The Department of Theatre & Film at the University of Mississippi's innovative 2020-21 season continues with another opportunity for students to create and present theater in a way they have never done before.
The musical, a rollicking satire focusing on themes of climate change, corporate greed and political corruption, is about a fictional city in the not-so-distant future where the problem of a devastating water shortage is solved by corporate meanies UGC, who control the water supply by eliminating private bathrooms and forcing residents to pay for public amenities. Those who violate the rules are spirited away to an ominous place called “Urinetown.”
To safely bring theater to the public in the time of COVID-19, the University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film is using ingenuity to put a modern spin on a classic idea.
Pop-Up Shakespeare,” a series of informal, catch-them-when-you-can performances, combines the time-honored tradition of staging Shakespeare’s plays outdoors with the spontaneous, fleeting nature of trendy pop-up events.
“Amid shifting plans resulting from the ongoing global pandemic, professors in the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of Mississippi found new opportunities for students this fall by bringing in a diverse roster of alumni as guest speakers for a series of virtual master classes.
Six alumni – all of them graduates with a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Fine Arts who are working at a high level in their respective disciplines within theater design and technology – met with students in the Production Studies class via Zoom on Friday afternoons.”
The new center, which opened to students this fall, benefits from the Department of Theatre & Film‘s growing bachelor’s program in film production. The new complex brings with it a classroom experience unlike anything that could have been imagined at Ole Miss just a few years ago, said Michael Barnett, the department’s chair.
“We’re really excited to add this component to what we are able to offer our students,” Barnett said. “This film production facility is going to fundamentally change how we are able to teach, as well as the practical experience we are able to give students, which is what we set out to do. We can really simulate the workflow in a professional environment."
“The Helen Ward Kellum Legacy Award for Excellence in Theatre Arts Fund will bring significant value to the students in our department. The nature of the work that we do requires our students to travel to conferences, showcases, and large audition calls around the country. For many the financial burdens that this creates can be, at times, overwhelming.
"Through the generosity of Glenn Kellum, Gloria Kellum, and their families, the wonderful devotion of Helen Kellum to our students will continue in the years to come. The Department of Theatre & Film students, staff, and faculty are deeply grateful for their support.” —Michael Barnett, chair and professor of theatre & film.
Near/Far, a remotely performed and recorded work of physical theater conceived by Lauren Bone Noble, UM assistant professor of movement for the actor, will premiere online at 7 p.m. Friday (Nov. 6) on Facebook and YouTube; the Facebook premiere will feature an interactive “watch party.”
The play is, in essence, an exploration of isolation – something most people have become familiar with in recent months, with stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and remote work and schooling in effect to varying degrees across the globe. There is no dialogue, and the actors wear masks.
“Our students have taken this idea in some very creative directions,” Shifflett said. “I love that everyone has used some element of the uncanny, the supernatural or the macabre in their piece. It’s really going to be a great way to mark Halloween in an otherwise uncertain year.”
Rory Ledbetter received a pleasant surprise in his inbox recently. According to the out-of-the-blue email, the University of Mississippi theatre arts professor is making an unexpected appearance in this year’s Nashville Film Festival, set to take place virtually Oct. 1-7.
“Son of Sun,” a narrative short film that Ledbetter had acted in three years ago, had been named a selection of the festival, which is, in the category of narrative short films, a qualifier for the Academy Awards. The festival’s Grand Jury Prize-winning film will be eligible for Oscar consideration.
Choose Your Own Adventure with a Degree in Theatre Arts - Department of Theatre & Film alumni employ training in many fields
What do an HR director at a New York City startup, a senior tax accountant for one of the world’s largest companies, and a personal assistant-cum-film producer and actor have in common?
“If you’re highly adaptable, you’re a fast learner and if you have really excellent interpersonal skills – actors always have to have those three things – then you can land so many more jobs than I ever thought possible.” —Shelby Grady, BA Theatre Arts, 2014
A Designer, an Actor, and a Filmmaker Walk into the Theatre & Film Department - Three new faculty members bring excitement, experience to their UM classrooms
The University of Mississippi Department of Theatre & Film is welcoming three new faculty members for the fall 2020 semester – one in movement, one in design and the other in film. Lauren Bone Noble, Cody Stockstill and Jaye Sarah Davidson bring a variety of skills and experiences to the department. Each of the assistant professors participated in a quick Q&A to introduce themselves to the university community.
A Couple that Stays Together Plays Together - Ole Miss theater alumni premiere new play via livestream
“I think this is the beginning of theaters doing smaller shows with smaller casts and not much crew — unless there’s a camera — and still being able to do the live work that we love to do anyway. I think it’s going to grow larger, and this might be one of the things that kicks it off here in our city — just to know that it’s possible.” — Kaleb Mitchell, B.F.A. 2014
Support for the Arts - Gift establishes film production studio fund
“With Ms. Starnes’ generous gift to our Film Studio Fund, we’re able to equip our new production facility with the latest in video and editing technology, allowing us to get our young film program off to an excellent start. Our students will begin working with professional equipment in their first year and when they graduate, they’ll enter the job market with high-level skills.” — Michael Barnett, chair of the Department of Theatre and Film and associate professor of lighting design
A Mother Memorialized - Scruggs couple establishes Ruby Simpson Shelton Scholarship
“My mother wasn’t able to attend college because of the Depression years, but she definitely passed on to me her love for her Mississippi family, which led to my choosing Ole Miss. She was always very warm and outgoing, loved people and loved being with her family in Mississippi whenever possible after she moved to Dallas.” — Jody Scruggs, donor
Boeing, Boeing Goes Supersonic for Laughs - Rollicking farce arrives on time for Ole Miss Theatre's spring season
“There aren’t that many shows where the women get to be so funny. So that’s really refreshing about this show. It’s really interesting how gender plays such a big part in the show." — Junior Catherine Long, who plays Berthe
Ole Miss Theatre Offers Full Season of ASL-Interpreted Performances - Group becomes state's first collegiate production company to schedule regular interpreted shows
“We deaf people are human beings who enjoy everything that people who have the ability to hear do. We are no different in loving live theater performances — we want to be a part of the whole of pop culture. The only difference is the ability to hear. People forget that we are very visual, and theater is perfect for us.” — Benjamin Wagenknecht, director of the state Office on Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Ole Miss Theatre Brings Little Women to Big Stage - Classic novel, reimagined in winsome musical, comes to Ford Center
“I had no idea how many layers they actually wore. We’re wearing our undergarments, pantyhose, a corset with a petticoat; and then for me, I’ve got a blouse and skirt, and I never really leave the stage, so everything else I wear is layered on top of that … I will be in three skirts for a dance number.” — Senior Lydia Myers, who plays Jo March
The Wolves Delivers Adolescent Reality Through Soccer - Opening production of Ole Miss Theatre season posed challenges for production team
“We so often see teenage girls represented as catty or worrying about things like makeup or who’s going to take them to prom – these sort of silly or frivolous things. What it’s really about, and where its value lies, is in showing us a more nuanced picture, one that has those layers.” — Guest director Sarah Flanagan
Inaugural Playwriting Resident to Work this Summer at UM - Anne Marie Cammarato will create play with Ole Miss students to be performed in Oxford
“Statistics show that women playwrights rarely have the opportunity to develop new works through multiple readings and productions. New voices can greatly benefit from support that allows them the time to think, rest, write and research — and Oxford is the perfect place to do just that. I wanted to see if we could find a way to support an emerging playwright — a woman, transgender inclusive. The whole idea is promoting new voices in theater.” — Rhona Justice-Malloy, professor of history & literature
Professor Elected to College of Fellows of American Theatre - Rhona Justice-Malloy honored with lifetime recognition
“It’s essentially the highest award of this sort within the field. I was truly overwhelmed that the people who supported my nomination and subsequent election found my work worthy.” — Rhona Justice-Malloy, professor of history & literature
Ole Miss Theatre’s Fly by Night is Made of Star Stuff - Production explores relationships and the forces that influence them
“If we’ve done what we want to do, people are going to cry at least once, they’re going to feel a lot of joy, some sadness, and they’re just going to delight in the magic of theater.” — Rory Ledbetter, director and associate professor of voice & acting
Ole Miss Theatre Delivers Modern Take on Ancient Greek Tragedy - 'Eurydice' is last production by longtime scenic design professor
“It’s like if you were dreaming the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. For a lot of it, audiences will be thinking, ‘I’ve never seen anything quite like that.'” — Dex Edwards, director and associate professor of scenic design
Film Professor Makes International Debut - Sarah Hennigan heads to New Zealand for screening at Maoriland Film Festival
“It doesn’t get much more exciting than to hear that a film colleague is going to have her film shown on the other side of the globe and be there to see the audience react to it. We’ve always made it our goal to become more international, but I wasn’t expecting this level of international to happen so soon.” — Alan Arrivée, associate professor of film production and head of the B.F.A. film production program
Mr. Burns Examines Importance of Stories in Everyday Life - Director promises a show 'like nothing you've ever seen before' in Ole Miss Theatre production
“Every act of storytelling is in some way an act of remembrance. We’re passing on something that happened to us, or something that happened to someone we know, or some fictional story that we heard from someone we know. There’s always this element of, when we tell the story, we’re putting something back together. We are ‘re-membering’ a dismembered past.” — Matthew Shifflett, director and instructional assistant professor of theatre arts
Department of Theatre and Film Gets Showcase at Oxford Film Festival - New collaboration provides opportunities for filmmakers across campus, region
“The one-minute film was different from anything else I’ve done. I think I called it ‘the memory of a memory.’… It was really fun because I got to play with forms, and it’s a lot more visual. … It’s probably going to have the most impact on my thesis film.” — Jonathan Smith, graduate student in the Southern studies documentary expression M.F.A. program
Ole Miss Theatre to Stage Tony-winner Assassins - Time-bending Stephen Sondheim musical brings presidential plotters together to ask, 'Why?'
“Concept musicals have a point to make. For a director, that gives you a chance to look into the meaning. First, you look into what the creators are trying to say; then you figure out how to make it fit today.” — René Pulliam, director and associate professor of theatre arts
Film Festival Offers Screenings, Educational Opportunities - New date paves way for collaboration with Oxford Film Festival
“Now the festival serves as an opportunity for filmmakers to receive feedback in advance of the Oxford Film Festival. This way, if they want to make edits or enhancements in order to have a better chance of getting screened at OFF, they’ll have time to do so.” — Alan Arrivée, associate professor of film production and head of the B.F.A. film production program
She Kills Monsters Opens UM Theatre’s New Season - Combat choreographer stages scenes for play's fantasy world fights
“It is a masterpiece of inclusion. While the piece may be seen very simply as a defense of the set who are drawn to fantasy adventure at the kitchen table, the play is a paean to the human spirit more than it is a song in praise of ‘D&D.'” — Guest director Michael J. Hood, former dean of fine arts at Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Submissions Sought for UM Film Festival One-Minute Film Competition - University, high school filmmakers urged to enter by Sept. 21
"Sarah Hennigan, assistant professor of film production, emphasized that lower production costs and the ubiquity of basic equipment and editing software — such as cell phones and apps — make a project like this feasible for a diverse group of participants.
'With today’s technology, high school students are better versed in these things now than we were at that age,' Hennigan said. 'I’m excited to see what people will come up with.'”
UM to Offer Film Production, Acting for Stage and Screen Degrees - Expanded programs will prepare students for careers onstage and on both sides of the camera
“We’re very excited about the work that we’re going to be able to do with our students and also the work that they’re going to be generating. We’ve already seen a lot of student success in filmmaking, through the minor, with a number of students having their films being accepted into film festivals, not just here but internationally. We have every expectation that with a more concentrated curriculum we will broaden that success.” — Michael Barnett, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and associate professor of lighting design
Ole Miss Theatre Presents Macbeth this Weekend at the Ford Center - Performance is directed by Cynthia White of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater
“I think it’s especially great that Ole Miss brought in a woman director for this large production at the Ford Center, since it’s important to give the students the opportunity to work with a wide range of professionals in their field — and after many years in the field, it still seems to be of note that I am a woman director." — Guest director Cynthia White of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater
Ole Miss Theatre Production of Zombie Prom Opens Friday - Zany musical features contributions by army of students, faculty and staff
“Ole Miss’ theater department is very professional. We follow the same structures and guidelines as set by Actors’ Equity, which hundreds of actors and stage managers are part of on Broadway and throughout professional performance groups. It definitely is preparing all of us within the department for the real world of working in theatre after we graduate.” — Sophomore Ginnie Brown, who plays Candy