August 15, 2020

Alum Skyrockets in Career as NASA Videographer

Paul Morris, who received a bachelor’s degree in theatre from UMW in 2010, is now a video producer for NASA. A documentary he created for the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope has garnered more than 400,000 views on social media. Photo courtesy of Paul Morris.

Paul Morris, who received a bachelor’s degree in theatre from UMW in 2010, is now a video producer for NASA. A documentary he created for the 30th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope has garnered more than 400,000 views on social media. Photo courtesy of Paul Morris.

Paul Morris ’10 grew up recording epic space battles on stop-action film. He’d pose and re-pose Star Wars figures, capturing them with a Sony Super 8 camera that kept conking out.

Now a video producer for NASA, Morris’s outer-space odysseys are a bit more high-tech. A documentary he created – from conception to final cut – for this spring’s 30th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope, went into orbit on social media. With a theatre degree he didn’t know existed when he got to college – and the teamwork and storytelling skills that came with it – Morris turned his innate fascination with all things galactic into a soaring career.

“It’s been an absolute dream,” he said. “I’ve always been obsessed with space and with NASA.”

UMW, too, was ingrained in Morris, whose grandparents Marceline Weatherly Morris ’50 and Elmer “Juney” Morris Jr. ’50, married seven decades this month, began their courtship at Mary Washington. Paul Morris took a cue from the couple, meeting fellow theatre major Cassie Lewis ’11 on campus and marrying her beneath a magnolia tree in his Nana’s backyard. Read more.

Video Spotlights Theatre Students, Broadway Stars

UMW students Oscar León (left), Genesis Simmons (center) and Hannah Chester (right) were thrilled for the opportunity to perform together again – albeit remotely – alongside Broadway stars and theatre students from other universities.

UMW students Oscar León (left), Genesis Simmons (center) and Hannah Chester (right) were thrilled for the opportunity to perform together again – albeit remotely – alongside Broadway stars and theatre students from other universities.

When UMW Theatre performed Adam Gwon’s musical Ordinary Days in February, students couldn’t anticipate that just weeks later, they’d yearn for rehearsals with castmates and performances in front of live audiences.

They also couldn’t have guessed they’d get to sing one of Gwon’s songs alongside Broadway stars.

Seven UMW Theatre students were selected to appear in a YouTube video featuring aspiring young thespians from schools across the country. Dubbed a “quarantune,” their version of “Get Me Outta Here”from Gwon’s musical String has already been viewed by thousands. Virtual projects like this, as well as Mary Washington’s recent Much Ado About Nothing Zoom production and reimagining of Dear Evan Hansen’s “Anybody Have a Map?” give theatre students the chance to hone in on their craft for the digital age. And the experiences allow them to connect and collaborate with peers and industry professionals during the lockdown.

“Opportunities to perform, even from far away, have helped me channel my emotions and feel less isolated,” said Riley Salazar, a rising UMW junior who starred in Ordinary Days, which she said prepared her to tackle Gwon’s complex melodies. Read more.

Stull, Reynolds’ UMW Theatre ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ Reimagining Featured in FLS

UMW Theatre’s reimagining of the song ‘Anybody Have a Map?’ from the Tony Award-winning musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ was recently featured in an article in The Free Lance-Star. Jon Reynolds, director of marketing and audience services, updated the lyrics with the permission of the show’s creators to reflect the students’ common experiences in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The students recorded themselves singing individually in their own homes and submitted their videos. Director and theater department chair Gregg Stull and production supervisor Brandon Prendergast—with help from James Gardiner, a deputy director at Washington, D.C.’s Signature Theater—edited the recordings together into a video that was posted to YouTube, where it has been shared several thousand times and was applauded by Broadway star Laura Benanti.

“When we left campus on March 12, we held an important goal of keeping our students active and engaged while they were distant from us,” Stull said.

UMW sponsored a trip to New York last year to see “Dear Evan Hansen,” and the musical was a Common Read across campus in the 2018–19 academic year, Stull said, so it is familiar to many students.

“We really wanted to create something with our students that gave them a chance to respond to their feelings and was hopeful in these uncertain times,” Stull said.

The changes to the song’s spoken-word lyrics, which were approved by creators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, reflect a post-coronavirus world in which classes are held via Zoom meeting, friends socialize after class virtually through Google Hangouts, in-person commencement ceremonies are postponed and toilet paper is hard to find. Read more.

UMW Theatre reimagines Dear Evan Hansen’s “Anybody Have a Map?”

A message from UMW Theatre.

We’ve started our last week of classes. We have all stretched ourselves. We have stepped into uncharted waters as we gather new ways to teach and learn. We have pushed beyond the bounds of what we thought was possible.

The University of Mary Washington is a special place, distinguished by the strong connections our faculty build with our students as they grow and learn together. COVID-19 has not changed that. In many ways, it has strengthened our work with each other.

There have been real challenges. And there have also been moments of real joy. One thing is certain, today more than ever before, we relish the moments of success and connections we find even when apart from one another.

And to celebrate that joy, this is a gift from UMW Theatre to you—”Anybody Have a Map?” from the blockbuster musical Dear Evan Hansen by Benj Pasek, Justin Paul, and Steven Levenson reimagined by our students for today. Stay safe and well.

 

Gregg Stull signature

Gregg Stull
Producing Director

Stream UMW Theatre’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Online

When in-person classes were suspended on March 12, walking away from Much Ado About Nothing was heartbreaking; we had to step away from weeks and weeks of work, much of which we knew would never be seen by anyone but us. We are grateful that the UMW administration took decisive steps to keep all of us safe and well amidst so many unknowns; what remains most important is that you, your loved ones, and our greater world do everything we can to flatten the curve of the pandemic and emerge strong and healthy.

And yet, even in this time when we find ourselves apart from one another, we continue to believe in the power of theatre to nurture and inspire ourselves and our community.

Our students will be performing Much Ado About Nothing after all—ONLINE! Mark your calendar—April 16, 2020, from 7:00 – 8:00 pm—just two weeks away! REGISTER HERE.

Our entire department has come together to ensure that our students are engaged, connected, and seizing every opportunity to learn and grow, even when distance keeps us apart. Our performance of Much Ado is but one example of how we continue to teach and learn as a community of educators, artists, and students.

There are so many reasons why this project is important to all of us. Much Ado is the final production Helen Housley will direct for us as she anticipates retirement at the end of this year after two decades of teaching, directing, and serving as our vocal coach for dozens of productions. The same is true of Marilyn Wojdak, our costume shop supervisor, who is also retiring in May having brought a breathtaking level of excellence and professionalism to the shop in her 13 years with us. More than two dozen students have been rehearsing the play in the weeks prior to leaving campus and eight students have senior projects connected to Much Ado. Finally, it’s Shakespeare! We always celebrate the opportunity to bring his work to life.

We are thrilled at the prospect of getting to share our work with you as we wrap up our season. Different than planned, fairly abridged, and not onstage in Klein Theatre (but performed in bedrooms and living rooms across several states), Much Ado, nonetheless, will showcase what we do best—students finding themselves in the work, strengthening their skills, growing their capacity to contribute to our community, and readying themselves for life after UMW. 

Please join us. Our students need your support right now. With so much uncertainty in our world, I want them to know that we are all there for them. Will you celebrate their work with me?

Wishing you good health and strength every day,

Gregg Stull
Producing Director

 

REGISTER HERE.

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 current 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, runs Nov. 14 to 16 and Nov. 21 to 23 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 17 and 24 at 2 p.m. in duPont Hall’s Klein Theatre. Tickets cost $25 for general admission, and $20 for students, senior citizens, alumni and military. Read more. 

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. 

Cast of “God of Carnage” at UMW makes dessert to eat onstage (The Free Lance-Star)

UMW theater students teach stage skills to school-aged children (The Free Lance-Star)

UMW Theatre Continues Season with Merrily We Roll Along

UMW Theatre will continue its 2018-19 season with Merrily We Roll Along, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth. Performances will be Nov. 1-3, Nov. 8-10, and Nov. 14-17 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 2:00 p.m. in Klein Theatre, duPont Hall at the University of Mary Washington.

AfterWords, a post-show talkback with the cast, will take place after the matinee performance on Nov. 4. Tickets are $25 for standard admission, $20 for students, senior citizens, alumni, and military.

[Read more…]