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View from the Pond
Theatre Students Train with Royal Shakespeare Company
At a public reading on the Blau Theatre stage inside the Ross School of Business, SMTD Theatre & Drama students stood alongside some of today’s most accomplished Shakespearean actors. Coming together to explore the possibilities of the script and dramatic alternatives, students and professional actors brought to life the Russian play, Boris Godunov.
The staged performance of the newest version of Alexander Pushkin’s 19th-century play was held in mid-March, the culmination of a week of rehearsals and rigorous probing under the direction of Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Michael Boyd. A second play, The Orphan of Zhao, also underwent dissection and analysis during RSC’s 10-day Creative Residency, done in collaboration with members of The Labyrinth Theater Company of New York.
While RSC’s purpose in Ann Arbor was to fine-tune the two plays for performances during its fall season in Stratford-upon-Avon, the U-M students were immersed in an intensely emotional and challenging experience that broadened their dramatic sensibilities. On several occasions, RSC Associate Artistic Director Gregory Doran held acting workshops, coaxing students to delve into the layers of meaning in Shakespeare’s text. The results were indeed dramatic—and indelible.
“We got a great sense of how to find character… to dig into the words and find what the character is, rather than (settling) on our preconceived notions,” said acting student Drew Ariana (BFA ’14 in acting).
Olivia Lloyd (BFA ’13), who is a dual major, studying for a BA in English from LSA and a BFA in directing from SMTD, took a turn at directing several RSC actors. “There were a lot of epiphanies in learning about the directing process and in getting to observe (RSC) directors,” she said.
Emily Lyon (BFA ’13), who is also in Theatre & Drama’s directing program, realized the commitment and day-to-day realities of a theatre career. “This process has been informative for understanding the breadth of theatre, from understanding Shakespeare to being professionals in the field,” she said.
Sydney Hodkinson Concludes Guest Residency
During the winter term, the distinguished composer, conductor and teacher Sydney Hodkinson took up residency as the William Bolcom Visiting Professor of Composition. In this position, Hodkinson gave private lessons, conducted master classes and reading sessions and attended performances of his works. The University Symphony Orchestra, Contemporary Directions Ensemble, Percussion Studio and Symphony Band all performed works by Hodkinson.
A former U-M faculty member and composition alumni (DMA ’68), Hodkinson founded the U-M Contemporary Directions Ensemble, which continues to thrive at the University. He has a catalogue of more than 250 works and awards from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Canada Council and The National Endowment for the Arts, among others. He currently conducts the Contemporary Ensemble and teaches composition at the Aspen Colorado Music Festival and School.
Call for Entries in First Annual Organ Improvisation Competition
The entry deadline of July 1 is fast approaching for organists interested in entering the first annual Organ Improvisation Competition, co-sponsored by SMTD and the American Guild of Organists, Ann Arbor Chapter. The competition awards cash prizes of $1,000, $2,000 and $3,000 to the three winners. Up to five finalists will compete in the final round, to be held during the 52nd Conference on Organ Music on October 2 at 1 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Ann Arbor. Each finalist will perform on the III/45 Létourneau organ and will have 30 minutes of preparation time to plan a prelude, fantasia or toccata and fugue on a given theme, and a free improvisation on a given theme.
"The Organ Improvisation Competition is the appropriate time to recognize and lift up this timeless art form for a wider audience, including but not limited to its use in religious services," said U-M organ professor Michele Johns, one of the organizers of the event. The competition is open to players of all ages and nationalities. Applications and guidelines can be found on the SMTD website.
U-M Symphony Band Releases New CD
The University Symphony Band, under the direction of conductor Michael Haithcock, has released a CD of works that were performed on the 2011 China Tour last spring. Titled Artifacts, the new album includes compositions and solo performances by SMTD faculty and alumni. Artifacts presents the premiere recordings of Bright Sheng’s Shanghai Overture; a flute concerto titled The Shadow of Sirius, by Joel Puckett (MM ’01, DMA ’04) featuring flutist and SMTD professor Amy Porter; Michael Daugherty’s Lost Vegas; Two Jades, by Kristin Kuster, with violinist and SMTD alumnus Xiang Gao; Graceful Ghost Rag by William Bolcom; and Bolcom’s Concerto Grosso for Saxophone Quartet and Band with the Donald Sinta Saxophone Quartet, comprising student musicians Daniel Hawthorne-Foss, baritone sax; Joseph Girard, tenor sax; Dan Graser, soprano sax and Zach Stern, alto sax. The two-disc CD, recorded at Hill Auditorium on the Equilibrium label, is available for purchase on the Equilibrium website (www.equilibri.com), Amazon.com and other retail sites, and can also be purchased as MP3 downloads on iTunes and other music websites.
U-M Hosts American Orchestra Summit II
The cultural, social and professional future of the symphony orchestra in the United States was examined and addressed during the American Orchestras Summit II, which took place on the U-M campus in March. Co-hosted by SMTD, Arts Enterprise @ U-M and the University Musical Society, the Summit welcomed representatives from orchestras around the country, including administrators, musicians and music union officials. They joined educators and academics to continue the landmark conversation that began with the first American Orchestra Summit in 2010. The aim was to share ideas about what's working in the industry today and what can be done to sustain the industry going forward. Among the issues addressed were productive collaboration, serving audiences and communities, and training the professional musician in the 21st century. Speakers included Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, and Bruce Ridge, chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM). Attendees also enjoyed performances by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Orchestra, under Michael Tilson Thomas, which was in the midst of its “American Mavericks” residency at UMS.
Professors Oversee Cutting Edge Electronic Music Conference
Continuing a long history of being at the forefront of electronic music, U-M hosted the International Conference for New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) in May to provide a platform to discuss, see and hear cutting-edge presentations in the area of innovative musical instruments and their performance. The conference, whose organizing committee comprises U-M music and engineering professors, brought together academics, instrument builders, composers and electronic music performers from around the world for four days of events and performances. Many events were open to the general public, including the evening concerts featuring all new pieces performed on new instruments, selected through a competitive review process by an international jury. Concerts were held in traditional venues, such as the Mendelssohn Theatre in the Michigan League, as well as in downtown venues such as the Necto nightclub, and musical installations were shown in various locations on Central and North Campus.
Dancing in the Streets
Ann Arbor Dance Works (AADW) inhabited a four-block route of Ann Arbor this summer when it presented Corsets, Grains & Greenways: Dancing Downtown Ann Arbor (June 7–9), a unique “site dance performance” with several community partners. The performance, featuring choreography by dance professors Jessica Fogel and Robin Wilson and guest artists Monica Bill Barnes and Adesola Akinleye, celebrates the layered histories of several downtown Ann Arbor locations, including the WSG Gallery (once a corset factory) and Downtown Home and Garden. The sites are linked thematically in that they all harbor stories of continuous reinvention, restoration and metamorphosis. Each performance concludes at 415 S. Washington, currently a parking lot, where the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy hopes to create an anchor park as part of a “greenway system.” Now in its 27th season, Ann Arbor Dance Works is the resident professional dance company of U-M’s Department of Dance, comprising Department of Dance faculty (this year in choreographic roles only), selected U-M dance majors, U-M dance graduate students, U-M dance alumni/dance professionals and other area dance professionals.