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RIT/NTID’s ‘Dial M for Murder’ runs Feb. 28-March 1

17 Feb

Light skinned male with striped scarf standing with darker skinned male wearing hat. Light skinned male with ponytail in back.

The Alfred Hitchcock classic Dial M for Murder has a new twist as Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts translates the play into American Sign Language, making it accessible to deaf audiences. The show, which runs at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 and 29, and 2 p.m. Feb. 29 and March 1, at NTID’s 1510 Lab Theatre, enlists RIT students from the College of Liberal Arts as voice actors, making the production a full experience for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing audiences.

During the production, deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members can experience cutting-edge closed-captioning technology using smartglasses developed by Vuzix Corp. The technology, designed for live performances, combines access services with augmented reality. The remote interpretation and captioning services platform application has been placed into service in businesses, educational institutions and most recently, the Pro Football Hall of Fame museum. Vuzix will eventually refine the technology to impact access services for movie franchises, theater companies, and home television.

Those familiar with Dial M for Murder will enjoy this interpretation of the play’s dark themes. After learning of an affair, former English professional tennis player Tony Wendice, played by NTID alumnus Dack Virnig ’11 (arts and imaging studies), decides to hire a man to murder his socialite wife, Margot, played by Shaylee Fogelberg, a design and imaging technology major from Rochester, N.Y. Tony’s plot fails and the evidence is twisted, making it appear as though Margot has killed the man hired to murder her.

Dial M for Murder, which was written for stage and screen by Frederick Knott, is directed by Luane Davis Haggerty, principle lecturer at NTID, and features cameos by RIT President David Munson and deaf classical actor Patrick Graybill. Supporting actors are Samuel Langshteyn, a film and animation major from New York, N.Y.; M.K. Winegarner, an ASL-English interpretation major from Rochester, N.Y.; and NTID alumna Niki McKeown ’00 (arts and computer design).

Performing arts at RIT has a history of delighting audiences with top-quality productions. Most recently, the university’s productions of August Wilson’s Fences and the play I and You were honored by the Kennedy Center College Theater Festival.

“Performing Arts on campus is clearly coming into its own and breaking new ground with each production,” said Davis Haggerty. “NTID’s production of Dial M for Murder is building on this energy and is a clever mix of theatrical art and technology. It’s a production that audiences will not want to miss.”

Tickets for Dial M for Murder are free and can be reserved at Eventbrite.

RIT/NTID’s ‘Dial M for Murder’ runs Feb. 28-March 1

17 Feb

Light skinned male with striped scarf standing with darker skinned male wearing hat. Light skinned male with ponytail in back.

The Alfred Hitchcock classic Dial M for Murder has a new twist as Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts translates the play into American Sign Language, making it accessible to deaf audiences. The show, which runs at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 28 and 29, and 2 p.m. Feb. 29 and March 1, at NTID’s 1510 Lab Theatre, enlists RIT students from the College of Liberal Arts as voice actors, making the production a full experience for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing audiences.

During the production, deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members can experience cutting-edge closed-captioning technology using smartglasses developed by Vuzix Corp. The technology, designed for live performances, combines access services with augmented reality. The remote interpretation and captioning services platform application has been placed into service in businesses, educational institutions and most recently, the Pro Football Hall of Fame museum. Vuzix will eventually refine the technology to impact access services for movie franchises, theater companies, and home television.

Those familiar with Dial M for Murder will enjoy this interpretation of the play’s dark themes. After learning of an affair, former English professional tennis player Tony Wendice, played by NTID alumnus Dack Virnig ’11 (arts and imaging studies), decides to hire a man to murder his socialite wife, Margot, played by Shaylee Fogelberg, a design and imaging technology major from Rochester, N.Y. Tony’s plot fails and the evidence is twisted, making it appear as though Margot has killed the man hired to murder her.

Dial M for Murder, which was written for stage and screen by Frederick Knott, is directed by Luane Davis Haggerty, principle lecturer at NTID, and features cameos by RIT President David Munson and deaf classical actor Patrick Graybill. Supporting actors are Samuel Langshteyn, a film and animation major from New York, N.Y.; M.K. Winegarner, an ASL-English interpretation major from Rochester, N.Y.; and NTID alumna Niki McKeown ’00 (arts and computer design).

Performing arts at RIT has a history of delighting audiences with top-quality productions. Most recently, the university’s productions of August Wilson’s Fences and the play I and You were honored by the Kennedy Center College Theater Festival.

“Performing Arts on campus is clearly coming into its own and breaking new ground with each production,” said Davis Haggerty. “NTID’s production of Dial M for Murder is building on this energy and is a clever mix of theatrical art and technology. It’s a production that audiences will not want to miss.”

Tickets for Dial M for Murder are free and can be reserved at Eventbrite.

RIT’s College of Liberal Arts, NTID Performing Arts announce 2020-2021 theatrical season

6 Feb

white brick background with four images of play productions and dates along with logos for the departments.

Classic sci-fi; an interpretation of a Tony Award-winning musical; a story of faith and friendship; and New Yorkers struggling with drug abuse, AIDS and homosexuality are all part of a new collaborative season by Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf Performing Arts program and the College of Liberal Arts. The partnership between NTID and the College of Liberal Arts is a long-term collaboration in which strong backgrounds in performance, acting, directing, dance and music converge to create stunning theatrical productions.

The productions present a wide array of cultural, political and social issues. The 2020-2021 season includes:

SOMNIUM, conceived and directed by guest director Omen Sade, Oct. 16-18, 1510 Lab Theatre, Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall. This piece is inspired by the world of classic sci-fi and tells the story of a team of “slumber-nauts” who trek through the hilarious and dangerous badlands of our collective “Dream Scape.” The production uses live music, projection art and physical theatrical techniques such as mime, object manipulation and cinematic theater.

In the Heights, directed by Luane Davis-Haggerty, Nov. 13-15, Robert F. Panara Theatre, LBJ Hall. With music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and based on the book by Quiara Alegría Hudes, this production tells the universal story of a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind. In the Heights won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical.

THIS, written by deaf playwright Raymond Luczak and directed by Fred Beam, Feb. 26-28, 2021, in 1510 Lab Theatre. Curtis Higgs, a talented dancer cursed with low self-esteem, meets Dwight, a charismatic and funny hard-of-hearing dancer who is incredible onstage, yet exploitative of his friends offstage. It is through the hunger of wanting to be an unmistakable star like Dwight that Curtis learns the true value of friendship and gains faith in himself.

Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, directed by Andy Head, April 16-18, 2021, in Panara Theatre. It’s the 1980s. President Reagan sits in the White House while the AIDS crisis rages on. ​Caught in the middle are a Valium-addicted Mormon, her closeted lawyer husband, and two men ripped apart by an AIDS diagnosis. This is a story about fighting for survival, love, politics and God. In 1993, Angels in America, written by Tony Kushner, won the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

All four productions are planned to be fully accessible for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing audiences, whether using captions, American Sign Language in the performance, interpreters or a combination. Angels in America is not appropriate for children under 12. 

Tickets for performances in Panara Theatre—$5 for students, senior citizens and children under age 12; $10 for RIT faculty/staff/alumni; and $12 for the public—will be available through rittickets.com, by phone at 585-475-4121 or at the door two hours prior to curtain time. Performances in the 1510 Lab Theatre are free. Tickets will be released on Eventbrite.

For more information, go to the Performing Arts theatre program webpage.

Macie the therapy dog visits Wallace Library today; featured in student film ‘Mike & Macie’

10 Dec

Very good doggie surrounded by students petting her, with owner/trainer sitting behind her.

Ten minutes spent petting a dog can make a world of difference to a stressed-out college student—especially during finals week.

To help students relax, Wallace Library is hosting a therapy-dog event from 3 to 4:30 p.m. today on the first floor. The event is part of the library’s weeklong Destress Fest and a continuation of a monthly offering that many students enjoy. One student even made therapy dog Macie and her handler, RIT retiree Michael Servé ’71 (business administration), ’76 MBA, the subject of a documentary that will be shown this week in the MAGIC Center’s Wegmans Theater.

“The students get excited when they hear another event is coming up,” said Sara Kuehl, manager of marketing and communications at RIT Libraries. “I think therapy dogs are becoming more common on college campuses, particularly with academic libraries.”

A 2018 study in Stress and Health, by University of British Columbia researchers, investigated the impact of therapy dog sessions on college campuses and found a measurable short-term impact on student wellbeing. Participants reported reduction in stress and negative feelings.

“Wallace Library is open the most hours of any academic building on campus, and we see students spending long hours here,” Kuehl said. “Particularly as we get to finals week, you can feel the stress from the students. It’s palpable as you’re walking through the building. We created Destress Fest three years ago to help students relieve some stress without having to leave the library, encouraging them to take study breaks and practice some self-care.”

Victoria Sebastian, a third-year film and animation major from the Pittsburg area, makes a priority of visiting therapy dogs at the library. She misses her German shepherd/poodle puppy Bear and likes the chance to “chill with a dog.” She’s not the only one.

Kuehl anticipates a crowd of students to form around the therapy dogs this afternoon. Typically, 200 to 300 students attend the monthly sessions with three dogs and their handlers, she said. Kuehl first invited handlers to bring their dogs to Wallace Library about three years ago and was amazed when nearly 400 students showed up eager to pet the three dogs.

“After we saw the overwhelming reaction—we decided this was something we should definitely continue,” Kuehl said. “We’ve been hosting therapy dogs monthly for the past year and a half, and there is always a good turnout.”

Kuehl reached out to Servé about bringing therapy dogs to Wallace Library. Servé, former assistant vice president for finance for NTID, retired from RIT in 2014 after 34 years of service. He has coordinated RIT-approved therapy-dog events on campus for nearly a decade. In 2011, he and his wife, Barbara Servé ’71 (retail), started bringing their late golden doodles, Toby and Tucker, to campus for NTID students. When word spread that Servé was organizing these events, he was asked to create the Bow Wow Wellness program for the university. (The next Bow Wow Wellness event will be held 4 to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Student Alumni Union’s Fireside Lounge.)

Servé networks with the local group of volunteers affiliated with Therapy Dogs International to bring six to eight dog/handler teams to Bow Wow Wellness in the Fireside Lounge. The smaller space in the library is suitable for two to three dogs, he said, and his standard poodle Macie is a regular attendee.

“In an hour and half, the students just gravitate to the dogs. It’s a very satisfying thing,” Servé said. “The students want to talk about their dog at home that they miss so much. They want to know about Macie, they want to know how she was trained, and basically, they just want to hug the dog.”

The love is reciprocal.

“I think the work is good stimulus for the dog,” Servé said. “There is no sign of stress and she does it on back-to-back days and she’s fine. She’s been doing this work for so long; she knows what’s going on and is ready for it.”

Film student Sebastian had her own questions about what it takes to prepare a dog for pet therapy and made it the focus of a class project this fall for her documentary workshop.

“I wanted to focus on one person and their therapy dog to see all the work that they do and to thank them,” Sebastian said.

Kuehl connected her with Servé, and the project took shape.

Sebastian’s six-minute film, Mike & Macie, is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a busy therapy dog and can be viewed on SOFAtube and on Sebastian’s YouTube channel.

“I learned there is a huge demand for therapy dogs,” Sebastian said. “Mike and Macie could do events every single day.”

Schools, colleges and hospitals are eager for therapy dog teams to visit, Servé said. He clarified that pet therapy dogs are not the same as service dogs for the blind or hard of hearing. “It’s a much lower bar that they pass.”

Nevertheless, Macie had to complete a six-week training course and pass a test to earn her certification through Therapy Dogs International. Macie had to demonstrate her ability to get along with multiple dogs, behave well in crowds and maintain her naturally calm disposition. She also had to prove her ability to resist food dropped on the floor. Macie’s training could save her life if the piece of food was actually medicine or another potentially dangerous object.

Sebastian and her cinematographer, Brandon Granby, a third-year film and animation major, interviewed Servé at his home. Macie was shy at first when she saw the foreign lighting equipment in her home, and Sebastian waited for her to warm up to the small crew and their gear.

“Victoria came to my house twice and filmed the dog in her home environment, proving that Macie may be a therapy dog, but No. 1 she’s a family dog, too,” Servé said. “And the dog performed. They filmed us getting the dog ready in the morning to go out on therapy-dog visits and the dog running in the back yard.”

Sebastian shadowed Servé and Macie at Wallace Library and at the Lois E. Bird/Morgan School in East Rochester, where twice weekly they visit children with special needs. Sebastian used the film to ask both sets of students what they think about having the dog come to their school.

“Macie is very calming, so they can take a break from what they’re doing, and laugh and smile for a while,” Sebastian said about the RIT students. “A lot of the younger kids said that it’s fun to have a dog, and when they walk in the room they know it’s going to be a good time.”

Producing the film has inspired Sebastian to explore therapy dog training in the future with her own puppy. For now, she will take advantage of the therapy-dogs on campus.

Servé and Macie will be back at Wallace Library from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 29 to provide comfort for students in need of dog time. Kuehl is happy the library can provide students a safe place to center themselves.

“Students leave smiling and you can almost see their shoulders relax,” Kuehl said. “It’s really great to see the positive impact therapy dogs have on the students.”

Victoria Sebastian’s tips for working with dogs

“You have to be ready for anything. It’s very spontaneous. You can’t predict what an animal is going to do. You can’t predict the reactions you’re going to get from students. It’s very on-your-feet to make sure you’re getting more than you need. The animal takes the lead. And you must get a lot of the shots that convey meaning visually. Because although with people they can explain things to you, but with dogs you have to show it instead.”

RIT gifted 177-acre estate to expand research, educational offerings

3 Dec

Aerial view of large cabin and grounds surrounded by water.

Rochester Institute of Technology will use a substantial gift of real estate in Penfield to expand the university’s research and educational offerings in ecology, agriculture, sustainability and other fields.

Amy Leenhouts Tait and Robert C. Tait, Rochester natives and highly successful real estate entrepreneurs, have gifted to the university their 177-acre property, which includes a 60-acre lake and a private mile of Irondequoit Creek adjacent to Ellison Park. The site, home of a former Dolomite sand quarry, will be dedicated as the Tait Preserve of RIT.

“With this generous donation, the Tait family is providing RIT a transformative opportunity to expand our experiential education and research opportunities in many of our programs,” said RIT President David Munson. “The Tait Preserve of RIT will provide nearly endless possibilities for RIT and the broader community. We are deeply grateful to the Taits for their magnificent gift and commitment to this university and the Finger Lakes region.”

Over the past four years, the Taits have worked to clean up the abandoned industrial site and restore its natural beauty, constructing a 5,000-square-foot luxury lodge amidst its wooded hills and open meadows. The Leenhouts Lodge, named in honor of the Leenhouts family members, has geothermal heating and air conditioning, a chef’s kitchen, a massive stone fireplace and an open concept interior with huge sections of glass walls that mechanically open to the outdoor patios, firepit and view of the lake and surrounding hillsides.

“Bob and I are delighted that this property, which has special meaning to our family, will be loved and enjoyed for generations to come under the responsible stewardship of RIT,” Amy Tait said. “We are so inspired by RIT’s vision, which will benefit its constituents, the Penfield community, the broader region and potentially even the planet.”

The Tait Preserve of RIT is located 25 minutes from the RIT’s Henrietta campus and 10 minutes from downtown Rochester. Given its convenient location, RIT expects to use the facility for a wide variety of education, research and conservation activities including:

  • Environmental education and research, incorporating K-12 programming
  • Agriculture and aquaculture research and education, including sustainable agriculture and community engagement
  • Conservation, sustainability and urban ecology research and training
  • Events and hospitality community functions
  • Youth recreation

“With the Tait Preserve’s close proximity to downtown, we also see this as an opportunity to offer the City of Rochester’s K-12 students unique experiences they would not otherwise have access to,” said James Watters, RIT senior vice president for Finance and Administration and treasurer. “The Leenhouts Lodge will provide a first-class event center where we can engage the RIT and Rochester communities in ways that fascinate and inspire.”

RIT says it is committed to preserving and protecting the ecosystem and only anticipates adding infrastructure as required to maximize the site’s potential. Portions of the land have been earmarked for agricultural research and education to develop farming practices that benefit both the land and community.

 “The Tait Preserve’s local field sites will be highly advantageous for our environmental science and biology programs,” said Sophia Maggelakis, dean of RIT’s College of Science. “Exclusive and protected access to the property is particularly valuable, as it will give access of the available field sites to our faculty and undergraduate and graduate students to work on research projects in a number of areas such as ecology, agricultural biotechnology, wildlife management, plant biology, wetland biogeochemistry and geographic information systems, just to name a few.”

The Taits are longstanding business and community leaders. Bob and Amy Tait, together with Norman Leenhouts, co-founded Broadstone Real Estate in 2006, following their leadership roles at Home Properties. Their involvement with real estate and their demonstrated support of the community is modeled, in part, after Amy’s parents, Norman and Arlene Leenhouts, and Norman’s twin brother, Nelson Leenhouts, founders of Home Properties.

This is the second major gift the Taits have made to RIT. The former Rochester Savings Bank building, located at 40 Franklin St., was donated to RIT in 2012 by Amy and Robert Tait through Rochester Historic Ventures. The building, now called the RIT Downtown Center for Entrepreneurship, is home to RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, which provides business, mentoring and consulting services targeting new urban entrepreneurs or individuals who have an existing business or are hoping to launch a new business within the City of Rochester.

RIT is in the midst of “Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness” which aims to raise $1 billion to fund the university’s future by attracting exceptional talent, enhancing the student experience, improving the world through research and discovery and leading future special initiatives. With this gift, the Campaign has now secured nearly $665 million in gifts, research grants and other support.

Rochester Institute of Technology will use a substantial gift of real estate in Penfield to expand the university’s research and educational offerings in ecology, agriculture, sustainability and other fields.

Amy Leenhouts Tait and Robert C. Tait, Rochester natives and highly successful real estate entrepreneurs, have gifted to the university their 177-acre property, which includes a 60-acre lake and a private mile of Irondequoit Creek adjacent to Ellison Park. The site, home of a former Dolomite sand quarry, will be dedicated as the Tait Preserve of RIT.

“With this generous donation, the Tait family is providing RIT a transformative opportunity to expand our experiential education and research opportunities in many of our programs,” said RIT President David Munson. “The Tait Preserve of RIT will provide nearly endless possibilities for RIT and the broader community. We are deeply grateful to the Taits for their magnificent gift and commitment to this university and the Finger Lakes region.”

Over the past four years, the Taits have worked to clean up the abandoned industrial site and restore its natural beauty, constructing a 5,000-square-foot luxury lodge amidst its wooded hills and open meadows. The Leenhouts Lodge, named in honor of the Leenhouts family members, has geothermal heating and air conditioning, a chef’s kitchen, a massive stone fireplace and an open concept interior with huge sections of glass walls that mechanically open to the outdoor patios, firepit and view of the lake and surrounding hillsides.

“Bob and I are delighted that this property, which has special meaning to our family, will be loved and enjoyed for generations to come under the responsible stewardship of RIT,” Amy Tait said. “We are so inspired by RIT’s vision, which will benefit its constituents, the Penfield community, the broader region and potentially even the planet.”

The Tait Preserve of RIT is located 25 minutes from the RIT’s Henrietta campus and 10 minutes from downtown Rochester. Given its convenient location, RIT expects to use the facility for a wide variety of education, research and conservation activities including:

  • Environmental education and research, incorporating K-12 programming
  • Agriculture and aquaculture research and education, including sustainable agriculture and community engagement
  • Conservation, sustainability and urban ecology research and training
  • Events and hospitality community functions
  • Youth recreation

“With the Tait Preserve’s close proximity to downtown, we also see this as an opportunity to offer the City of Rochester’s K-12 students unique experiences they would not otherwise have access to,” said James Watters, RIT senior vice president for Finance and Administration and treasurer. “The Leenhouts Lodge will provide a first-class event center where we can engage the RIT and Rochester communities in ways that fascinate and inspire.”

RIT says it is committed to preserving and protecting the ecosystem and only anticipates adding infrastructure as required to maximize the site’s potential. Portions of the land have been earmarked for agricultural research and education to develop farming practices that benefit both the land and community.

 “The Tait Preserve’s local field sites will be highly advantageous for our environmental science and biology programs,” said Sophia Maggelakis, dean of RIT’s College of Science. “Exclusive and protected access to the property is particularly valuable, as it will give access of the available field sites to our faculty and undergraduate and graduate students to work on research projects in a number of areas such as ecology, agricultural biotechnology, wildlife management, plant biology, wetland biogeochemistry and geographic information systems, just to name a few.”

The Taits are longstanding business and community leaders. Bob and Amy Tait, together with Norman Leenhouts, co-founded Broadstone Real Estate in 2006, following their leadership roles at Home Properties. Their involvement with real estate and their demonstrated support of the community is modeled, in part, after Amy’s parents, Norman and Arlene Leenhouts, and Norman’s twin brother, Nelson Leenhouts, founders of Home Properties.

This is the second major gift the Taits have made to RIT. The former Rochester Savings Bank building, located at 40 Franklin St., was donated to RIT in 2012 by Amy and Robert Tait through Rochester Historic Ventures. The building, now called the RIT Downtown Center for Entrepreneurship, is home to RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, which provides business, mentoring and consulting services targeting new urban entrepreneurs or individuals who have an existing business or are hoping to launch a new business within the City of Rochester.

RIT is in the midst of “Transforming RIT: The Campaign for Greatness” which aims to raise $1 billion to fund the university’s future by attracting exceptional talent, enhancing the student experience, improving the world through research and discovery and leading future special initiatives. With this gift, the Campaign has now secured nearly $665 million in gifts, research grants and other support.