I hope that this email finds you healthy and happy. My name is Aly Homminga. I am a graduating senior and Assistant Office Manager of the Theatre Arts Office. It is my pleasure to be curating the KTAN Newsletter this year.
Throughout 2020, there have been many events that have rocked our world, and it is my hope that this newsletter will be a beacon of light in the darkness and pain as we celebrate our theatre alumni. We stand in solidarity with all who stand for justice.
Reflections on Our Year ~
Though we at Festival Playhouse are extremely disappointed that our spring production of Water by the Spoonful was postponed indefinitely, we are still happy to be celebrating the end of our 56th Season, HERstories: Forgotten Female Figures! Here are some highlights from our season.
FALL: The Spitfire Grill. Directed by ‘C’ Heaps
This musical followed the story of Percy, an ex-convict who attempts to start her life anew in the small town of Gilead, WI. Her journey of self-exploration helps the town grow and become more accepting. As the show goes on, the audience learns that there is much more to Percy, and Gilead, than meets the eye.The Spitfire Grill is a lesson in acceptance, understanding, and hope. Set and lighting design by Lanny Potts was spectacularly breathtaking, especially his creation of a setting sun on stage.
WINTER: Silent Sky. Directed by Ren Berthel
Written by Lauren Gunderson, America’s most produced living playwright, Silent Sky depicts the lifelong journey of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. While working at the Harvard observatory in the early 20th century, Leavitt and other female astronomers were written off and relegated to analyst positions instead of full astronomers. Despite this, Henrietta was able to make significant discoveries that lead to astronomers measuring the universe for the first time. Costume Designer Lori Sands worked with juniors Clara Valenti ’21 and Marie Townsend ’21 to design costumes for the leading ladies. (One dress even lit up!) Jon Reeves and his crew created a stellar spiral staircase and platform for the set. Local artist Raven Wynd painted a nebula on the stage floor that was so popular with patrons, many bought pieces of it! For more details and some very special design notes, please see the attached program, coordinated by Aly Homminga ’20. (It’s one of our best yet! [According to Laura Livingstone-McNelis, I am not just bragging]).
Silent Sky Program PDF (It is in ‘Booklet’ format so the pages are out of order. The page numbers on the bottom corners of the pages should help)
SPRING: Online Classes & Devised Theatre
Festival Playhouse did not stop creating just because we went online! During the spring term, the Community Dialogues class worked with Emilio Rodriguez, Artistic Director of The Black and Brown Theatre Company in Detroit, MI, to create a full-length devised play. Visiting Assistant Professor, “C” Heaps, served as dramaturg. Over the term, students created a play that is currently 110 pages long! The play, simply titled K, will be produced by Festival Playhouse this fall. (More on the production below.)
Irene Ryan Competition Nominations were awarded to Rebecca Chan ’22 (The Spitfire Grill), Sophie Hill ’20 (The Spitfire Grill), Aly Homminga ’20 (Silent Sky), and Milan Levy ’23 (Silent Sky)
Ethan Tuck ’22 was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Stage Management (Silent Sky)
At the annual festival held in Madison, WI this year, two of our students were given special awards: Milan Levy ’23 was awarded Golden Collaborator for being an outstanding and collaborative presence during the festival’s devised theatre project. Aly Homminga ’20 received a full-ride scholarship to attend a theatre intensive for Collaboration and Devised Theatre through the California State University Summer Arts Program. Rebecca Chan ’22 National Finalist for the Institute for Theatre Journalism and Advocacy (as a first-year last year!), competed again this year, as did Sedona Coleman ’23 and Milan Levy ’23. Kate Kreiss ’19 co-presented a workshop on theatre arts administration with Laura Livingstone-McNelis ’89.
Professor Emeritus Ed Menta is enjoying his retirement and is the guitarist for Kalamazoo blues band BlueBack. The band will present concerts in the Beats on Bates weekly summer music festival in downtown Kalamazoo on Wednesday July 8 @5:30 -8:30pm, and at the Nelda K. Balch Playhouse on Week One Monday Sep. 14 @7:30pm (co-sponsored by the Office of Student Involvement and Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College). For more info on the band and other gigs, check the BlueBack Website.
Guest Artist Bianca Washington got married in October 2019 and is expecting her first child in August!
Upon receiving the International Innovation Fund Grant, Laura Livingstone-McNelis ’89 visited the new study abroad program in preparation for students next year. There, at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, she met with faculty, administrators, toured the sonic lab (yes, it is amazing!!–literally speakers are below the floor, on the walls, and above the ceiling!) and costume shop as well as The Lyric Theatre, where their motto is, “Come, play with us.” The first group of students to take advantage of this program, including rising senior Trevor Lodeum-Jackson ’21, were supposed to attend in fall of 2020. A second new program originally scheduled to begin this fall is in London, England, which allows for students to customize their interests in urban studies including focusing on the arts.Laura also visited the Edinburgh Fringe Festival office with thoughts of taking students there to present one day…and no trip to the British Isles is complete without a stop at Stratford-upon-Avon! There she saw A Museum in Baghdad, and The Boy in a Dress–two excellent productions of important stories.
Our 57th Season is all about us! Well… our students that is. Season 57 is all about stories that tell important stories that represent our students and/or thecurrent experiences of youth, peer pressure, and technology. The season is titled: Our Time is Now #ourstories and will feature graphic designs by three current students. (This is the third year we’ve been fortunate enough to work in this way! See attached designs–and if you’d like to receive a mailer by post, please contact Laura Livingstone-McNelis@kzoo.edu.)
Kokoro: True Heart by Velina Hasu Houston
Directed by Ynika Yuag ’21, Assisted by Ren Berthel
Graphic Design by Jorence Quiambao ’21
Original Devised Theatre Production,“K”
Directed by Emilio Rodriguez
During spring quarter 19 students worked with Guest Artist Emilio Rodriguez of The Black and Brown Theatre Company to come up with a completely original full-length play, written by students for students. Though we cannot disclose much of the plot at this time, we are honored that our own Nelda K. Balch has a significant role in the play. Special thanks to Visiting Assistant Professor “C” Heaps who has served as dramaturg for this play.Graphic Design by Christina Diaz ’21
Be More Chill: The Musical. Book by Joe Tracz (K’04). Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis.
Directed by Jon Reeves
Bringing the work of K theatre alumni back to campus is always a thrill, but we are especially proud of Joe for his Tony Award-nominated musical and honored to produce his work.
Graphic Design by Christina Diaz ’21
The Compass by Michael Rohd
Directed by ‘C’ Heaps
Graphic Design by Angela Mammel ’22
For More Information about these plays and our upcoming season read our full Season Announcement on our newly designed website!
And now… Alumni Updates!
Staring with our graduating seniors… Our soon-to-be grads are already jumping into the world of theatre as best they can.
2020: Sophie Hill graduated with honors from the Theatre Arts Department. Sophie secured an internship at The Civic Theatre in Kalamazoo and is hoping to work more on her beadwork platform. She is also working on expanding her SIP into a full-length play….. Aly Homminga also graduated with honors in the department and on her Senior Individualized Project. Aly works for The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute as a remote blog writer and will (hopefully) be moving to Japan to teach English and artistic creativity to children with partner Sean Bogue ’18…. Mars Wilson graduated early from K and has been working at tea shop, ChocolaTea, in Portage. Mars’ work is being featured in a 24 hour play festival in partnership with OutFront Kalamazoo’s #StillProud series on June 19th. He has become involved with PACCT Board (Promise Advocacy of Children and Community Transformation) to advocate against the school to prison pipeline with in KPS.
2019: Hunter Himeloch was participating in the Disney College Program, but it unexpectedly ended in March this year…. As of October 2019, Kate Kreiss has been the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at The Grand Theater in Wausau, WI. She was also cast as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at the Wasau Community Theater. In the fall she will help lead the Central Wisconsin Jerry Ensemble (an audition-based ensemble for high school students).
2018: Cody Colvin began his own theatre production company based in Grand Rapids called Colvin Theatrical. His company produces a 24 hour theatre festival every month and produced a virtual short play festival called Overcoming Isolation.… Johanna Keller-Flores has been busy doing theatre while working as an Art Administrator for the East Side Arts Council in St. Paul, Minnesota. For two years in a row, Johanna’s work was a part of a performance series called Controlled Burn, from queer theatre company, 20% Theatre. This year’s production, Angelita, featured a song co-written by Johanna and her brother. She also stage managed a production of Sueno, adapted by Jose Rivera, at Pangea World Theatre…. Lauren Landman has been working as a promotional model for various brands including LIVELY, Popsugar, Amazon and Samsung. She has also been working at Prose, a custom hair care company. She was supposed to reprise her role as Anne Lehmann in her second national tour of My Heart in a Suitcase, but it was cancelled due to COVID-19.
2017: Quincy Crosby was cast as Magic Johnson in an HBO series about the 1980’s Lakers that is scheduled to begin production in late 2020…. BIG congratulations on the engagement of Emma Franzel and Aidan Ives-Johnson.Emma writes, “After meeting our freshman year at K, we dated for 6 years before he popped the question in Central Park. We plan to be married in August 2021 in Stetson Chapel, of course!”
2015: Poet Jane Huffman was awarded the prestigious Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. She is also Editor-in-Chief of Guesthouse magazine, all while teaching at the University of Iowa (Alma mater of Festival Playhouse’s Costume Designer and Theatre Arts professor, Lori Sands).
2014: Linda Strini is working as the Assistant Technical Director at the esteemed Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago…. Michael Wecht started a photography business that specializes in dance and theatre photography, including headshots and portraits. Michael’s Photography Site.
2012: Sam Barken has been creating digital experiences for the San Francisco Neo-Futurists’ weekly online show The World Wide Wrench.
2010: Emilia LaPenta’s career at Audible continues to thrive as she wraps up her third year as the Senior Producer of Commissions and New Play Development. In 2019, she worked on seven commissioned projects, including Madhuri Shekar’s Evil Eye, which received a 2020 Audie Award for Best Original and is being adapted into a film. Her wedding was originally scheduled for April, but has been postponed.
2009: Speaking of weddings, Terry Cangelosi is engaged to be married! Wedding date has yet to be determined. He is also continuing his work as Senior Manager of Operations at Americans for the Arts…. Alex Cothier’s wife has been teaching him yoga during quarantine. He has also been “trying to dream up new projects” with K friends Emilia LaPenta ’10 and Pibby Motts ’10…. Joan Miller completed he qualifying exams for her THIRD master’s degree! Her dissertation explores the role storytelling plays in society as empathic education. This year her articles have been published in Transformative Works and Cultures, the International Journal of Communication, The Journal of Play, and a chapter in an edited collection from NYU Press called; Popular Culture and the Civic Imagination– her chapter focused on the ways public affect influences violent tactics from groups like #gamergate and the #altright.
2006: Christine Grodecki was promoted to Executive Director of CCS Fundraising, a non-profit fundraising company in Chicago.
2005: Another great year for actor, Steven Yeun! Be on the look out for Minari, a Korean-American drama. The film, directed by Lee Isaac Chung, won the U.S. Dramatic Competition Grand Jury and Audience Award Prize at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
2004: Emily Campbell Berezowsky returned to K this year to teach Fundamentals of Acting as Theatre Arts Visiting Assistant Faculty….Though the process is still underway, Ryan Hatch is expecting to receive a tenure and promotion of Associate Professor of English at California Polytechnic State University. He teaches modern and contemporary drama at Cal Poly and is also the Director of Graduate Studies. As a part of PAJ: a Journal of Performance and Art, Ryan is working on a monograph on the work of contemporary experimental playwright Young Jean Lee….Joe Tracz created a new Netflix series called Dash & Lily, premiering Christmas 2020. Joe writes, “I’m excited to see K do my musical BE MORE CHILL in 2021!”…. Lanie Wieland moved back to San Francisco to be closer to family and to teach early childhood music and puppetry. Her first classes were online and covered puppet creation.
2002: Kristala Pouncy Smart began working as a middle school Drama teacher this year.
2001: Political comedian Jordan Klepper visited K’s improv team (and his former improv team), Monkapult, over Zoom at the end of May. In 2019, Jordan aired his new docuseries, Klepper, on comedy Central and toured around the country doing live shows. He has occasionally returned to The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as a correspondent. Jordan also surprised the Class of 2020 with a Commencement Address at the virtual Conferral of Degrees Ceremony on June 14th.…. Allen Krause is the Political and Economic Section Chief of the U.S. Consulate Jeddah in Saudi Arabia…. Sarah Surrian was awarded an NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship for the final year of her PhD in Education at Harvard! Her dissertation is on the transition to preschool for Spanish-speaking dual language learners.
1999: Attorney Ben Imdieke’s children have stolen the show on stage this year! His son, Ami, aged 9, performed his ninth show (online because of COVID). He was a ‘Gang Member’ in Les Misérables at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley. His younger sister, Karuna, aged 3, made her acting debut as Baby Simba in The Lion King Jr.
1997: This past year Jennifer Goodlander moved departments from Theatre and Drama to Comparative Literature. She continues to do roller derby with the Circle City Derby Girls in Indianapolis, IN…. Matt Priest is now the General Manager of Beer on the Wall, a craft beer store and tasting room in Arlington Heights, Illinois. “Once it is safe,” Matt writes, “I look forward to having a beer in person with any of you who can come for a visit!”
1995: Anjalee Deshpande Hutchinson was promoted to Full Professor at Bucknell University this spring! She is rotating out of the role of Chair of the Theatre & Dance Department and into the role of Coordinator for Department Equity, Diversity and Inclusive Efforts where she will be working on strong plans of action for theatre programs. In July, she has an edited collection of essays coming out titled Michael Chekhov and Sanford Meisner: Collisions and Convergence in Actor Training. The last essay in the book focuses on the need to broaden the acting techniques prevalent in most Western training programs to include more methods from artists and teachers of color, as well as a call to decentralize white actor training techniques as a whole.
1990: Katy Loebrich won her second Emmy award this year! She is a producer on the Arts team at UNC-TV in North Carolina (PBS). Her production team won their second Emmy for their show, MUSE, which showcases artists across the state. Last Fall she attended the Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, NC as a presenting filmmaker. Her film was a collection of short films about and/or by youth.
1989: Festival Playhouse Company Manager, Laura Livingstone-McNelis, took to the stage once again in 2019 as The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz at Center Stage Theatre. Her daughter, Mary Lee, played her stunt double. Mary Lee recently turned 25 and just completed a job skills program through Project Search. She has been volunteering in the Theatre Arts Office at K for two years and has developed some great skills as an office assistant. Her son, Vincent, is a rising senior at Williams College and was recently elected class president! Last Fall, she andPeter McNelis ’87 celebrated their 30th anniversary. Laura is actively trying to get the children’s book that should wrote published, and has begun working on a short memoir about parenting and learning from a person with special needs…. Larry Schlessinger got married to Daivd F. Bryant last fall! K College theatre alumni Laura Livingstone-McNelis, Tricia Wagner, and Christine Polydoris Webster were in attendance. He also took on a new role of Senior Producer/ Program Manager of Live & Streaming Series for Amazon Web Services…. Tricia Wanger is teaching bi-lingual 7th grade theatre in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1988: Meredith Robertson Eaton has spent quarantine cherishing time with her teenage children, especially her high school senior. Her family is spending time “bingeing a lot of great television/Netflix/Hulu; homeschooling the kids with movie nights of all the films they should see in their lives. Badminton and corn hole in the yard. So. Much. Cooking. And cocktails. Game nights, puzzles, Zoom calls, laughter and tears.” She hopes everyone has stayed safe and well.
1985: Christopher Tower performed a magic act at the Lower Colombia College talent show in January. He hadn’t performed magic since his time at K. He has been taking the time to write more fiction, including a novella about a future pandemic that’s worse than COVID-19.
1974: Barbara Ostroth is still an active full-time realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty in New Jersey. She also does community service projects with the League of Women Voters including celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, supporting the local election foundation, preparing for increased voter registration, serving on the board of the Teaneck Community Scholarship Fund and heading up a cleaning products collection for families in need. Her four children are all grown up and she now has 4 grandchildren with a 5th on the way. Her daughter’s wedding to her girlfriend is scheduled for October.
1960: Congratulations to Bill Vincent on acting in two short films that are in post-production, St. Anton’s and The Frightened President. He has written and performed in two films: Some are Born, recently added to Amazon Prime, and The Seer, featured at the 2019 Sault Ste. Marie Public Library Horrorfest.
Thank you for reading, for sharing, and for being part of the Kalamazoo Theatre Alumni Network! Please encourage your friends from K to share their updates; our connections are treasures! If you have any suggestions for PSAC, thoughts, or ideas to share–or information you’d like from our Festival Playhouse Archives, or would like to receive a season mailer (by post!), please contact Laura.Livingstone-McNelis@kzoo.edu.
As the world starts to reopen, stay safe this summer, and keep finding ways to do theatre!
Theatre that is always provocative. Theatre that is always thoughtful.
Aly Homminga ’20 & the Theatre Arts Department