Visiting artist lecture on Ohio Earthworks and World Heritage, March 17

Visiting artist lecture on Ohio Earthworks and World Heritage, March 17

Christine Ballengee MorrisJoin Dr. Christine Ballengee Morris, professor in arts administration, education and policy development and director of American Indian Studies for The Ohio State University for a free, open to the public virtual lecture, Wednesday, March 17 at 5 p.m.

Several thousand years ago, building earthworks was a central feature of the public architecture of many Indigenous cultures in the world. Gaining community support, building economic development strategies that included the arts and American Indian tribes, and consideration of Earthworks as World Heritage sites are topics explored in this presentation.

Ballengee Morris is co-author, with NIU School of Art and Design Professor and Head of Art and Design Education Kryssi Staikidis, of the book Transforming Our Practices: Indigenous Art, Pedagogies and Philosophies published in 2017.

Ohio Earthworks and World Heritage: Cultures, Sites, Tourism and the Arts
Wednesday, March 17, 5 p.m.
Free, open to the public
Zoom link

Sponsored in part by the NIU Arts and Culture Fee.

Artist, entrepreneur Cheryl Holz virtual visiting artist talk, March 9

Artist, entrepreneur Cheryl Holz virtual visiting artist talk, March 9

Join mixed-media artist Cheryl Holz as she presents a visiting artist talk to the NIU School of Art and Design, Tuesday, March 9 at 11 a.m.

Holz is a Midwestern artist whose mixed media artwork celebrates nature’s strength, beauty and diversity.

Like sediment accumulates in a river bed, she builds up layers of textured surfaces, organic painting processes and relevant text on wooden panels. Portions are excavated to reveal botanical or geological specimens and natural patterns.

Cheryl has received local and national recognition for her work and shows in galleries, museums, and juried shows throughout the country. Her work is included in many corporate, private and health care collections.

The lecture is free and open to the public via Zoom.

Learning to take risks at NIU helped Jermaine Stegall’s work on “Coming 2 America”

Learning to take risks at NIU helped Jermaine Stegall’s work on “Coming 2 America”

For Jermaine Stegall, composing the music for the long-awaited sequel to the Eddie Murphy hit movie “Coming To America” came with a set of challenges, seen and unforeseen, but the final product reflects a film where music is as much of a character as any of the recognizable faces on the screen.

Stegall is a 2000 graduate of the NIU School of Music with a Bachelor of Music in saxophone performance and composition. He went on to earn a master’s at North Texas University and completed the University of Southern California’s Advanced Studies in Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television program.

His process for “Coming 2 America” started with creating demos for the cast and crew to use as they shot.

“There are a lot of musical moments in the film,” Stegall said. “The director, Craig Brewer, is very musical, and he loves music. He always uses music very purposefully, and he mentioned he would love the opportunity to use themes in the movie. We dove straight in with having very distinct sounds for the very specific characters, as well as giving a nod to some recognizable music from the first film, specifically the song, ‘Coming To America.'”

Music was a huge part of the original movie, but the sequel takes it even farther. “They literally needed music to shoot to on set,” he said. “There are dance sequences, and there are percussionists on set. I was given the nod to the things they were going to need and I read the script. Based on those descriptions, I ended up creating music that ended up working. Sometimes it might be a groove that was similar to a song that’s coming up, or to set something up in that way, or even a choir that you see on screen.”

Jermaine Stegall

Photo: Jermaine Stegall

Major portions of the movie are set in a fictional African country, and being on set helped Stegall immerse himself. “You walk onto that set and feel like, OK, I’m not just on the set, I’m in this place called Zamunda. We’re here. We’re in a place you can actually touch. The producers talked a lot about having a distinctive sound for Zamunda, and the sky was the limit.”

Stegall got his first assembled cut of the film in January 2020, not yet aware of how COVID-19 would affect the rest of his process. The film was originally scheduled to open around Christmas 2020, and that date continued to be the goal as restrictions due to the pandemic were put in place.

“We spent February talking about themes and March is when I started tackling entire scenes of the movie and making decisions about how a scene would work as opposed to, here’s some music, let’s see how it fits,” he said. “But then as it came time to record, I was told I’d would have to record all of my woodwinds at home, then drums, percussion, bass, guitar, harp all had to be recorded at home. I had this idea for using a choir to do African chants, which you hear in the film, but it ended up being a more intimate approach. I used five vocalists, and they had to record at home. Then I had to assemble all the different elements. You really want your woodwinds to compliment strings in terms of how they’re used in an orchestral setting. But the safety protocols meant they had to be separate. So, we had Zoom calls with each section that had to record remotely. The string section had to be separate from our brass. They had to be recorded on different days. Every member of the orchestra had to get tested for COVID and our director couldn’t attend the sessions.

“Our music editors are basically essential workers in the scoring process. They had to watch via Zoom and chime in. They’re people who are responsible for making sure we’re getting all the takes that we need, all the energy that we need from a certain story point, like giving advice about how the cue came across in terms of recording.”

When Stegall says everyone was recording “at home,” he means just that.

“I was in North Hollywood where my studio is,” he said. “The performers, some of them were in their bedrooms. One of our flute players was on an island in Hawaii. Some hired engineers to help run their session, control their computer from another location. This was a massive, massive project. It definitely took a village to raise a child as it pertained to this score.”

Former NIU School of Music student Donald Barrett (1996-1998) is a featured drummer playing drums/African drum kit on the score.

As with many major movies, “Coming 2 America” is not getting a theatrical release. Instead it will premiere March 5 on Amazon Prime Video. But Stegall said he’s not necessarily disappointed the film isn’t getting a traditional release.

“This movie would have killed it in theaters in terms of how it plays with an audience,” he said. “But we are able to share it with millions of people, as opposed to the current limitations of a theatrical release with 25% capacity.”

Stegall also contributed music to the Kurt Russell film “Christmas Chronicles 2” that premiered on Netflix in December. He had worked on the original film, as well. Next up for him is a supernatural thriller for Universal Pictures. “It’s a complete 180 from the comedic, romantic, sweeping fantasy movie that we’ve just done. I think it’s sure to turn heads. It will include my love of sound manipulation, instruments not sounding like their true selves and probably be a little bit scary, too.”

Stegall looks back at his time at NIU and is appreciative of the support he received from faculty and other students.

“I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn’t know quite how to get there. That’s the biggest mystery. You’re in the Midwest and working on the coast is what you want to do. How do you get there?”

He charted his path to Hollywood from NIU, with a necessary detour. “A lot of the NIU music faculty had gone to the University of North Texas. So when it didn’t work out to go straight to USC after undergrad, I was able to go to UNT for my master’s and develop the portfolio I needed.”

Stegall fondly remembers the final project of his senior year at NIU. A 30-minute, film music inspired orchestral concert.

Photos: Jermaine Stegall’s March 25, 2000 film music inspired concert at the NIU School of Music. The first half of the concert was held in Boutell Memorial Concert Hall, the second half in the Large Ensemble Room. 

“It wasn’t a requirement,” he said. “I just did it as part of my farewell. NIU had the tools available that if you used your brain and a little ingenuity and did some legwork, you could create something special. In my case, this was something I wanted to do. Also, dance was something very important to me, and you can see that in a movie like ‘Coming 2 America.'”

“Before my concert at NIU I went to a dance class. I didn’t know anyone, I just literally knocked on the door during a class. I told them I know it sounds crazy, but I would like some dancers for the introduction to my recital. There was no rehearsal, I just asked them to wear red and show up and when they heard the music to start dancing. Some of the dancers showed up in red and black and it was just magical. That’s a great aspect of studying at a place with all these different kinds of resources. You can create part of your own education. And now, I find myself in situations where we’re shooting and things, musically-speaking are being changed right on set. It all works out when you are willing to take chances. I’ve experienced making things happen with a few talented people by taking risks and trying things and seeing what happens.”

“Coming 2 America” premieres March 5 on Amazon Prime Video.

Theatre and Dance to present “Everybody” via webcast March 5 and 6

Theatre and Dance to present “Everybody” via webcast March 5 and 6

The NIU School of Theatre and Dance presents “Everybody” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Friday, March 5 and Saturday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. via Zoom. There is no charge for tickets but you must reserve your space.

This modern riff on the fifteenth-century morality play Everyman follows Everybody as they journey through life’s greatest mystery—the meaning of living.

The production is directed by Edwin Lee Gibson. The assistant director is Victor Jaimes.

For tickets, visit the School of Theatre and Dance online Box Office. (Don’t forget to make sure you choose the performance date you wish to view.) The School of Theatre and Dance began experimenting with presenting theatre online in early 2020 due to the COVID 19 pandemic. In the Spring 2021 semester, we are continuing this presentation of non-traditional performances to showcase the work of our students and faculty, and we are pleased to be able to now share them with you! Performances will take place at 7:30 pm each night listed. Please check back for more information and where these productions will be streamed.

This performance will be streamed on Zoom Webinar. You will receive a confirmation once you place your order. Then, 60 minutes prior to the show, you will receive a customized link and password to the performance.


Isabelle AjemianIsabelle Ajemian (Mind/C) Isabelle Ajemian is a sophomore BFA in acting candidate, and this is her second show with NIU. She is so grateful to get to share this work with you all and is excited to show what can be accomplished in this new zoom theatre world that she has gotten the unique opportunity to be a part of. The rehearsal process of this show has been the first time in a year that she has gotten to act and dance in the same room as other creators, and she has never felt more moved, humbled, and abundantly grateful. She would like to thank the cast, crew, and the genius Edwin Lee Gibson for making this a possibility. Nothing is more powerful than a room full of artists all creating with the goal to inspire.

Sophia Arnold

Sophia Arnold (Chorus/B/Beauty/4th Somebody) is s a third year BFA in acting candidate. She has understudied with Indianapolis Shakespeare Company and interned with Oak Park Festival Theatre. Some of her favorite roles at NIU include Helen in Troilus and Cressida, Kitty in The Time of Your Life, and O’Casey in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Past productions include Adrianna in The Comedy of Errors (Two-Town Theatre Company), Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing (Shakespeare Playworks), and Maria in Twelfth Night (Shakespeare Playworks).


Nicholas BishopNicholas Bishop (Kinship/Evil) is a television, film, and stage actor who has appeared in Chicago Med, Hamlet, and Art Collectors. He is a second year BFA candidate at Northern Illinois University. Nicholas has an interest in script writing and starting a production company and in his free time he enjoys playing guitar and skateboarding. Lastly, he is thankful for being a part of this amazing show and cast.



Marcell BoclairMarcell Boclair (Cousin/1st Somebody) is a second year BA in theater studies candidate with a focus in acting and health sciences major here at NIU. He hopes you enjoy the show as he makes his debut!



Caroline ByrneCaroline Byrne (Stuff/Chorus) This is Caroline’s fourth production with the school of theatre and dance. She hopes you enjoy the show!




Clark CheathamClark Cheatham (Chorus/Cousin/3rd Somebody) is a Junior BFA in acting candidate from St. Charles, Illinois. His credits at NIU include: Nick in The Walk Across America for Mother Earth, Dudley R. Bostwick in The Time of Your Life and Jim Crocket in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Other favorite credits include Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, Marius in Les Miserables, and Squire Trelawney in Treasure Island.



Wesley HutchinsonWesley Hutchinson (Strength/A/5th Somebody) is a second year BFA in acting candidate from Michigan and a student at NIU. This is his second role at NIU. Some of his past roles include: NIU’s production of Love and Information, Grandpa Joe in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and Vice Principal Douglas Panch in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Romeo High School.


Morgan MalloryMorgan Mallory (Girl/Time/2nd Somebody) is a second year BA in theatre studies candidate, and she is very excited to be a part of this production of Everybody. Some other things she has been a part of are Northern Illinois University’s 24-Hour Theatre Play Festival as well as Crete Monee High School’s productions of Mamma Mia and Noises Off. She hopes that you all will enjoy the show!



Savannah-Lee MumfordSavannah-Lee Mumford (God/Usher/Understanding) is a second-year MFA in acting candidate here at NIU. Savannah-Lee’s NIU credits include #7 in Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves and Actor in Love & Information. Savannah-Lee is a North Carolina native who holds a BFA in drama from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. After graduating, Savannah-Lee primarily worked in New York. Some of her credits include: Off-Broadway: Candy in 12 Steps: The Musical (Original Off-Broadway Cast). Workshops: Barb Holland in Stranger Sings: The Parody Musical (Original Cast), Sigourney Weaver! in PITS: The Unauthorized Holes Musical. Concerts: Barb Holland in Stranger Sings: The Parody Musical with Christina Bianco at 54 Below. Regional: Evil Stepmother/Witch u/s in Into the Woods (Charlottesville Opera), Sherrie in Rock of Ages (ATC, BroadwayWorld Nom.), Fiona u/s in Shrek: The Musical (SSMT). Other credits include Imelda in On the 20th Century, Mae in Reefer Madness, The Drowsy Chaperone in The Drowsy Chaperone (UNCSA), Dolly Levi in The Matchmaker (UNCSA), Claudia in Nine (UNCSA), Lady of the Lake in Spamalot. As always… this is for Sandy Beam.

Jamaque NewberryJamaque Newberry (Everybody) hails from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He received his BFA degree in filmmaking from Western Kentucky University while competing for their world-renowned speech and debate team. While competing, he accumulated multiple national awards in dramatic and poetic performance. Before coming to NIU, Jamaque taught dramatic performance and film techniques for various middle school and high school programs. He is now furthering his love for performance and art at Northern Illinois University as an MFA in acting candidate.



Naava Ofri-AkmanNaava Ofri-Akman (Senses/D) is a sophomore BFA in acting candidate. This is her second production at NIU, the first being Bird in the Hand. It has been such a joy to work in the space and craft this piece. May we all define and find peace within our own realities.



Kaz QutabKaz Qutab (Death) is an MFA in acting candidate from central Massachusetts. Everybody is his third virtual production at NIU. He dreams of doing a traditional show before graduating, though he couldn’t ask for better people with whom to weather this storm. Previous credits: Nick in The Time of Your Life and Givola in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.




Makenzie WeatherfordMakenzie Weatherford (Love) is a second year MFA in acting candidate. At NIU, she recently performed as Susan in A Bird in the Hand and as Maria in a reading of Summertime. Raised in Idaho, she moved to California and received two BAs at Concordia University Irvine: English and theatre. Some of her favorite performances at Concordia include Antigone in Antigone, Beatrice in The Servant of Two Masters, Mrs. Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, ensemble in All Shook Up, The Secret Garden, and The Plain Princess, and her favorite, an original script adaptation of Ten Days in a Madhouse as Nellie Bly.


Rachel YoderRachael Yoder (Friendship) is a second year MFA in acting candidate, who is thrilled to join the Everybody team for this special virtual production. Favorite credits include, NIU: The Wolves, Girls and Dolls. Regional: Sleepy Hollow (Capital Repertory Theatre) A Christmas Carol, Amadeus (Geva Theater Center) Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Winter’s Tale (MaineStage Shakespeare) Love’s Labour’s Lost, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Shakespeare in the Valley) New York: Fifth of July, Independence (Stella Adler Studio) Pretty Theft (Jordan Bean & Co). Rachael also serves as managing director of The Outer Loop Theater Experience, overseeing partner projects in Tanzania with her husband Michael. For more information, please visit Proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

Production Team

Branden Jacobs Jenkins (Playwright): Hailed as “as one of this country’s most original and illuminating writers about race,” Jacobs-Jenkins has written on a variety of topics, often taking a much-older play as a starting point. His 2014 hit An Octoroon, slyly subverted an 1859 melodrama about mixed-race romances. Everybody riffs on an even older model: a late-medieval morality play called Everyman. Because the title character in both plays represents any human on the verge of death, the actor who played the role in the original run of Everybody was chosen randomly every night. Jacobs-Jenkins explains: “The concept…is that every night there’ll be a different Everyman, chosen by lottery, so the cast will shift a lot. This may be an insane idea. We’re assuming all these lovely actors are going to memorize the entire script.” The NIU production isn’t quite so ambitious.

Jessica Ferreira (Assistant Stage Manager) This is Jessie’s first show that she has worked on and completed. Previously she had worked on Time of Your Life, but sadly that show never saw the light of day. Jessie is a sophomore in the school of Theater and Dance and is pursuing a BFA design and technology degree. In taking on the role of assistant stage manager, Jessie is one step closer to her goal of one day becoming a stage manager.

Vincent Juarez (Student Choreographer) is a third year BFA in acting candidate at Northern Illinois University. His past NIU credits include Paris in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, Newsboy in The Time of Your Life by William Saroyan, and Gabriel in Bird in the Hand by Jorge Ignacio Cortinas. Vincent is grateful for the opportunity to have collaborated with Sophia Day Arnold, Jamaque Thomas New-berry & Kendra Holton to direct and produce the Danse Macabre.

Justin Williams (Stage Manager) is a BFA design and technology alumni class of 2016 and has been in the professional world ever since. With his first production in 2011, he has spent almost 10 years doing shows all over. Starting at Crete-Monee High School and finishing at Northern Illinois University, Justin spent years learning multiple skills in the entertainment world that made him the success he is today. Most notable work experiences are Cedar Point Amusement Park, Carnival Cruise Lines, and now currently at Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Ltd. When asked how it feels to be doing a NIU show again he said, “Returning to NIU and joining the production of Everybody has been an unexpected pleasure.”

Director / Edwin Lee Gibson
Assistant Director / Victor Jaimes
Stage Manager / Justin Williams
Assistant Stage Manager / Jessica Ferreira
Technical Director / Brysen Hannappel
Scene Shop Supervisor / Ethan Rosing
Movement Coach / Kendra Holton
Student Choreographers / Vincent Juarez, Sophia Arnold Costume Consultant / Jeremy Floyd
Casting Director / Dr. Kay Martinovich
Production Liaisons / Kendra Holton, Jeremy Floyd
Director of Marketing / Suzanne Rosenik
Outreach Coordinator / Sylvie Baldwin
Run Crew / Elijah Bustamante, Hernan Acosta
Student Editors / Jamaque Newberry, Alexander Boyer, Clark Cheatham, Wesley Hutchinson, Aidan Murphy, Alexa Wiljanen Properties Designer / Dave Doherty

Cartoonist Leigh Rubin visiting artist presentation, March 4

Cartoonist Leigh Rubin visiting artist presentation, March 4

Leigh RubinCartoonist Leigh Rubin, whose cartoon “Rubes” is syndicated in more than 400 media outlets worldwide and distributed by Creators Syndicate will take part in an online visiting artist presentation with the NIU School of Art and Design, Thursday, March 4 at 11 a.m.

Rubin is an accomplished author and cartoonist. He has written 20 books. 2019 marked the 35th anniversary of Rubes®.

His work has been featured in film, television and advertising. Leigh also enjoys a busy schedule giving thought-provoking and entertaining presentations on art and creativity at conferences, as well as professional organizations all around the country.

In 2018 Leigh began his tenure at Rochester Institute of Technology as the college’s first Cartoonist-in Residence.

In addition to print, Rubes® also has appeared in advertising, on television and the big screen. View his work at

HIs virtual visiting artist presentation is free and open to the public via Zoom, Thursday, March 4 at 11 a.m.

Photographer John Opera to give visiting artist lecture March 1

Photographer John Opera to give visiting artist lecture March 1

John Opera, a photographer who “works at the intersection of photographic materiality and light-derived abstraction” will present a visiting lecture for the NIU School of Art and Design, Monday, March 1 at 5 p.m. The lecture is free and open to the public via Zoom (passcode: 328305).

Opera’s work combines a deep interest in the visual characteristics of natural and scientific phenomena with a rigorous experimental approach to the techniques and apparatuses by which photographs have been defined and produced.

He is currently an assistant professor of art at the University of Buffalo (SUNY).

This lecture is supported by the NIU School of Art and Design Public Artistry and Scholarship Committee and the Photography Area.