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Alum Call Board September 2021

graphic with vcu logo

Alum Call Board September 2021

Sharon, faculty, and friends at a dinner hosted by Reji Carreras. (from left) Elizabeth Byland, Kikau Alvaro, Dorie Barton, Jerry Williams, Sharon Ott, Erica Hughes, David Toney, Neno Russell, Karen Kopryanski, Kendra Rai, Chris Raintree, Bonnie McCoy, Maura Cravey, Jesse Njus, Keith Kirk, Preston Spence

Sharon Ott becomes Artistic Director of the department. Sharon has served as Chair of the department since 2017 and is now the Department’s Artistic Director. This isn’t her first time as an AD. She was AD of the Berkeley Repertory Theater (13 years) and the Seattle Repertory Theater (8 years). During her final season at Berkeley Rep, the company received the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater.

In addition to directing numerous classics and operas in major theatres all over the US, Sharon has shined with 20th and 21st century authors. She served as a director or producer for world premieres by such noted authors as Nilo Cruz, August Wilson, Phillip Kan Gotanda, Jose Rivera, Jessica Dickey, Amy Freed, Beth Henley, and Eve Ensler.

Prior to VCU, she was a Professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design and served as AD for the Performing Arts Department. She is a proud member of SDC (Stage Directors and Choreographers Union) and served on the SDC Executive Board for 13 years.

When asked about this new position, Sharon responded, “I’m really excited to take on this new role. I’m not a stranger to the role of Artistic Director, having been one in the professional world for 21 years, and then also serving in that role at the Savannah College of Art and Design. The Dean of the School of Entertainment Arts at SCAD came up with this idea for the Performing Arts Department, and I worked closely with the Chair to advance the reputation of the department on a regional and national level. I look forward to working with the new Chair of our department to do the same for VCU.” Click here to see her full bio.

Paul Alexander Nolan and Joaquina Kalukango in “Slave Play.” (Matthew Murphy)

SLAVE PLAY is up for 12 Tony Awards, a record breaking number for a non-musical. Big congrats to Co-Producer Blair Russell (BFA ’12) and Assistant Director Mary Hodges (BFA ’94)! We’ll be watching this Sunday!! VCU News just wrote a great piece on Blair—read here.

group in front of marquee

CONGRATS to alum and adjunct faculty Dorie Barton (MFA ’20) whose film WELCOME TO THE SHOW received the 2021 Audience Choice Award for Local Favorite in Film at the Richmond International Film Festival earlier this month! The film includes a slew of VCU students and alumni, including starring actors Dillon Douglasson (BFA ’20), Richard Follin (BFA ’20), Keegan Garant (BFA ’20), and Christopher Martin (BFA ’20).

Pickled Bones, aka Andrew Bonieskie and Dillon Douglasson (BFA ’20), also performed at NY Deli as part of the RIFF festivities and received the 2021 award for Best Local Music Act. Pickled Bones created the original film soundtrack for WELCOME TO THE SHOW.

The turn out was great and fun had by all!

JB Steinberg (BFA) stars as Anita in Vincent River by Phillip Ridley at Richmond Triangle Players in Richmond VA.  The play is directed by Vinnie Gonzalez (BFA ’99). Performances run through October 10th. Tickets here.

woman looking at camera with one hand under chin wearing blue and white head wrap

Omiyemi Artisia Green (MFA ’03) wrote and co-directed DANCE OF THE ORCAS, a short narrative piece showing as part of the virtual Afrikana Independent Film Festival. DANCE OF THE ORCAS premiered this past weekend, but is available to watch until this coming Saturday. More info and tickets here.

The department screened their filmed production of I AND YOU by Lauren Gunderson at Grace Street Theater this past weekend and hosted a talkback with director Chelsea Burke and members of the cast and creative team. It was wonderful to sit in a live audience!

Photo by Aaron Sutten

Join us for the department’s first mainstage production in Hodges in over a year and a half MEN ON BOATS by Jaclyn Backhaus, Directed by Sharon Ott. Mark your calendars—we’ll be hosting an alum night Thursday November 11th. More info on a reception to come!

Katrinah Carol Lewis (BFA ‘03) is directing Pipeline at Virginia Rep! Performances will be at November Theatre, October 14th – November 7th, 2021

Chris Leary (BFA ‘10) is leaving Hamilton after six wonderful years as a dresser with some fabulous actors and is transitioning to wardrobe for SNL (Saturday Night Live) full-time. Chris also plans to work on his other career as a stylist.  

woman looking at camera in front of red background

Kim Exum (BFA ’10) is very excited to tell everyone that she will be back on Broadway on November 5 as Nabulungi in The Book of Mormon! Read her spotlight from last year here.

Drewe Goldstein (BFA ’20) is the Artist Relations and General Management Intern at Hamilton on Broadway as well as the Management Intern at Baseline Theatrical working with Passover, Hamilton, and Freestyle Love Supreme. Drewe got to open their first NYC and first Broadway show at the Richard Rodgers Theatre as Broadway re-opened last week! So proud of them!

Billie Roe (BFA) has workshopped her play The Screech Owl in New York.  She has been working on this script at the Actor’s Studio since 2012 and is excited about the feedback she is receiving.  There will be a Virtual read-thru soon.  Contact Billie if you want to attend:

woman in office smiling

Vanessa Leuck (MFA ’03) is starting rehearsals for a new Original Musical titled Turtle on a Fence Post;  Off-Broadway this fall in New York.  She will be the Costume and Makeup Designer. They just announced the full cast which includes alum Josh Marin (BFA ’12)! More here.

woman looking into camera with slight smile

Michelle Carter (BFA ’93) is in the new American Crime Story:  Impeachment playing “Leslie” from HR. Read her recent spotlight here.

woman smiling

Meg Allen Cole (BFA ’02)  Meg’s very personal film Blood and Guts: Exposing Endo, a film about endometriosis, is an official selection for the Imagine This Women’s International Film Festival.  Congratulations !!!

Join us for a VCU night at The Conciliation Lab’s production of The Niceties on October 7th and enjoy discounted tickets, a talkback, and reception! There are a slew of VCU alumni, current students, and faculty involved in the production. Facebook event here. Tickets here (for discounted tickets – put general admission tickets in your cart, then use the dropdown menu to select “College Night” to apply the discount)

Check out all the VCU folks on the team!

Mikayla Bartholomew (BFA ’17) as Zoe
Deb Clinton (MFA ’97) as Janine

Dr. Tawnya Pettiford – Wates (Professor of Acting / Directing) – Director
Heather Falks (MFA ’15) – Associate Director
Amber Martinez (BFA ’09 / MFA ’15) – Costume Designer 
Faith Carlson (current senior) – Scenic Designer 
Austin Harber (BFA ’21) – Lighting Designer
Crimson Piazza (BFA ’21) – Production Stage Manager
Emily Ellen (current senior)- Assistant Stage Manager

James Vincent Ogden (BFA ’06) is featured in Prompt: A Journal of Theatre Theory, Practice and Teaching, Volume 2.  Featuring seven discarded scenic models that inspired seven new scripts.  Also featured in this issue is a script by Lucinda McDermott Piro (BFA ’83) titled Promise (Read more about Lucinda in entry below!)

Lucinda McDermott Piro (BFA ’83) is presenting her solo actor play, “O’Keeffe!” in Charlottesville Oct. 9, 7:30pm at Piedmont VA Community College. The show premiered regionally in Shafer Street Playhouse in 1992. Lucinda has *revised and updated* the script, plus new costumes by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus) and production management by Uncle Mike Productions, LLC with alum Dante Piro (BFA ’18) as production managerTickets here.

Read Lucinda’s alum spotlight from awhile back here (with her theatre kids Willa and Dante!)

Maggie Roop (BFA ’06) and Matt Shofner  (BFA  ’05) started the Ghost Light After Party (GLAP) in 2012 hosted at theatres and studios in Richmond. Now GLAP is entering a new chapter.  They have partnered with Nicole Morris-Anastasi and become Yes And! Theatrical Company and have registered as a non-profit producing theatre company.  GLAP will remain one of the many events and performances produced by Yes, And!  GLAP itself will be hosted by Chez Foushee Restaurant in Richmond.  If you are in the area, the next GLAP will be on Friday October 8th.   Come and Join the after theatre party. Follow Yes And! on Facebook here.

Jason Butler Harner  (BFA ’92)’s new independent film, The Big Bend, will open at the Austin Film Festival October 21-28 .  The film was shot in 2019 before Covid in Terlingua and The Big Bend National Park in 120+ Texas summer heat, flash floods and no cell reception because they were so remote. Actors just having fun. Read Jason’s recent spotlight.

man looking at camera in front of pink background

Tevin Davis (BFA ’21) is in Atlanta doing an internship with Actor’s Express.  He is also appearing in their opening production of Heathers – Go Tevin!

Dave Watkins (BFA ’07) is playing his first show in almost two years at the Camel in Richmond on October 3rd! 8:00pm / $8. Tickets and more info here.

Joe Carlson (BFA ’08, MFA ’11) Congratulations to his small business Charm City Books which won Baltimore Magazine’s Best of Poll for 2021 Best Bookstore! Second year in a row. Congrats to Joe and Daven! Joe was featured awhile back, check it out.

Mindy Phillips-Quirk (BFA ’00) is very happy to announce that after years of hard work, including all year dancing in the “dance room” formerly the living room,  her daughter Fiona has been accepted into the JKO School of Ballet, run by the American Ballet Theatre in New York.  Her family is very excited for her.

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the September 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.