Category Archives: Theatre

President David Munson to again emcee performing arts challenge on eve of Imagine RIT

Scene from Cabaret with Victoria Covell on shoulders of two actors with other actors in front and back.

Proving that RIT students are stars not only inside the classroom but on the stage as well, President David Munson will emcee his second performing arts competition next Friday night on the eve of the Imagine RIT: Creativity and Innovation Festival.

Ten acts, including dancers, vocalists and instrumentalists, have been selected as finalists for Dr. Munson’s Performing Arts Competition. The challenge will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 26, under the lights inside Ingle Auditorium on the RIT campus. Like all festival events, admission is free for the all-ages show.

Winners will be announced at the conclusion of the competition and will be eligible to perform during the festival’s official opening ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 27, also inside Ingle.

The challenge is open to all RIT undergraduate- and graduate-level students, with the exception of established performing arts groups. This year’s panel of judges will include Leigh Rubin, who has drawn Rubes cartoons for more than 30 years. Rubin is serving as RIT’s “cartoonist in residence” this year. Judges will score each performance on artistry, technique, audience engagement and stage presence. 

Two of the inaugural challenge’s top finishers from last April are scheduled to perform prior to the announcement of this year’s winners. Victoria Covell, a third-year biomedical sciences major from Jacksonville, Ill., and Gabrielle Robinson, a fourth-year interpreting student from Westerville, Ohio, will collaborate on a duet from "Cabaret," the award-winning Broadway play that later became a hit film.

At the conclusion of last year’s competition, Munson said he looked forward to making the performing arts challenge an annual tradition before Imagine RIT. The nationally acclaimed festival, now in its 12th year, runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 27, with nearly 400 exhibitions highlighting RIT students’ innovation and creativity.

Go to https://www.rit.edu/imagine/contests-performing_arts.php for more information.

RIT/NTID hosts “Signing Time” free family concert May 3

light skinned female with brown hair wearing orange shirt and jacket signing ILY.

Rachel Coleman, musician and star of the popular PBS and video series Signing Time, will perform a free show at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, in the Robert F. Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall. Joining her on stage will be Coleman’s daughter Leah, an industrial design major at RIT/NTID, and her show sidekick, Hopkins the Frog.

Upon discovering that her 14-month old daughter was deaf, Coleman began searching for ways to develop her language and communication skills. Coleman found that by learning sign language, her daughter’s vocabulary rapidly increased.

Coleman and her sister began creating videos for children to learn American Sign Language and started a production company and foundation dedicated to making sign language fun and accessible to all children.

Originally a series on PBS, Signing Time featured Coleman’s daughter Leah and nephew Alex, and ran for two years. The series continued and expanded through online videos.

“It is so exciting to be performing at NTID,” Coleman said. “Signing Time started when my deaf child, Leah, was four years old and in preschool. Over the past 18 years, many of Leah’s peers have grown up watching Signing Time. It feels like we’ve come full circle doing an NTID Signing Time concert now that Leah is a senior in college.”

Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance by emailing Joseph Fox, NTID theater production assistant, at jwfnpa@rit.edu.
 

RIT/NTID Presents ‘Signing Time Live” a family concert with Rachel Coleman

Stage with life-size frog character, colorful balloons and female in jeans and orange top.

RIT/NTID's Office of the President presents: Signing Time Live, a Family Concert!

Sing and sign your favorite Signing Time songs with hosts, Rachel Coleman, RIT/NTID student Leah Coleman and their sidekick, Hopkins the Frog, at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 3 in the Robert F. Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, on the RIT campus. This family-friendly concert is approximately one hour in duration. 

Rachel Coleman is the creator of the popular "Signing Time!" series available online and in rotation on PBS stations. 

Tickets are free, but must be reserved in advance by contacting Joseph Fox at jwfnpa@rit.edu
 

RIT’s NTID Performing Arts presents August Wilson’s ‘Fences,’ April 11-14

Dark background with African American baseball player, ball field and text August Wilson's Fences.

Fences, the American play written by August Wilson, will be presented next month by the Performing Arts department of Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Shows will run at 7:30 p.m. April 11-13, and 2 p.m. April 14, in Panara Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, on the RIT campus.

In this production, as with all RIT/NTID Performing Arts shows, deaf actors will use American Sign Language and hearing actors will use spoken English to present the story. This rendition of Fences is the first deaf black production of the play.

The drama takes place in 1950s Philadelphia and features Troy Maxson, a former star of the Negro baseball leagues now working as a garbage man. As a black man, Maxson was excluded from the major leagues during his prime and his bitterness takes a toll on his relationships with his wife and son, who now wants his own chance to play ball.

Tickets - $5 for students, youth and senior citizens (60+), $10 for RIT faculty/staff/alumni and $12 for the general public – are available at the RIT University Arenas box office, by calling 585-475-4121 (voice), online at http://www.rittickets.com, or by email at arenas@rit.edu.

RIT/NTID students attend Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

Five students and a faculty member in winter coats stand in front of theater doors.

Victoria Covell, Jamie Froio and Kimmie Sandberg were all part of RIT’s production of Cabaret from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 2018. Covell, a third-year graphic design student from Jacksonville, Ill., has always been a dancer, but wasn’t involved in theater until this production where she played the lead role of Sally Bowles. Unlike Covell, Froio, a second-year theater arts student from Hull, Mass., has been involved with theater since she was 4 years old and has been involved with 20 productions, including her role as Fraulein Schneider in Cabaret. Sandberg, a third-year new media marketing student from New Milford, Conn., has been involved with theater since her freshman year of high school and worked behind the scenes as the stage manager for the production.

Due to their exceptional performances, Covell, Froio and Sandberg were nominated to attend the Kennedy Center American College Theater Regional Festival (KCACTF) Jan. 15-19 at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. KCACTF is a national organization that promotes all aspects of collegiate theater across the country, including acting, dance, directing, stage management and more. To qualify, schools enter their productions into the festival and faculty from other universities attend the performances, give feedback and nominate students to attend the regional festival.

At the festival, Covell, Froio and Sandberg represented RIT in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, the Musical Theater Intensive Scholarship and the Stage Management Fellowship Program competitions.

Covell and Froio emphasized their appreciation for Andy Head, visiting assistant professor of performing arts and visual culture at both RIT and NTID, and interpreters Catherine Kiwitt and Cynthia Collward. Head, Kiwitt and Collward worked with them during the original performance of Cabaret, and traveled with the group to the KCACTF festival in Montclair, N.J.

For more information about the upcoming productions for the 2019-2020 College of Liberal Arts and NTID Performing Arts theatrical season, go to https://www.ntid.rit.edu/theater/announcements/2019-2020-theatrical-season.

Question: Why did you get involved with theater and the performing arts program on campus?

Answer (Covell): I’ve been dancing for about 18 years, and I am always trying to find opportunities to dance, but I never thought about being involved in theater. What happened was, after I won first place for Dr. Munson’s Performing Art Challenge in April 2018, I got an email from professor Andy Head saying that there was an opportunity to dance in a theater production called Cabaret. My mind was set to dance, and I was super excited to get involved. After I auditioned, I ended up getting the lead role and sucked into theater life. It was absolutely the best experience of my performing arts career.

Question: What is Cabaret about?

Answer (Sandberg): Cabaret is a story about an American novelist, Cliff Bradshaw, who travels to Berlin to work on his newest novel. In Berlin, he meets Sally Bowles, a worker at the Kit Kat Klub, and they fall in love. They both get caught up in the nightlife and culture, but, as the story goes on, it starts to get darker and darker as the Nazi party begins taking power in Germany. When it is clear there is no hope left, Cliff decides it is time to leave, thus leaving behind a life and a woman he loved.

Question: What was your reaction when you learned you were invited to the KCACTF regional festival?

Answer (Froio): I don’t think I’ve ever cried harder in my life. I was so overwhelmed with happiness, I just couldn’t believe it. A lot of the tears were because of how bittersweet the moment was because my grandfather wasn’t around to see it. He was my strongest supporter, but he passed away right before I came back to school in August. Cabaret was my first performance without him.

Question: What sort of activities did you do at the festival?

Answer (Froio): I went to a bunch of workshops that I was interested in. I got to sing, dance and act every single day. I was selected to perform in a Late Night Cabaret thanks to my Musical Theater Intensive Scholarship audition, which was an absolute blast. I also auditioned for a theater company called the Open Jar Institute, which I was accepted into. So, I will be travelling to New York City for their summer intensive program.

Question: You all presented two scenes from Cabaret at the conference. Was it intimidating performing in front of an audience that was experienced and knowledgeable about performing arts?

Answer (Covell): It was not intimidating because, surprisingly, we were pretty good for being from a technical university that isn’t specifically a theatrical school. We have a lot of talented students at RIT. I was super proud, and it was a privilege to perform our scenes from Cabaret that represented our diverse university of deaf, hard of hearing and hearing students combined.

Question: Overall, what was the most rewarding part of this festival experience?

Answer (Froio): Definitely the people I met and the connections I made. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt more accepted and celebrated as a “theater kid.”

Question: Would you recommend that other performing arts students try to get involved with a festival like this?

Answer (Covell): Yes, I would highly recommend that students grab opportunities to get involved with a festival like this. It’s not just about acting. If you’re a costume designer, set designer or makeup artist, it’s awesome to get exposure and learn from the best people working in that field. There are amazing resources and networks out there if anyone interested in performing arts wanted to pursue a performing arts career.

Question: Are there any new productions coming up that students can get involved in?

Answer (Sandberg): Yes. There is one more COLA show this semester, AI-Pollo, NTID has Fences coming up, and the RIT Players are putting on Drowsy Chaperone. There are always ways to get involved with the arts if you are interested, and being involved doesn’t mean you have to be onstage. Shows are always looking for help with costumes, props and run crew.

Question: Do you think you’ll continue pursuing your love for theater after you graduate?

Answer (Sandberg): I really can’t see myself not being involved with theater. When I got to college, I really didn’t think that I was going to continue to do theater, but I didn’t realize how much I would miss it. Right now, my plan is to work on productions for the remainder of my time at RIT. After graduation, once I am settled somewhere, I’ll start to look for a local theater to get involved with. There really is no group like a theater group. I strongly encourage anyone who has even the slightest interest in theater to pursue it. Worst comes to worst, you find out it’s not for you, but more than likely you will find a group of lifelong friends.

NTID Performing Arts and RIT College of Liberal Arts announce 2019-2020 joint theatrical season

Poster with five program names and descriptions with graphics for each.

NTID Performing Arts and RIT College of Liberal Arts have announced their 2019-2020 joint theatrical season. The plays and dance performance present a wide array of cultural, political, and social issues. Two productions will be presented on the Panara stage, two productions will be performed in 1510 Theatre Lab, and one production will be performed in the Booth Black Box. The season includes:

I and You
Play by Lauren Gunderson
Directed by Andy Head
October 25-27, 2019
1510 Lab Theatre, LBJ Building

One afternoon, Anthony arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline’s door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass,” an urgent assignment from their English teacher. Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn’t been to school in months, but she is as quick and sardonic as Anthony is athletic, sensitive, and popular. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, this seemingly mundane poetry project unlocks a much deeper mystery that has brough them together. I and You is an ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness.

People of the Third Eye
Directed by Patti Durr and Karen Christie
November 15-17, 2019
Robert F. Panara Theatre

The show will be a unique work showcasing slices of Deaf lives—both contemporary and historical. Created collaboratively by the cast members, audiences will be treated to various genres of ASL performance art—poetry, narrative personal experiences, creative storytelling, reenactment of historical events, as well as dramatic monologues and dialogues. Woven into the action on stage will be film clips and live painting. Bookending the play will be a contemporary encounter with a well-known historical Deaf figure who still has much to teach us.

Dial M for Murder
Written by Frederick Knott
Directed by Luane Davis-Haggerty
February 28-March 1, 2019
Robert F. Panara Theatre

Tony Wendice has married his wife, Margot, for her money and now plans to murder her for the same reason. He arranges the perfect murder. Tony blackmails a scoundrel he used to know into strangling Margot for a fee of one thousand pounds. He also arranges a brilliant alibi for himself. Unfortunately…the murderer gets murdered and the victim survives. But this doesn’t baffle the husband: He sees his hireling’s death as an opportunity to have his wife convicted for the murder of the man who tried to murder her, and that is what almost happens. Luckily, the police inspector from Scotland Yard and a young man who is in love with the wife discover the truth, and in a scene of almost unbearable suspense they trap the husband into revealing his guilt, thus freeing Margot.

Bent
Written by Martin Sherman
Directed by Matthew Nicosia
March 27-29, 2020
BOO-A428, Booth Black Box, Booth Building

In 1934 Berlin on the eve of the Nazi incursion, Max, a grifter, and his lover Rudy are recovering from a night of debauchery with an SA trooper. Two soldiers burst into the apartment and slit their guest’s throat, beginning a nightmare odyssey through Nazi Germany. Ranked lower on the human scale than Jews, the men as avowed homosexuals, flee. Desperate and on the run, Max asks his own “discreetly” homosexual Uncle Freddie for help, the older man offers little more than suggestions on how to live, as he does, practicing homosexuality on the side. Attempting their escape, Rudy is beaten to death as Horst, another homosexual prisoner, warns Max to deny his lover. Taken to a death camp at Dachau, Max and Horst branded with the “pink triangle,” hope to survive with each other for comfort and courage, but it is not to be. Richard Gere created the role of Max on Broadway.

The Rhythm of Motion and Light (dance)
Conceived and Directed by Thomas Warfield
April 17-19, 2020
Robert F. Panara Theatre

Dance: The Rhythm of Motion and Light is a multi-arts, multi-experiential dance performance utilizing innovative collaborations with new technologies and live music for a concert in spring 2020. The performance will include: the use of AR (Augmented Reality – blending physical world with virtual content over-layed), dancers with hidden mini-cameras on their bodies adding to the layers of compositional substance, manipulation of visual texture - using ‘cellograph’ (where cellophane is stretched across structured frames and painted on). Another innovative concept will be choreography created from multiple forms of technology itself – instead of adding technology to what is already choreographed, the dance will be molded from the technology – the way a choreographer might choreograph to music. This production will be a true spectacle of color, light, movement and music, designed to expand the confines of dance and present a more fluid and integrated expression of technology.

For more information on the entire season, please visit: https://www.rit.edu/cla/finearts/theatrearts/cla-ntid-19-20-theatrical-season.

TICKET INFORMATION
On-site: RIT University Arenas, 200 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester NY 14623
Website: www.rittickets.com
By phone: 585-475-4121
Prices:
$5.00 for Student, Senior (60+), and Children under age 12
$10.00 for RIT Faculty/Staff/Alumni
$12.00 for General Public
Tickets also will be available on performance days two hours prior to curtain.

**For Bent: this play is not appropriate for children under 12. **

ROBERT F. PANARA LOCATION
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Lyndon Baine Johnson (LBJ) Hall (Building 60)
52 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, New York 14623

Free parking is available in Lot L.

BOOTH BLACK BOX LOCATION
Rochester Institute of Technology
James E. Booth (BOO) Hall (Building 7A)
Rochester, New York 14623

Free parking is available in Lot E, F, G, and H.

ABOUT ROBERT F. PANARA THEATRE
The Robert F. Panara Theatre is named in honor of Dr. Robert Panara, RIT’s first Deaf professor and founder of the NTID Drama Club. A 460-seat auditorium, the theater has played host to numerous guest artists such as Mikail Baryishnikov; Jane Fonda; Louise Fletcher; Marlee Maitlin; the National Theatre of the Deaf; Phyllis Frelich; Bernard Bragg; Patrick Graybill; Howie Seago; Cleveland SignStage; Annabelle Gamzon; Garth Fagan Dance; Hartford Ballet; Foreigner; Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Sean Forbes; American Deaf Dance Company; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre; Danielle Ponder; and many others. The theater opened its doors on October 3, 1974, with a production of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Originally called the Experimental Educational Theatre (EET), the theater program has a rich heritage of offering challenging, entertaining, and provocative works, all created for both Deaf and hearing audiences. We have produced work in a wide variety of theater styles; Comedy, Musical, Dance, Drama, Classical, Kabuki (Japanese), Experimental, Puppets, and new works by both Deaf and hearing authors.

BOOTH BLACK BOX
The Booth Black Box is a smaller space located on the lower level of James E. Booth (BOO) Hall in room A428. The space serves as a venue for a variety of experimental and intimate productions.

Current season productions at RIT include:

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 - 6:30pm
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 - 6:30pm
Wednesday, April 17, 2019 - 6:30pm
Friday, April 19, 2019 - 7:30pm

Collaborative and accessible theater productions happen at RIT

Student actors in costume seated in front, female lifted by two males in center, dancers in back.

Rochester Institute of Technology shows how collaborative, accessible theater happens when deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing students perform on stage together as they did in the recent production of Cabaret. The show created a unique experience for theater-goers.

NTID Performing Arts and RIT College of Liberal Arts co-present ‘Cabaret’ Nov. 30-Dec. 2

A group of multi-ethnic male and female dancers with arms linked in a circle kicking up their heels.

The unique blend of deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing students performing on stage together will guarantee theater-goers a one-of-a-kind experience at the debut of the Tony-award winning classic Cabaret at Rochester Institute of Technology. The performance of the hit musical will run in Panara Theatre in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, at RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and 2 p.m. Dec. 1–2.   

The show, directed by Andy Head, visiting assistant professor, welcomes theater-goers to the top-secret Kit Kat Klub, where the music is loud, the dances are flashy and the party rages on. The club’s newest headliner, Sally Bowles, meets American writer Cliff Bradshaw, and their lives become entwined. But, as Nazism spreads throughout Germany, questions and concerns continue to grow about how the club, its patrons, and Sally and Cliff—played by Kyle Buohl, a third-year ASL-English interpretation major from Boston—will fare. The show is not appropriate for children under 12.

“Though it takes place in a very specific era, Cabaret has a timeless feel to it,” said Head. “Set in Germany at the crossroads of the crumbling Weimer Republic and the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party, it shows us how people react to a rising story on the horizon. Some flee, some fight, some fall in line, and some ignore the problem. A story like Cabaret forces us to ask ourselves how we react when we see injustice spreading around us.

“In addition, we’ve changed the roles of many of the characters from hearing to deaf and the effects are far-reaching. It affects the characters, the way the story is told, and how the audience receives the story. Because of these conceptual changes, audiences will be treated to a truly new and unique Cabaret. On a daily basis, I am amazed by what our students can do. This show is challenging them in ways they might never have been challenged before onstage.”

This is Victoria Covell’s first foray into musical theater. She takes on the lead role of Sally Bowles.

“It has been a rich learning experience, and I am loving it,” said Covell, a third-year graphic design major from Jacksonville, Ill. “I have had to learn to balance my time with school work and memorizing my lines. But it has forced me to get out of my comfort zone and learn how to be self-confident. I also love that I have been able to make new friends along the way.”

The show is co-presented by RIT’s College of Liberal Arts and NTID’s Performing Arts program.

Tickets can be purchased through RIT University Arenas and are $5 for students and senior citizens, $10 for RIT faculty/staff/alumni, and $12 for the general public. Tickets will also be sold at the door two hours before show time on performance days. American Sign Language interpreters will be available for all performances. For more information, call 585-475-4121.

RIT announces 2018-2019 theatrical season

NTID's stage production of

Four performances presenting an array of cultural, political and social issues are part of a new collaborative season by Rochester Institute of Technology's National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts program and RIT's College of Liberal Arts Theater Arts program. The productions will give students the opportunity to work in a deaf and hearing cast and crew that promotes diversity, inclusion and respect for different cultures and perspectives. All four productions are planned to be fully accessible for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing audiences. More.

More than 3,000 celebrate at RIT/NTID’s 50th anniversary alumni reunion

Three alumni, two younger and one older, together smiling.

More than 3,000 alumni from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf visited campus June 28 –July 1 to celebrate at the college’s 50th anniversary alumni reunion.

The world’s first and largest technological college for deaf and hard-of-hearing students kicked off a year-long celebration of its 50-year history, which coincides with RIT’s move to the Henrietta, New York, campus.

Festivities began with an alumni golf tournament at Mill Creek Golf Club Thursday, June 28, and an opening ceremony that evening, hosted by alumnus and actor CJ Jones. Jones, who recently starred in the motion picture “Baby Driver” and will be featured in the upcoming James Cameron sequel, “Avatar 2.”

Other events and activities during the reunion weekend included a barbeque dinner, mini-reunions for current and former members of numerous clubs and organizations, including fraternities and sororities, and entertainment by popular alumni such as hip-hop artist Sean Forbes, ASL performance artist Rosa Lee Timm and actors Amber Zion, Kris Pumphrey and Daniel Durant, who most recently starred on Broadway in the revival of “Spring Awakening.”  

In addition to alumni from the college’s ‘pioneer’ class and founding faculty, four of RIT/NTID’s past leaders attended the reunion: founding director D. Robert Frisina; Robert Davila, the college’s first deaf leader; James J. DeCaro; and T. Alan Hurwitz. The college’s current leader, Gerard Buckley, is the first alumnus to lead the institution, which boasts more than 8,000 graduates.

The college’s Dyer Arts Center hosted an exhibition “50 Artists, 50 Years” featuring works by 50 RIT/NTID alumni artists along with the unveiling of a three-paneled mural, known as a triptych, entitled “Together” created by deaf artist Susan Dupor and commissioned for the 50th anniversary. “Together” portrays the flourishing life and history of the National Technical Institute of the Deaf over 50 years.

RIT/NTID Performing Arts and MSM Productions, Ltd. reprised the popular “The Wonderful World of Oz” in the college’s Panara Theatre for four special performances with proceeds to benefit the theater program.

Founded by an act of Congress in 1965, with the first class enrolled in 1968, NTID represents the first concerted effort to educate large numbers of deaf students within a college campus planned principally for hearing students. Among RIT's 18,000 full- and part-time students are nearly 1,100 deaf students from the United States and other countries.

NTID alumni have gone on to work and leadership positions in all areas of business, industry, government and non-profit sectors.

“We are thrilled that so many alumni from near and far joined us to celebrate 50 years of RIT/NTID,” Buckley said. “The sense of Tiger Pride was evident throughout the campus all weekend, and will leave an indelible impression on all of us who were in attendance.”

To commemorate the milestone, a book, “A Shining Beacon: Fifty Years of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf,” edited by RIT/NTID alumnus James K. McCarthy, has been published by RIT Press.

A photo gallery of the weekend's events can be found in here.