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RIT/NTID students attend Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

22 Feb

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.

Meet RIT/NTID student Israelle Johnson

10 Dec

Blonde female with long blonde hair in a multi-color blouse is standing and holding a viola.

Israelle Johnson, an RIT/NTID student who is majoring in laboratory science technology, chose RIT to get a great education, and she found so much more. Watch her video and learn about her RIT story.

Student Spotlight: TJ Bartholomew

27 Oct

Male basketball player with dark skin wearing a white tank top dribbles a basketball on court..

RIT/NTID student TJ Bartholomew is a third-year exercise science major from New York City. Sports and exercise are very important to Bartholomew, which is why exercise science was such a great fit for him. Outside of classes, he enjoys playing basketball and is involved with the Deaf Basketball Association, an intramural sport at RIT. He also is a member of Men of Color, Honor and Ambition and enjoys reading and exercising on his own during his spare time. More.

RIT Student Government President found his fit at RIT

26 Oct

Male student with red hair and facial hair poses in a tie-dye t-shirt with the word

RIT is a great fit for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, including RIT/NTID student Bobby Moakley, who serves as RIT’s third deaf Student Government President. Read his story and watch his video as he welcomes students back to campus and shares a message of inclusiveness. More.

RIT Student Government president encourages community involvement

11 Jul

Light skinned male with brown hair wearing button down shirt and jacket holding a microphone and raising his other hand.

Bobby Moakley, Rochester Institute of Technology’s new Student Government president, thinks every student should feel welcomed at RIT, regardless of what their interests are, where they are from or their beliefs.

That’s one goal Moakley, a fourth-year environmental science major from Boston, and Vice President Corinne Mendieta, a fifth-year mechanical engineering technology major from Olney, Md., have for the coming year. They also plan to make sure students have the tools they need to succeed, including transportation, resources such as the free textbook library and finding funding for projects.

“We want to enhance the culture of creativity and innovation at RIT,” Moakley said. “We want to enable students to create what they came to RIT for, whether it is artwork or a new medicine.”

Other ideas planned for this year include adding two more vans for club and organization use, a bike sharing program in the fall, and a charging station installed in the Student Government office to encourage students to drop by if they need to charge a phone or laptop. Free popcorn will still be available to visitors.

And he wants to have more direct communication with student organizations representing international students, ALANA students, student athletes, LGBTQ students, and deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

“Student Government never had a formal working relationship with them. I’d like to work closely with those representative student organizations,” he said. “They are representatives for entire groups of demographics on campus.”

Two years ago, Moakley first joined Student Government as the cross-registered senator from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and last year served as Student Government vice president.

He’s not worried about representing more than 18,000 students on RIT campuses or giving a talk in front of thousands of people.

“I’ve taken a few public speaking courses, so I know how to maneuver the nerves,” he said.

Born deaf, Moakley received his first cochlear implant and began learning sign language before he was 2. He knows there’s a wide range of communication preferences on campus among the students supported by NTID.

“People should feel comfortable using what communication they prefer, and everyone should respect people’s choices,” he said. “That’s one reason I wanted to come to RIT, there is this open and accepting feeling and a good mixture of deaf and hearing students. Here is a place I could have both of those.”

Moakley is the third deaf student to become RIT’s Student Government president. The first two were Lizzie Sorkin in 2006-2007, and Greg Pollock 2010-2012.

Moakley is uncertain what he’ll do after he graduates. He’d love to become a photojournalist for National Geographic, or work with the United Nations in international affairs.

“People now are unwilling to cooperate with other countries and are letting imaginary boundaries dictate the way they live,” he said. “How do you expect to fix an issue when you don’t talk with the people living next to you? We’re all living on one planet.”

He’s spending his summer working on a fellowship for Project HOPE (Health Outcomes Through Participation, Education and Engagement) and the Genesee Valley Land Trust, helping residents in northeast Rochester make connections to improve their community and finding ways to preserve the environment.

His great uncle was Joe Moakley, a popular Boston Congressman for 28 years who died in 2001 and had several buildings in Boston named after him. Bobby Moakley said he hasn’t ruled out a political career in the future. “I guess there’s a little inspiration from him behind it.”

He said he uses time management effectively to juggle his work, classes, volunteering and Student Government responsibilities. He usually has several meetings a day and stays up late into the night to make sure everything gets done.

“Some days I may be tired and feel fed up with it, but then I realize I love all the work I’ve been doing,” he said. “I couldn’t think of anything better I could be doing with my time.”

Regardless of what lies ahead for him, Moakley wants to make sure he leaves behind “a Student Government that is efficient for students in the future.” He hopes more students decide to become active by joining a committee or attending just one of the meetings the Student Government cabinet holds from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. each Friday in the Bamboo Room, beginning the last week in August. The meetings are open to everyone.

“I hope students feel they can contact Student Government if they have anything on their mind,” Moakley said. “No issue is too small.”