School of Drama Blog

Sylvia Kowalski in The Beggar's Opera, School of Drama, spring 2014. Photo by Mike Hipple.

Sylvia Kowalski is a junior studying Drama, Astronomy, and Physics with a sweet tooth for everything theater related. She has worked on stage as an actress, back stage as a running crew member, and under the stage as a pit orchestra member. In her spare time Sylvia enjoys singing, dancing, eating and looking for exo-planets. She is the Finance Director of the Undergraduate Theater Society, and was recently seen onstage as Elizabeth Peachum in the School of Drama's main stage production of Vaclav Havel's The Beggar's Opera.


Hello UW Drama family. Sylvia Kowalski here! Thank you for clicking into the first of a couple posts about summer drama adventures! Quick background on myself: I am a junior studying Drama, Astronomy, and Physics; and I love theater, space, and food! 

The reason for my posts are an attempt to articulate the incredible experience I have had the past few months...

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Production model: The Invisible Hand. Scenic design by Matthew Smucker, assisted by Julia Welch.

Every student in the MFA Design program takes a quarter to do a professional internship. Some students choose to work outside Seattle, but many remain in town. For Julia Welch and Jared Roberts, scenic designer students graduating spring 2015, they chose to stay in Seattle and have been working with UW alums Matthew Smucker (MFA ’02) and Jennifer Zeyl (MFA ’03), respectively.

The designers all agreed to sit down to chat about their projects, the internship experience, and their time at UW. It turned into a conversation that included discussion about director-designer dynamics and the shift in visual training brought on by the insurgence of digital media. Some highlights from the chat are excerpted here.

What are you working on and how is your working relationship set up?

Jen: I’ve had UW...

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Whit MacLaughlin in the studio with NPL and PATP actors

For the first three weeks of spring quarter, our Professional Actor Training Program students worked alongside company members of New Paradise Laboratories (NPL) and under the direction of visiting artist, and director of the first show of our 2014-2015 season, Obie award-winning NPL Artistic Director Whit MacLaughlin. Whit recently answered some questions via email, reflecting on the three-week residency and the pieces born out of the experience.

What influenced you to take on this residency in partnership with the School of Drama?

I worked with UW Lighting Design Professor Geoff Korf (now also head of the MFA Design program) in 1992. It was on one of my favorite projects ever, a rich and unusual production of Euripides’ The Bakkhai that he designed. I always sought to work with him again, but it never happened – a bicoastal separation problem. One day in the spring of 2013, I sent him a bit of NPL’s work by email and,...

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Holly Griffith

“I’ve found that there’s a certain drive behind the academic and the search for research and compiling evidence and developing complexity and structures that I really like,” Holly Griffith, an undergraduate at the University of Washington studying Drama, told me during a recent conversation. The premise of our conversation? To congratulate Holly on winning the 2014 National Amy and Eric Burger Essays on Theatre Competition, and to discuss the research and coursework that led to her winning essay. We ended up chatting about much more.

Drama is, of course, also learning how to articulate complex concepts and topics, just in a different way and through a different medium.

What are you studying at UW, and what’s your involvement with the School of Drama, beyond taking classes?

I am a double-major in...

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Professor Mark Jenkins

This week, School of Drama Professor Mark Jenkins reflects on his recent – and historic – trip to Tashkent, Uzbekistan with The Seagull Project – a Seattle-based company of self-producing actors, of which six of the sixteen members are UW Drama alums. In addition to being an actor and professor, Mark is a playwright. His recent work, Red Earth, Gold Gate, Shadow Sky won ACT Theatre’s 2013 New Play Award.

On April 23, 2014, a Seattle-based troupe of self-producing actors, their director, and a production manager flew to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to present their production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull at the renowned Ilkhom Theatre of Mark Weil.  The performances we gave constituted the centerpiece of a two week...

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Leah Adcock-Starr is a rising third-year graduate student in the MFA Directing program at the University of Washington School of Drama. Her main stage directing credits for UW Drama include the recent production of The Arabian Nights. For her thesis project, Leah will be staging William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. We previously had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Leah about her background and why she has chosen a career as a theatre maker. You can read that interview over here. Now Leah is sharing with us her reflections on a recent trip across the pond.

Pourquoi Shakespeare?

by Leah Adcock-Starr

Last month I went to a birthday party in Paris.

Close to four hundred thinkers, writers, teachers, talkers, and theatre makers gathered from all over the...

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Scott Magelssen

School of Drama Associate Professor Scott Magelssen serves as guest blogger this week. Scott’s current research is on interactive performance events in which participants are immersed into live, simulated, experiential environments and take on active roles in those environments.  Using the term “simming,” borrowed from online and computer gaming, Scott considers the ways these events, while used for varying purposes (educational, entertainment, business, military, etc.), use tools from theatre and performance to help make meaning for the producers and participants. Examples range from interactive Underground Railroad reenactments at living history museums, prom-season mock drunk-driving crashes and funerals at high schools, and large scale, government-sponsored terrorism attack drills at the local and national levels. Here, Scott gives us the first look into what’s piquing his interest now and what he’ll be investigating next.

Norway is great for maritime history....

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Spencer Hamp as Macheath

Once a season, the School of Drama undergraduate actors take to the main stage. This season they are led by Tony-nominated guest director Wilson Milam in Václav Havel’s The Beggar’s Opera. School of Drama and Undergraduate Theater Society (UTS) veterans Hannah Ruwe (UTS Executive Director) and Spencer Hamp (UTS Creative Development Director) along with Esther Hafner, on a year-long exchange program from Germany, share their thoughts on working with Mr. Milam, UTS versus the school’s main stage, and the ups and downs of being a drama student at a large university.

How is this play different than your other experiences with UW productions, both main stage and the Undergraduate Theater Society?

Spencer: Every production is so different. Each requires a different process depending on the story you’re trying to tell and the theatrical devices the show uses. We’ve spent all our time so far at...

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Ben Phillips

Ben Phillips is a recent graduate of the School of Drama (BA ’13). He is one of the founding members of Seattle’s newest theatre company, The Horse in Motion. Their inaugural production, ‘Attempts on Her Life‘ by Martin Crimp, opens this week.

In an underground art gallery of mysterious objects and a clump of writhing human bodies, three art critics take in the scene. “Where are the boundaries?” one asks.

This question, in many ways, has pervaded the process of putting up Attempts on Her Life from the very beginning. Our company has investigated the boundaries between types of theatre, between types of art, between ideas, and between people. Many of us recently crossed over the boundary from college to post-graduate life, and that experience has informed...

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Yesenia Iglesias

Puerto Rican playwright Jose Rivera said this about artists in his USC – School of Theatre Commencement Speech: “We are alchemists and con artists, acrobats and used car salesmen, liars and enlighteners, and we are here to do the earth’s bidding because the earth is screaming out its stories and begging for us to write them down, and act them out, and draw her pretty pictures on the face of the clouds.” It’s this sense of purpose and enlivened passion that brought me to UW’s School of Drama. It’s this conviction to pursue my purpose and dream that has energized me through grumpy mornings due to lack of sleep, long hours in dusty classrooms, and exhausting rehearsals. The struggle has been real, and so has the fight!

There are many moments that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. A few are absolute gems. One of the ones that confirmed how much I absolutely loved this acting thing was on closing night of Pentecost....

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