VPA Hosts Visiting Professor from Nigeria

By Julie O’Melia

2017-10 Marcel Okhakhu croppedThis is a historic semester for Worcester State. Professor Marcel Okhakhu is the first international visiting professor to teach at WSU. He hails from Midwest Nigeria and works as a professor of theatre in the bustling city of Benin at the University of Benin in the southern part of the country.

He is a father of four, and two of his children attend Benin University. When he isn’t raising a family or teaching a class of 200 students, he is expanding his passion for education by attending conferences and making friends all over the world.

Having visited the Boston area twice before, he is delighted to work with new colleagues this semester and looks forward to sharing what he learns with his students back home.

One of his colleagues is VPA department chair Adam Zahler who wears many hats including director, father, actor, and international pen pal. In 2015, Zahler flew to Nigeria while on sabbatical. During his journey, Zahler ran a workshop, observed classes, and met Okhakhu for the first time.

Upon his return home, Zahler reflected upon his adventure. Knowing his experience was special, he formulated a plan to bring Nigeria to Worcester.

The plan, devised in 2015, came to fruition when Okhakhu arrived in Worcester this summer. Currently, he is teaching three courses including Acting I, Theatre I, and CitySpeak.

The University of Benin is home to 67,000 students with some classes running to a maximum of 200 students. In addition to class size, Okhakhu finds the students different as well. American students have different “cultural values” compared to his Nigerian students. Although he doesn’t pinpoint those differences, he claims: “students will be students wherever they are.”

Worcester is a diverse city, and Worcester State’s diverse student body is a reflection of the community. Now, WSU adds an international flair to that diversity.

As the first international visiting professor to work here, Okhakhu believes education knows no boundaries and should be spread as widely as possible. In his own words, “One of the big things of academics is the exchange of knowledge and ideas.”

With the introduction of the first foreign visiting professor, The VPA department hopes other departments become inspired to expand their borders and bring the world closer to WSU students – adding to the exchange of knowledge and ideas.

 

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After Mastering Challenging Comedic Timing, Student Actors Are Ready Fly

By Robbie Moll, Media Writing CM105

With Worcester State University’s production of “Boeing, Boeing” debuting on April 27, only three days away, the cast and crew rehearse to master the fast-paced comedic timing required in this classic farce by Mark Camoletti.

Austin Gannon, a business major and visual and performing arts theatre student, plays the role of Robert, a long-time friend of the lead character Bernard, played by Eddie Sanchez.

“I like to act,” said Gannon. “Every play I do I learn more.”

Austin said he prefers dramatic and serious roles and finds it difficult to play a comedic role like “Boeing, Boeing’s” Robert.

Robert’s role is the foil in the play as he can’t keep straight the fiancée rotation of his friend, Bernard. Bernard finds folly in balancing the schedules of three fiancées, all flight attendants. When Boeing builds a faster jet, it throws off the rhythms of his sexual encounters. Three fiancées. One Man. Lots of sex. What could go wrong?

Eddie Sanchez, who plays Bernard, has never held a role in a comedy and finds the challenge of a farce a new learning experience. The VPA major studies acting and directing at Worcester State and said it is “wonderful to learn as an actor and a director the basic elements of farcical comedy.”

For Eddie, it’s faking intimacy that has proven difficult. His character Bernard struggles to balance three fiancés throughout the play. As an actor, Eddie finds it tough to “create a private space in a public space,” as he described it. He talked about the difficulty of creating a moment you might share with a significant other behind closed doors with over a hundred people watching you.

Both Eddie and Austin face the challenge to master the comedic timing, they both feel lucky that their roles don’t require them to learn strong accent. Their castmate, Shyiesha Brown, must master an Italian accent for her role as Gabriella, Bernard’s Italian fiancé. It isn’t easy. She described “Boeing, Boeing” as one of the hardest plays she has worked on.

“Boeing, Boeing” is a farce comedy that involves a lot of timing-based jokes and jokes dependent on the entry and exit of the stage. Between learning a foreign accent and finding the perfect timing for every joke, Shyiesha has found the play both challenging and rewarding.

Walking through the challenges of their many rehearsals, the hard work and stress of organizing “Boeing, Boeing’s” careful comedic timing brought the cast closer. Shyiesha described the cast as “a little family” and Austin was not hesitant to say he loved them all.

Krystal Barrera, the elementary education and VPA double major who plays the New Yorker fiancé Gloria , said that it is “easy to work with everyone” and she likes the camaraderie of the cast.

Every member of the cast said they were grateful for their part in “Boeing, Boeing” and are glad to be a part of it. “I always look forward to putting on a good production,” said Austin about why he enjoyed theatre at Worcester State.

For students interested in participating in theatre at WSU, auditions for the plays are typically held the second week of each semester. WSU produces three shows per academic year; one department run show a semester as well as a student-directed show in the spring.  Students are also creating a theatre club that is currently in the works. Eddie Sanchez described it as “a theatre club by students for students.”

Boeing, Boeing opens at Worcester State University on April 27, 2017 at 8:00 p.m. with following shows on April 28 and 29 and 8:00 p.m. and April 30 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets cost $14 for the general public, $10 for senior citizens, and $7 for students and can be purchased at the Worcester State Box Office. For more information, contact 508-929-8145 or visit the Visual and Performing Arts Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VPAatWorcesterState/.

WSU Students Take the Stage to Perform Concert Arrangement of Broadway classic, Les Misérables

By Grace Ingraham, VPA PR/Marketing Intern

Your favorite music from the Broadway classic comes to life in a live performance of Les Misérables. The emotional music and performances by WSU students collide to create an unforgettable show.

Christie Nigro, show director, chose Les Misérables for this spring’s musical performance for several reasons. “The production is well-known and the songs are so good I knew it would appeal to a large audience,” said Nigro.

This is the first year WSU students will perform a concert arrangement of a musical. The cast includes students like Jonathan Costello as Jean Valjean, Ian Simpson as Marius, Leah Gibson as Cosette and Bart Vinik as Thenardier.

A concert arrangement involves a chorus, singers, and a narrator that brings the story across to the audience. The arrangement highlights the critical parts of the show and actors perform important musical scenes.

Les Misérables opened on Broadway in 1987 and closed in 2003, making it one of the longest-running musicals on Broadway.

Les Misérables is a tale about a freed prisoner, Jean Valjean, who uses money from stolen silver to reinvent himself as a mayor and factory owner. Javert, the officer who freed Valjean, vows to bring him back to prison. Many years later, Valjean becomes the guardian of a child, Cosette, but Javert’s relentless chase for him makes raising a child difficult.

One of the challenges Nigro faced as a director was pushing actors outside their comfort zones. “A lot of the performers were new to acting and it was hard for them to express themselves on stage,” said Nigro. “Even so, the most rewarding part of directing is watching it all come together and that means watching the actors finally feel comfortable.”

WSU students act out scenes and perform songs from key parts of the story that fans of the Broadway classic appreciate. Students and alumni perform familiar songs from Les Misérables including; Bring Him Home, Stars, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, In My Life, On My Own, I Dreamed a Dream, Master of the House, Castle on a Cloud, At the End of the Day and Do You Hear the People Sing.

Leah Gibson who plays Cosette said, “My favorite song has to be Master of the House because it is fun to watch and fun to perform.”

Les Misérables performances are on April 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. and April 23 at 2 p.m. in the Sullivan Auditorium on the WSU campus. Tickets will be available at the door and are $15 for general public and $10 for students and seniors. http://www.worcester.edu/extreme-art-ery/

Senior Art Students Draw from Social Issues to Paint a Bigger Picture at the 2017 Student Thesis Exhibit

By Grace Ingraham, VPA PR/Marketing Intern

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Animal factory farming. Sustainability. Violence against women. What if these modern day topics were made into an expressive piece of artwork? At Worcester State University, senior visual and performing arts majors with art concentrations take these real-world issues and turn them into creative pieces that leave the audience with a greater understanding of different ways to think about these issues.

For their capstone projects, eight senior-level VPA majors incorporated a wide variety of materials and art forms to create individual projects to display at the 2017 Student Thesis Art Exhibition. These students include Rona Balco, Paris Bourdeau, Midaly Carrasquillo Delgado, Aimee Chang, Pamella Saffer, Debbie Tran, Kasey Gillen, and Nicole Howard.

The students chose topics they felt passionate about and created artwork that symbolizes their topic and also represents what they learned over the course of four years as a VPA major at WSU.

Kasey Gillen focused her art collection on the issue of sexual assault and women’s rights. She titled her assortment “Take My Flower” and used collaging, painting and line work to produce three mixed media pieces.

“I focused my work around women’s most attractive body parts as well as objects often associated with women, such as flowers,” said Gillen.

Moving closer to the piece, the audience sees that the images are made from handwritten paragraphs, magazines, and news articles that mainly focus on sexual assault and rape cases.

“The goal of this series is to begin an open conversation about women’s roles in society and women’s rights. It is also to question the justification of sexual assault and rape under various circumstances,” said Gillen.

Another student showcasing her work in the 2017 Student Thesis Art Exhibition is Paris Bourdeau. She titled her artwork “Be Kind to Every Kind” and looked at the issue of animal factory farming.

“As an artist, I strive to inspire people to be mindful of how their everyday dietary choices affect more things than just their taste buds,” said Bourdeau.

Bourdeau strives for her audience to further understand how the meat, dairy and egg industries abuse, torture and murder animals to produce the food we eat. Bourdeau also wants to stress the issue of climate change.

“Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of global climate change and simply switching to a vegetarian diet could help reverse some of the damage that has been done to the planet,” said Bourdeau.

When asked what the goal of her art collection is Bourdeau said, “People need to stand up for the animals who cannot do it for themselves, and if my work can convince one person to change their eating habits, my art has done its job.”

An additional senior presenting her work is Pamella Saffer. Her piece is called “Lotus Rising” and is an installation inspired by the ancient sacred symbol of the lotus flower.

“This flower emerges from muddy water to bloom with the sun and in evening falls back into the water.  It has been a metaphor for spiritual striving and perfection for thousands of years,” said Saffer.

Saffer created an installation piece so her audience interacts with her art. An installation artwork is a three-dimensional work that transforms the perception of a space.

“An installation creates an atmosphere where the viewer is immersed in the visual concept. With Lotus Rising, you can walk through the piece to experience it. And, you have the opportunity to participate by making a banner with stamps of lotus symbols,” said Saffer.

All great artwork comes from a particular idea. Saffer said, “My vision is to inspire us individually and collectively to rise above the worldly challenges of our times and strive for beauty and harmony.”

See student artwork from Gillen, Bourdeau, Saffer and others at the 2017 Student Thesis Art Exhibition. Opening reception takes place on April 20, 5 – 7 p.m. The show remains open from April 20 to May 4 in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery on the WSU campus. Gallery hours are Tue. – Fri. 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sat. 1 – 5 p.m. free admission. For more information, contact the Gallery at gallery@worcester.edu or 508-929-8651. Like VPA on Facebook @VPAatWorcesterState. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @WSUVPA.

WSU Senior Nathen Wheeler Directs Almost, Maine – March 2-5

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By Grace Ingraham, VPA Marketing Intern

When we see a play we see actors, props and costumes but what we don’t see is the behind the scenes action. The decisions and challenges to overcome to direct and produce a masterpiece.

This semester, Nathen Wheeler, a visual and performing arts major and senior at Worcester State University, rose to the challenge to take on the demanding role of director for this spring’s production of Almost Maine, a moving and funny play focusing on how love grows in northern Maine.

The production opens March 2 – 5 in Fuller Theater on the WSU campus.

Nathen directed small plays in the past but never a full-length play. He jumped on the opportunity to direct Almost, Maine, by John Cariani, for his senior capstone. “I thought it would be a fun experience and I wanted to challenge myself,” said Nathen.

Nathen acknowledged the difficulties he faced directing a play. “One thing I have learned is to stop and listen to other people’s ideas,” he said. “I struggle with wanting it my way and no one else’s but my way is not always the best direction.”

Nathen referred to the time Jasper Bliss, a WSU student who designed the costumes for the show, produced a detailed outline for every character in the play. “The ideas were so elaborate and well thought out,” said Nathen, “I had to take a step back and realize some of those ideas were a better approach than mine.”

When asked about the most rewarding part of directing, Nathen said, “My favorite part has to be watching two actors finally grasp the essence of a scene and knowing I helped them get there.”

In one scene in particular, WSU students Austin Gannon and Krystal Barrera were rehearsing their roles as the characters, Dave and Rhonda. “We were working on the scene and they weren’t quite getting it,” said Nathen. “But once we talked it through and kept rehearsing, it was so satisfying to see the scene finally fall into place.”

Nathen Wheeler’s dedication to Almost Maine shows in the detail of the upcoming production. The opportunity also encouraged him to continue direct.

The student-directed show runs March 2 – 4 at 8 p.m. and March 5 at 2 p.m. Purchase tickets at the Fuller Theater Box Office in the Administration Building, email VPABoxOffice@worcester.edu, or call 508-929-8843.

The 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition at WSU Assembles Inspired Pieces from Talented Professors

 

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Suzanne Gainer captures the nesting season of olive ridley sea turtles in Ostianal, Costa Rica

 

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Catherine Wilcox-Titus photographs winter and the ice it creates.

 

 

By Grace Ingraham, VPA Marketing Intern

The beauty of nature surrounds us daily, but most of us only see the attractiveness of the world at its surface. At the 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition professors show pieces that take the essence of nature and turn it into a different way of viewing the world around us.

“I want my students to walk away being enthusiastic about art and curious about the world,” said Catherine Wilcox-Titus, director of the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery and Visual and Performing Arts professor at Worcester State University.

The 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition is a collection of the creative artwork of 11 faculty members of WSU, including Cathy. It opens Feb. 16 – March 16 with an opening reception on Feb. 16, 5-7 p.m. Free admission.

Faculty artists narrowed their focus onto one specific project. Cathy chose to focus on her series about the physical properties of water.

“I grew up around water and began to be fascinated with the water patterns,” said Cathy. “My focus is mostly on Massachusetts during the winter and the winter ice it creates.”

To create the still photographs of the different properties of water, Cathy used a basic digital camera and a tripod.

All great artist find inspiration from specific people that influence their work. Cathy’s comes from Andy Goldsworthy, a Scottish photographer and environmentalist.

“I love the way he takes a natural environment and makes it stunning and he doesn’t tamper with it,” said Cathy. “That is what I try to do with my artwork. I find something beautiful in our world and photograph it in its natural form.”

Cathy isn’t the only WSU professor choosing nature as the focus of artwork in the 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition. Suzanne Gainer is also presenting her artwork at the Exhibition.

During her sabbatical, Suzanne travelled to Ostional, Costa Rica to work on her Arribadas series. Suzanne photographed the gathering of thousands of olive ridley sea turtles as they arrived on Ostional’s shores to nest.

Suzanne first learned about the mass sea turtle nesting from visiting Costa Rica with students in the spring. The mating season for sea turtles is in the month of October which is why Suzanne planned this special trip during her sabbatical. She wanted to experience the nesting in real life.

“Photographing Costa Rica and this nesting allows the spectators to see the similarities and vast differences of other cultures around the world,” said Suzanne.

When asked what she hopes her audience takes from her photos Suzanne said, “I want them to be fascinated and recognize the beauty of our planet and see the sense of fragility in this situation.”

You can see Cathy’s, Suzanne’s and many other professors’ artwork from Feb. 16 to March 16 at the 2017 Faculty Art Exhibition in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery located in the Ghosh Science and Tech building on the Worcester State campus. The opening reception takes place Feb. 16 from 5 – 7 p.m. and includes free refreshments. Regular Gallery hours are Tue. – Fri 11 a.m., Sat. 1 – 5 p.m. and admission is free.

WSU Art Professor combines Native American Pottery with Prose in Grammar School

By Paul Fontaine, VPA PR/Marketing Intern

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(Photo: 2015 STARS grant at Columbia Park with Susan Fisher.)

Learning through art is not a new concept. All of us have colored in sheets of math problems, created maps or drew pictures depicting a point in history. Art creates an opportunity to enhance learning.

Through a STARS grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Susan Fisher, VPA adjunct faculty, is taking the intersection of art and learning to a new level. For the third year in a row, Fisher is working with the Columbus Park Preparatory Academy in Worcester, Mass. to work with teachers in absorbing art lessons into the school’s curriculum.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s STARS (Students and Teachers Working with Artists, Scientists and Scholars) Residencies are part of the MCC’s Creative Youth Initiative, which seeks out creative learning opportunities for students in and out of school.

The MCC awards STARS grants in amounts up to $5000 and the programs start right after Thanksgiving. For this year’s grant, which is about including art in the standard grammar school curriculum, Fisher is working on a unit of Native American pottery. Students create their own pottery and then write about it.

Fisher teaches the program over three classes and reaches every single class in grades K-6. In the program, students are first exposed to actual Native American pottery and create their own pottery piece. Once the pottery is created, students paint their pottery using authentic Native American designs. Lastly, students write a story about their pottery.

Brianna Howe, a 2015 Visual and Performing Arts graduate of Worcester State, assists Fisher on the project. Howe has worked with Fisher on all three STARS grants. “She is an asset to this program on every level,” Fisher said.

In addition to Howe’s assistance, Fisher works with classroom teachers in implementing the program. She also collaborates with Columbus Park’s art teacher in putting on an art show of the students’ work at the end of the year.

“The art show reinforces the concepts that we each teach in our programs,” said Fisher.

Fisher targeted Columbus Park in Worcester for two specific reasons. Columbus Park is a low-income school where enrichment programs play a role in enhancing the curriculum and because she knew the principal, Siobhan Dennis, who was one of Fisher’s former students. The two have collaborated on the STARS grants for three years in a row.

Fisher hopes the Columbus Park students will learn to express their ideas visually and see how their prose and their art affect each other. She also hopes students see how learning crosses academic disciplines and how that enhances the learning process.

“This project promotes self-expression and creative thinking,” Fisher said. “It also encourages students to think about the indigenous people of the United States.”

What do Uptown Funk and Old Time Gospel Have in Common? WSU’s Chorale.

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By Paul Fontaine, VPA PR and Marketing Intern

Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. Pure Imagination from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Old time gospel. Holiday classics – and so much more.

This selection of music seems not to have a lot in common — except maybe one thing — all were performed at the Dec. 4 concert of the Worcester State University Chorale.

“We try to be eclectic in the choice of music we sing,” said Chorale director, Prof. Christie Nigro. “The situation we are singing in dictates our musical choices.”

On Dec.4, the Chorale performed the above selections and more at Our Lady of the Angels Church. On Dec. 11, the group performs in the meeting house at Old Sturbridge Village, joining OSV’s Christmas by Candlelight event for the 15th year in a row. Plus, on Dec. 10 at 8 p.m., the Chorale performs with other area colleges at the Holiday Pops Concert with the Mass. Symphony Orchestra in Mechanics Hall.

In addition to performing locally, the group also sings outside the Unites States. “The Chorale group has been going on international tours since 1993 when we went to Austria and the Czech Republic. We’ve toured abroad every other year since then,” said Nigro.  ‘We have been to Spain, Ireland, England, Scotland, almost every country in Europe except France.”

This spring, the Chorale travels to Italy. It is visiting the island of Sicily from May 15 to 22. “Everybody in the Chorale is allowed to go, but some members will not be able to make the trip,” she said. “In addition to the Chorale, we usually have an entourage of non-singers who come along on each trip.”

The total cost of the trip to Sicily is about $60,000. Students pay about $1100 of their own money and raise the rest through a variety of fundraisers.

“Students pay for about a third of the trip on their own,” said Nigro. “The rest of the money comes from fundraisers, which the students work on for two years.”

Two popular fundraisers are their fall leaf raking event where Chorale students earn money raking leaves for homeowners. Another fundraiser happens around Valentine’s Day where people hire Chorale singers to serenade that someone special.

With the holiday season approaching, area organizations often call on the group to perform at an event. “We receive lots of calls to perform during the holidays,” Nigro said. “We sing as much as we can, but we don’t charge for everything.”

The Chorale group was originally formed in 1989 when Nigro first joined the WSU faculty in the Visual and Performing Arts Department. “I kind of started it,” she said.

The Chorale started with four voice students and 12 non-students. Since then, the number of WSU students in the Chorale has grown to 33 members.

“Most members of the Chorale are students and WSU alumni,” said Nigro.”Everyone who wants to join must audition first. Currently, the Chorale is looking for a couple of bass vocalists to join the group before traveling to Sicily.”

Students interested in being part of the Chorale sign up for MU 300, a one-credit course offered through the VPA department.

“Students who take the class aren’t in it for the credit, they take the class because they love to sing,” said Nigro.

Student Pamella Saffer Contributed to Babel, Now on Exhibit in the Gallery

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Students in AR350, Undisciplined Art –
Left to Right: Pamella Saffer, Julie Marshall, Sam Brower, Amber Cannalonga,
Prof. Cathy Wilcox-Titus, Mia Koutoulas, and Phong Diep.

By Paul Fontaine, VPA PR and Marketing Intern

“Babel is a timely –and creative – response to the national elections which have had the atmosphere of a circus, or maybe a bad novel,” said Pamella Saffer, a perennial student and artist who she has been taking classes at Worcester State University for over four years. This semester marks the first time she worked with others to create a work of art, the Babel sculpture.

“Babel” is a sculpture composed of electronic junk, sheets of paper text and boxes. It offers a commentary on the chaotic communication of the recent election as well as the rapid obsolescence of modern electronic technology. The sculpture was created by students in AR 350 Undisciplined Art and is on display in the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery from November 17 to December 8.

Saffer readily identifies with the concepts expressed in the Babel exhibit. “The exhibit is apropos of our times and the presidential election,” she said.  She also enjoys working with the other students on the exhibit.

“I love the idea of working collaboratively on construction and three-dimensional design,” Saffer said. “It’s an opportunity to experiment artistically.” Although she has worked with murals and children’s art projects in the past, the Babel exhibit is the first time she has actually “built” a work of art.

“There’s something beautiful in working together. Building on everyone’s strengths,” said Saffer.

Participating in the art class also taught her some valuable lessons. “It’s knowing when to let go of an idea you have when the group doesn’t agree with you,” said Saffer. “Working on this project has provided us an opportunity to express ourselves in a positive way, using humor and creativity.”

“In the greater context of the massive babble of the election campaign, we have shared ideas, learned to work together, and learned to appreciate and respect each other’s strengths,” said Saffer. “These are lessons that can be applied anywhere.”

The exhibit includes styrofoam boxes covered over with written text on paper. Some of the texts are printed in multiple languages including English. “We are using calligraphy from several different languages: Korean, Vietnamese, German, even Aramaic,” said Saffer.  She has mostly worked with paper as an art medium in the past.

Saffer officially enrolled at WSU through the Intergenerational Urban Institute, a program offered by the Urban Studies department, which offers community service opportunities to students of all ages. “I was taking classes before that, but I wasn’t enrolled,” Saffer said. “I’ve learned a lot from all my courses. I love learning to learn.”

Although Saffer has been taking classes at WSU for several years, graduation is not her goal. “I’ll probably be still taking classes,” she said. “Worcester State has a very rich learning environment. The Visual and Performing Arts Department is an excellent addition to the university. The professors show a high level of professionalism.”

When she’s not taking classes at WSU, Saffer is across the street at WSU‘s Inter-Generational Garden, where she works as the director. In the garden, WSU students enroll in a one-credit practicum at the garden. Before directing the garden, Saffer ran her own dying and weaving textile business and acted as a docent at the Worcester Art Museum.

VPA Professor Adam Zahler Directs A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By Paul Fontaine, VPA PR/Marketing Intern

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“No student should leave Worcester State University without experiencing Shakespeare,” said Adam Zahler, VPA Department chair and director of the upcoming Worcester State Theatre production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The play, which opens Nov. 17 – 20 in Fuller Theater, is part of Worcester State University’s commitment to produce Shakespeare’s plays every three years.

For students, participating in and experiencing a Shakespeare play is an essential part of an education in the visual and performing arts. It’s also an essential part of learning the craft of theatre. “If you want to do great theatre, go and see great theatre. Trust Shakespeare. He gives you so much to work with,” said Zahler.

While this is Zahler’s first time directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he has performed in it. “I’ve acted in the play twice, over twenty years ago, and played two of the mechanicals.” Zahler directed the last two Shakespeare plays on campus, the comedy, Twelfth Night, and tragedy, Julius Caesar.

As a director, Zahler added his own twist to this upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The set traditionally takes place in the forest, but Zahler brought the story to a new place.

“The set is made up to look like a 1920’s nightclub,” said Zahler. The set is designed in Art Deco style and the costumes reflect 1920’s era clothing. To add ambience to the Art Deco décor, 1920’s and 30’s jazz music plays during the show.

In addition to staging the show in Art Deco, Zahler also faces the challenges of coordinating and creating what happens on the stage and behind the scenes. “Shakespeare is always a challenge and always a big production,” said Zahler. “There are huge demands on everyone involved – the director, the actors and the designers. There are so many set and costume changes.”

“It’s all about the students in the end,” said Zahler. “You have to commit to the students. The students do everything involved with the production.”

Zahler admitted sometimes putting on a play can be intimidating, even terrifying, experience. “I’ve never directed anything that hasn’t scared me,” he said. But regardless of the fear, an actor or director must not give into it.  “If you fear something, that’s an indication you must run towards it, not from it,” he said. “An artist learns to recognize that the art endeavor that scares them is the one we have to do.”

Zahler revels in the ongoing popularity of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “Shakespeare understood what audiences wanted. We understand the characters in the play because we’ve all been there,” said Zahler.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream has it all: low comedy, high comedy, love, and magic.”  Low comedy uses action and high comedy uses word and wittiness. “I’m a low comedy kind of guy,” Zahler said.

The show runs Nov. 17 – 19 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 20 at 2p.m. Purchase tickets at the Fuller Theater Box Office in the Administration building, email VPABoxOffice@worcester.edu, or call 508-929-8843.

“With A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the two productions in the spring, ‘Almost Maine’ and ‘Boeing, Boeing,’ we plan on a more entertaining season than we had last year,” said Zahler.