclusively in previous years. The publication was established in 1934 in Chicago.

Harlem Born, New York City raised, Bobby Broom has been heralded as “one of the most musical guitarists of our time” by jazz historian and author, Ted Gioia. Playing Carnegie Hall with Sonny Rollins and Donald Byrd at age 16, Broom recorded his debut as a leader, “Clean Sweep,” for GRP Records at age 20. He’s played and /or recorded with Kenny Burrell, Hugh Masakela, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Stanley Turrentine, Dave Grusin, Charles Earland, Miles Davis, Kenny Garrett and Dr. John, among others. As a leader he has recorded with the Bobby Broom Trio and the disbanded Deep Blue Organ Trio for the Premonition, Delmark and Origin labels. Bobby’s most recent, 2018 recording is “Soul Fingers” (MRI Entertainment/US, Jazzline/EU), which features his newest organ trio, ‘the Bobby Broom Organi-Sation.’ The album explores his reinterpretations of his childhood radio hits and was produced by the legendary drummer/producer, Steve Jordan.

Broom has released 12 recordings in total as a leader. Many have received airplay resulting in national jazz radio chart positions of #1 to #3, resulting in his being recognized as one of the top guitarists by Down Beat magazine’s annual Reader’s Poll in 2015, as well as their Critics Poll for four years, from 2012-2014 and again in 2017.

A dedicated jazz educator throughout his career, Professor Broom holds a Master of Music degree in Jazz Pedagogy from Northwestern University. His teaching experience began under the direction of NEA Jazz Master, Jackie Mclean, at the University of Hartford’s, Hartt school of Music. Prior to his appointment at NIU, he was a jazz faculty member at North Park, DePaul and Roosevelt Universities and the American Conservatory of Music. He continues to conduct clinics, master classes and lectures worldwide and is a teaching artist/instructor and mentor with the Herbie Hancock Institute and the Ravinia Jazz Mentor Program.