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School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

2/27/13

By Nelson Pressley, The Washington Post

An ambitious National Civil War Project will be unveiled Thursday at Arena Stage as major universities and flagship theaters in four cities team up to create new performances and campus programming.

The partnerships represent a “radical collaboration,” says Arena artistic director Molly Smith. Arena is working with George Washington University. The announcement is scheduled to include “artistic demonstrations” of the kinds of theater, dance, music and scholarship likely to emerge from this large-scale initiative...

Baltimore’s Centerstage and the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, a pod that has already initiated a notably big project. The Kronos Quartet has been commissioned for a piece composed by jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard; the performance will involve a 500-voice choir and spoken word by 2011 National Book Award winner Nikky Finney. The result, “At War With Ourselves,” will be performed at a historically significant site.

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1/11/13

By Katherine Boyle, The Washington Post

The Ghost in “Hamlet” was once a simple creation: a white sheet or some smoke was enough to depict a dead king. The audience, of course, cooperated with these primitive displays, since imagination was required of theatergoers.

But if 20th-century technology — aviation, space travel, doomsday bombs — conquered the extremes of our own universe, modern science is more concerned with the virtual world, weaving in and out of daily life without drawing attention to itself. That is the challenge that Jared Mezzocchi, a video projection designer, confronts every time he looks at a stage. How does one infuse elements of this virtual world into the age-old art form that we call “live” theater?

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Theatre Collaboration Combines Two Cultures, Two Languages in One Powerful Performance.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 24, 2012 – College Park, Md. -- The University of Maryland’s (UMD) School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies (TDPS) crosses continents, oceans and 12 time zones with a groundbreaking bi-lingual co-production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Created in collaboration with the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts (NACTA), the production will be presented at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center September 27 through September 30, 2012, under the direction of TDPS professor Mitchell Hébert and Yu Fanlin, Professor of Directing at NACTA. After its premiere run at the Center, it will travel to Beijing for a series of performances.

Two Worlds, One Vision
Two years in the making, the production features lush, brilliant costumes and dazzling sets that create a fantasy world where elements of Chinese and American performance styles, music and language come together. Each of the Chinese and American actors – Shakespeare’s lovers, fairies and trickster Puck – will speak in their own native language but will perform as if in the same tongue. Audiences will follow the dialogue through supertitles displayed on large plasma screen TVs at either side of the stage.

The Collaboration
Sets, costume designs, lighting and sound were created in partnership between the two schools. Using Skype, video drop boxes, emails and phone calls, the TDPS creative team shared their ideas, creative concepts and experiences with their distant partners. Cast members also held joint rehearsals using a new Cisco Telepresence system recently acquired by TDPS as part of a multi-year grant from the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.

Origin of A Unique Idea
This never-before-done production was initiated by noted costume designer and UMD Professor Helen Huang, who first shared the idea for a co-production while teaching a master class at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts in Beijing.

Huang served as cultural ambassador between the two schools as the work unfolded, enabling all aspects to come together – from delicate creative interpretation in two languages to making actors comfortable with unknown foods. “We had to find our way in uncharted territory every day,” said Huang. “Each step required thoughtful consideration.”

Two Cultures, One Extraordinary Production
Cultural interchange infuses every element of the production. TDPS students helped prepare for their Midsummer experience by taking a semester-long class on Chinese culture taught by doctoral student Robert Thompson, who is also assistant director of the play. The class delved into Chinese history, social norms, politics, gender roles and money, among other topics, to prepare for culturally appropriate interaction with their Chinese counterparts.

TDPS explores the cross-cultural possibilities of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

By Beth Cavanaugh, Terp Magazine

How would Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” sound if performed in two countries by a cast speaking two languages? Like a unique cultural exchange, say organizers in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies.

Two dozen Maryland faculty and students are collaborating with peers at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts to put on the play, first on campus in September, then in Beijing. They’ve been working out the challenges of a production with double sets and locations, along with the language barrier and 7,000-mile distance between participants.

 “Splitting a production in two—it sounded impossible. We really had to sit down and figure out how you do it,” said theatre Professor Mitchell Hébert, who is co-directing the production with Yu Fan Lin in China.

Noted costume designer and Professor Helen Huang first shared the idea for a co-production while teaching a master class at the National Academy and quickly won the support of faculty there.

Emails, Skype meetings, translators and visits in both Beijing and College Park facilitated the process, and by February 2011, the group decided it could be done.

Maryland faculty and students will design and construct the costumes and set, and play the parts of the fairies and mechanicals. Their Chinese counterparts will build a duplicate set in Beijing and take on the roles of the court, lovers and supernatural characters. Shared responsibilities include directing and technical aspects, such as lighting.

All actors will perform in their native language. Audiences in both countries will read translations through supertitles.

Laree Lentz, a master of fine arts student who helped design the costumes, worked closely with the Beijing academy students to develop ideas that represented both cultures. “Through this process of two cultures coming together,” she says, “we realized that no matter how different we seemed to be, we are actually similar in so many ways."

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