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Seven students from the College of Fine Arts were recently selected as Spring 2020 scholars in the University of Utah's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

UROP gives undergraduate students and faculty mentors the opportunity to work together on research or creative projects. The program provides a stipend and educational programming for students who assist with a faculty member’s research or creative project or who carry out a project of their own under the supervision of a faculty member. Students may apply for UROP any semester and may be eligible for a one-semester renewal. UROP awardees are hired as temporary, part-time UROP Participants by the Office of Undergraduate Research and are paid $1,200 for 120 hours of research or creative work during the semester.

These incredible students, along with their dedicated faculty mentors, are making us proud.

Read about each of their projects:

Alan Chavez, Music
Recording the History of the University of Utah Department of Music
Faculty mentor: Elizabeth Craft

“My project this semester is to begin an oral history for the SoM Piano Pedagogy program. It was one of the first of its kind and has a unique influence on SLC and Utah. I will be interviewing past and present faculty and seeking information on the program’s founding.”

Nate Francis, Art
Queer Isolation
Faculty mentor: Jaclyn Wright

“As a photography student here on campus, I’ve been so honored to have the opportunity to conduct research related to imagery, identity, and loneliness and create imagery that contains my findings. I grew up in Provo, Utah, not far from the U of U campus. As a queer person, growing up in an LDS family and culture has not been an easy journey, and I know I’m not the only one who has experienced the loneliness that comes with growing up queer in Utah. My research is an exploration of Utah’s landscapes, the photographic studio, and my own identity. The work features many iconic Utah landscapes and elements that are used as visual analogies for desolation, weight, and solitude, but which appear from the surface to be beautiful and other worldly. The work also includes the use of the photographic studio, which is a sort of sanctuary and place of self-creation, and my own body in relation to all of the above.”

Ashley Goodwin, Theatre Teaching
The Not Broken Monologues
Faculty mentor: Alexandra Harbold

“My UROP project is called "The Not Broken Monologues", which is a performative theatre piece that I have written and am now working on producing this semester. As a member of the arts community with disabilities I have developed a passion for inclusion and advocacy, and I am a firm believer that there can be space for everyone within the arts. "The Not Broken Monologues" is a piece that embodies that idea, while telling a wide range of stories of the disabled experience and fostering a sense of community and support. With my own experiences and dozens of hours of one-on-one interviews as source material I hope to convey the message that we (people with disabilities) are not just our disabilities, and most importantly - we are not broken.”

Connor Johnson, Theatre
Of Ronald and Edith
Faculty mentor: Tim Slover

“My project is full production of a play called Ronald and Edith which I wrote and workshopped at the U of U in 2020. The play is about J.R.R Tolkien and his wife Edith, and it centers around a story that Tolkien wrote in his earlier years called Beren and Luthien. The performance is going to be outdoors, hopefully with a small, socially distanced audience in the beginning of May.” 

Matt Peterson, Art
Mokume allow compatibility
Faculty mentor: Paul Stout

“I am working on a Japanese metalworking technique called mokume gane. The process involves taking dissimilar non-ferrous metals, stacking and firing them, and then manipulating the resulting billet through forging and gouging, into a sheet of patterned metal. If you have ever seen damascus steel, or pattern welded steel, the patterns in the metal look similar. The process itself has been around for about 400 years, so what I am working on specifically is trying out some newer alloys of silver to see how well they work in the process itself. Making mokume is rather time consuming and challenging, but I think the results are worth it.” 

Duke Ross, Film & Media Arts
"Osaru-Chan" Short Film
Faculty mentor: Miriam Albert-Sobrino

“Osaru-Chan follows the story of two brothers who steal a valuable family heirloom from an elderly Japanese woman, and in the process, awaken her demigod son, who exacts prompt retribution. The film explores concepts of familial relations, Americana, and colonialism, and utilizes the visual style of high contrast black and white widescreen used in many of Akira Kurosawa’s early films. I thoroughly enjoy the East/West blending of cultures and film genres seen in some of Shinichiro Watanabe’s work (“Cowboy Bebop,” “Samurai Champloo,”) and I would love to see more of that in the American cinema. Additionally, due to the rising anti-Asian sentiment in the United States following the COVID-19 pandemic and the Trump Administration, I feel as though it’s essential to see more Asian people in the media. The project is currently in post-production and should have the picture locked within the next month or so.”

Paige Stephenson, Music
Power and Patronage: A Study of Female Leaders in Early European Courts
Faculty mentor: Jane Hatter

“While musicology as a discipline is beginning to recognize the key role of female musicians in all eras, there is still a tendency to evaluate their significance using the same criteria used to understand the musical work of men. In Early Modern Europe, women of various social levels had significantly different modes of accessing and participating in musical activities from their male counterparts. My research project explores females as patronesses of music in Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth century. I am discovering how women used their role as a music patroness to further advance their personal goals and ideals.”

Visit UROP's website to find out upcoming deadlines for future creative and research projects! 

Published in Finer Points Blog

This is a series dedicated to highlighting the insights our students gained during their internships. 

Name:
Kylie Howard, School of Music (2014-2018) 

Internship: Salty Cricket Composers Collective (UT), Intermezzo Music Inc (UT), Drum Corps International (IN). Though I learned so many things from all three internships I will focus on my time as an intern at Salty Cricket Composers Collective.

What responsibilities did you have as an intern?

I managed the box office for concerts, assisted in reporting on the success of the El-Sistema Student Program, and developed relationships with local businesses for in-kind donations for the major gala event.

What new skills/knowledge did you gain from your internship?

I gained some great organizational skills to help report on the success of the El-Sistema program which involved data management and analysis. I also became really comfortable cold-calling businesses and explaining the organization's work before asking for a donation. However, the biggest takeaway from my internship was the executive director allowed me to accompany her to many of her presentations to boards and businesses as she developed relationships for the success of Salty Cricket Composers Collective. By doing so I was able to observe in real-time the necessity of good community relationships.

What connections did you make and how do you think those connections may help you in your career?

By accompanying her to several meetings I was introduced to and able to begin developing relationships with arts leaders, business leaders, and community leaders in Salt Lake City. This was imperative for me on my path to my current career as my current job came directly from a relationship that I was able to build as a result.

What advice would you give other students who are interested in a similar internship?

I would suggest that you don't limit yourself to what kind of internship you apply for. If you want to run a theatre company, don't just look for theatre internships. Check out the music, dance, and art internships. DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF! The arts community in most cities is very small so don't pass up building relationships just because you don't think you will need them. Chances are you will come to cherish the relationships you create throughout the entire arts community.

How did your internship complement your art education?

My internship really complimented my art education by stretching my skills beyond what I thought I could do with them. Students in an art major by necessity are creative and driven. These skills are amazing for creating art but can be reapplied in so many situations. For example, my internship allowed me to realize that cold-calling an organization was similar to performing a duet. I had to rehearse what I was going to say and then perform and communicate just like I would do on the stage. So many of our talents as creatives are imperative to being successful and we already have an innate understanding of how to tap into that energy. By taking an internship in ANY discipline you can learn how to tap in and utilize that energy in new and productive ways.

Are there other thing you would like to tell us?

Apply apply apply! Talk to anyone who will give you a second to sit down for coffee and tell you about their experience. Be inquisitive, be bold, be confident, but be humble and teachable.  

Published in Finer Points Blog

This is a series dedicated to highlighting the insights our students gained during their internships.

Name: Bella Parkinson, Department of Film & Media Arts 

Internship: I'm currently interning at KUED Channel 7 (soon to be PBS Utah) in the production department. More specifically, I work in archiving. I've been there since early September and I'll be sticking around until the end of fall semester (longer, hopefully!).

What responsibilities did you have as an intern?

I'm in charge of extracting and maintaining metadata from KUED's archived/digitized productions. Additionally, I help organize and catalog the tape library, which is full of 40-year-old 1-inch video tapes and cassettes. I've even seen programs dating back to the 1960s!

What new skills or knowledge did you gain from your internship?

On top of developing my interpersonal skills, I'm learning to contextualize programs through both historic and modern lenses. I'm processing large quantities of data quickly, organizing it, and preserving its meaning. It's peaceful and meaningful work.

What connections did you make and how do you think those connections may help you in your career?

My supervisor has a background in library science, so I've connected with staff at the Marriott Library and various production gurus back at KUED. I have a newfound interest in archiving and preservation, so they're helping me get a broad view of the places I can take it. I might even pursue a Master's further down the line.

What advice would you give other students who are interested in a similar internship?

As a film major, I never imagined I would land in archival science. Have an open mind. If an opportunity presents itself, take it and see where it leads. Any stepping stone is worth it, so keep moving!

Are there other things you would like to tell us? 

Kate Wolsey is your resource! Reach out, stay connected, and take advantage of the ArtsForce Canvas listings. It's worked wonders for me. 


Published in Finer Points Blog

This is a series dedicated to highlighting the insights our students gained during their internships. 

Name: Aileen Norris, School of Dance

Internship: I interned with Queer Spectra Arts Festival in Spring 2019.

What responsibilities did you have as an intern?

It was QSAF's first year and festival, so I had a lot of responsibilities, from handling social media pages, to helping plan the festival, to brainstorming fundraising ideas, to running the technical side of the festival, which included sound and lights.

What new skills or knowledge did you gain from your internship?

My internship with Queer Spectra taught me many things, but chief among them that both the hardest and easiest thing to do when you have a goal is to start even before you're ready. I got to see the festival spark from an idea shared among friends in a living room into a day-long, well-attended and promoted event that hosted 30 artists and more than 300 audience members. This was because the founding members had the idea and immediately went with it rather than stressing over details. The pieces fell into place once the event was already set in motion. I also learned that as an artist, the ability to be flexible and available (while still staying true to yourself) is an asset not a lot of people learn to craft and practice, but it has served me in more ways than I can count.

What connections did you make and how do you think those connections may help you in your career?

I'm still on the coordinating committee for Queer Spectra, so that in and of itself is a huge connection that will be a priority and will inform my career in ways I still can't fully predict. Beyond that though, I've met so many artists and community members that have and will continue to inspire me. Being able to branch outside of my own studies into a larger amalgamation of different mediums, aesthetics, and belief systems has only grown my commitment to my own art form, while opening me up to collaborative ideas I hadn't considered in the past.

What advice would you give other students who are interested in a similar internship?

It never hurts to be candid about your interest. I spent a lot of time in college thinking that I couldn't tell someone that I wanted to work with them because it defied some sort of social code or hierarchy. But especially with artists, collaboration tends to be part of the gig, and a lot of organizations want to know that you're interested in the work they're doing, not just signing up for the credit or the external rewards of it. That goes for pursuing an internship as well as projects once you're actually involved in the internship itself.

How did your internship compliment your arts education?

One thing that I learned in the School of Dance is that to be a dance artist is more than being a performer or a choreographer or a teacher. You get to wear so many different hats; that can be confusing and daunting as well as exciting. Interning with Queer Spectra, I got to put that understanding into practice. I was a curator, an event coordinator, a production manager, a critic, an audience member, and a part of my community. Yes, I got to execute practical things I had learned, like how to run sound on QLab or what made a piece of choreography compelling, but beyond that, Queer Spectra was a dry run of engaging with the arts world in all of its facets and intricacies outside of the university's bubble. That was one big goal of the School of Dance's curriculum: that as artists we could flourish beyond the academic world as well as inside of it.

Are there other thing you would like to tell us?

As artists, we get to experience squiggly, often unconventional, sometimes roundabout careers. I find it to be equally parts frustrating and exciting, but it can be freeing to sit with both of those emotions side by side. Take comfort in your peers, in your communities, and in the things that make your craft worth it for you. Those things above all will keep you grounded. And don't forget to laugh--with others, by yourself, and sometimes at yourself.

Published in Finer Points Blog

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), a national arts data and research organization, has collected and analyzed data from over 200,000 arts graduates from across North America since 2008. SNAAP data have helped change the national conversation on the value of an arts degree. The U College of Fine Arts regularly partners in SNAAP's efforts in surveying our own graduates and we are grateful to our alumni who have participated. Each survey gives us deeper insight into how best to serve our students. 

Recently, SNAAP released a special report examining what factors lead arts graduates to stay in the arts throughout their professional careers. The report clearly revealed that students are more likely to work professionally in the arts if they have created a network and completed an arts-based internship during their time in school. 

This is not news to us. We have long known the value of internships and professional networks and this data just further confirms our understanding of what students need to successfully transition in the arts! The College of Fine Arts continually invests in developing a strong internship program and providing opportunities and information to maximize professional success of our students, from experiential learning opportunities to building professional networks. Since 2012, the CFA has hired student interns to learn about various aspects of arts administration and strengthen their professional networks. And in 2013, interns assisted in the creation of our award-winning ArtsForce program. 

We encourage you to get to know your many professional resources.

 

Here are just a few of the ways CFA invests in student success and professional development:

 

Full-time CFA Internship Coordinator

In partnership with the CFA Undergraduate Student Affairs team and the University’s Internship Council, our full-time Internship Coordinator, Kate Wolsey, facilitates the development and expansion of internships, acts as the college’s primary contact for internship coordination, and assists in the coordination of the award-winning ArtsForce program. 

 

Career Treks to local and regional arts organizations

During the academic year, ArtsForce leads regular Career Treks to prominent local and regional arts organizations so students can meet arts professionals in their work environments, and experience firsthand the day-to-day operations and innerworkings of fine arts companies. 

 

Employment and internship opportunities  

Our Internship Coordinator regularly meets with employers to create opportunities and promote internships in the community. Open opportunities are shared with students through a weekly post on the ArtsForce Canvas community. All internships are vetted using the National Association of College and Employers (NACE) standards.

 

Helping students articulate the value of their degree

In the ArtsForce Canvas community, we regularly post relevant information that helps students articulate the value of their arts degree, become internship ready and learn how to network. Such topics include, how to conduct an informational interview, resources for improving your resumé and cover letter, ways to get involved in the art community on and off campus, and connecting students with mentors in their field. Check out all the past programs and events here! 

Informational Interviews with community professionals

“ArtsForce Asks” is a Finer Points blog series that highlights informational interviews conducted by ArtsForce interns with arts professionals. This series aims to provide CFA students with internship and career advice from the employer’s perspective, and illuminate the varied paths to success artists take.   


Annual Networking Event 

ArtsForce hosts an Annual Networking event that brings arts employers to campus, giving students a chance to network, receive professional guidance, ask questions, and connect with fellow CFA students across disciplines.

 

Student interns reflect and share their experiences  

Once students complete internships, we are eager to share their advice with their peers. Starting this fall, “Insights from an Intern,” a new Finer Points blog series, will highlight exceptional internship experiences of CFA students, as well as their advice for students seeking similar opportunities. Check out the first student profile here!

 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Emeri Fetzer 

As members of the Michie Jazz Quintet, premier jazz chamber ensemble here at the University of Utah, reached their second and final year in their unique configuration, it seemed the right moment to mark their time spent playing together with something lasting, something tangible. 

Supported through an endowment generously made by the James R. and Nanette S. Michie Foundation, the group's five members had many wonderful opportunities to collaborate in a laboratory setting, and maintained a rigorous public performance schedule during the school year. As a result,  Anaïs Chantal Samuels (vocals), Evan Taylor (trumpet), Tony Elison (piano), Alicia Wrigley (bass, vocals), and Matt Wilson (drums) cultivated a unique and synergistic sound. 

“The thing that was the most powerful to me was to have a recurring group of people I love and trust and that we had the opportunity to have an ongoing journey over a long period of time...I really felt like I grew alongside Evan, Anaïs, Tony and Matt. I will miss that experience so much” 
- Alicia Wrigley 

 “As their coach this year, I encouraged them to document the sound and style of the group that they had forged together, as well as create recordings that can serve as samples for auditions, publicity, and for posterity," explained John Petrucelli, visiting assistant professor in the U School of Music.  

Before they all graduated (and before COVID-19 drastically changed their final semester), they came together to record. “My favorite part of recording the EP was being able to share that space with my friends during our final year at the University of Utah. We've all worked really hard to get to where we are musically and it was really nice to see that all come together and to have something documented that demonstrates our passion for music,” vocalist Anaïs Chantal Samuels reflected. 

As Petrucelli describes it, the Michie Quintet's EP is a study in contrast. "In the span of three compositions, the ensemble moves between multiple styles, meters, and soloists. Anais Chantal Samuels voice is featured on a wonderful old ballad entitled "Till There Was You," while Evan Taylor's arrangement of "Bloomdido" nods to the cutting edge contemporary jazz approach of Rudresh Mahanthappa and Adam O'Farrill. Alicia Wrigley and Matt Wilson have a wonderful rhythmic dialogue throughout "April in Paris," while Tony Elison's piano playing plays provocateur throughout the session," he said. 

“We had to set up a mad labyrinth of sound panels as we tried to minimize bleed between microphones. It felt like the adult version of building a blanket fort, and will be a mental image I’ll always remember,” described bass player Alicia Wrigley.

The experience not only resulted in a strong final product, it also taught them valuabe things about the music business. “I hope that our students have learned that at the heart of recording is the craft of negotiation. Between musicians, producers, composers, arrangers, studio engineers, photographers, videographers, we convene spontaneously and improvise the process as we go. Recordings highlight strengths and reveal weaknesses, leaving a remembrance of ourselves in a particular time, place and feeling, pointing to future musical ideas and passageways,” Petrucelli said.

Undoubtedly, the Michie Quintet shaped its five committed members beyond the classroom, bringing high level professional experience, and friendships to boot. 

“I can honestly say that being in this program has shown me how to act as a professional in music. I started this program in my second year and had no idea what I was doing or how to go about a career in music. From that I learned the business side of things which I now take on when working on gigs that I've booked outside of school,”  Samuels explained.

“Socially, I have to say that the Michie group has been the highlight of my college career. When I first joined this group, all of the members in the band were older than me and took me under their wings to show me all the things music has to offer and helped me build my confidence as a vocalist which was something I really struggled with. Two years ago before performances my stage fright would get the best of me and I really doubted myself but through time I was able to value myself.”

“The thing that was the most powerful to me was to have a recurring group of people I love and trust and that we had the opportunity to have an ongoing journey over a long period of time," Wrigley added. "So much of the work that we do is with pick-up groups—it both showcases our versatility and pays our bills. But playing with a recurring group, having a musical home to come back to and experiment in, that was special. I really felt like I grew alongside Evan, Anaïs, Tony and Matt. I will miss that experience so much” 

Check out "The Michie Sessions" here! 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Merinda Christensen 

The 7th Annual ArtsForce Networking Event that took place on March 7th displayed the strength and dynamic of the arts from both students and professionals. 

ArtsForce is a student-led organization under the supervision of CFA Internship Coordinator, Kate Wolsey, that strives to create opportunities that help students develop skills needed for professional growth during and after college. During this event, local artists from film, music, theatre, art, and dance came to speak to students across the College of Fine Arts about how to prepare for a successful and fulfilling career in the arts. 

“The biggest lesson I learned from this event is that community is important…Collaborating with people from other fields in your community might spark ideas that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. I was inspired to find ways that my art could enrich or help others.”
– Kira Sincock, Entertainment Arts and Engineering Major, Drawing Minor

This event started out with a panel of local art professionals (and College of Fine Arts alumni!) David HabbenKylie Howard, and Camille Washington. They discussed times when collaborating with another professional changed their work process, what they do every day that contributes to their success, and how the community has been important to them as they continue their career, including where students can look to build their own community. Their experiences and advice were insightful as they emphasized the importance of doing your best and recognizing where your art and skills can and will take you. The focus of the panelists was to address how to succeed and being true to your work even through the tough times you will experience as an artist. 

Important takeaways: 

  • Kylie Howard communicated to the students that it’s important to pick yourself up, even when it gets hard because you are valuable to your community and workforce. She also mentioned that you don’t have to figure it all out right now, discover your strengths and make it work for you! 
  • David Habben emphasized that there will be times where you are in a rut – times will be hard. But, to find a way to take a risk, even when things are hard, that is the best time to take those risks. 
  • Finally, Camille Washington wanted to present the importance of how valuable your skills are – stay engaged in what you’re interested in and always know you will be able to find a path to apply your knowledge and skills as you reach out and build the community you want to see.  

During the Networking Luncheon, which followed our panel, students had the opportunity to communicate and connect with local artist of different arts disciplines. Students gained support and guidance as they were able to articulate the value of their arts degree in a professional setting. Positive feedback highlighted the importance of this event and how it was beneficial to each student that came. 

“The Networking Event helped me build my networking skills…I have new contacts to help me start to build my career before I graduate. Something that used to be so  intimidating is more doable.” 
– Katie McLaughlin, Instrumental Music Education; Oboe Performance Major 

The 7th Annual Networking Event created opportunities and ideas for students preparing for a career in the arts. We want to thank the panel, local art professionals, University of Utah faculty, staff, and students for joining us this year. CFA Students, don’t forget to join ArtsForce for up-to-date information about internships and career related opportunities, ways to get more involved with the arts on and off campus, and more!

*Author Merinda Chrinstensen is an Instrumental Performance major in the School of Music, with an emphasis in harp. She is an Emerging Leaders Intern with ArtsForce. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Anastasia Briana Drandakis

We don't know what life looks like on the other side of this, but we do know, specifically about the arts, is that the arts persist. 
-David Eggers, assistant professor 

David Eggers, experienced Broadway professional and new assistant professor of musical theatre at the University of Utah, had planned to spend the spring 2020 semester organizing the Senior Showcase and teaching acting scene work. However, when the U switched to online courses and all on-campus performances were canceled or postponed for the remainder of the semester, his priorities changed, just like many other College of Fine Arts educators. The following responses are his thoughts on the shift to online courses within his field, what he’s done to help his students get the most from their remaining courses, and how he’s balanced life for himself. In a time of change and uncertainty, he’s leaning on the arts.



When the transition to online courses happened, what were your first priorities?

My first priority when we shifted to online classes was really to figure out how I could pivot our focus with the senior class so that they would feel like they were still going to graduate in the spring, having gotten a lot of value out of their Studio 4 class. We were grieving the loss of the senior show, and I wondered if there could be any way we could preserve our work. Ultimately, I concluded that we wouldn’t be able to honor the fine work that we had done because it was all choreographed and staged. So really, my first focus was to try to figure out, “Okay if we can’t do that show, how can we cram in as much value as possible for these seniors in the ultimately 5 ½ weeks of classes left, so that they feel like they have grown and are even more prepared to leave the university setting and move out into the real world and the job world?


What was it like to grieve the loss of a show with your students? 

This is a new experience for all of us, but personally, I have been through something that this reminds me of. I have worked on shows in the past in the professional world, in New York City as a creative artist. One day, we were working on the show and preparing the staging and the choreography, and then the next hour, it was taken away because funding for the show disappeared. It was an immediate loss -- it upheaves your sense of security, because you’re suddenly facing something that’s out of your control, and everybody responds to that differently. For our seniors, some of them were quite devastated by that show, that they had already worked so many months on, to be taken away. Some of the others were more quickly able to decide that although it was sad and upsetting, it was ultimately the best option in order to stay safe. They were grateful for the work that we had already accomplished on the show, and they were already finding positive things that they had taken away from the experience. I felt a whole range of emotions for certain individuals in my class. For certain seniors, this was their big performance opportunity. We had worked so closely on crafting those performances, their characters, their vocal work, their staging, their acting, and we were looking forward to that next step in terms of crossing the finish line. The grief really is different, depending on who you talk to, but all of us, collectively, are facing a loss of normalcy that none of us could have foreseen. 


How were you best able to support the students during this time as their professor? 

We quickly pivoted to online teaching on Zoom, which gives us a chance to all see and hear each other, and I’ve only ever done live classes since we switched. Because of this sense of loss, I really wanted to keep communication open with everyone and give them a chance to express themselves. I literally say, “Okay how’s everyone doing? What’s going on?” Then I’ll try to dive deeper and see if there’s anything that’s been challenging someone or see if they need help and try to be a resource for them. If it’s something beyond what I’m qualified to support, then I connect them to resources from the U. I’ve also created dialogues outside of the online classes where I’ve posted links to resources from the U where they can get counseling, support, and can reach out to advisors, just so they know that they have these tools at their fingertips. Because some days are harder than others. I think that just having another person in your life who cares about you and supports you has been really valuable for my students. So, I’m trying to show up for them. Not just as a professor, but as a person offering support and being of service to them any way that I can. 

Now, when we’ve got both video screens open the whole-time side by side and they’re the only two things on my computer screen, I can see both of these young actors close up for the entire scene. It’s almost like putting their work under a microscope. Some of my actors are now revealing a deeper level of work, that I wasn’t able to necessarily see in the larger classroom environment. 

What was the shift in curriculum and how have the students received the most out of it?

Some things that have worked really well in the studio or classroom setting, just don’t work as well, even on a live video call. But some of the core basics of what I was trying to achieve as an acting teacher, I’m still able to achieve even in an online setting. We’re finding that with live video classes, other things that weren’t part of the classroom are now adding to our work. In the scene work that we’re doing with the sophomores, in the classroom, you weren’t able to always see both actors in the scene close up enough to see what was going on emotionally with each person.  Now, when we’ve got both video screens open the whole-time side by side and they’re the only two things on my computer screen, I can see both of these young actors close up for the entire scene. It’s almost like putting their work under a microscope. Some of my actors are now revealing a deeper level of work, that I wasn’t able to necessarily see in the larger classroom environment. With Zoom, my students figured out that they could change the background that is behind them. Some of them have been able to use new backgrounds to do their scene in an environment that totally changed their work, and it was magical. It was a different form of creativity, where they were actually able to show us what they envisioned that environment to look like, and that was exciting for us to see.


For the seniors, we ended up focusing on getting them ready for the real world. I come from the commercial theatre, New York City, Broadway, all of that, so I found resources and connections that could help them prepare and shed light on the profession that awaits them. I brought in several guest speakers to meet the students virtually, make connections and give insight into auditions, casting, what it means to be a good employee in a show, and what kinds of things directors and choreographers from Broadway today are really looking for. The students responded that this is the kind of stuff that they wanted, in addition to putting together a show. Now they’re able to ask professionals all these questions. It took away so much mystery for them, and shed light on what they need to focus on, how they can best represent themselves and how to start stepping into auditions.


The following list of topics were covered by the top tier guest artists for Eggers’ senior class:

Kathleen Marshall (Tony Award-winning Broadway choreographer & director) 

-Best practices for auditions and being a valued member of a show once cast

Michael Kirsten & Diane Riley (A-list agents in NYC with the agency Harden-Curtis-Kirsten-Riley (HCKR))
- Getting an agent, self-marketing, reels, and video submissions

Kate Reinders & Andrew Samonsky (Musical theatre actors with credits on Broadway, national tours, and TV & film)
-Making it in the business and the differences in all the various opportunities

Lorin Latarro (Broadway choreographer ofWaitress, Doubtfire and other high-profile shows)
-Auditioning for shows  and how to best present yourself

Kirstin Chavez (Accomplished singer and actor, known for her portrayal of Carmen)
-Managing finances for the artist

Michael Lavine (In-demand vocal coach in NYC for Broadway leading players)
-Working on material for auditions and performances


How would you say your life as a professor and a parent is being managed at this time, and do you have any supportive advice for fellow educators in that position?

We are all figuring this out together. I think one of the things that has helped me is to practice some patience and some self-kindness. I always try to practice self-care, and it involves a whole routine, but it’s even more important now that we take care of ourselves. Physical health, mental health, and all the individual tools that a person may use for each of those areas of health are extremely important. We also model that behavior. If you’re a parent, you can model that behavior for your children. If you’re a professor, you can model that behavior for your students. I shared a prototype of a journal that I do as part of my daily practice with my sophomores, and about 6-10 of them wanted to imitate it. Because I’m modeling behavior for these younger people, I’m offering up things that they can do to be productive and that they can do to support their own mental wellness. I also speak to how energy and enthusiasm is a choice, and I always remind my students (and myself) that what I bring to each moment of every day is up to me. 

Tips from Eggers' daily routine to support mental wellness include:

  • Do something physical every day.
  • Meditate every day, even if it’s only for five minutes.
  • Create a mission statement for yourself and your life that you write every day. 
  • Writing three promises to yourself that change every week that you promise to accomplish to contribute to your own sense of success and self-reliance.
  • Practice a random act of kindness at least once a week.

They’re not afraid to be who they are and bring what’s going on with them to the classroom. I feel like I’ve tried to foster a safe place for them so that they know that that’s okay. They are keeping an open mind. They are exploring with me these new ways of meeting, these new ways of communicating. These new ways of telling stories as actors, and we’ve found those silver linings. 

How do you feel your students are handling the current events? 

They’re showing up and I am super proud of them. The grief could be so extreme, the feeling of loss could be so extreme, the fear of the unknown could be so extreme that it could be debilitating. But they are all showing up, and they’re also showing up with these emotions. They’re not afraid to be who they are and bring what’s going on with them to the classroom. I feel like I’ve tried to foster a safe place for them so that they know that that’s okay. They are keeping an open mind. They are exploring with me these new ways of meeting, these new ways of communicating. These new ways of telling stories as actors, and we’ve found those silver linings. The cool things that are only available with a live online class that we didn’t have in the classroom. And they’re not blowing this off, they’re still showing up, being there for each other, turning in their assignments and they’re still applying themselves. The thing is, we don’t know when this will all come to an end, but we are all together just supporting each other through each day and each class, and making the best of it. 


What are your thoughts on the future of the arts? 

We don’t know what life looks like on the other side of this, but what we do know, specifically about the arts, is that the arts persist. The arts have been a pillar of society from time memorial. Look back at the Greeks, look back through the Middle Ages, look back through every time period of humanity and the arts remain a constant. And it will remain a constant through this time period as well. What we don’t know, which is both scary on one hand and exciting on the other, is how the arts will keep evolving through this. There will be new expressions of theatre and of storytelling that come out of this experience. There will be new plays, new films, new musicals that are written addressing this whole experience. We don’t know how we’ll tell those stories, necessarily, on the other side of this, because we don’t know exactly what and how our society will thrive on the other side, but we will find a way. Those art forms will reveal themselves as we move forward, and some of our colleagues will be the creators of those pieces of art and they will also be the leaders of those new forms of expression. 

So, the arts persist. That’s something that I feel needs to be shouted from the rooftops and everyone needs to remember that. We need to take confidence in that and be proud of our own position in this moment in humanity, in our history as a people. Another way to look at it, is not so much about being scared about what is no longer with us right now, but focusing on what could come out of this. I try to remind myself that, this wasn’t the moment we expected, but this could be the moment that we were born for. 

Published in Finer Points Blog

By Anastasia Briana Drandakis 

What do University of Utah theatre students do in the wake of canceled and postponed performances amidst a call for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic? They brush up on their Shakespeare through video conference calls. 

Self-Isolation Shakespeare is a collaborative, student-led effort to read through Shakespeare’s canon on Zoom three times a week, with an open invitation for the community to watch actors of all levels participate. The talent range includes theatre students, department faculty with impressive resumes, and even professionals working outside of the university that come together to perform these pieces while socially isolating. All the readings are recorded for YouTube and the shows vary between Shakespeare’s tragedies, comedies and historical shows to make each genre available to their growing audience. 

Connor Johnson, a junior in the Department of Theatre’s Actor Training Program, was inspired to start Self-Isolation Shakespeare after viewing a similar project that Professor Sarah Shippobotham shared with his class during the early rise in global quarantining. “The Show Must Go Online” created by Robert Myles are weekly readings on Zoom of the complete plays of Shakespeare by a global cast, in the order they were believed to have been written. Johnson thought there was no reason why the students of the University of Utah couldn’t undergo a similar project, and through the support of fellow students and department faculty, he was able to create a social media presence for the performances so that anyone in the theatre community could access the series. 

 “I realized the other thing this could be is a great opportunity for students to act alongside professionals or professors,” said Johnson. “People who students can’t always easily work with just because of the nature of professional productions.”

The professional theatre faculty of the University of Utah has already participated alongside their students in several of the show readings, including Robert Scott Smith who played Prospero in "The Tempest," Alexandra Harbold who played Mark Antony in "Julius Caesar," and Sarah Shippobotham who played Richard III in "Richard III." Johnson has also seen a mix of outside interest in the project, including actors with working credits from local professional theatres, New York, the West End of London, and The Globe Theater. 

“People have said that it was actually great to be able to ‘look over my script last night’ or 'to prepare for this role the other day, because I was thinking about something other than the news.’ They really latched onto the project, and have really given their thought and time and creativity, which has been wonderful to watch.”

While this series helps to bring the University of Utah theatre community closer during this time, it’s also an opportunity for those involved to broaden their familiarity with a genre of classic works that are continuously produced in the modern entertainment industry in various forms.


“There’s something about Shakespeare that is endlessly entertaining and brings endless variety in ways that most other plays don’t,” said Johnson, who believes that knowledge of this material can be generally useful as a theatre student. “Somehow his plays have managed to maintain interest for hundreds of years, and I think in a more pragmatic sense, for any actor that’s going out into the acting world, Shakespeare is a huge percentage of work that you might get. Even if you don’t want to be a classical actor, every regional company does Shakespeare once a season or once every two seasons." 

In addition to practicing classical theatre, this series is also a practice session in performing for digital cameras, microphones, and the general process that it takes to produce a successful piece of live web content. 

“It’s freeing in some ways that you can do things with your voice that you can’t really do on stage,” said Johnson, describing the new acting possibilities he’s observed that performing scenes via Zoom can spark. “It picks up much more subtlety than your allowed to have when you're on stage in a big auditorium. It’s also really fun to see other people doing that, and picking up on that, and it kind of adds this new layer of possibility and creativity.”

Johnson gives credit to an entire team of peers that have volunteered time to shape the current state of the production, including a designated “stage-manager” for the productions (Kiersten Farley), social media managers (Lexie Thomsen and Liam Johnson), and an assistant producer (Jessica Graham). romeo and julietPoster design Lexie Thomsen

Self-Isolation Shakespeare performances are scheduled every Tuesday at 10 a.m. (MST), Thursday at 10 a.m. (MST), and Sunday at noon (MST) through a Zoom conference link posted on the official Facebook page the day of the scheduled production. Show and cast lists are announced a week in advance on the official Facebook page, and anyone can submit to be cast in the Zoom performances by filling out a Google Doc form asking their preferred contact information, acting background, and familiarity with Shakespeare’s works. The recorded performances are archived on the official Self-Isolation Shakespeare YouTube page as the series progresses.

“I think that something this project made me realize is that we’re all kind of in this together,” said Johnson, reflecting on the support that has been felt by the theatre community for the project so far. “People have said that it was actually great to be able to ‘look over my script last night’ or 'to prepare for this role the other day, because I was thinking about something other than the news.’ They really latched onto the project, and have really given their thought and time and creativity, which has been wonderful to watch.”

Published in Finer Points Blog

Since last week's announcement that classes at the University of Utah would be conducted online for the remainder of the semester, many College of Fine Arts students have risen to the challenge with positivity, compassion and drive. Susannah Mecham, a second-year student in the Department of Art & Art History majoring in painting and drawing with a minor in sculpture, decided to start a unique Instagram account where her fellow U students could connect around their creative work.

To foster new connections as well as provide support in an unsteady situation, Mecham established @coronaartcollective where she encourages University of Utah fine arts students to connect and share what they are creating. 

Here's what she had to say about it: 

"Over the course of the last week I was camping out of range of cell service with a group of fellow University of Utah students. It was a very surreal experience to drive home with our phones exploding as we passed signs flashing pandemic hotlines on the freeway, with the person next to me reading through updates from family, friends, government and the university. Everything seemed like it was happening all at once -- because it was for us. I was deeply saddened that I would miss creative opportunities and time within a community that I love.  


"I fully intend to have a prosperous educational experience despite the current COVID-19 situation. I also know that by staying connected to the U I will continue to have the support of those colleagues and educators who have supported my education and the education of so many others. The U as a community has many tools for us to utilize right now, and with a little creativity and togetherness (from a 6 foot safe distance) everyone can move forward."


"I received an email from my sculpture professor, Kelsey Harrison, who suggested that we find ways to connect with other art students to continue critiquing and discussing work. Kelsey also suggested that we continue to be informed about what other people were making and what drives their art practices while our own creative practices as students are being challenged and imposed upon by social distancing and quarantines. IMG 75BCA33FC5F0 1

"After sharing some of my feelings about the situation with my mom, she suggested that I get online and start making things happen! I decided Instagram would be a good platform as it is used widely by creative communities. Since then I have enjoyed watching the creative community respond to the COVID-19 situation by continuing to make art, music, and more. In a time where everything is put on hold and becoming more stagnant, creativity is beginning to flourish and it is very exciting. 

Staying connected to the University of Utah is important to me during this time because I fully intend to have a prosperous educational experience despite the current COVID-19 situation. I also know that by staying connected to the U I will continue to have the support of those colleagues and educators who have supported my education and the education of so many others. The U as a community has many tools for us to utilize right now, and with a little creativity and togetherness (from a 6 foot safe distance) everyone can move forward." 

Follow @coronaartcollective on Instgram to see student work and share your own! 

Do you have a resource you'd like to share with fellow students? Tag us on Instagram at @uofufinearts.

Stay well and stay connected. 

Published in Finer Points Blog
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