June 20, 2021

Actors Split Role in UMW Musical ‘Fun Home’

In UMW Theatre’s production of Tony Award-winning musical ‘Fun Home,’ three actors – Madison Neilson, Olivia Whicheloe and Lydia Hundley – portray graphic novelist Alison Bechdel at various stages of her life. Photo by Geoff Greene.

In UMW Theatre’s production of Tony Award-winning musical ‘Fun Home,’ three actors – Madison Neilson, Olivia Whicheloe and Lydia Hundley – portray graphic novelist Alison Bechdel at various stages of her life. Photo by Geoff Greene.

A pivotal scene in UMW Theatre’s upcoming musical features the protagonist recalling a drive she took with her late father. Struggling to find the words, they sing a heartbreaking duet about their failure to have an open and honest conversation.

“I’ve lived that exact moment, looking out the car window because I didn’t know what to say to my dad,” said senior Lydia Hundley, who plays the college-aged Alison Bechdel, who later became a successful graphic novelist, in Fun Home. Hundley credits Bechdel’s critically acclaimed memoir and the musical it inspired for teaching her how to communicate with her own parents.

She’s one of three actors who will portray Bechdel at various stages of her life. Junior Madison Neilson plays her at age 10, and senior Olivia Whicheloe portrays her as an adult. The show, which continues UMW’s 2019-20 theatre season, kicks off tonight with a Pay-What-You-Can Preview Performance in Klein Theatre at 7:30 p.m. The box office opens at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Read more. 

UMW Theatre Presents ‘Fun Home,’ PWYC Preview Nov. 6

The journey to adulthood is a road of peaks and valleys. All of us share the experience of what it means to grow up in an uncertain world, to search and stumble along the path, and to forge our way to a meaningful future. In a refreshingly honest, gorgeously conceived, and exceptionally innovative musical based on Alison Bechdel’s heartbreaking graphic memoir, Fun Home reminds us of the life-affirming joy that comes from facing our fears to become the person we were meant to be.

“ . . . dazzling musical . . . a wonderfully funny, mischievous account of family life and a touching memoir about growing up.”
—Financial Times

For information or questions about tickets, please contact the Klein Theatre Box Office during operating hours at 540-654-1111.

Tickets on Sale for UMW Theatre’s The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]

UMW Theatre presents The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised]
By Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield
September 19-29, Pay-What-You-Can Preview September 18 

A company of actors storms the stage and takes on the Bard of Avon—37 plays and 154 sonnets—in a 97-minute madcap romp through the entire canon (but not the one you studied in English class). Fasten your seatbelts and hang on for dear life as you take one of the wildest and goofiest rides in the theatre. The Bard may be rolling in his grave, but you’ll be rolling in the aisles for The Complete Works of Shakespeare, abridged, revised.

“If you like Shakespeare, you’ll like this show. If you hate Shakespeare, you’ll love this show!”
—The Today Show

“Wildly funny. Masterful!” —The Los Angeles Times

Tickets will be made available online, over the phone and in person at the Klein Theatre Box Office starting September 5, 2019. The Klein Theatre Box Office is open Monday – Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm.

Jon Reynolds: What’s in a Name?

Jon Reynolds is the director of marketing and audience services for UMW's Department of Theatre. But two days a year, he steps into the role of Mary Washington's commencement reader.

Jon Reynolds is the director of marketing and audience services for UMW’s Department of Theatre. But two days a year, the ’07 graduate steps into the role of Mary Washington’s commencement reader.

The whole Mary Washington campus is bustling with activity. Graduates are trying on their caps and gowns, celebrating the end of college and their bright futures. Professors are grading final exams and thesis projects. And Jon Reynolds ’07, from the Department of Theatre, is rehearsing for the role of a lifetime – UMW’s commencement reader.

Hearing one’s name and striding across the stage to shake President Paino’s hand is something every UMW student – not to mention their families – wait for four years to experience. So for the third year in a row, Reynolds has put in weeks of preparation to learn the names of more than 1,300 undergraduate and graduate students.

“There’s a lot of rehearsal involved for me, but I trained as an actor here at UMW and in D.C.,” said Reynolds, who landed the gig after emceeing Dancing with the Fredericksburg Stars several years ago. “It’s just a matter of incorporating my warm-up rituals from that time in my life. I’m surrounded by it every day, so it would be hard to lose.”

Indeed. As the director of marketing and audience services, Reynolds is an integral part of making each theatre production a success. He loves helping audiences have unforgettable experiences in Klein Theatre. He’s also thrilled to see UMW theatre students graduate and succeed on Broadway and at D.C. venues like Ford’s Theatre, The Kennedy Center and Arena Stage. And he says the students are getting better with each passing year.

“I’m inspired that our students are getting an even richer experience than I was able to have, thanks to our patrons, donors, faculty and staff, and the students themselves,” said Reynolds. “I’m thrilled I get to be a part of that growth.”


Q: Have you ever had trouble with a graduate’s name at commencement?
A: Not yet. There was a challenging one last year, and she and I just locked eyes, and I said “Here we go!” She laughed, and I proceeded to pronounce it flawlessly. A friend sitting near her family later told me they had said that no one had pronounced it right at any previous ceremony in her whole life. I was happy to be the first.

Q: What kind of preparation goes into the role of commencement reader?
A: We use a program where students record their names, and I listen to them. I make notes with the phonetic spelling of each name, which are printed on the card each graduate hands me at commencement so that I can recite it.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the experience?
A: I once listened to a podcast about the importance of pronouncing someone’s name correctly. It is a major part of every person’s identity. To brush it off or not attempt to get it right is insulting. I took that to heart, and it makes me take the job more seriously.

Q: Will you share your most meaningful Mary Washington memories?
A: I met my wife here. We now have two beautiful children – our daughter Henley was born last Saturday and we also have a son named Chandler – and we live in Alexandria. She and I were both theatre majors, and she still choreographs our musicals and teaches our students. Getting to collaborate with her is a joy for me.

Q: Can you tell us more about the new theatre UMW hopes to build?
A: Like our colleagues in Pollard and Melchers, we are out of room in duPont Hall. A new facility will have a lot of what we have now, but with ample space to accommodate all of the students in the program. We also want to enhance the audience experience so that everyone who comes to a performance leaves amazed at our work and the university. Fingers crossed President Paino has success with the legislature this fall!

Q: What other profession would you like to have?
A: If I had more time, I would love to learn the ins and outs of brewing beer. I’ve made tasting beer a hobby, and if I could choose another profession and do it well, it would probably be opening a brewery.

Q: What is the one thing in your office that means the most to you?
A: I have a guitar I made after I graduated with a collage of photos from when I was a UMW student. It hangs on the wall in my office, and I can look back at how much fun we had. It’s hard to believe I graduated 12 years ago.



Housley Hosts Lessac Workshop

Helen Housley, Associate Professor, Department of Theatre and Dance, hosted the Lessac One-Week Introductory Workshop at UMW, June 19-24, 2016. Under the sponsorship of the Department of Theatre and Dance, Housley has coordinated this workshop since 2007 with the focus on Lessac Kinesensic, a voice and body training program. Participants came from Texas, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. Lessac Master Teacher Barry Kur, Professor Emeritus, Penn State University, conducted the workshop.

Rowley Brings First Dance Performance to HCC Digital Auditorium

Roxann Rowley, adjunct instructor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at UMW, will bring the first full-length dance performance to the Hurley Convergence Center’s Digital Auditorium next month, rounding out the venue’s arts offerings.

The show, en Route!, is a touring dance project that facilitates performances for local artists. Rowley’s company, Next Reflex Dance Collective, collaborates with local theaters and artists to produce a performance that offers accessible work targeting a new-to-dance audience. For this performance, Next Reflex has partnered with Light Switch Dance Theatre, Matrix Dance Company, Semilla Cultural, J.Dance Kollective, and Mary Washington’s own Dance Company.

Rowley will also offer a Modern Dance Technique Workshop at 10am the day of the performance, free to the UMW Community.

This event follows a number of successful arts performances in the Digital Auditorium, including Boil the Frog Slowly and Stigma, both by the Rude Mechanicals Theatre Group, the Mark Snyder Multimedia Show, featuring UMW Music faculty Mark Snyder’s solo compositions, and a student production of The Vagina Monologues last spring.

en Route! a touring dance project

March 12, 7:30 PM – UMW HCC Digital Auditorium

Tickets: $3 UMW Students, $5 Artist/Military/Child, $10 General Admission

For more information about en Route! and other events in the Digital Auditorium, visit http://convergence.umw.edu/events/

LePine’s Newest Play Being Staged at Theatre J in Washington, D.C.

Kristen LePine, adjunct professor in UMW’s Department of Theatre & Dance, will have her newest play Cracked Pots staged at Theatre J in Washington, D.C. on Monday, April 13 at 8 p.m.

Cracked Pots examines mental illness and treatment through three interconnected stories that span over 100 years. In 1887, journalist Nellie Bly fakes insanity to investigate the treatment of women being kept in a lunatic asylum. Sixty years later, her story finds its way into the hands of a twelve year old girl, Kit, whose brother has been abandoned in a mental health institution. In the present, Katherine has to face her fears and prejudice about mental illness in order to help her grandson.

LePine has an MFA in Dramatic Writing and has had her plays presented, developed and commissioned by Active Cultures, the Hub Theatre, Inkwell, Intersections Art Festival, the Pittsburgh New Works Festival, Roundhouse Theatre’s First One-Minute Play Festival, Primary Stages, The Source Theatre Festival, Spooky Action Theatre, Studio Theatre and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. She is a company member at the Hub Theatre, and her play Leto Legend will have its premiere production at the Hub in the summer of 2015.

A free event, presented as part of the 2015 Locally Grown: Community Supported Art Festival

Time: 8-10 p.m.
1529 16th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Rowley Presents at American College Dance Association’s Conference

UMW’s Theater & Dance Department was represented by faculty member Roxann Rowley and four UMW students at the 2015 American College Dance Association’s Conference, held March 11-14 at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. The festival provides the opportunity for faculty and students to participate in workshops, classes, performances and lectures all geared to compliment dance and arts education.

“The national dance festival provides the venue for students and faculty to engage in three days of performances, workshops, panels, and master classes taught by instructors from around the region and country. The conferences also provide the unique opportunity for students and faculty to have their dance works adjudicated by a panel of nationally recognized dance professionals in an open and constructive forum.”

Rowley taught/presented three dance classes, two modern technique and a contact improvisation class. She also presented artistic work that represented UMW’s ever growing dance culture. Her choreography “Blink,” was adjudicated and received feedback from a panel of prestigious artists. Along with presenting work, she was able to participate in classes and workshops given throughout the conference, as well as meet and connect with other faculty within the field.

The University of Mary Washington has a growing dance culture on campus, with the number of students that participate in the dance clubs and activities on campus growing in attendance each year. By attending The American College Dance Festival, Rowley represented the UMW dance culture and development. Participation in the conference is great exposure for UMW and also helps to enrich the diverse culture surrounding the art form on campus.

Attendance to The American College Dance Association’s conference was largely due to the generous support from University of Mary Washington’s Friends of Dance Alumni Association and The University of Mary Washington Faculty Development Supplemental Grant.

Helen Housley Presents Paper at Conference

Helen Housley, Associate Professor, Theatre and Dance, presented her paper, “Shakespeare’s Buzz: Lessac’s Tonal NRG and the Shakespearean Actor,” at the Annual Conference of the Lessac Training and Research Institute, Jan. 8-10, 2015, at the University of Memphis.

UMW Presents “Sing-A-Long-A Sound of Music”

The University of Mary Washington Department of Theatre and Dance will present “Sing-A-Long-A Sound of Music,” a special two-show performance, on Saturday, Dec. 6.

Sing a LongPerformances will take place at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium, located in George Washington Hall on the university’s Fredericksburg campus. Tickets are $20 for standard admission and $15 for children and students with a UMW or Germana Community College ID.

“The Sound of Music” will be performed in interactive mode as audience members will have the opportunity to sing-a-long, dress up in costume and join the choruses of “My Favorite Things.” The performance will begin with a vocal warm up to encourage the audience to join in with the musical.

“Sing-A-Long-A Sound of Music” first premiered in 2000 at the Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan. In 2001, the production appeared at the Hollywood Bowl where over 18,000 people attended the performance, including the film’s director and writer. The drama has toured internationally since 2005 in cities such as London, Amsterdam, Dublin, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne, Stockholm and many other major cities.

For further information and to purchase tickets, contact the Klein Theatre Box Office at (540) 654-1111 or visit umw.tix.com.