UToledo School of Visual and Performing Arts

Archive for July, 2012

Soul of Seoul



A working vacation is always my favorite experience because you actually get to know the culture.  Much as we loved the first days of sightseeing, it was exciting to get down work!  Kookmin University’s sprawling campus is nestled in the mountains and surrounded by trees.  At its center is a large soccer field and basketball courts, which are always full of students playing– even now, though school will not be in session until the end of August, when their “second” semester begins.  In other words, their semesters are reversed from ours, with graduation happening at the end of this coming semester.
Kookmin’s modern buildings are decorated with various sculptures and fountains.  This university is ranked twentieth in South Korea and is home to twenty five thousand students.  The theatre building is also the home of Art, Dance and Film, and the rehearsal space is a blackbox space located in the basement the theatre building, and not unlike our own Studio theatre.
Everyone, from the Head of the Program, to the students, is extremely welcoming.  Our first rehearsal was primarily a chance to do introductions and introduce the directorial concept.  The students were extremely receptive, and respectful.  Korea is a Confucionist society so hierarchy is extremely important.  People will often ask your age and give you special respect even if you are only one year older.  Even among students, this is the case.  Juniors will bow to Seniors and do what they are told.  Koreans will not question authority, even if authority figures make a mistake–which will be interesting in this process, since our student Stage Manager is only a Junior and the cast are all Seniors.
Professors are treated with utmost respect in society.  Teaching (at all levels) is considered extremely prestigious, and according to a friend of mine, people will frequently pay large sums to become tenured Professors, when qualifications do not suffice.  There are always numerous students ready to help you with anything you need, and they bow each time you walk by.  I could see how this could easily go to your head!At the first rehearsal, We had the time to read through Act One and begin text analysis on the play.  The students were able to grasp the physical actions we proposed and follow direction quickly, thanks also to the great work of our translator, who sat between us and captured all the subtleties of what we were trying to say.  I was amazed by how well we were able to follow along, and even note discrepancies between translations.  For example, when Bottom is introduced to the character he will play in the play the Mechanicals are preparing, he says “what is Pyramus, a lover or a tyrant?”. We noticed that the actor was not playing the very funny antithesis between “lover” and “tyrant” and discovered that in translation the text said “what is Pyramus, a tyrant?”. It turns out that there is no word for lover in Korean!  Though we are continuing to search for a word whose characteristics are so evident in their poetic and passionate culture.

The Soul of Seoul

Cornel Gabara and I arrived at Incheon Airport in S. Korea yesterday afternoon after a fourteen hour flight. To give you some background: We have been invited to spend six weeks directing an MFA Master’s Thesis production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (in Korean!) at Kookmin University.

We opted to take the subway into Seoul (a cheaper and more interesting way to observe local culture). Among my first observations: Infrastructure!
In addition to being beautiful and cosmopolitan, Incheon Airport is extremely practical, clean and everything works! They have some great touches, such as bathroom stalls equipped with special high chairs to hold your toddler still–something I appreciated deeply, since we had our jet-lagged eight and two-year olds in tow.

The subway system is very new, clean and air conditioned. The edge is completely enclosed with a glass wall and glass doors, making falling onto the track virtually impossible. I have lived in New York and Paris and these trains put both their subways, which I always admired, to shame! Granted, those systems are much older, having pioneered service around the turn of the twentieth century. South Korea built its first line in 1974. In fact, South Korea, began really modernizing itself in the 1960’s and has completely transformed its economy and infrastructure at breakneck speed. It has become a world class economy and a democracy. Some estimates put its per capita income on par with that of the European Union.

We are staying in a skyrise in the Insadong district, a vibrant, artistic center at the heart of the city of Seoul. This sprawling metropolis boasts a population of eleven million in the city proper, and as many as twenty five million, if you include all the suburbs.

Insadong is full of streets and alleys plastered with all manner of cafes, restaurants, and everything in between. This is clearly a gastronomical city and in addition to traditional fare, there are international restaurants and American food chains all around. Shops containing fashionable clothing, art supplies, musical instruments and art galleries fill the spaces in between and skyscrapers tower over our heads. I wish I could tell you more about the city, but unfortunately we have had little chance to explore thus far.

In the evening, I gazed out at the alternating skylines and bright lights which were reminiscent of Times Square. We went to bed very early, but got little sleep. I don’t suffer from jetlag, but our sleepless daughters kept us all awake. As they tossed and turned, my attention was caught by a lonely police siren which wailed momentarily and then stopped, almost shyly. It made me aware of the silence.
I continued to listen…
No cars honking, no sirens, no shouts, no music.
None of the familiar big city sounds that I have become accustomed to in my travels…
This was a Thursday night, in the heart of downtown–and I know Koreans like to party–yet unlike any other large city I have been in, there was no sound to be heard.
A curious observation, perhaps indicative of the combination of hard work, discipline and passion that it has taken to build up this country almost overnight–or perhaps not.
It is after all, Friday today.
I guess we will find out tonight!

Alumni Branden Cobb to pursue law school with entertainment focus

Branden Cobb (Alumnus of UT Film 2010) will be heading to law school in Fall 2012. He has been accepted to the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. He liked the school’s program because it offers a law degree with an entertainment focus.

Here’s more from Branden on what he’s learned and where he’s been since he graduated:

“The most important piece of knowledge I have learned in the film and television industry is to keep an open mind and think outside of the box. The entertainment world is forever changing. As students, you learn how film started. Then you study the path it took to modern day. There were a lot of changes during that time – sound, color etc. Changes have not slowed down and maybe you as a student can develop what is next. As far as watching new films, there was VHS, then DVD. Netflix had and still has its wave.  EPIX and Netflix agreed to the ‘billion dollar deal’ that you can read about online if you would like. Deals like these change the way people view their movies. Lately, many have turned to Redbox.

If mainstream media is your desire, what can you do to help? There are a lot of good filmmakers, but they do not always get the credit they deserve. Find a niche and go with it. I picked up a second major in Public Relations in order to help myself and others get noticed.

Interning with MTV Networks in Time Square, New York City after my second year at the University of Toledo helped further my promotional production knowledge. Buckeye Cable Sports Network helped tone production skills during my last semester as an undergraduate.

While interning with EPIX at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, I gained a higher respect for television scripts. We were pitched shows by writers, agents, etc and I learned the skills of managing an office.

During a stint promoting others in Hollywood, I took a lady who won a dance competition administered by Ryan Seacrest and applied her to red carpet events. I escorted her at the Beverly Hills Film Festival After-Party.

Especially in mainstream media, it is ultimately a business. There are many talented people and then there are the people who have experience with what sells and decides what makes air. In order to improve communication, there are agents, managers, publicists, etc who help bridge the gap between these people.

During a recent stint in Los Angeles, I managed a yacht charter shop that provided two boats for a UCLA graduate student production. Most of this last year, I worked a traditional 9 – 5 in Denver, Colorado. Also, if anyone from the department, student or faculty, is in the NYC area and would like to meet for coffee or would like advice on getting around, I will do my best to make that happen.”

Congratulations, Branden, and keep us posted on what you’re up to!

Summer 2012 Film Student Activities that rock!

The University of Toledo Department of Theatre & Film would like to congratulate these Film majors on their outstanding activities!

Lydia Kane (junior) is studying abroad this summer in Barcelona, Spain at Pompeu Fabra University. As of early July, she has traveled to to Madrid, Toledo, Girona and Sitges, as well as around Barcelona.  Lydia is having a fine experience studying Spanish and Documentary Production in Spain. She is also a 2012 recipient of a C.V. Wolfe Scholarship.

Sylvia Keller (senior) had a student internship at the American Pavillion at the Cannes International Film Festival in early summer 2012. Sylvia was also awarded the 2012 Evelyn Leopold Weiher Memorial Scholarship.

 Chelsea Lutz (senior) is interning in Los Angeles with Catherine Hardwicke.  Hardwicke works as a director (Lords of Dogtown and Thirteen) and production designer (Laurel Canyon).  Chelsea reports that she is learning a lot and having a great time!

Jordan Parrish (senior) is currently interning as a production assistant through the Cleveland Film Commission for Conrad Studios and Sector 8 Films on a project called The Wind is Watching.    ( http://www.thewindiswatching.com/ )

Kenny Bauer (senior) is interning this summer with a film production company in Santa Monica, California.

Lauren Eaton (senior) is interning with Our Stories Films  (http://ourstoriesfilms.com/ ) Lauren is also a recipient of the 2012 C.V. Wolfe Scholarship.

Charlie Osowik (junior) interning this summer with a company at Beverly Hills called Film Nation.  Charlie reports that Film Nation is working on some upcoming films from Steven Soderbergh and Terrence Malick, as well as other exciting projects.  He is happy to be learning alongside these professionals.

University of Toledo faculty members invited to direct theatre production in South Korea

Cornel Gabara and Irene Alby

Cornel Gabara and Irene Alby

Cornel Gabara, associate professor of Theatre, and Irene Alby, Theatre lecturer, are currently in Seoul, South Korea, where they are co-directing a production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The two were invited by Kookmin University to direct the play, which will be performed by student actors who are performing it as a master’s thesis production. It will open to the public on September 7, 2012.

The play is familiar territory for Gabara who directed the UT production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which was staged in Toledo’s historic Valentine Theatre last November. However, he says this production won’t look the same as the one presented in Toledo.

“In Korea, you have a different language and a different culture so it will also have a different design. It will have more video elements and more choreography,” says Gabara. His wife and co-director Irene Alby will direct the video and choreography and Gabara will handle the text analysis, although they will also collaborate and share ideas across their roles.

Alby says that while she will bring her own direction and design concepts, they are not set in stone. “I will be relying on them [student cast and crew members] and their familiarity with the culture to guide me. I have already sent my ideas to them for their consideration and I’m anxious to see what their thoughts are.”

Even though Gabara does not speak Korean, he has much experience with translating Shakespeare into foreign languages. Aided by an interpreter, he has worked through the text to provide a translation that is the most meaningful to his Korean audience and best relates Shakespeare’s work. The interpreter will also help Alby and Gabara as they direct the actors.

Gabara adds that language isn’t necessarily the biggest challenge. “The real challenge is how do we express the universality of Shakespeare with Korean cultural elements. It’s still the same play. The comedy and the concepts of opposing forces—male and female, night and day, dark and light, powerful and powerless—they are still there. But the form they take will be different. It will reflect Korean culture.”

Those interested can learn more about the progress of the play on the UT Department of Theatre & Film blog and Facebook fan page. Here are the links:



UT Music Students Earn Honors, Pursue Graduate School

A number of students and former students of The University of Toledo Department of Music have received awards or have been accepted to graduate schools. Sasha Noori, tenor, senior Bachelor of Music Education major in Voice, won second prize in the Senior Men Category at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Regional Auditions, held at Bowling Green State University this month.

Professor of Voice, Dr. Barbara Rondelli-Perry said, “Voice students from music schools and conservatories of music of colleges and universities throughout Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario Province in Canada compete for prizes, and it is quite prestigious to become a prizewinner in these auditions.”

Sam Mason, tenor, a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Music Education degree in Voice, won Honorable Mention in these same auditions at BGSU, in the Junior Men Category. UT piano faculty member,  Robert Ballinger, served as the piano accompanist for these two prizewinners and other voice students in the auditions in Bowling Green.

Emily Holsclaw

Emily Holsclaw

Several students and former students have been accepted to a number of graduate programs. Emily Holsclaw, a soprano who received her BME in Voice (2008) from UT, has just been accepted into the Indiana University School of Music, in the Performance Diploma Program.  Emi is just finishing her Masters in Vocal Performance at the Ohio State University, where two years ago she was awarded their highest Fellowship.

Sam Mason (tenor), Dusty Selman (baritone), and Scott Knueven (tenor), all of whom are majoring in Music Education–Voice, have all been accepted to BGSU for the Masters in Vocal Performance program.

Janet Taylor, a soprano who completed her Master’s Degree in Vocal Performance at UT in 2010, has been accepted into the doctoral program in Music at the University of Iowa.

Congratulations to each of these students on their outstanding achievements!