2020 KTAN Newsletter

Festival Playhouse Logo.  The word Festival is over the word Playhouse and there is a person standing in the spot where the 'A' in Festival is

Hello KTAN!

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.

Faculty Updates

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.) 

Poster for Kokoro: True Heart. A woman holding the outline of a baby in front of a pink, flowering tree.

Fall 2020:
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

Poster for Be More Chill. A distressed young man wearing glasses and a sweatshirt.

Winter 2021:
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

Poster for The Compass. Graphic of a brain made up of twisting arrows with a compass embedded inside.

Spring 2021:
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

Festival Playhouse Newsletter- Week 10 SP’20

The horrific events of the past week reflect hundreds of years of thinking and behavior, and there is no denying that we are all part of the problem if we do nothing, and, we can be part of the solution if we do something.

The Green Dot slogan, “Nobody has to do everything, but everyone has to do something,” is true in this realm as well. In the end, isn’t it the same sort of thing? Power over others, dominating others = violations of fundamental human rights.

Thank you to all the students and staff who stand in solidarity with black people on campus, in our community, our country, and across the world. We stand with you.


There are a few items to share that are also part of the fabric our lives, so I share them here:

  1. Lanny’s back surgery went well. He is recovering and will be in contact as he is able. Feel free to email him well-wishes…I am sure he’d appreciate a few words of cheer during the long recovery period ahead.
  2. Bianca Washington and husband Costas are expecting their baby August 11! They are doing well at this time. Consider marking your calendars and sending her a congratulatory email in August!
  3. ArtHop has been postponed to Friday, June 12. You can participate virtually next week on the Facebook page.
  4. FaceOff Theatre will livestream two more plays to finish their season: June 26 and July 24, both at 7pm. (The first was May 28 but it was recorded if you’d like to look it up: Face-Off Theatre Facebook) See how FaceOff is keeping theatre artists and patrons connected during this pandemic. Go to Facebook Live @faceofftheatre.
  5. Arts Midwest is also sharing ways to continue doing live theatre though digitally, and recently shared this webinar: Disruption and Innovation: Creative Performing Arts Responses to COVID-19, a recording of which is on their Facebook page. Resources shared following the webinar.
  6. For those interested in Irish Playwrights, this from Lauren O’Toole (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at ACTF this year!), of The Gaiety School of Acting-The National Theatre School of Ireland:
    “We are running an online programme in lieu of our usual Irish Theatre Summer Programme – yourself or your students may be interested?  
    All the details are below, but essentially it is an opportunity to study the greats of Irish Theatre in addition to taking part in an online cultural programme.” More Information at the Gaiety School’s Website.

Thank you, All, for being part of Festival Playhouse. Thank you for making Theatre that is always provocative. Theatre that is always thoughtful. Doing this work is one of the ways we can change the way others think, and therefore be part of positive social change.

With great respect, hope, and in solidarity,


2020-2021 Season- Our Time is Now: #ourstories

Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College presents its 57th season:  Our Time Is Now:  #ourstories.  We at Festival Playhouse believe there is no better time than now to express the ideas, challenges, and celebrations of our community.  Our productions this year focus upon the stories and ideas that celebrate our uniqueness and reflect upon that which brings us together.  Our fall Devised Theatre Production reflects a one-and-a-half year process of outside guest-artists working alongside our students, creating, and telling #ourstories.  Our second Fall production of Kokoro: True Heart allows us to experience cultural viewpoints through a lens which may be very different than our own.  In Winter, we produce one of our own storytellers, Joe Tracz’s (K’04) Broadway musical Be More Chill And, in Spring, our interactive production of The Compass (originally devised and produced at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago) will include your idea of telling the story with ours.

Fall 2020

October 22-25

Kokoro: True Heart by Velina Hasu Houston

Produced by our students as a main stage show, this heartbreaking story explores the struggle of a young Japanese mother as she tries to navigate the foreign culture of the United States. The audience is forced to reckon with the clash of two very different cultures’ moral codes after she commits a horrible crime. 

November 5 – 8 (Family Weekend)

Original Devised Theatre Production  (This is a work in progress and yet to be titled.)

Guest-Artist-in-Residence Emilio Rodriguez (Artistic Director of the Black and Brown Theatre, Detroit, MI) will direct this original piece developed and written by students from our ‘Community Dialogue Techniques’ class, as well as Winter 2020 and Spring 2020 Devised Theatre Workshop participants.This world-premiere work is based on themes relevant to current students at Kalamazoo College offering audience members fresh reflections and the opportunity to see how their stories relate to #ourstories.

Winter 2021

February 11-14

Senior Performance Series

Despite a variety of factors including the pandemic, we hope to produce student-created work, and we will confirm a plan as we are able.

February 25 – 28

Be More Chill: The Musical.  Book by Joe Tracz (K’04). Music and Lyrics by Joe Iconis.

This Tony Award-nominated musical comes to Kalamazoo College!  Be More Chill follows the story of social outcast Jeremy Heere as he climbs the social ladder with the help of a tiny super computer (or, SQUIP). But is popularity all it’s cracked up to be? We are proud to bring more of Alumnus Joe Tracz’s (K’04) work back to Festival Playhouse!

Spring 2021

May 20 – 23

The Compass by Michael Rohd

Originally devised and produced at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, this interactive play explores technology’s impact on decision-making. When an app tells a teenager to call a bomb threat into her school in order to prevent a mass shooting, can she be held accountable? You, the audience, will decide her fate. 

Theatre that is always provocative. Theatre that is always thoughtful.

Festival Playhouse Newsletter- Week 6 SP’20

Dear Friends,

Please PLEASE click and watch each of the links provided in this email….!!

And now, onto the news…

  • What HAVE our theatre teachers been doing anyway?  Well, we’re just as confused as all of you. So, during our virtual team meeting this week, we wondered if we could figure out how to have an online discussion about collaborating on Silent Sky. Faculty Meeting Clip
  • What’s happening with fall?  Well, whether or not the sky is still falling, we ARE going to produce Kokoro this fall.  Ren will serve as Artistic Director, and we hope to have a student director involved with the project (else, Ren will also serve as the director).  Like every play, we need actors, technicians, designers, etc.  We know some of our Seniors will be working on the production as part of their SIP.  GREAT.  HOW are we going to produce this play?  What will the final “output” be?  That we don’t know. But we do know that we can figure out how to collaborate, design, brainstorm, create, and tell stories.  THAT we can do.  And.  We will.
  • What’s happening with the season?  Well for now, our season is unchanged.  Devised Theatre (directed by Guest-Artist-in-Residence Emilio Rodriguez) and Kokoro (artistic director and guide Ren Berthel).  Be More Chill in Winter (directed by the inimitable Mr. Jon Reeves).  And in Spring, The Compass (will announce director as soon as we’re able).  IF we can NOT “produce” the Devised Theatre piece in Fall, I would cancel The Compass, and we would move the Devised Theatre piece to Spring term.  So.  We have a plan.  And, we can adjust and be flexible as needed or necessary.  The message we want ALL of us to hear is:  we ARE going to be doing theatre.
  • Lanny has a secret?  What is it??  You may not know this about me.  I LOVE doing theatre.  And I love WORKING on theatre.  And, I love working WITH students and collaborative artists MAKING theatre.  I miss it.  This message from Artist Director Joseph Haj of The Guthrie (it’s just under 5”) reflects my own sentiments and I suspect resonates with many of you as well.
  • TODAY IS ART HOP in Kalamazoo, MI.  And, the ever-fabulous Jon Reeves continues to exercise his gifts of making and creating art…  

I’ll end on a personal note.  I shared with colleagues this week that never have I worked longer on projects, with less productivity, to achieve such mediocrity.  If you’re feeling that way too, don’t beat yourself up about it. You are NOT alone.   I also shared with colleagues this week that ARTISTS and STORYTELLERS are the best at problem-solving.  It really is what we do.  And I know that we will continue to move forward, to make art, to tell stories, and collaborate with others’ who also LOVE to be doing the same thing.

Because.  It’s what we do.

OK – enough from me – I’ll leave you with something fun:  Popular Google Doodles

On behalf of our entire crazy screwball department (did you watch the video yet?)… we miss you.

Warmly, and with deep appreciation for your work,


Festival Playhouse Newsletter- Week 3 SP’20

Greeting to all struggling students and staff!

Our Week Three Newsletter will be short!

  • We would like to say thank you and welcome to Sophie Hill, who has accepted to be our departmental DSA to finish up the academic year.  And, a big thank you to Mars Wilson for being our DSA in fall and winter (and who is now officially graduated!).  Thanks to you both. 
  • The production staff continues to work daily on all of the materials needed for next academic year and our production season.  We have multiple plans, ideas, and scenarios lined up as we hope for the best and plan for the worst.  And, we just wanted to share with everyone we are planning and prepared as we move forward – whatever forward looks like…  We are lining up directors, guest artists, and all sorts of great stuff for next season, and will adapt and adjust as needed.  We hope we can all be together soon.
  • We know how hard it is to concentrate and focus on anything academic (or non-academic); and, you are NOT alone!  Let me know what I or we can do to help you.  Stay safe and healthy, mentally and physically.

Grow your leadership garden… or your artistic funny-bone….

I had several links set aside from last week that I wanted to share but… it just doesn’t feel right.  So, I have only two for you.  You all know how much we at Festival Playhouse love Lin-Manuel Miranda…. a little Lin-Manuel Miranda and a little Jordan Klepper should make your weekend. 

Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton surprises little girl on John Krasinkski’s YouTube Show

Alumni Jordan Klepper reads the Mueller Report with Hillary Clinton



Festival Playhouse Newsletter- Week 2 SP’20

Dear Festival Playhouse Friends,

Just a few thoughts for this newsletter…..

  • It is with great joy that I am finally able to announce that visiting professor “C” Heaps will be with us through the next academic year continuing to do everything that they do so well.  This is particularly great as it will be so nice to have “C” on board in fall working alongside Emilio for our Devised Theatre Project.  “C” – we appreciate you VERY much – thank you for being with us.  Send “C” a congratulatory note….!
  • I think continuing to try and do anything to make our current life “normal” is impossible, and that includes doing homework, engaging with classes, and participating in projects.  For those of you that are participating and engaging in our Devised Theatre work this Spring – THANK YOU.  It is NOT easy.  If you have interest or would like to learn more, feel free to reach out to “C” or Emilio.
  • If you would like help with a resume or a cover letter, send me what you have and I’d be happy to examine it with you and for you.  I also have some examples of resumes that you could use as a template if you don’t know where to start.
  • Grow your leadership garden…. 

In conversation with students this past week, I want to recognize and acknowledge how hard this distancing is on so many levels.  Academically, socially, support networks, just being ourselves, making and doing things.  We shall be OK, and we will succeed and see success now and in our future work and projects.  Because as artists, it’s what we do.

We WILL dance together again. We will rise up together. We will move together…

Here is my “leadership garden” inspiration for the week: Andra Day- Rise Up Together Part II 

Let me know what I can do to support you.

With great affection and appreciation for you and your work,


Festival Playhouse Newsletter- Week 1 SP’20

Dear Friends of Festival Playhouse,

First, read the LAST part of this email (at the bottom) as it has a great introductory email from Emilio Rodriguez about our Devised Theatre Project for Spring.  Then promise me you will come back to at least read points 1, 2, and 3 below.

WE ARE making theatre this spring!

  1. First:  We ARE creating a play this Spring Term.  You can OPT IN for any portion of creating the Devised Theatre Play with Emilio by replying to him.  And, we need your help in reaching out to other students whose voices need to be included in this work, but who are not part of this Festival alias.  Please do so.  We need your help with this (as we always do!).
  2. Second: if you want to receive THEA200 credit for the Devised Theatre Workshops, we have created a THEA200-06 class for this purpose.  Email Ren if you want to be in the class (even though your work will be through Emilio).  You do not have to enroll in the THEA200 class in order to participate and develop the devised piece, but if you want to receive credit for participation, then register for section 6 of THEA200 with Ren.
  3. Third:  any questions feel free to reach out to Emilio, or also to  “C” (our dramaturg for the project).

And, other things….

  • If you are feeling depressed, please take advantage of our online counseling resources.
  • So.  I feel really weird.  I suspect many of you feel the same.  I hope it isn’t a new normal, just THIS normal at this particular moment.  There is nothing I love more than to be able to work creatively with students… we get to do theatre.  And, because of that, we are really good at problem-solving. So, please know that we are all here for one another and I’m happy to reach out to anyone, for anyone, and with anyone as you wish.
  • Please reach out especially to our Senior Students.  While this is challenging for all, I think it is particularly emotionally stressful for our seniors.  Be sure to connect with any of your senior friends as much as you are able.
  • One thing we do in our Senior Seminar course is we work on what we call “developing our leadership garden.”  This is a great time to be able to do that.

PLEASE participate and find others to participate in our Devised Theatre workshops with Emilio.

With great respect for you and your work….


American College Theatre Festival 2020 in Madison, WI

January 7-12, 2020, 8 students and 4 faculty members attended the American College Theatre Festival in Madison, WI.

All the students participated in a variety of workshops and competitions including Musical Theatre Intensive, Design Storm, Irene Ryan Competition, knife fighting- stage combat, improvisation, playwrighting, and MORE!

We had two students win awards this year!

Aly Homminga ’20 won a scholarship to attend a theatre intensive at California State University’s Summer Arts Program in Fresno, CA. The intensive will focus on collaboration through devised theatre and becoming a fuller theatre artist.

Milan Levy ’23 won the Golden Collaborator Award for her work on the festival’s Devised Theatre Workshop.

To learn more about our experiences at ACTF and how you can be involved next year, check out our KCACTF webpage.

Group Photo from the American College Theatre Festival
From Left to Right: Rebecca Chan ’22, Sedona Coleman ’23, Sophie Hill ’20, Lanny Potts, Aly Homminga ’20, Mars Wilson ’20, Teyia Artis ’21, Angela Mammel ’22, Milan Levy ’23, Lori Sands, ‘C’ Heaps, Laura Livingstone-McNelis

Festival Playhouse Presents: Student Body

Student Body by Frank Winters

Directed by Bianca Washington

February 21-24, 2019. The Playhouse

Synopsis: A camera is found that contains a video of a sexual assault. 10 college students meet in an empty theatre to decide whether or not to bring the footage to the police. The more they discuss the issue, the more complicated it gets.