School of Drama Blog

Julia Sears

When the world is too much I turn to art. The only thing that has made sense to me of late has been to use my art form to process, explore, and probe relevant social issues that impact myself and my community. The theatre I make shows an audience a real life situation expressed in a metaphorical or fantastical way. By interrogating difficult issues in captivating heightened moments of performance I invite audiences into a conversation that otherwise may be too fraught to tackle. I hope these conversations spark the difficult questions that allow us to productively reflect on our endlessly fascinating, endlessly flawed world.

I have the unique privilege of being a director, which means I often get to choose what kind of theatre I make. I am currently in development for a project called We Cry Havoc a devised physical theatre piece created by a group of civilian and veteran artists. The play...

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Isabel Martin in Scotland

by Isabel Martin

Almost one year ago now, I asked Professor Andrew Tsao when applications for the School of Drama’s summer study abroad expedition would be posted. As a freshman, I’d heard rumors about a magical trip undertaken by UW drama students to Edinburgh, Scotland, where the international festivals took place. There  these students  gorged themselves on theatre for a month, and I was determined to experience this first hand. Unfortunately, Professor Tsao  replied, the program wouldn’t be going ahead this year as he wasn’t available to lead it due to other commitments and student interest had slackened in recent years. Probably somewhat belligerently, I asked what could be done to make the program happen and he doubtfully suggested I find out if there were any other interested students. 

As it turned out, there were. A whiteboard full of signatures, a petition to the Dean, a small mountain of...

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From Judy Shahn:

I have crossed the threshold. I am now officially retired from the School of Drama after 26 years. Actually, “retired” isn’t really accurate. As some wise friends coined it, I am “L.A.” (Leaving Academia).

If you know the School of Drama, you know Sue Bruns. Sue is the Graduate Programs Advisor and lucky for us, she can advise on many other things we need on a daily basis. Evidently, she added up that I have taught 251 actors during my time in the PATP (Professional Actor Training Program)! Here are some of the things I look back on:

  • Over the years, besides teaching the graduate actors, I had the pleasure of occasionally teaching undergrad classes in Voice, Shakespeare, and Dialects.
  • I was a guest lecturer for Drama 101. Since I don’t lecture, I remember getting the room of 250 students to do text from Greek plays in a chorus!
  • I directed six productions: a Noel Coward, two contemporary...
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Judith Shahn (right) with Kristin Lanklater at the new Kristin Linklater Voice Centre on Orkney Island.

by Judith Shahn

I had the good fortune to spend a week with Kristin Linklater at KLVC (the new Kristin Linklater Voice Centre) on the main Orkney Island for about 10 days. Kristin has built a beautiful studio with attached kitchen and living room area for residential retreats in the area of Voice & Text. The attached dormitories will be completed by the end of the month. Meanwhile, we lived in modern, comfortable cottages five minutes away.

Releasing your voice is always a worthy pursuit wherever you are and Kristin’s method is known worldwide as “Freeing the Natural Voice” (also the name of her much used book in drama programs around the world). It is inspirational, however, to free one’s voice while looking at the rolling Scottish farmland and the sea just beyond. One beautiful day, we went down to the beach and practiced our Shakespeare text out to the waves!

Kristin arranged for me to do a singing workshop for...

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Drama PhD students look at medieval manuscripts in Special Collections.

by Jay Eckard

“You’re getting a PhD in the theatre? …are you, like, an actor?”

“No,” I say, without dropping my smile. I’ve had practice with this response. You can tell: for example, I never, ever use the word “dramaturg” in the sentence, however accurately it might describe what I used to do for a living. “I used to be a director, but then I decided to go back to school. I’m a scholar: I study medieval and early modern drama.”

At this point, the faint look of bemusement on my interlocutor begins to fade into boredom and disappointment. “Like Shakespeare,” they say, their voice trailing off. Their response is ironic, because I think Shakespeare is boring and disappointing. “Sort of. Mostly before him, though,” I respond. At this point, my spooked interlocutor usually scuttles off to find the nearest wine (at best) or any other person they can eyeball up and be reasonably certain is sane (at worst). My mother made it slightly...

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Simon Tran at the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the Civil Rights Pilgrimage with UW's Dept. of Communication.

by Simon Tran

It all starts with Drama and ends with Drama.

This last October and again this March I participated in the University of Washington Department of Communication’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage, a nine-day intentional trip to the Deep South to learn about the Civil Rights history in the places where the monumental Civil Rights events occurred. On the pilgrimage we met with living Civil Rights activists, saw theatre performances about the Civil Rights, and dove into the racial history and realities of our country. On these pilgrimages I was joined by 52 others. Our pilgrimage community included students from the University of Washington, Bellevue College, Utah State, faculty, and staff, in addition to adults from the community. The pilgrimage community was intentionally interracial and intergenerational. This fostered people on the pilgrimage to broaden their perspectives and the humanity and...

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Melody Donais, senior majoring in Drama with a minor in Dance

Melody Donais is a Drama: Design major with a minor in Dance, specializing in stage management and choreography, and the 2016 recipient of the School of Drama Senior Capstone Award. With the support from the School, Melody is producing and directing Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis.

The show runs March 31 thru April 3 in room 218 of Hutchinson Hall, and features a creative team of current students—James Melnick, Levi Perez, Max Kerwien, Mairin Hackett, Emma Broback, and Jake Israel—and alumni—Taige Kussman (BA ‘15) and Jonathan Shue (PATP ‘14).

Here, Melody shares with us some of the process and challenges in creating her production of 4.48 Psychosis.

Can you tell us a little bit about the play?

4.48 Psychosis...

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Poster for "The Life and Many Deaths of Peter Pan"

By Taigé Kussman and Mimi Santos

A little over a year ago, third-year MFA directing candidate Leah Adcock-Starr (now a graduate) gathered a group of artists from the University of Washington and Seattle theatre community to devise a new play about JM Barrie and his creation, Peter Pan. That devised piece had a three performance workshop run at the Penthouse Theatre in November of 2015. After the workshop, the play went back into the incubator until an opportunity arose to produce it at the 2016 Seattle Fringe Festival! Out of the incubator and into rehearsal went the little play about Pan. The re-imagined play The Life and Many Deaths of Peter Pan goes up at the Seattle Fringe Festival February 25–March 5, 2016. The company includes seven UW Drama alumni...

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Skip Mercier

Skip Mercier is half-way through his second quarter as senior lecturer in design at the UW School of Drama. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he keeps an active professional career in scenic, costume, and puppet design. Skip recently answered a few questions about his work and teaching experience at UW.

You have two shows up in New York City right now. Can you tell us a little about each of them?

Old Hats by Bill Irwin and David Shiner with music by Shaina Taub, directed by Tina Landau, opened at Signature Theatre on February 18. It is a modern vaudeville with the “clowns” Bill and David transforming into different characters for each sketch. They are in competition for Shaina’s attention who drives the show with songs and...

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Kathy Hsieh is the Cultural Partnerships & Grants Manager for the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and Co-Executive Producer for SIS Productions. From 1990–1997 she served as Managing Director for the Northwest Asian American Theatre (NWAAT), which was recently featured in the Lost & Founded reading series.

We asked Kathy a few questions about NWAAT and her current work as an artist and arts administrator—work that is driven by a desire to inspire the community will of Seattle’s arts & cultural sector to play a leading role in creating racial equity.

What challenges did the Northwest Asian American Theatre (NWAAT) encounter?

When NWAAT (as Theatrical Ensemble of Asians – TEA) was started by UW students like Marilyn Tokuda, Stan Asis, and Maria Batayola, it enjoyed success because it was the first time locally that the...

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