School of Theatre and Dance Spring News

The School of Theatre and Dance faculty and staff have been busy this semester! Faculty and staff’s contributions stand as a reminder of the College of the Art’s mission to positively impact communities. Here are some of their achievements and news.

Ambre Emory-Maier, assistant professor of dance, presented a paper at the New College at Oxford University entitled “Costume Cross-pollination on the Ballet Stage and in the Ballroom: Dancing in between the Lines.” This paper was included in the Oxford Dance Symposium held on April 16 and 17.

Emory-Maier also presented a paper on data-informed dance literacy at the Virtual Early Dance Symposium in February and another at the National Dance Education Special Topics Conference in February at Oakland University in Michigan.

Jeffrey Rockland, associate professor of dance, wrote an article, “Finding My Roots in a Junk Yard in Rockland, Maine” that was published on the Documenting Maine Jewry website. He will be providing a summary to American Ancestors Magazine.

In Spring 2024, Rockland led a company class for Ohio Contemporary Ballet (formerly Verb Ballet).

Lastly, Rockland has plans for a VR Dance Project in partnership with the DI Hub and MASH Dance House Jerusalem. The project will involve Kent State students working on new and exciting research involving dance and technology. The project is still developing, details will be forthcoming.

In April, Caitlin Kane, Ph.D., assistant professor of theatre history, presented a half-day workshop entitled “Public History and Dramaturgy in the Archives and the Classroom.” The workshop was presented at the National Council for Public History conference in Salt Lake City in collaboration with Dr. Laurie Arnold (Gonzaga University/ Sinixt Band of the Colville Confederated Tribes) and Dr. Erin Stoneking (University of Alabama).

Kane's conversation with Dr. Diane Brewer (Evansville University) entitled “Dramaturgical Approaches to the Challenges of Theatre History Pedagogy” will be featured in an upcoming peer-reviewed journal of the Mid-America Theatre Conference, “Theatre/Practice.”

Kane was also awarded a Summer 2024 Research/Creative Activity appointment from the University Research Council for work on their first solo monograph “Queer Archival Performance and/as Collective Knowledge Creation.”

Professor of Theatre, Yuko Kurahashi, Ph.D., was invited to join the Cleveland Critics Circle, run by Roy Berko. She has attended regional, national and international shows to contribute to the organization.

Recently, Kurahashi was nominated for Kent State University’s 2024 Excellence in Undergraduate Research Mentoring Award. Sponsored by the Office of Student Research and the Division of Research and Economic Development, Kurahashi was chosen as one of two recipients of the 2024 undergraduate award.  

Eric Kildow, associate professor of theatre at Kent State Trumbull, received a Kent State University Faculty-Service-Learning Award for his exemplary community-based and experiential learning work. 

Catherine Meredith, assistant professor of dance, presented her piece “Aftermath” at the American Dance Guild Festival at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, NYC in February 2024. Meredith's original piece and the nine dancers, comprised of Kent Dance Ensemble members and invited dance students, received very positive feedback and an excellent review.  

Grace Cochran Keenan, assistant professor of costume technology, presented a session at USITT24 in Seattle titled "No Wrong Answers, Just Choices: Draper Conversations." This session brought together three drapers to discuss their individual processes when creating an identical costume based on an identical design, showing that “there are no wrong answers, just different choices” when approaching a build. The panel went so well that Keenan has been asked to develop another panel for next year's conference.

Keenan also had a chapter published in the book, New Approaches to Decolonizing Fashion History and Period Styles: Refashioned Pedagogies, edited by Ashley Bellet. The chapter, “Research Methods for Fashion History and Technology,” covers both the process of decolonizing her history of costume course to create a more global course for the School of Theatre and Dance at Kent State as well as the course’s structure to provide an example to others on how they might also decolonize their courses.

As a member of the Conference Committee for the USITT National Conference in Seattle, Michelle Hunt Souza, assistant professor of costume design, created a program to increase attendee engagement beyond traditional offerings. For the fourth year, she developed and served as host for “Pub Trivia,” an interactive quiz with questions related to theatre design, technology and history. Engagement with this programming was enthusiastic, with over 200 participants! According to USITT Games Commissioner, Eben Alguire, “Due in large part to Souza's deep research in the creation of the questions, the air in these events has been abuzz with the excitement of learning new things and increasing the discourse about our history and identity as design and production professionals.”

Souza designed costumes for the NYC premiere production of "Piedmont Pointe," written by Kent State University alumni Scott Miesse and directed by associate professor Amy Fritsche. In addition, she designed costumes for the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House production of "The Tempest," directed by Eleanor Holdridge.

Tom Humes, assistant professor, stage-managed a special event for ShiningStarCLE. The event, hosted by Menorah Park/Montefiore Foundation, is a singing competition where students compete for scholarships. Lighting design by Colleen Albrecht, alumna and former adjunct professor. Humes also creating two new courses, which will be taught next year, in the stage management program, Plays and Dance in Stage Management II and Musicals and Opera in Stage Management III.

In the Spring Humes attended SETC and in addition to attending several workshops, he was a guest judge for the Stage Management Games, for the paper tech portion with Stacy Blackburn. Following the games, an informal constructive feedback session was held with the other judges, which included Matt Stern from Broadway Stage Management Symposium and Ryan Kirk, developer and CEO of ProPared. Humes will be co-leader for next year’s SETC workshop on Theatrical Trade Unions with Stacy Blackburn. 

Most recently, Humes stage-managed the final week of shows for "Amadeus" at Cleveland Play House, which he took over from John Godbout. This planned switch was a first in his professional career,  providing another topic for the new stage management course.

At the recent 2024 USITT national conference, Jeff Polunas, assistant professor of sound design, was selected as one of three sound commissioners. He will help oversee the panels and soundlabs each conference, starting in Columbus in 2025.  At the same conference, he participated in a panel about shop organization, highlighting how to efficiently maintain a sound shop.  

Last year, four of Polunas' sound designs were nominated for the Broadway World Regional Awards. The nominations including, "Head over Heels" (Kent State) and "Everybody" (CWRU/CPH), were nominated from Cleveland; "La Havana Madrid" was nominated in Los Angeles; "The Winter’s Tale" was nominated in Minneapolis.  

This summer, Polunas will be sound designing five productions in three states. At Porthousee Theatre, he will be sound designing "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Nunsense." As the resident sound designer for Great River Shakespeare Festival, Polunas will design for "Hamlet" and "Much Ado About Nothing" in Winona, Minnesota. His final production will be the sound design of the "Old Man and the Old Moon" for South Coast Repertory in Orange County, California at the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Jakyung Seo, professor of lighting design, served as a lighting designer for the Cleveland Play House's production of "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein," directed by Michael Barakiva in October 2023. Her work garnered nominations for Best Lighting Design from both the Cleveland Critics Circle and Broadway World Cleveland, highlighting its quality and impact.  

At USITT, Seo was selected to serve on the lighting design advisory committee for the lighting leadership commission, marking her reputation as a leader in the field.  

Internationally, Seo is co-artistic director of Global Women Performing Arts Festivals (GWPAF). The GWPAF is the first international women's performing arts festival in South Korea. The festival has invited Martha Graham Dance Company from New York, The Other Theatre company from Montreal, 14 Theatre Company from Japan, and a variety of dance productions from Israel, India and Thailand. The mission of GWPAF and the festival is to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the male-driven performing arts industry.


Alumni News 

  • Sabatino A. Verlezza, B.F.A. dance ’12, brought his professional dance career with RIOULT Dance NY to a close with a final tour in Paris, including two concerts at Versailles, in March 2024. 
  • Dav Burrington, M.F.A. design, technology and production '12, currently serves as co-wardrobe supervisor for the Off-Broadway play "Oh, Mary" by Cole Escola at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. Originally it was slated for a limited run from January 28 through March 24 but has been so well received that the run has been extended through May 12.
  • Harri Horsely, B.F.A. design, technology and production '19, presented a session for the Costume Commission at USITT24 in Seattle called "Costuming Blackness." This session focused on tools that can be used to research culture more delicately, especially when engaging in plays, musicals, dance pieces and devised works that focus on themes in the Black Diaspora throughout history.
  • Granger Cavanaugh, B.F.A. design, technology and production '21,  is leaving their position as operations and stage manager at Akron Symphony, to attend the graduate program at University College Cork in Dublin, Ireland in the Fall of 2024.
  • Kenedy Brooks, B.F.A. design, technology and production '20, has been working with Dobama Theater, and recently started work on "Shrek" at Playhouse Square. She also was stage manager for a workshop production with Eric Schmiedl, alum and adjunct professor. The workshop was directed by Seth Gordan, former associate artistic director of Cleveland Play House and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and current department chair of Oklahoma University Helmerich School of Drama.
  • Barbara Kozlov, B.F.A. design, technology and production '19, has been working under several AEA contracts with Dobama Theatre.
  • Alexandra Baxter, B.F.A. design, technology and production '23, worked as a stage manager for a Cleveland Play House staged reading of "Louder "for the New Ground Theatre Festival last year. The cast included Courtney Brown and Tonye Patano (TV Series, "Weeds"). She has also been working on the stage management staff of some cruise lines.
  • Amanda Rearick, B.F.A. design, technology and production '23, has recently applied for an assistant stage management apprenticeship with Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.
  • Sammie Pamfilie, B.F.A. design, technology and production '23, is calling the Weathervane Theater production of "The Prom."
  • Faith Roush, B.F.A. design, technology and production '21, has been stage managing under several AEA contracts with Dobama Theatre. She recently left the theater to pursue a corporate position with a charter bus company.
  • Grant Abbott, B.F.A. design, technology and production '20, is working in a theatre along the Eastern seaboard.
  • Stewart Blackwood, B.F.A. design, technology and production '17, is an assistant professor of composition and sound design at Carnegie Mellon University, School of Drama. During his tenure as an audio experience engineer Boomcloud360, he developed a bespoke spectral analysis toolset, tuned the audio profiles of various consumer devices, and created novel headphone-based spatial audio filter generation technology. 
  • Jaemin Park, M.F.A. '23,  is an assistant professor  of lighting and sound at Southern Illinois University. He was nominated for Best Lighting Design of A Play Or Musical at the 2022 Broadway World Cleveland Awards for all seven shows he designed during that season, winning for one of them. In addition, he won the 2023 Barbizon Lighting Company Jonathan Resnick Lighting Design Award. The United States Institute of Theatre Technology (USITT) for Young Designers Managers and Technicians in the Performing Arts presents the annual award.
  • Amy Komesher, B.F.A. Musical Theatre, is on a Royal Caribbean performing "Mamma Mia."
  • Avenna Sawyer, B.F.A. musical theatre, is performing on Broadway ins "A Beautiful Noise, the Neil Diamond Musical."
  • Kirstin Henry, B.F.A. musical theatre, is performing "In the Heights" at Cleveland Play House.
  • Megan Polk, B.F.A. musical theatre, is on a Royal Caribbean playing Penny in "Hairspray."
  • Robbie Miller, B.F.A. musical theatre, was previously on the national tour of "Tootsie," and is currently on the international tour of "Pretty Woman." 
  • Nathan Hoty, B.F.A. musical theatre, is on the national tour of "Cher."  
  • Samantha Kennett, B.F.A. musical theatre, is on the national tour of "Little Women."
  • Devin Pfeiffer, B.F.A. musical theatre, is in an off-broadway show of "Friends the Musical Parody."
  • Evan Waggoner, B.F.A. musical theatre, is playing Hans in "Frozen, A Musical Spectacular" on Disney Cruise Lines.
  • Ina Black, B.F.A. musical theatre, is on a Broadway national tour of "Back to the Future." 
POSTED: Monday, May 6, 2024 08:35 AM
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2024 01:53 PM