Published September 22, 2020
In these times of uncertainty, the arts offer welcome comfort, perspective, escape, joy and intellectual stimulation.
The Department of Theatre and Dance is adapting to a virtual format for the fall season’s lineup of musicals, plays and dance performances. Nationally recognized directors and choreographers will work with UB faculty and students to produce innovative original productions that both entertain and explore the human condition.
The department’s live and pre-recorded segments will be filmed at the Center for the Arts on the North Campus in order to observe all social distancing and safety protocols, and ensure the best experience for students and patrons.
The digital platform for each event will be announced.
The fall lineup:
“SAFER: A Virtual Music Review”
Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m.
The department’s traditional fall musical production has become a newly conceived virtual musical revue titled “SAFER,” which features new songs and poetic work by an exciting lineup of professional music theater composers and lyricists. The show will include selections from “The Ruminations and Reflections of an Armchair Philosopher” by Nathan R. Matthews, show director and associate professor, and collaborators Terry Berliner and Peter Haslett Kelly. The “SAFER” cast is composed of UB performance students enrolled in Matthews’ creative research project course.
Contributing to the show are composer/lyricist Heath Saunders, author Kim Saunders, composer Andy Peterson, composer/lyricist Erik Ransom, lyricist/author Michelle Elliot; composer/co-lyricist Danny Larson, composer/lyricist Drew Fornarola, composer Kristen Rosenfeld and author/lyricist Luanne Rosenfeld.
Nov. 11-14, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Nov. 15, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
A contemporary take on “Everyman,” one of the oldest plays in the English language, “Everybody,” by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Originally scheduled as part of the department’s spring 2020 season, it was postponed due to COVID-19.
In the original off-Broadway production by Signature Theatre, many of the play’s roles were cast at random each night via a playful on-stage lottery. This aspect will be retained for UB’s online version of the production.
“The playwright makes clear that the production should be cast with a diverse group of performers, demonstrating the inclusivity its name implies,” explains director Lindsay Brandon Hunter, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies. “Where the original play centered the experience of a white, Anglo man as universal, this contemporary work is a comedic and heartfelt exploration of morality that welcomes all kinds of players.”
The lead character is an individual — Everybody — who is called to her final resting place. Everybody protests what she perceives as her random and unfair imminent demise. The 12-person student cast also includes allegorical figures like Friendship, Love, Beauty, Courtship, Kinship, Mind and Stuff. A philosophically puzzled God is accompanied by Death. Time and Love round out the cast.
“Home and Away: A Virtual Dance Concert”
Dec. 11 and 12, 7:30 p.m.
“Home and Away” will feature 50 undergraduate dance majors — from freshmen to seniors — as well as works and performances by MFA students. The show will be presented in two formats: “Dance for Camera” from home and recorded performances on campus.
“Half will be created and filmed entirely remotely by individual dancers working from home, utilizing pre-approved indoor and outdoor locations,” says Kerry Ring, co-artistic director and clinical associate professor. “We refer to this process as ‘Dance for Camera.’ ”
“‘Dance for Camera’ is very much about each individual student creating and editing their own work digitally,” says Jeanne Fornarola, co-director and clinical associate professor. “It addresses the importance of the dancers learning new skills for a new age.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of Buffalo in the student videos, like Delaware Park and other familiar landmarks,” Fornarola adds. “It will be interesting to see how the landscape and the architecture of the city becomes a part of the dance.”
The second format of the program will take place in the department’s laboratory spaces in the Center for the Arts’ Mainstage and Drama Theatre.
“Some are solo and duo works, with quartets being the largest grouping,” Ring says. “In all cases, our students will be separated by safety partitions, which can double as part of the set design. We’re practicing creativity through great restraint.”
The works will be captured and edited via a multi-camera shoot by the UB Production Group. In addition, Lynne Koscielniak, professor of scenography, and her students will provide innovative lighting and scene designs to give the production the professional quality that audiences have come to associate with the department’s traditional stage productions.
The Friday and Saturday shows will consist of completely different content, with each online evening performance running approximately 60 minutes.
“It’s a great collaboration with dance faculty and students and our design technology counterparts to move dance into the digital age,” Ring says. “‘Dance for the Camera’ was already making its way in the field, and now it’s a whole new platform to reach audiences. We’re encouraging young artists to speak their minds through their bodies.”
Ring and Fornarola will create choreography for “Home and Away,” along with Jenna Del Monte, clinical assistant professor. Other choreographers include MFA dance students Jacquie Cherry, Meg Kirchoff, Kate Mackey and Phil Wackerfuss. Undergraduate choreographers are Stephanie Avila, Daniella Bertrand, Emma Colligan, Alexis Corletta, Homeria Lubin, Mandy McClenigan, Ally Mersereau, Sam Tilley, Kelsey Wegman and Jenna Zavrel.
All fall 2020 performances will be free of charge online, with donations suggested.