School of Drama Blog

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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Thorn Michaels

Thorn Michaels (third-year lighting design graduate student) finds it easy to relate to Sasha, the central character in Melissa James Gibson’s Brooklyn Bridge, being co-produced by UW Drama and Seattle Children’s Theatre and opening next month.

“It’s a beautiful show, with an adult message.” says Thorn. “Growing up an only child with a single mother, like Sasha, I battled with loneliness. What I love about this play is that she learns to look to the people around her and in them finds support and community that is greater than the insular nature of the old-fashioned family.”

Thorn is the show’s lighting designer—- her thesis production—- and it’s a bit of a homecoming for her. She started taking classes at Seattle Children’s Theatre when she was 12, including studying directing with Brooklyn Bridge director...

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Photo of Ben Gonio, PATP '05

Ben Gonio (PATP 2005) owns his own consulting business, teaches part-time at University of Washington Bothell, holds office hours at Startup Hall, continues to explore acting opportunities, and maintains a day job at Medex Northwest as part of a clinical team supporting medical education. After graduating with a BFA from Carnegie Mellon in 1998, Ben worked the regional theatre circuit and spent some time in Los Angeles before deciding to continue his acting studies in graduate school at the University of Washington School of Drama. He describes his post-graduation period of adjustment as “clunky.” Now he’s finding his niche as an artist in Seattle’s theatre community and as an artist in Seattle’s tech community.

What were your expectations going into grad school and joining the Seattle theatre community?


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Sarah Nash Gates Endowed Graduate Student Support Fund

There are people who come into this world that shine a light.

We all have those people in our lives, that certain teacher, or mentor, or friend who took the time to see us and through their guidance and support opened up doors of possibility for our own personal growth.

Sarah Nash Gates was that person for so many people. When we lost her to cancer on Friday evening, it felt as though a radiant and beautiful light was extinguished. But, what happened in the hours that followed was extraordinary. People from all over the country took to sharing their stories. They were paying tribute to this woman who made time for them and, in ways both large and small, altered their trajectory. Sarah’s light was glowing brighter and more majestic than ever!

To say that Sarah had a profound impact on the School of Drama and the Seattle theatre community does not do her justice. For more than thirty years, Sarah served our community as an educator, a mentor, a leader, a designer...

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Michael Monicatti in London.

by Michael Monicatti (BA student)

They say, showing up is half the battle.

From the time I was a boy, I have considered myself an actor. It began in my backyard with bins of costumes, playing dress up in what I am now confortable admitting were my grandmother’s old shawls and has since taken me to the UW School of Drama and, this last summer, to London.

In the winter quarter of my sophomore year, I took a course affectionately called “Shakespeare” with the great (and I really mean it when I say great) Amy Thone. In the only Shakespeare acting course offered to undergraduate actors, Thone introduced us to Shakespeare’s sonnets, his plays, and his characters. We learned how to speak in rhythm using tennis rackets; we learned how important it was to emphasize double entendre; we learned how to shape the words into images; we learned how to make the text come alive. And we learned and we...

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Susan Finque as Nancy Drew in the Archives: In Search of the Actors' Contract

With the support of the Witham Fund for Dissertation Research, I was able to spend a week this summer delving into the archives of one of the Americas' most beloved small libraries. The Rosenbach Museum and Library is tucked away on Delancey Street, in a tree-lined neighborhood just off center city Philadelphia's historic Rittenhouse Square. Staged in the former home of Abraham Simon Wolf Rosenbach, his brother Phillip, and their mother and sisters before them, the Rosenbach houses some of the most treasured and important manuscripts of literature, theatre, history of the Americas, Judaica, and the written word itself.  By its own mission statement, the trustees of the Library are clearly impassioned with the vision of the Library as a dynamic space of gathering:

"The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia seeks to inspire curiosity, inquiry,...

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Josh Beerman

by Josh Beerman

Working as a theatre professional can be exhausting. I know this first hand because my wife is an actor and I am a playwright. Since returning to Seattle from New York after 7 years last August, she hasn’t stopped working, cast in show on top of show, and I have had my own workshops and rehearsals. Because we have a 3-year-old son, and need the paycheck, all of the work has been a blessing, but as anyone in the arts can attest, it is also a challenge that can sap all your energy, creative or otherwise. In August she closes a show and we get one glorious month together before the next show starts, a month to rest, recharge, and just be parents; of course she also won’t be working, which means she needs to be preparing for the next thing. Still, after a very busy year we will finally have the option to slow down and take a breath.              

That being said, just because we slow down doesn’t mean the industry will. Talk to any working theatre...

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Rosalind Phelps, BA Drama Performance, 2015, director of "On the Verge" and outgoing President of UTS.

by Rosalind Phelps

I try to make it up as I go. I like making it up as I go. In fact, I want to be a “make it up as you go”-er. What does it mean to be a “make it up as you go”-er? It means that you value creativity, spontaneity, bravery, and a constant sense of moving forward; all things I hope to keep with me as I take my first steps into the real world.

I have a degree…almost. In June, I graduate from the School of Drama with a BA in Drama Performance. Throughout my four years of study I have cultivated this identity of the “make it up as you go”-er from the bits and pieces of wisdom and inspiration I encountered as an undergraduate.   

“Find the fear in the room and confront it” is a piece of directing and, frankly, life advice that Professor Valerie Curtis-Newton swears by, and it has stuck hard with me as well. Similarly, I admire the writer/director Young Jean Lee for her dedication to creating pieces based on her fears as a director. We all have fear of...

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Michael Joseph Hanley

by Michael Jospeh Hanley

Every student of the arts knows the feeling of dread that grows and grows as graduation inches closer and closer: What will I do with my Drama degree? How am I going to financially support myself? What will my next artistic project be?

As someone who will be walking in graduation ceremonies in June, all of those questions are of interest. That being said, I am the kind of person who needs to answer the last question before I can get to the other ones. Artistic creation and expression feeds and fuels my soul. I need it as much as I need food, water, and sleep.

There’s a problem, though: in order to work on a project, you need a project to work on. Actors get work by auditioning for shows, but unless you’re applying for a specific internship or assistantship program, directors don’t necessarily have a structured, systematic way of getting work. In my experience, a lot of it comes down to whether or not you are in the right place at the...

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