More than just clowning around

It’s 10 a.m. on a Saturday and I am bear crawling in a circle around an acting studio with my favorite professor, 12 other students and a certified clown. I remind myself that my tuition dollars are going toward this. In actuality, I’m questioning my sanity as the clown tells me the name of his “horse body” and begins slapping awake various body parts: arms, belly, chest, legs. Involuntarily, I start to do the same. In all transparency, this is not the first time I’ve found myself in the midst of a six-hour stint of structured game playing on a Saturday morning or, really, any day of the week. This is the life of an acting student. Our clowning workshop facilitator, Jerome Yorke, has an MFA in ensemble-based physical theatre and currently teaches at the University of Dayton. Jerome the Clown’s job is to play games with us in hopes of coaxing out an actor’s inner clown. Instead of a briefcase with file folders, he brings a tote bag filled with juggling balls, jump rope and a red nose to work. I am a cast member in Moliere’s farse “Tartuffe,” the next mainstage production from Miami’s Department of Theatre. Moliere is known for writing plays with high physical comedy that incorporates an exaggerated style of character work known as commedia dell’arte. Thus, Jerome the Clown. Jerome the Clown was...

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Making art more visible with a weekend of thoughtful theatre

  In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, L.A. Theatre Works is bringing Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” to Miami for the Performing Arts Series. This performance is a part of Miami’s global initiative to generate dialogue on diversity and inclusion on campus. Recipient of the Olivier Award for Best New Play, “The Mountaintop” is a fictional two-person play focusing on what life was like for King on the eve of his assassination. The play takes the audience on an emotional journey, and, as L.A. Theatre Works executive director Susan Loewenberg said, it “is leavened with great humor and a real sense of humanity.” “The abiding principle,” said Loewenberg, referring to L.A. Theatre Works’ mission, “has been using theatre in a variety of ways to contribute to making people’s lives richer and helping people become more informed and engaged because good theatre makes you think. It challenges you. It sometimes breaks your heart, makes you smile; it is a compelling art form.” The Performing Arts Series at Miami shares the basic ideals of this mission with its own mission, which is to change lives through the performing arts. Executive director Patti Liberatore has brought in L.A. Theatre Works in the past, and is continually impressed with their work. “We know we’re gonna get good theatre,” Liberatore said. “They also frequently pick titles to tour...

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Stage Left prepares for ‘Bend, Tear, and Spindle’

Cast members of Stage Left’s upcoming play “Bend, Tear, and Spindle” took shelter from the rain last week inside a McGuffey Hall fourth floor classroom. The room was sprinkled with umbrellas, Starbucks cups and bright yellow scripts. They had one week left of rehearsals before the technical run and then opening night. Director Cami Kowalski helped move the scenes along as the actors stumbled over forgotten lines and worked through humorous blocking patterns. “Don’t laugh during the scene,” Kowalski said to the cast members as they tried to collect themselves and carry on. A few giggles bubbled over anyway,...

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Drama in the drama department: Lack of diversity on campus leads director to look elsewhere

Recent recasting in the Department of Theatre has stirred discussion of an elephant in the room: Miami’s lack of racial diversity. The department’s upcoming production of “We Are Proud to Present…” held auditions last fall and posted a cast list before students were released for winter break. But the last-minute withdrawal of two cast members left director Torie Wiggins scrambling to find replacements in the last three days before their first rehearsal last Tuesday. What made the situation particularly dire? The two roles which needed to be recast had to be black males, as specified in the script. “I wasn’t upset with [the actors who dropped],” Wiggins said. “It was just like, I’m not necessarily in a demographic where I have my pick, so my only freak-out was, ‘Now where do I find black men?’” Senior theatre major Anthony Thompson, who was originally cast as Actor 4, decided after a second round of interviews a few weeks ago to take an internship with Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles for the spring semester while finishing up the two credits he needs to graduate online. “I couldn’t justify turning down an opportunity like that,” said Thompson, referring to his internship. “I accepted it even though it was an incredibly difficult decision, especially since it’s not all the time that Miami has shows that showcase people of color.” According to Miami University’s...

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Stressing the benefits of study away

This past weekend, the university saw a blur of students and professors rushing back into the Oxford city limits, thus ending their winter vacations and settling back in for a new semester, as is the late January custom at Miami. But for members of the Miami community that traveled for a J-term study away program, this transition was particularly stressful. Daniele Fioretti, an Italian professor who spent J-term traveling to his home country of Italy with students, said that he usually tries to prepare his syllabi for spring semester ahead of time, but to no avail. “The days before the semester starts are always very hectic,” he admitted. But Fioretti believes that the student benefits are worth it. “Traveling abroad is a very important experience for a student,” Fioretti said. “We are living in a world that is more and more global and interconnected, so having first-hand experience of a different culture helps to view one’s own culture in a different way.” Theatre professor Lewis Magruder feels the same way. Magruder took a group of theatre majors and non-majors to London for an immersive program in which they studied various aspects of the theatre world. “For me, the benefits are being part of creating and leading something that enlarges students’ understanding of theatre, the world and, ultimately, themselves,” said Magruder. “Each time I have run the program, I have...

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