Drastic budget cuts have wreaked havoc on arts programs in schools across the nation. But in Tacoma, a collection of passionate people at the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts has come together to keep the performing arts alive and well.
Five of these passionate people are Lutes: Associate Director of Events Leilani Balais ’99, Education and Events Associate Adam Utley ’04, Marketing Coordinator Mariesa Bus '06, Marketing Manager Jared Wigert ’07 and Assistant Educational Manager April Nyquist ’09.
The Broadway Center oversees the Pantages Theater, Rialto Theater and Theatre on the Square and is widely known for presenting world-class performing artists and providing one of the largest performing-arts education programs in the state, serving 51,000 students, parents and teachers annually in the South Sound.
It also is hosting TEDxTacoma, held Feb. 28 at Theatre on the Square—where Utley and his Lute-laden improv group, Muh Grog Zoo, will perform.
From PLU to the Broadway Center to TEDxTacoma, it’s all come together for Utley like, well, a carefully crafted script—complete with a couple of fateful plot turns.
At PLU, Utley studied Theater and spent a good deal of time with the Music program.
“My education in the undergrad program and the things that I was involved with … made me realize that music and theater and the arts aren’t just a hobby; they aren’t just something you do for fun to entertain people,” said Utley. “They made me love the ability to connect with people on a much deeper level.”
Nyquist, who earned her BFA at PLU in Three Dimensional Media with an emphasis in Sculpture, had a similar experience. She said her undergraduate experience at PLU greatly influenced the pursuit of her dreams through the Broadway Center.
“PLU definitely sets people up to be those mindful and vocation-driven people,” she said.
After Utley graduated, he decided to pursue graduate school in Theater but was not accepted. Taking that in stride, Utley worked as a cook, but never forgot his goals.
“I was very determined to still work in the theater,” Utley said.
Around this time, he began doing short-form improvisational theater, which inspired Utley to take action and do what he loved.
“I sold my car and basically started my own masters program in improv theater,” he said.
Utley went from school to school, doing anything he could to get into the education system and discover how to implement improv teaching into curricula.
After a while, though, Utley was running out of money and needed to adjust his plans.
In 2007, he returned to PLU and started the improv program the university has today.
“That was something I wanted to give back to PLU because they didn’t have it,” he said.
Gaining ground from his volunteer work at PLU, Utley initially was hired as a Teaching Artist with the Broadway Center. (He’s since been promoted.)
Utley considers the Broadway Center the heart of the arts in Tacoma. With programs in so many schools, it helps supplement kids’ educations with the art that often has been cut.
Utley’s primary teaching focus is Improvisational Theater, working with his students on “the improvisational mindset.”
“It’s the complete acceptance of your own spontaneity, while committing to utilize everyone’s everlasting brilliant ideas,” Utley said.
Operating under the motto, “Yay for failing!” Utley works with his students to fully embrace this concept.
“I’m a strong believer in, ‘If you understand what it means to fail, in conjunction with your self education, you can take the pressure off yourself and your experiences will get richer,’” said Utley. “Every time you fail, you learn.”
Utley hones his improvisational skills as part of the four-man group Muh Grog Zoo, while working full-time for the Broadway Center. Group members Paul Richter and Dylan Twiner also graduated from PLU, both in 2010, while fourth member Sam Duchin graduated from Bowdoin College in 2010. They all met during Utley’s volunteer days and have been performing together since 2010.
As part of Muh Grog Zoo, Utley’s artistic goal is, “to keep doing shows and keep pushing boundaries of what improvisational theater can do, for the connection between not only ourselves and the audience, but also people’s perceptions of life in general.”
At TEDxTacoma, the group will be doing a 15-minute educational talk and improv performance around the theme of the event, which is, perfectly, connectivity.
“We are thriving in our ability to build on those human emotions to create a pretty incredible connection with not only ourselves, but also with our audience,” Utley said. “We believe that audiences are incredibly smart, and they are looking for that kind of connection when they go to the theater.”
Learn the ins and outs of entrepreneurship from four Seattle-area entrepreneurs
Americans have always been an entrepreneurial people, but especially after watching so many lose jobs after the financial collapse in 2008, the focus on starting something special for yourself, working for yourself, and passing something along to the next generation is much stronger. On Wednesday, March 12 at 5pm in the Karen Hille Phillips Center Studio Theater, the School of Arts & Communication and the School of Business welcome four young Seattle-area entrepreneurs to discuss the ins and outs of successful entrepreneurship for the second event in the 2014 SOAC Focus Series.
Associate Professor in Communication, Amy Young, will moderate the entrepreneur panel. Panel participants include: Mark Canlis, Ross Mickel and Jeff Jorgenson. During the panel they'll explore their paths to establishing their businesses, challenges and opportunities in their markets, how they maintain and grow a customer base, how they communicate with other industry professionals and with clients, plans for growth, and so on.
Mark Canlis and Brian Canlis are the 3rd generation owners of Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, the restaurant that sets the bar for fine dining, service and hospitality in Seattle. Mark and Brian have modernized the Canlis brand, moving them into new media universes. They have been featured recently on Anthony Bourdain's "The Layover" on the Travel Channel and Top Chef Seattle where cheftestants had to recreate the original 1950's era Canlis menu.
Ross Mickel worked with Canlis Master Somelier Rob Bigelow, and traveled the world to learn about food and wine. He landed a job with Bob Betz, one of 225 Masters of Wine in the world. Ross launched Ross Andrew Winery in 1999 and his Bushey Vineyard Syrah was ranked in the top 100 Washington Wines in 2012, while Wine Enthusiast calls his Meadow a "must try."
Lastly, joining the panel is Jeff Jorgenson, founder and owner of Elemental Cremation & Burial in Seattle. Jeff never intended to be a funeral director, but his green methodology is catching on both locally and around the world.
Join us for a reception immediately following the panel.
After exploring both compassion (2012) and empowerment (2013), the 2014 FOCUS Series brings together SOAC’s talented students and faculty to examine the theme of “entrepreneurship" through a multi-disciplinary approach.
The 2013-14 academic year has been full of celebrations of the printed arts. PLU’s Elliott Press celebrated its 30th anniversary; the Boge Library was established, with a collection of books on graphic design, typography and calligraphy; a one-day book arts symposium will grace PLU’s campus on March 15; and on March 12, the University Gallery hosts an exhibition celebrating Wayzgoose, an annual Tacoma letterpress and book arts extravaganza founded by PLU Resident Artist Jessica Spring and King’s Books.
Print-lovers are invited to the opening reception of The Art of Wayzgoose on Wednesday, March 12 from 5-7pm in the University Gallery. The exhibition will be on display March 12 – April 9 and is free to the public.
The Art of Wayzgoose represents six years of steamroller prints created at the Tacoma Wayzgoose (an archaic term describing the celebratory feast held by a master printer). The prints showcase the work of several area schools as well as artists and artist teams: PLU, School of Visual Concepts (Seattle), Stadium High School, Charles Wright Academy, Beautiful Angle, Ric Matthies, Chris Sharp, CLAW, Audra Laymon, Chandler O'Leary, Maggie Roberts and Carl Montford.
PLU students flock to the Wayzgoose each year, many volunteering to help promote and staff the event. Elliott Press Assistant Taylor Cox ’16 designed and printed promotional posters this year. PLU Resident Assistant Professor Craig Cornwall manages the inking tent, carefully prepping huge 3’ x 3’ linoleum plates. The inked plates are then laid on the ground, covered with paper and blankets, then “printed” with a steamroller. The process is repeated nearly 50 times a day during the event.
In addition to The Art of Wayzgoose exhibition, on March 15 more than 70 Art of the Book Symposium attendees will hear presentations by Jessica Spring and Northwest artists Chandler O’Leary, Susan Collard, Monica Holtclaw and Suzanne Moore. The symposium is hosted both on the campus of PLU and University of Puget Sound.
Attendees will travel to the PLU campus in the afternoon to tour the Elliott Press, visit The Art of Wayzgoose in the University Gallery, browse the Boge Library, and hear talks in Ingram. Graphic Design II and Art of the Book students will be assisting, and student Hyunhee Kim ’15 is preparing keepsakes for the attendees to print at Elliott Press.
In addition, the Puget Sound Book Artists awarded annual memberships to six PLU students, Katie Hoffman '15, Hyunhee Kim '15, Andrew Nelson '15, Taylor Cox '16, Tam Nguyen '15 and Samuel Ryan '16, who will all be gathered at the Symposium.
Symposium registration has been filled; it was closed just two days after it opened. The 10th annual Wayzgoose, Letterpress and books Arts Extravaganza will take place this spring on April 27 at King’s Books in Tacoma. The Art of Wayzgoose is open starting March 12 from Monday-Friday 8am-4pm and by appointment. The University Gallery is located in Ingram Hall on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University.
APO Production, “In the Garden of Live Flowers” opens March 7
In the Garden of Live Flowers: A Fantasia of the Life and Work of Rachel Carson, by Attilio Favorini and Lynne Conner, opens March 7 in the Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Eastvold Auditorium. The production will run March 6*, 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 7:30pm and March 16 at 2pm.
Produced by our national theatre honor society, Alpha Psi Omega, the production is entirely student run and led under the direction of Ali Rose Schultz ’14. More than 30 students are involved onstage and off. As director, Schultz is responsible for selecting and assembling designers and actors, running the rehearsal process, and assisting the design process.
Schultz chose this production for several reasons: the multifaceted and relatable content, her passion for theatre that inspires social change, and her captivation of the whim in classic fairytales. She knew little of Rachel Carson before encountering the play, but found her story compelling, universal, and an invaluable piece of history.
The play follows Rachel Carson during the research and writing of her book Silent Spring, which is credited with launching America’s environmental movement. As she struggles to complete her book, she fights her progressing cancer and factions of American enterprise that launch a crusade against her reputation. Carson's solace is found in the fictive Alice in Wonderland. Carson’s journey converges with a fantastical landscape enlivened by literary, film and cultural references that theatricalize the revolutionary science of Silent Spring.
“As an artist and storyteller I am fascinated by the human need to escape reality through fairytales and familiar stories. Time and time again, individuals walk the yellow brick road, fly towards the second star to the right, push through the looking glass, and fall down the rabbit hole,” Schultz explains. “Traversing through the realms of the imagination gives us escape from the harsh realities of our own plight. There is potential to draw comfort in familiar characters, lands, and storylines. Fairytales also allow us to emerge from fantasy with newfound perspective and vigor. Stories inspire us to be braver, wiser, and truer in our everyday lives.”
The play is accessible to many people. At the heart, is a human woman, with human fears concerning death. There is universality to Carson’s plight that all members of the audience will be able to relate to and understand.
“I can think of no better place to present this story than a university. A place where young adults are on the precipice of making their contribution to the world—on the verge of becoming realized doctors, musicians, theologians, coaches, scientists, scholars, activists, rebels, authors, teachers, storytellers, and dreamers,” Schultz says. “Carson dedicated her entire life to educate, express, and defend what she loved most. Whatever your age, career, fears, obstacles, or ambitions may be, I would like to challenge audience members to approach work with the vigor, dedication, and passion that Carson displayed in her lifetime.”
Tickets are available at the door, at the Campus Concierge in the Anderson University Center and at 253-535-7411. Tickets are $5 with PLU ID and $8 General Admission. *March 6 is a student preview – admission is free with valid student ID.
Artist entrepreneurs pair up to help the Philippine people as they meet the challenges of this crisis
PLU Associate Professor of Photography Bea Geller and her students are working with on a collaborative invitational exhibition at the Belltown Pub in Seattle. On Thursday, March 20, the restaurant will be turned into an art gallery to garner help for victims of the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Culinary artist, photographer and former PLU student Erwin Arceo, is pairing up with Geller to host this night of festivities. The exhibit represents 25 years of talents from PLU’s photography program. Featured artists include current and former PLU students, including Alum Architect Jacob Himmelman '03; Seattle's Special Effects Wizard Todd Sheridan Perry '92; Montana PBS Documentary Filmmaker Stephanie Alton '88; California Artist Photographer Scott Campbell '88; New York installation artist and photographer Raquel du Toit '04; Danish Documentary Filmmaker Camilla Lee Fabricius; Krystal Lechner from Smashing Divas; and Scott Mitchell Leen '91, artist and photographer to Dale Chihuly. These artists are donating work to sell in support of the cause.
Help fulfill a mission that could help restore devastated areas. All proceeds will be donated via the Red Cross. Tickets can be bought for $20 through Brown Paper tickets and include a creative gift, complimentary drinks and Philippine cuisine.
Photo caption: PLU Student Megan Konkel's photograph, titled "Rippled Flower", will be available at the March 20 event.
Finalist two consecutive years in national competition
Photography student Mike Wells ‘14 has secured two national awards in photography. Wells entered Photography Forum’s "Best of College Photography" in 2013 and 2014; both entries were chosen and published as finalists.
Wells was initially studying graphic design, but found photography was becoming more and more his focus. After spending months working on Hebrew Idol he had his “Aha!” moment. He had been working with the photography and video editing for the competition and asked PLU’s resident video producer, what he thought of his work.
“He told me he liked it and then asked me something that would change my perception of the path that I was on... ‘What are you studying here and why?’ A question to which I had no logical answer, so I had to think to myself ‘why?’, and that led to where I am now,” Wells said.
One of Mike’s favorite parts of photography is the opportunity to problem-solve.
“Photography and art, as I have discovered, is a process of development,” Wells said. “Being a photographer has pushed me when developing ideas, creating, and most importantly, solving the problems that you expected and/or the ones you never thought would come up.”
Problem solving was how Wells secured his second finalist position. When Wells approached his teammate Jonny Volland, he initially wanted him shooting off fireworks with his hands, but after a technical malfunction, he had to find another solution. With Photoshop and patience, he was able to create a piece that would allow him to be published nationally for a second time.
Wells, who plans on graduating in May, is currently working on his capstone where he is exploring how motion affects the emotions of his subjects. After graduation, Wells plans to pursue a career as a commercial photographer, and is trying to gain experience in a variety of photographic styles.