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Arts & Culture

Dancing to the Beat of His Own Drum

In the eyes of Butler University Ballet Chair Larry Attaway, there likely won’t be another Jeremy Gruner in, well, forever.

“There’s never been another one like him before, at least in my time here,” says Attaway.

And that’s because Gruner, who is working on a Master of Music Composition, is also a sophomore-level non-degree student in Butler’s dance program. And Gruner is about to pull off a rare feat: He has written a 15-minute musical composition for this year’s Midwinter Dance Festival that he will also dance in.

The piece, titled Prophetstown, is about Tecumseh, the Native American Shawnee warrior and chief, and Tenskwatawa, his younger brother. Collaborating with Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Fernando Carrillo, who choreographed the piece, Gruner wrote a composition he describes as "rhythmically consistent and drum-heavy, with distinctive fast and slow sections."

To get the music right, Carrillo says, he talked to Gruner about the style of music he likes and sent samples of music that inspire him to dance or choreograph.

"We talked about tempo, dynamic, and the structure of the dance piece," Carrillo says. "Jeremy, being a dancer, understood what I wanted and has delivered a great piece of music that has made my choreography flow with ease."

Carillo says he's worked with composers who have a background in dance, which helps the choreographer during collaborations. But, Carillo says, it was a very rare experience to have a composer like Gruner who will actually dance in the performance.

Gruner, who is originally from Mahomet, Illinois, was more of a musician—he plays trumpet—than a dancer when he came to Butler. He danced briefly in high school musical theater, and as an undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan University he collaborated with a faculty member to create music for a dance she choreographed.

But when he started looking at graduate schools, he wanted one that had strong music and dance programs, and also supported collaboration between departments.

"Butler was by far the most pro-collaboration," Gruner says. "That's why I came here."

He started at Butler by concentrating in both music composition and trumpet performance. He also enrolled in a 7:30 AM dance class with Liberty Harris, who is the rehearsal director of the Indianapolis company Dance Kaleidoscope and teaches dance for non-major Butler students. That was his first true ballet class.

On the first day, he was "completely clueless." The terminology and steps were new to him. But he wanted to keep going, and Harris encouraged him.

"I don't know if it's because it was so much of a struggle, but when I would accomplish something—when I would get even a little step further—I would feel such a sense of satisfaction that I never really got out of playing trumpet," Gruner says. "So I started to work more on dance and less on trumpet."

Gruner dropped the trumpet after his first semester and prepared to audition for the dance program. He's now doing the full technique course rotation of an undergraduate sophomore dance major while he finishes his master's with Professor of Music Composition Michael Schelle.

In place of the traditional graduate thesis recital expected of Music Composition students, Gruner will present an hour-long dance show comprised of music he has written in collaboration with Butler Ballet faculty, alumni, and current student choreographers. He will present that performance at Butler's Schrott Center for the Arts on Saturday, March 30 at 7:30 PM.

Gruner says studying music and dance simultaneously, along with teaching and holding two part-time jobs, is a lot of work. But he's up to the challenge.

"Dancing to music is completely different than writing it,” Gruner says, “so it's been interesting to separate myself from Composer Jeremy when I’m trying to be Dancer Jeremy. With just about everything, I either go full force at it or I don't even bother."


You can see Gruner piece in Program A of the Dance Department’s Midwinter Dance Festival, February 13-17 at the Schrott Center for the Arts.  Tickets for all shows are $15 for adults, $10 for 55-and-older, and $7 for children. For tickets and information, visit the Butler Art's Center site.

Arts & Culture

Aaron Hurt Appointed Executive Director of Butler Arts Center

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jan 14 2019

To know Aaron Hurt is to understand the way he proposed handling his office décor. After moving into his new space tucked away in a corner on the third floor of Clowes Hall, he was stuck on figuring out ways to dismantle the big screen television fixed to his wall and mount it on a rolling device that the entire Butler Arts Center staff could benefit from. He hypothesized different ways to turn the space into a conference room, saying it was much too large for just himself. And he was concerned that the colors weren’t welcoming enough. In the end, none of these changes were made.

But Hurt did insist on one request.

Donald Hurt's paycheck from 1963
Donald Hurt' on payroll from 1963.

He came across a 1963 art deco painting of opening night at Clowes Memorial Hall. He loves art deco work, but it was about much more than just the style. Hurt’s grandfather was there that night in 1963. Donald Hurt was a member of the projectionist union, and when Clowes was ready to open, he was called to help get the stage ready. He hung the original main curtain and worked the first few shows.

“It’s really bonkers,” Hurt says, as he looks up at the painting on his office wall. “To think that my grandfather was hanging the curtain that night, and now I am sitting in this office working here. It’s really not something I take for granted, and we are going to be hands on and inclusive in how we put our stamp on Butler and the greater community.”

Hurt was officially named Executive Director of the Butler Arts Center on January 1, 2019 after serving as interim executive director since August 2018. But this is a role that, in many ways Hurt has been working toward since he was a little boy, and a role that means so much to so many in his extended family.

“This was in his blood and you can just tell by his enthusiasm that he was born to do this,” President James Danko says. “With Aaron, you can hear his passion when he speaks, and when you hear about his family, it is obvious where that comes from.”

Three years after Hurt’s grandfather hung the first curtain at Clowes Hall, his father, Daniel, hopped on his moped at age 16 and headed from the Eastside of Indianapolis to Clowes for his first ever job, sweeping the floors and holding ladders. Daniel would go on to work at Clowes Hall many times over the years. He also worked the beloved summer theater series on the football field.

Aaron was born into a family of projectionists. He was exposed to film, the arts, and theater from a young age, and often went with his father to work. But he first remembers Clowes Hall when he saw his sister, an opera singer, perform there.

“Butler has been a part of our lives for years and for Aaron, this is a scene he has been around since he was in diapers,” Daniel says. “Aaron would come with us to his sister’s performances and practices. It is pretty amazing when you think about it because the connection goes all the way back to my father hanging that curtain. Aaron grew up on this. We are all tied to Butler and Clowes.”

Hurt wanted to run a venue for as long as he can remember, he says. As an arts administration major at Butler, he learned that he could make a career out of running the programming and operations of a place. After graduating in 2008, Hurt worked for the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, the Chicago Children’s Choir, and then made his way back to Butler in 2013, as part-time manager of the Schrott Center. He became full-time later that year, serving as the operations manager. In 2016, after the Butler Arts Center was established, Hurt was promoted to Director of Operations.

He took over as interim Executive Director of the Butler Arts Center in August 2018. When Danko was evaluating what to do about the permanent executive director position, the positive feedback about Hurt was overwhelming.

“Aaron’s passion and enthusiasm for this type of role, coupled with the extraordinary esteem he is held in made him far and away the optimal choice for this position,” Danko says. “I am very excited about him and his potential. It is like an NFL team looking for that young coach who will be a star in 20 years.”

So now, Hurt will work to put his stamp on the place that has been a major part of his and his family’s lives for so long. Something that he called both terrifying and incredible. The goals are numerous.

Donald Hurt backstage at Clowes Memorial Hall
Donald Hurt backstage at Clowes Memorial Hall

Hurt has four major focuses—find new ways to make money, form better partnerships, engage more with the Indianapolis market, and create improved University programming. But, he says, it really does come down to one thing.

The goal is to make the Butler Arts Center an authentic hub for arts programming for all different communities in town. For example, next season, ticket prices will start at $19. This adjustment, he says, is a way to make shows more accessible for a much wider group.

“I want us to be known as open and inviting. I want people to leave happy and to have experienced something they couldn’t have experienced anywhere else in the city,” Hurt says. “That is what Clowes originally was when it started.”

And Hurt would know. He grew up learning about Clowes and hearing about Clowes from a grandfather and father who were there from the beginning. Now, Hurt is ready to take Clowes back to that original model—collaborative and inviting. Just the way he likes his office décor.

Arts & Culture

Aaron Hurt Appointed Executive Director of Butler Arts Center

  A job more than his lifetime in the making.

Jan 14 2019 Read more

The Making of Rejoice!

by Haley Stevenson ’19

Over a hundred sets of eyes rest on Maestro Richard Auldon Clark as he stops rehearsing Hail to Christmas by Victor Herbert to straighten out an error. There’s something missing—the fire and excitement needed to make the piece really pop. “Waltz with me, orchestra! This is a dance!” He says.

Rejoice! has been an essential part of Butler University’s holiday season for years. Each December, Dr. Eric Stark and Dr. John Perkins tag-team this massive undertaking with Professor Clark or Professor Colburn, uniting choir with the symphony orchestra or wind ensemble, depending on the year. The team is always looking for new methods to make the performance exciting for both the players and the audience.

“For me these pop songs have to have a surge of energy,” Professor Clark says. “Everybody’s heard all of these songs before; they can’t be played the same way they always are. This stuff is exciting and passionate! It should explode! We’ll have our pretty and slow moments, but Sleigh Ride isn’t Gustav Mahler.” He means that quite literally—the orchestra really rocks out to Sleigh Ride, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and many other classic favorites.

The ensembles begin rehearsing Christmas music individually as early as mid-October, practicing the pieces to perfection, and then combine rehearsals in November. More than 160 people are all working toward a single goal: making Rejoice! one of the largest group projects that happens on Butler’s campus. Senior violist Meagan Barnett has performed the concert with the orchestra twice and the choir once. “My favorite part about Rejoice! is the amount of students that are on stage making music together. I love collaborating with the different departments in the School of Music and Rejoice! is the perfect opportunity for that!”

Barnett says, “I really enjoy collaborating between the orchestra and the two choirs. As a string player, performing with choirs is a very different experience. We have to be sensitive to them and make sure all of the words can be heard. The Butler Symphony Orchestra is quite large this year so we have had a lot of fun working with the balance and sensitivity of our sound.” There is even more than just the orchestra and two choirs at work: the premiere of a graduate composition student is part of the repertoire, esteemed Butler faculty will give readings between some pieces, and a guest choir from Shortridge High School, the IPS magnet performing arts high school, will perform as well.

Rejoice! is a unique part of Butler’s holiday season because it is probably one of the biggest musical performances the School of Music puts on during the year. It’s a great way to end the fall semester and also a great way for the audience to get into the holiday spirit,” Barnett says. Join Butler’s School of Music and many friends this weekend at Clowes Memorial Hall at 7:30 PM both Friday and Saturday night for a spectacular musical celebration that you won’t want to miss.


Interested in attending this year's Rejoice!? You can buy tickets online or at the Clowes Hall Box Office.

Arts & Culture

The Making of Rejoice!

  “Waltz with me, orchestra! This is a dance!”

The Making of Rejoice!

by Haley Stevenson ’19

Jordan Jazz: Small but Mighty Good

By Haley Stevenson '19

Jordan Jazz is a small ensemble of student jazz singers studying in Butler University’s School of Music. Led by Erin Benedict, the vocal ensemble performs along with a band of students from the jazz program consisting of piano, bass, drums, saxophone, and guitar.

Erin Benedict
Erin Benedict

A graduate of The Manhattan School of Music, Erin Benedict began teaching at Butler a couple of years ago. Outside of Butler, her forte is commercial performance: singing in movie soundtracks and television commercials. Like with any new job, she had doubts, but as soon as she met the students and the group she would be teaching, she knew she was in the right place. “I was approached several times to come here and teach jazz voice and do Jordan Jazz … I’m glad I said yes!”

Jordan Jazz is a unique ensemble because it is so small and close knit. Only eight students meet with Benedict once a week for two hours. Throughout the course of a semester the group gets to know each other very well. “They all set up a group chat and support one another … In a smaller school like Butler, it may be more common, but in a larger school, it’s very unlikely,” Benedict says.

As many music students will note, it can be a struggle to maintain the excitement they had when they first started out – creative passions sometimes become a bit of a job, and a demanding one at that. Jordan Jazz gives students the opportunity to perform in a professional setting, but under less pressure so they can freely express themselves. “I am studying classical music constantly, so I really like being able to come together in this small jazz group. The tight harmonies and intimate settings make it really special," says junior Rowan Squire-Willey.  

Benedict hopes that in the coming years, Jordan Jazz will be one of the elite ensembles at Butler: “I see it being six men and six women … a mixture of a cappella and with instruments. I would love to see some students write things, and I would like to take them out to perform in the community.” That vision may come true as soon as this coming spring, when Benedict is planning to start some community outreach.

If you’d like to see the ensemble’s first performance of the 2018-2019 school year, your chance is this Wednesday, November 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall. The performance is free, open to the public, and is sure to be night to remember.   

Jordan Jazz
Arts & CultureStudent Life

Jordan Jazz: Small but Mighty Good

Jordan Jazz, a small ensemble of student jazz singers, takes the stage Wednesday, November 28. 

Jordan Jazz

Jordan Jazz: Small but Mighty Good

By Haley Stevenson '19
Arts & Culture

Butler Theatre Presents The Wolves

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Nov 14 2018

Butler Theatre will present the Indianapolis premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves, a comic drama that follows the hilarity and heartbreak of a high school women’s soccer team, November 28 through December 2 in the Lilly Hall Studio Theatre.

Show times are:
November 28, 29, and 30 at 7:00 PM
December 1 at 1:00 PM and 7:00 PM
December 2 at 3:00 PM

Tickets are $5-$15. They are available at ButlerArtsCenter.org.

The Wolves, a Pulitzer Prize finalist that's set on an indoor soccer field during a team’s weekly warmup drills, marks the Butler Theatre directorial debut of Assistant Professor of Theatre Courtney Elkin Mohler. She joined the Department of Theatre faculty in fall 2017.

Mohler said she chose the play, which is the fifth-most-produced play in the country during the 2018-2019 season, in large part because she wanted the student-actors to have an opportunity to portray characters who are similar to themselves.

"It’s not all that often that you get to see girls—not young women, but girls—represented in drama that aren’t in relationship to a male character," she said. "They’re not serving as a prize to be won or a distraction or the moral, emotional core of the play. It’s these women who are coming into their own. They’re athletes and they’re serious about their sport and they’re interested in getting recruited by scouts and they have all the crass and funny and inappropriate dialogue that young women, unobserved by their parents or coaches, would."

Mohler said audiences will experience being a fly on the wall of this team as it goes through its practices. The floor of the Lilly Hall Studio Theatre will be covered in Astroturf and the girls will be kicking around soccer balls as they talk.

She said that while the play is about soccer, friendship, and teamwork, it's much deeper than that.

"It's also about fighting hard for what you want, even when you're not given the same resources as—in this case—boys' teams are, or the same type of attention by scouts," she said. "I think it's kind of a metaphor for the women's fight in general in this moment."

The Wolves is the kind of play Mohler has worked on and championed since she was an undergraduate at UCLA. As a junior there, she was "bitten by the academic-theatre bug" and knew she wanted "the captive audience of a classroom."

At 21, she went directly into the doctoral program at UCLA. Her first tenure-track job was at Santa Clara University, a private school in Silicon Valley that’s just a little bigger than Butler.

Three years ago, when her husband, George, a data scientist and Indianapolis native, got hired at IUPUI, the Mohlers relocated to Indianapolis with their children. Courtney spent a year at IUPUI in a position that included teaching American Studies and serving as Director of the Intercultural Literacy, Capacity, and Engagement Department. (Her lineage is Santa Barbara Chumash—Native American people who historically inhabited the central and southern coastal regions of California—and her teaching specialties are in the areas of Critical Race Theory, Native American Studies, and Theatre History.)

Now, in her second year at Butler, she looks forward to presenting The Wolves and other contemporary plays.

"New plays, contemporary plays, ensemble shows are sort of my thing," she said. "So it’s fun to get to do that with these students."

Arts & Culture

Butler Theatre Presents The Wolves

Butler Theatre will present the Indianapolis premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s The Wolves.

Nov 14 2018 Read more
Arts & Culture

Announcing Spring 2019 Visiting Writers Series

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Nov 14 2018

Call Me By Your Name author André Aciman, doctor/poet/professor C. Dale Young, and bestselling novelist Lauren Groff are among the headliners for Butler University's spring 2019 Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series.

The spring series begins January 22 with poet Gregory Orr. He will be followed by Groff (January 31), poet and playwright Claudia Rankine (February 19), Young (March 20), essayist Eula Biss (April 4), and Aciman (April 16).

All events are free and open to the public without tickets. For more information, visit  https://www.butler.edu/vws.

More about each author follows.

 

Gregory Orr
American Academy of Arts & Letters Award in Literature Winner/Los Angeles Times Poetry Prize Finalist
Tuesday, January 22, 7:30 PM
Schrott Center for the Arts

Considered by many to be a master of short, lyric free verse, Gregory Orr is the author of eleven collections of poetry. His most recent volumes include The River Inside the River (2013), How Beautiful The Beloved (2009), and Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved (2005).

Much of Orr’s early work is concerned with seminal events from his childhood, including a hunting accident when he was 12 in which he accidentally shot and killed his younger brother, followed shortly by his mother’s unexpected death, and his father’s later addiction to amphetamines. In the opening of his essay “The Making of Poems,” broadcast on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, Orr said, “I believe in poetry as a way of surviving the emotional chaos, spiritual confusions, and traumatic events that come with being alive.”

 

Lauren Groff
New York Times Best-Selling Author
Thursday, January 31, 7:30 PM
Schrott Center for the Arts

Lauren Groff is a New York Times bestselling author of three novels: The Monsters of Templeton (2008), Arcadia (2011), and Fates and Furies (2015), which was a finalist for the National Book Award, Amazon’s No. 1 Best Book of the Year, and President Obama’s choice as his favorite book of 2015.

Groff also wrote the celebrated short-story collection Delicate Edible Birds (2009), and her latest book, Florida (2018), is a collection of interwoven short stories centered on her adopted home state. Groff’s work has appeared in a number of magazines, including The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Atlantic, and in several of the annual The Best American Short Stories anthologies.

 

Claudia Rankine
National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry/Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry
Tuesday, February 19, 7:30 PM
Schrott Center for the Arts

Recipient of a 2016 MacArthur Fellowship, Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric (2014) and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely (2004), and several plays, including her first published one, The White Card, forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2019. 

She is the editor of several anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind (2015). She also co-produces a video series, The Situation, alongside John Lucas, and is the founder of the Open Letter Project: Race and the Creative Imagination.

Rankine’s bestselling book Citizen: An American Lyric uses poetry, essay, cultural criticism, and visual images to explore what it means to be an American citizen in an ostensibly “post-racial” society. A defining text for our time, Citizen was the winner of the 2015 Forward Prize for Best Collection, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (it was also a finalist in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award’s history to be a double nominee), the NAACP Image Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for poetry.

 

C. Dale Young
Award-winning Poet and Writer
Wednesday, March 20, 7:30 PM
Atherton Union, Reilly Room

C. Dale Young is an award-winning poet and writer who practices medicine full-time and teaches in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He is the author of four poetry collections, including, most recently, Torn (2011) and The Halo (2016), and a novel in stories, The Affliction (2018).

He is a recipient of fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Young is the 2017 recipient of the Hanes Award, given by the Fellowship of Southern Writers to recognize a distinguished body of work by a poet in midcareer.

 

Eula Biss
National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction Finalist/National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism Winner
Thursday, April 4, 7:30 PM
Atherton Union, Reilly Room

Eula Biss is the author of three books: On Immunity: An Inoculation (2014), named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction and chosen by Mark Zuckerberg for Facebook’s Year of Books; Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays (2009), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism; and a collection of poetry, The Balloonists (2002).

A frank and fascinating exploration of race and racial identity, Notes from No Man’s Land was described by Salon as “the most accomplished book of essays anyone has written or published so far in the 21st century. It provokes, troubles, charms, challenges, and occasionally hectors the reader, and it raises more questions than it answers. It is strident and brave in its unwillingness to offer comfort, and, unlike all but a handful of the best books I have ever read, it is unimpeachably great.”

 

André Aciman
Lambda Literary Award Winner for “Call Me by Your Name”/Whiting Award Winner
Tuesday, April 16, 7:30 PM
Atherton Union, Reilly Room

André Aciman is the author of the novels Harvard Square (2013), Eight White Nights (2010), and Call Me by Your Name (2007), the memoir Out of Egypt (1994), and the essay collections Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere (2011) and False Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory (2000). He also coauthored and edited Letters of Transit (1999) and The Proust Project (2004).

His work has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the New Republic, Granta Magazine, and the Paris Review, as well as in several volumes of The Best American Essays. He has won a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.

Arts & Culture

Announcing Spring 2019 Visiting Writers Series

Author André Aciman and bestselling novelist Lauren Groff are among the headliners for the Visiting Writers Series.

Nov 14 2018 Read more
Arts & Culture

Butler Ballet presents Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Nov 14 2018

Butler Ballet and the Butler Ballet Orchestra bring The Nutcracker to the Clowes Memorial Hall stage November 29 through December 2 for six performances of Central Indiana's only fully staged production of Tchaikovsky's holiday favorite.

Show times are:
Thursday, November 29, at 7:30 PM
Friday, November 30, at 8:00 PM
Saturday, December 1, at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM
Sunday, December 2, at noon and 5:00 PM

Tickets are $28-$58. They are available at the Clowes Hall box office or through ButlerArtsCenter.org.

For the first time in several years, a Butler student—20-year-old Amber Wickey, a junior from Tenafly, New Jersey—will dance the role of Clara, the girl at the center of the story. Typically, a young dancer from the Indianapolis community plays the role. But Dance Department Chair Larry Attaway said that in this year's auditions, Wickey stood out.

"It's really a difficult dancing role, and you need to have that wonderful childlike quality and all of your technique chops to handle it," he said.

Wickey, who is 5 feet tall and therefore able to pass for someone Clara's age, said she was ecstatic to get the opportunity. Wickey performed in her first Nutcracker when she was in fourth grade and, as a sophomore in high school, danced as Clara in a production at the Nunnbetter Dance Theatre in Bergenfield, New Jersey.

Wickey said other dancers have more technically advanced parts, but Clara is an extremely demanding role, as she has to dance in the Party Scene, the Battle Scene, and the beginning of the Snow Scene, and she has to be onstage for much of the second act.

"The most difficult part is maintaining a character for the duration of the entire show," Wickey said. "You have to act—probably more than any of the other people in the production. And then you have all that dancing in the first act, and then you have to act throughout the second act. So, in terms of stamina, it's really challenging."

Also challenging, she said, is maintaining the mindset and innocence of a 12-year-old.

"She's the one who gets the nutcracker as a gift, she's the one who Drosselmeyer adores, she follows all the rules, everybody loves her. So, to be that innocent child is a hard part of the role," she said.

This year's Nutcracker will include 38 young dancers from the community. In addition, there will be new choreography from Professors Derek Reid, Cynthia Pratt, Michelle Jarvis, Marek Cholewa, Rosanna Ruffo, and Ramón Flowers. Reid is choreographing the Party Scene and the Battle Scene.

"As many times as we've done The Nutcracker, it still continues to change," he said. "That's a good thing, I think. Every time we change something, the magic comes back. I think it's going to be a really exciting Nutcracker once again. I hope everyone comes to take a look."

Arts & Culture

Butler Ballet presents Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker

Butler Ballet and the Butler Ballet Orchestra bring The Nutcracker to the Clowes Memorial Hall stage.

Nov 14 2018 Read more
Arts & CulturePeopleCampus

Commedia Dell'Arte is Like the Pork

BY Marc Allan MFA `18

PUBLISHED ON Oct 22 2018

Italian actor, director, and theatre teacher Marco Luly is trying to explain commedia dell'arte, the art form he has worked in since 1980, and The Servant of Two Masters, the play he is directing for Butler Theatre, October 31 through November 4 at the Schrott Center for the Arts.

He says the show, which was written by Carlo Goldoni in 1745 and has been performed steadily in Italy since 1949, is a comedy with some funny and some serious parts. Some parts develop the story, some parts advance the story, and some parts play the lazzi—the jokes, the fun. There's improvisation, so the actors need to listen to each other. They need to understand how to share the space and pace. To learn action and reaction. To control their body, their body language. To establish contact with other people. To pick up the vibe of the crowd and play with the audience, rather than to the audience.  

"Everything can be used," he says. "Everything. It's like the pork, where everything gets used. We can title this interview, 'Commedia dell'arte is like the pork.'"

And so we have.

Luly, who is spending nine weeks at Butler teaching two classes and directing the show, is the 2018 Visiting International Theatre Artist (VITA). Butler Theatre established the program in 2010 to give students the opportunity to learn from a theater professional from another country. Past VITAs have come from Russia, India, England, and elsewhere.

Luly chose to have the students perform The Servant of Two Masters, a classic in commedia dell'arte, a 500-year-old comedy art form that will be instantly recognizable to today's audiences through its resemblance to Shakespeare's comedies, silent movies, sketch comedy, and TV sitcoms. Actors wear leather masks that exaggerate facial features and identify them as stock characters. There are mistaken identities, lovers' triangles, class struggles, and more.

"Commedia dell'arte is at the root of almost every form of comedy that we know today, whether it's a TV commercial or Saturday Night Live, or Seinfeld and Cheers," says Diane Timmerman, Chair of Butler Theatre. "All these shows have stock characters, situations, physical comedy that is all derived from comedia. So it's fun to go to the source and experience what the original comedy was."

Luly brought with him four masks for the student-actors to portray character types. There's Brighella, who is a high-status servant like an innkeeper; Arlecchino, a servant character looking for money, power, and position in the world; Il Dottore—the Doctor—who bluffs his way through every situation; and Pantalone, an old merchant who's often in love with young girls.

The masks, he says, "are the magic of this form of theater. The masks are important for the actors. The mask does not hide. The mask amplifies. The mask is a tool that can help me show the audience my emotions, my sentiments, my lines. And I don't need to use too many words, too many moves. I can project my emotions just by one movement of my mask."

Taylor Steigmeyer, a junior Theatre/Psychology double major from South Bend, Indiana, is playing Arlecchino, the servant of two masters—and having a great time squatting and jumping and inhabiting this sprightly, sparkly, physically demanding character.

Arlecchino, she says, is a character with two basic needs. He wants food—he's always hungry—and affection from Smeraldina, the maid.

"He's someone who doesn't care about anyone but himself, so while I have to worry about what the other characters are doing, I'm in my own little world sometimes," she says. "I wonder when I'm going to get to eat again. I wonder if Smeraldina wants to kiss me too."

Steigmeyer said working with Luly has been a great experience, one she initially was unsure she was going to be able to fit into her packed schedule. But she found time to take one of Luly's afternoon classes, and then was cast as the title character.

"I was like, this is going to be such a great experience," she says. "When and where would I get an experience like this again?"

Rehearsals for The Servant of Two Masters have been running 6:30-9:30 PM five days a week, and Luly says he's been impressed with the students' work ethic and the way they've come to understand the characters.

As a director, Luly is a taskmaster, but benevolent. During a rehearsal in early October, when an actor missed a line, he told her, "If you don't speak, she might speak, so you have to speak." When the cast is trying to grasp the rhythm of a particular scene where everyone has a couple of words, he explained, "This is a staircase – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 – with each line getting progressively louder. He'll walk over to tilt an actor's head, correct the emphasis of a particular line, and instruct one of the actors to carry a prop on a different shoulder so the audience can see his face.

"He's intense, but he's very definitive," says Isaiah Moore, a junior Theatre/Psychology double major from Fishers, Indiana, who plays Florindo Aretusi, who is in love with Beatrice Rasponi and has run away from his hometown because he killed a man in a duel and has relocated to Venice. "He knows what he wants. We have to make sure we're ready to present what he wants."

To put it another way, they have to deliver the pork.

 

MEDIA CONTACT
Marc Allan MFA '18
News Manager
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822  

Arts & CulturePeopleCampus

Commedia Dell'Arte is Like the Pork

Visiting International Theatre Artist Marco Luly directs Butler Theatre's The Servant of Two Masters.

Oct 22 2018 Read more
United States Marine Band
Arts & CultureCommunity

One Night Only: Colburn to Rejoin "The President's Own" United States Marine Band

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Sep 14 2018

You can take the colonel out of the band, but you can't take the band out of the colonel.

So when “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band comes through the Indianapolis area on October 27, retired Col. Michael Colburn—now in his fifth year as Director of Bands at Butler University—will return to the podium. He'll conduct the band he led for 10 years in a performance of John Williams' "The Adventures of Han" from the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story.

"I was really thrilled to get the invitation," Colburn said. "And this will be a chance for a local audience to realize that they have a connection to the Marine Band that perhaps they weren't aware of right here at Butler."

Colburn, who directed the Marine Band from 2004-2014, said he received the invitation from his successor, Col. Jason Fettig, after Fettig found out that the band's tour would stop in Carmel, right outside Indianapolis.

They decided that it would be most appropriate for Colburn to conduct a piece by Williams because during Colburn's tenure with the band, he established a close relationship with the famed composer.

Their friendship started with a letter about 20 years ago—Colburn wrote to Williams asking him to guest-conduct the Marine Band, and Williams did. They collaborated several other times, including in 2004 when Williams requested that Marine Band perform his music during the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to him.

"Col. Colburn's distinguished service as the 27th Director of the U.S. Marine Band had an immeasurable impact on the ongoing success and reputation of this historic ensemble," Fettig said. "He spearheaded many notable artistic achievements for the organization during his time at the helm, not the least of which is developing our close relationship with famed composer and conductor John Williams. I'm absolutely thrilled to welcome Col. Colburn back to the podium of "The President's Own."

The rest of the concert at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel will feature a selection of patriotic music—Sousa marches such as "Semper Fidelis" and "Stars and Stripes Forever" (that's Colburn conducting in these video clips)—as well as some recent original music for wind band.

"This concert is a rare opportunity to hear the Marine band," Colburn said. "They only come through this area once every 4-5 years at most. I encourage people to get out there and get a little taste of what people in Washington, DC, and especially people in the White House get to hear all the time. This is really one of our national musical treasures."

"The President's Own" U.S. Marine Band will perform at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel on October 27. Ticket and tour information is available here.

Media Contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

 

 

United States Marine Band
Arts & CultureCommunity

One Night Only: Colburn to Rejoin "The President's Own" United States Marine Band

Butler's Director of Bands will conduct his former band when they come to area on October 27. 

Sep 14 2018 Read more
Karamo Brown
Arts & CultureCampus

Diversity Lecture Series Fall 2018 Lineup Announced

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Sep 06 2018

Charismatic Queer Eye star Karamo Brown and University of Texas Political Science Professor and immigration expert Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto will be the fall 2018 speakers in Butler University's Celebration of Diversity Distinguished Lecture Series.

Brown will kick off the 31st annual series at Clowes Memorial Hall on Wednesday, September 19, at 7:00 PM. DeFrancesco Soto's talk takes place on Monday, October 22, at 7:00 PM in Shelton Auditorium on South Campus.

Admission to all talks in the series is free and open to the public without tickets. The lecture series will continue during the spring semester with two more speakers.

 

Karamo Brown
Know Thyself: Using Your Uniqueness to Create Success
Wednesday, September 19, 7:00 PM
Clowes Memorial Hall, Butler Arts Center
More information at ButlerArtsCenter.org

Whether as an openly gay man, a black man, a Christian, a single father, a business leader, or reality television personality, Brown has discovered that the many facets of his identity are the key to his success. In this speech, he shares his methods and ensures that corporate and collegiate audiences alike are able to recognize and utilize their own different identities.

Today, Brown serves as the television Host and Culture Expert on the Emmy-nominated Netflix reboot of Queer Eye. Brown has worked as an on-air host and producer for OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), Huffington Post Live, and a contributor on NBC’s Access Hollywood Live. He was first introduced to the world in 2005 at 22 as a housemate on the hit MTV reality series The Real World. He was a breakout star and became the first openly gay African-American in the history of reality TV. In February 2016, he returned to reality television as a cast member on TV One’s #TheNext15.

 

Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto
E Pluribus Unum? American Diversity & the Political Landscape
Monday, October 22, 7:00 PM
Shelton Auditorium, South Campus
More information at Events.Butler.edu

The United States has always been made up of diverse entities and, as a nation, we have negotiated the "pluribus" to get to the "unum." DeFrancesco Soto will consider the topic of negotiating diversity within the current political landscape with a particular focus on the last decade and the upcoming mid-term election.

DeFrancesco Soto is a professor at the University of Texas’ LBJ School of Public Affairs and a contributor to MSNBC, NBCNews.com, and Telemundo among others. She was a featured expert in the PBS documentary of the Civil Rights trailblazer Willie Velasquez in Your Vote is Your Voice and has published in both academic and popular outlets such as Politico, Talking Points Memo, and Perspectives on Politics.

Her areas of expertise include immigration, Latinos, women and politics, political psychology, and campaigns and elections. In looking at immigration, she takes a broad historical perspective to understand current policy debates. When looking at diverse groups within the electorate, she focuses on how women, Latinos, and other minorities influence policies.

 

Media Contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Karamo Brown
Arts & CultureCampus

Diversity Lecture Series Fall 2018 Lineup Announced

The 31st year of Diversity Lecture Series will feature Karamo Brown and Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto.

Sep 06 2018 Read more
Dance Rehearsal
Arts & CultureStudent LifeCampus

New Dance Work To Debut with More than 100 Student Dancers

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Sep 05 2018

Dance Professor Cynthia Pratt wants to give Butler's Class of 2022 a welcome to remember. So she and four student choreographers from the Dance Department have put together a large-scale dance project that will feature the entire department performing on the grassy areas outside Irwin Library and Jordan Hall on Thursday, September 20, from 6:30-7:00 PM.

The dance will celebrate the start of the new academic year and will revolve around the themes and values of the Butler Way. The soundtrack for the dance is expected to incorporate snippets of interviews with students, faculty, and staff talking about their Butler experiences.

"I thought it would be a great opportunity for the department to welcome everyone back to campus," said Pratt, who is starting her 24th year at Butler. "The Dance Department here is significant, but many of the students don't know who we are or what we do. Even though this type of dance isn't what we're known for—we're known for ballet—I thought it would be a wonderful welcome for the whole student body, especially since we have the largest freshman class ever."

Pratt said the idea for an all-department project goes back four years, when she choreographed a dance as part of StreamLines, an outdoor art project that meshed arts and science. She said that project was tough—"they're outside, they're uncomfortable, they're hot, they're rolling around in grass, and there's stuff in that grass"—but it helped create a bond that lasted throughout their college careers.

More than 100 students will participate in the dance.

"We found in the department that when we did those large group dances, the morale in the department skyrocketed," she said. "We found that this was a really positive experience—not just for the students, but for the onlookers as well. These were really successful performances."

 

Media Contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Dance Rehearsal
Arts & CultureStudent LifeCampus

New Dance Work To Debut with More than 100 Student Dancers

The outdoor performance on September 20 will celebrate the start of the new academic year.

Sep 05 2018 Read more

Meet the Class of 2022: Max Cordoba

When incoming first-year Theatre and Math major Max Cordoba flew to Los Angeles in February to attend the National Unified Auditions—a one-stop shop for high school seniors to audition for multiple universities—he had never even heard of Butler University. The Neward, California native’s intention was to audition for mainly private schools that had a special musical theatre degree, explore those options, and then pick whichever school felt right, offered the best financial aid, and allowed him to learn more about not only the fine arts, but math as well.

He spotted Butler’s name and decided it was in his best interest to at least do one more session—it was additional practice, after all.

In most auditions, Cordoba was asked to perform two monologues and two songs. In the audition with Butler, Professor of Theatre William Fisher asked Cordoba to do one of each to start. Cordoba chose to sing Beautiful City from the Broadway production Godspell. For his monologue, he chose to read an excerpt as Hank from Marvin’s Room—a piece he believed would put him “over the top for the audition.”

After his monologue, Fisher and Cordoba made an instant connection over Marvin’s Room.

"I almost thought my audition with Butler was going to be a practice session, but after my talk with Professor William Fisher, I thought this could be the right school,” Cordoba said.

Cordoba explained to Fisher that he is a big theatre lover, but he wanted to also major in something a little more practical.

“I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, and I wanted to ensure I had math as a back-up since a major in theatre isn’t foolproof,” Cordoba said. “I really needed a school that understood that about me.”

Most schools Cordoba had talked to previously in the day had told him that pursuing math with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) was not a possibility. Fisher explained that at Butler it’s not a BFA, but rather a Bachelor of Arts, which offers more flexibility, as well as the option to incorporate his passion for math.

“He really convinced me to at least explore more,” Cordoba said, “Even though it’s really far away, Butler seemed open to my diverse interests.”

In April, Cordoba—joined by his grandfather—started the on-campus college visit journey,  exploring the various schools he was interested in—including Butler. While on campus, Cordoba had the opportunity to speak with professors, including Chair of the Theatre Department, Diane Timmerman. He also sat in on an improv class.

“The students were making me laugh. Just from that show alone, I saw what I loved about theatre,” he said. “The students were super friendly and amiable, and they love to act and perform.” When he left for his trip, he was excited about all the schools he was about to explore. After the trip, though, he realized that when he was making his rounds, he always found at least one thing he didn’t like—except for when he was at Butler.

“What really set it in stone for me for Butler was that it was a smaller school than most I was looking at, but it had a big school feel,” Cordoba said.

Cordoba arrived on campus August 12, and feels just as excited as nervous—as most students are their first year. Cordoba’s distance from his friends and family definitely makes it harder, especially when he was so involved with various theatre and chorus groups for the past eight years.

Despite the nervousness of new surroundings and being so far from home, Cordoba said he feels honored, “to go to a school that is super accepting and diverse.”

Max Cordoba
Welcome WeekArts & CultureStudent LifePeople

Meet the Class of 2022: Max Cordoba

What brought Max from California to Indiana was Butler Theatre's faculty and flexibility. 

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