A photo of the entrance to the CCM Atrium on UC's campus. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

CCM Acting Faculty, Alumni and Students Embrace Local and National Digital Theatre

A photo of the entrance to the CCM Atrium on UC's campus. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

Cincinnati Playhouse and the One-Minute Play Festival share creative monologues and short-plays featuring CCM Acting faculty, alumni and students

The pandemic isn’t stopping theatre artists from connecting and sharing their work. Although they can’t gather on stage or perform in front of an in-person audience right now, actors and directors are creating digital spaces to share theatre online.

CCM Acting Professor Brant Russell recently participated in two digital theatre efforts through Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s Monologues of Hope series and the national One-Minute Play Festival (1MPF).

“A bunch of us have refused to allow the lack of sanctioned or safe traditional theatre methods to hamper our practice. We can’t gather, we can’t even be near each other, but the need to make work still exists, and the audiences for it are there,” Russell says. “Zoom/digital theatre is a burgeoning practice, and I’m proud CCM is in the mix.”

The Playhouse’s series commissioned 10 local playwrights to write monologues on the theme of hope during the pandemic. Each monologue is performed by a local actor and shared on the Playhouse’s website and social media accounts. So far, the Monologues of Hope Series has shared nine new works, including Russell’s Play for Our Time and Hope Deconstructed by CCM Acting alumna Torie Wiggins (BFA, ’02).

In Play for Our Time, Russell travels back in time to the Yellow Fever outbreak of 1878 to get some advice from Cincinnati Chief Health Administrator Dr. Thomas C. Minor, portrayed by actor Barry Mulholland. The 19th-century doctor is a bit uncomfortable with Russell’s “rectangle device” (smart phone), but he manages to share some timely words of wisdom.

Wiggins’ Hope Deconstructed features actor Ernaisja Curry in a comedic monologue that examines how “we’ve been getting hope all wrong” by associating it with negativity. “Hope should be hopeful. It should sound hopeful; it should look hopeful. It should start in the eyes like smizing, then the rest of the face follows suit, then the tone of voice, then the positive words with a burst of energy,” the actor exclaims in the monologue.

Hope and creativity fuel these digital theatre projects and various online performances across the country. It is evident in the commitment of these teachers, students, actors, directors and theatre companies who are determined to stay connected and share their work in new ways.

“Theatre develops and strengthens community,” says CCM Acting student Anastasia Jacques. “Digital theatre and live performances over Zoom have made me feel so connected to people very far away.”

Jacques participated in the One Minute Play Festival’s (1MPF) Coronavirus Plays Project, which presented 625 plays via Zoom over 11 days. Russell directed 62 of the one-minute plays, which ranged in topic from “old married couples dealing with quarantine to pigeons deciding on whom they should poop,” he says.

Dominic D’Andrea is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of the 1MPF, which is the country’s largest and longest consistently running community-engaged theatre project. Russell directed 1MPF plays when it came to Chicago in 2011 and wrote/directed for the IMPF when it came to Cincinnati in 2015. He cast CCM students for the project and passed his directing duties to a CCM Acting student the next year. A CCM Acting student has been directing for the Cincinnati 1MPF each year ever since, and Russell continues to write plays for it.

“We produce about 1,000 plays a year in 15-20 cities and communities, in real life. We just moved what we do online, so it wasn’t that hard for us,” D’Andrea says of the 1MPF Coronavirus Plays Project. “In this case we did a partnership with The Dramatists Guild of America and, for the first time ever, did an open call. We had about 1,300 emails and 625 useable plays from that. We offered the work up to our partnering orgs and alumni directors to stage some of it. So we built a little online coalition.”

Brant Russell directs CCM Acting students, alumni and other actors through Zoom in the 1MPF's Coronavirus Plays Project. Photo/1MPF

Brant Russell directs CCM Acting students, alumni and other actors through Zoom in the 1MPF’s Coronavirus Plays Project. Photo/1MPF

Russell and D’Andrea have known each other for around 15 years, dating back to when they met at the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab. When D’Andrea launched 1MPF’s Coronavirus Plays Project, he enlisted Russell to direct 62 of them.

D’Andrea estimates that a couple thousand audience members watched the plays through Zoom, and the project involved about 14 directors, 120 actors and 625 writers from 14 different countries.

Russell’s casts included Jacques as well as CCM Acting alumni Ella Eggold (BFA, ’19), Gabriella DiVincenzo (BFA, ’19) and Paige Jordan (BFA, ’20).

Jacques played various roles during the 1MPF project including a loving spouse, a poetic farmer and — her favorite — a doting New Jersey mother. This was the first digital theatre project she has worked on, but it won’t be the last. Jacques is planning to be a guest speaker on “Reliving Childhood,” a YouTube channel launched by CCM Acting students Carlee Coulehan, Sierra Coachman and Noah Buyak. “Reliving Childhood” centers around re-watching TV shows from the students’ youth, and the idea was brought to life when students were separated during quarantine.

“We are taught that live theatre is magical because the audience and the actors are in the same room breathing the same air, but I think it is important to recognize that storytelling is the best medicine — period,” Jacques says. “If we can’t breathe the same air at least we can see each other’s faces and see each other’s hearts.”


Featured image at top: The entrance to the CCM Atrium on UC’s campus. Photo/UC Creative + Brand.

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CCM faculty member Rocco Dal Vera.

In Memoriam: CCM Professor and Theatre Arts Division Head Rocco Dal Vera

It is with supreme sadness that we share news of the passing of Rocco Dal Vera, a cherished member of the CCM Family who most recently served as head of CCM’s Division of Theatre Arts, Production and Arts Administration (TAPAA).

Rocco died peacefully on Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, surrounded by close family and friends, after battling glioblastoma cancer. He was the loving husband to his wife of 27 years, Denise Mechelle Dal Vera, and devoted father to his daughter, Kendall Anne Dal Vera.  He is preceded in death by his father, Roger Dal Vera, and survived by his mother, Polly Dal Vera, and sister, Anne Dal Vera. Born July 10, 1956, he was 61 years old.

CCM TAPAA Division Head Rocco Dal Vera.

CCM faculty member Rocco Dal Vera.

Rocco was a world-renowned researcher, master teacher and pioneer of voice and speech training for theatrical and commercial film actors, voice-over specialists, public speakers and corporate leaders.

A faculty member in the Department of Acting (previously Drama) since 1998, Rocco became head of CCM’s TAPAA Division in June of 2015. In 2008, Rocco received UC’s George Barbour Award for Good Faculty-Student Relations. He was also on the faculties of UC’s College of Law, the Xavier Leadership Center (Williams College of Business) and Procter and Gamble’s clay street project.

Awarded the title of Distinguished Member by the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA), the highest honor given by the Association, Rocco was the founding editor of the journal Voice and Speech Review for VASTA, and edited the first three books of that series. He lectured internationally on vocal violence and the effects of emotion on the voice and was a Level 5 Master Teacher of the Alba Method for Emotions, having studied and taught the subject for over 20 years.

Rocco was the author and editor of six books, several of which have been translated extensively and received international acclaim, influencing the curricular design in several disciplines. His book, Voice: Onstage and Off (co-authored with Robert Barton), was nominated as the Best New Theatre Publication by the Association for Theatre in Higher Education and is in use by over 600 college and university theatre programs. His latest book, Acting in Musical Theatre: A Comprehensive Course, (co-authored with Joe Deer) is in its second edition. For three years Deer and Dal Vera had a monthly column, “Acting in Musical Theatre,” in Dramatics Magazine and were frequent contributors to the journal Teaching Theatre.

Before joining the faculty at UC, Rocco was head of the BFA Professional Actor and Musical Theatre Training Programs at Wright State University, taught at the National Theatre Conservatory, Willamette University, United States International University, served on the Advisory Board for the Relativity School, and was chair of the Voice and Speech Department at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. For 16 seasons, he was the resident vocal coach for the Tony Award-winning Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and the Actors Theatre of Louisville. He was a resident artist at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, and worked as a voice and speech coach at numerous theatres around the US including, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Human Race Theatre Company, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Long Beach Civic Light Opera and the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Prior to entering academic life, Rocco had a rich professional career onstage and in Hollywood. His voice can be heard on numerous commercials and over 500 films and television shows including L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues, THIRTYsomething, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Gods Must Be Crazy. He was the co-host and assistant producer of the public television series, Healthward Bound: A Lifelong Journey, which won the prize for Best Series at the American Medical Association’s International Film Awards.

With his wife, Denise, and friend Annie Fitzpatrick, he founded the company IWA Strategies LLC, whose client list includes Cincinnati Bell, Procter and Gamble, clay street project and the Xavier Leadership Center. Their company’s mission is to teach “how to influence by inspiring and recognizing the genius in others and creating practical applications.” This mission demonstrates how Rocco married an active professional life with an inspirational philosophy that recognized others’ potential. Revered for a generosity of spirit and graceful eloquence, he will be remembered as not only the “smartest man in the room,” but also the kindest. His thoughtfulness, artistry and caring contributed to the achievement of countless artists, teachers and professionals worldwide. Rocco was considered a “teacher’s teacher,” an “actor’s coach,” and a tireless ally to the many students and colleagues he served alongside and led in a career that spanned four decades. Beyond his exceptional professional skill, Rocco will probably best be remembered for his generosity of spirit and profoundly supportive nature. No student, colleague or acquaintance was ever turned away from his office without receiving Rocco’s full attention and support.

Later in his life, Rocco became a crusader against Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS), and his daughter Kendall’s lifelong battle with the debilitating disease. In lieu of flowers, a fund has been established in Kendall’s name; you can learn more by visiting www.posthope.org/rocco/journal/214305/how-to-give-back-to-rocco.

Rocco was a member of Actors’ Equity Association, American Association of University Professors, SAG-AFTRA, National Association of Teachers of Singing, Musical Theatre Educators’ Alliance-International, Voice and Speech Trainers Association, Association for Theatre in Higher Education, Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists and the Voice Foundation.

A Memorial Service will be held in the Great Hall of UC’s Tangeman University Center at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 30.  More information about the memorial can be found at www.posthope.org/roccoProspective attendees are encouraged to RSVP at https://events.blackbirdrsvp.com/rocco-s-celebration-of-life.

Please join us in sending your thoughts or prayers and condolences to the entire Dal Vera family. Rocco was an inspiring force to all who knew him. He will be greatly missed.

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CCM's Mainstage Series production of 'Macbeth.' Photo by Mark Lyons.

CCM Presents Inaugural Playwrights Conference, May 9 – 14, 2016

CCM's Mainstage Series production of 'Macbeth.' Photo by Mark Lyons.

CCM proudly presents its inaugural Playwrights Conference from May 9 – 14, 2016. Organized by CCM Assistant Professor of Drama Brant Russell, this summer program is open to aspiring and experienced playwrights alike.

This year’s conference will welcome up to 15 playwrights, who will spend the week writing, participating in master classes with industry professionals and attending readings of their works.

“Ten minute play festivals are a huge way for playwrights to get their work seen,” Russell explains, “so we have designed this program as a professional preparatory conference, which will provide writers with an intensive setting in which to hone their craft.”

At the conclusion of the conference, participants will have a workshopped 10-minute play in hand.

The week-long program offers a Development Track for participants who already have a play that they want to work on during the conference, along with a Fundamentals Track for participants who want to learn the nuts and bolts of playwriting.

Conference participants will have an opportunity to work with a host of renowned theatre professionals, including composer/lyricist/playwright Todd Almond, Huntington Theatre Company director of new work Lisa Timmel, CCM Professor of Stage Direction Emma Griffin, Know Theatre of Cincinnati producing artistic director Andrew Hungerford, Actors Theatre resident dramaturg Hannah Rae Montgomery and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park artistic director and c0-CEO Blake Robinson.

Timmel will serve as the conference’s lead instructor and resident dramaturg, while Almond will serve as playwright-in-residence. Almond has been commissioned to write a new play for this year’s conference, which will allow participants to witness his new work develop over the course of the program. “Our playwrights will benefit from being in the room during the early stages of this new play’s development,” Russell suggests.

Participants will also get to hear their work read aloud by CCM’s resident actors. Russell explains, “An ensemble of CCM actors led by Richard Hess will bring our students’ plays to life every night, and at the end of the week we’ll have a 10-Minute Play Festival performed for the public in the Cohen Family Studio Theater.”

CCM’s 2016 Playwrights Conference is now accepting applications.

To learn more about how you can bring your ideas from page to stage, please visit ccm.uc.edu/summer/playwrights.

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Three CCM Students Named As League of Cincinnati Theatres’ 2014 Rising Stars

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The League of Cincinnati Theatres (LCT) has announced its 2014 Rising Star Award-recipients and this year’s winners include current and former CCM students Kaitlyn Adams, Blaine Krauss and Kevin Semancik, along with recent Xavier University graduate Patrick Phillips. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners!

All four young artists have been awarded for their exemplary contributions to local theatre courtesy of Diet Dr. Pepper and Pepsi Beverages. This year’s winners were chosen from a pool of nominees recommended by their university or a theatre they have worked for. CCM’s Matt Hill and Shaun Sutton were runners up.

Rising Stars must be under 25 years of age and are nominated for their body of work by academic and theatre personnel. The award was created to recognize talented young people who have and will contribute to professional theatre in Cincinnati and the industry at large.

This year’s committee was chaired by LCT Board Members Cathy Springfield and Kirk Sheppard. Each winner receives $1000 to help them as they continue their careers courtesy of Diet Dr. Pepper and Pepsi Beverages, facilitated by Rick Gill.

You can learn more about Kaitlyn Adams, Blaine Krauss and Kevin Semancik below!

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CCM Professor of Drama Michael Burnham Retires

CCM Professor of Drama Michael Burnham joined the faculty in 1984. He retires later this month.

CCM Professor of Drama Michael Burnham joined the faculty in 1984. He retires later this month.

CCM Professor Michael Burnham has been a faculty member since 1984 and when asked about his many years of work for CCM, he muses, simply, “I liked all of them.” He will retire this month, following the conclusion of the school year and his work as director for CCM’s upcoming production of Execution of Justice, which runs April 18-20 as part of this year’s Studio Series.

“Professor Michael Burnham has been the artistic thorn in the side of every student who has entered CCM Drama for the past 29 years,” says Richard E. Hess, CCM’s A.B., Dolly, Ralph and Julia Cohen Drama Department Chair. “He digs into the mind of each and every new student, causing disruption, chaos and sometimes a little irritation, all in service of deeper thinking, harder questioning, more creativity and expansion of possibilities. Michael’s wonderful mind has touched the hearts of every student lucky enough to work with him.”

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CCM Drama Celebrates Graduating Students at 2013 Senior Showcase on March 15

CCM Drama's Class of 2013.

CCM Drama’s Class of 2013.

CCM’s Department of Drama presents its 2013 Senior Showcase at 2 and 7 p.m. on Friday, March 15, in UC’s Patricia Corbett Theater. Both showcase performances are free and open to the public.

Graduating seniors in CCM’s drama program will present a variety of monologues and scenes to demonstrate the depth and breadth of their acting skills, honed during their undergraduate training at CCM. This will be the first presentation of a performance that these students will be taking on the road to exhibit their talent in industry showcases in New York and Los Angeles this April.

The 11th annual CCM Drama Dolly Awards will follow the 7 p.m. showcase performance. Hosted by Drama Department Chair Richard E. Hess, this annual event recognizes outstanding achievement and performance by students in the Department of Drama at CCM. Awards are given for Excellence in Performance and Excellence in Ensemble Performance from the 2012-13 CCM Drama season, which included the productions Arcadia, Ulysses, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and most recently The Time of Your Life. The year’s ceremony will also include tributes to retiring Professor of Dramatic Performance Michael Burnham and alumna Elana Ernst (’07 BFA Drama).

The highlight of the Dolly Awards will be the presentation of the 2013 Julia Winter Cohen Career Excellence Award to a graduate of CCM Drama. This year’s honoree is alumnus Damian Baldet (’95 BFA Drama), who will join the event via Skype videocast from London. Baldet has performed the role of Timon in the London, North American Tour and Mandalay Bay Las Vegas productions of The Lion King since 2005, and has a long list of credits that include shows off-Broadway and at La Jolla Playhouse (Calif.) and Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati.

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Enquirer Previews CCM’s ‘Mad Men’ Inspired Take on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Photography by Mark Lyons.

Photography by Mark Lyons.

Jackie Demaline takes a closer look at CCM’s unique spin on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in today’s edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer. A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through this Sunday, Oct. 7, in Patricia Corbett Theater.

Learn more about director Michael Burnham‘s unique approach to the play and scenic designer Ryan Howell‘s collaboration with Toronto-based artist Amy Shackleton and CCM’s Division of Electronic Media here.

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CCM Slideshows: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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CCM proudly presents a colorful new twist on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, running through Oct. 7 in UC’s Patricia Corbett Theater.

Are you coming to campus for UC Homecoming this weekend? Come to CCM Village after the Homecoming Kickoff Party at the Myers Alumni Center on Friday for an 8 p.m. performance or come early on Saturday and catch a matinee of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 2 p.m. (kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.).

This is a perfect weekend to experience EVERYTHING going on at the University of Cincinnati! Don’t miss the opening of CCM’s must-see 2012-13 Mainstage Series.

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CCM Theatre Design & Production and E-Media Students Team with Artist Amy Shackleton to Give ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ a Colorful Twist

Scenic designer and third-year graduate student Ryan Howell (left) and Canadian artist Amy Shackleton give a design presentation to CCM Theatre Design and Production students.

Scenic designer and third-year graduate student Ryan Howell (left) and Canadian artist Amy Shackleton give a design presentation to CCM Theatre Design and Production students.

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream receives a colorful and refreshing update in the upcoming production at UC’s College-Conservatory of Music. Beginning with a preview performance on Oct. 3, audiences will be transported to the 1960s and will follow four lovers and some unfortunate “mechanicals” as their lives become the playthings of a band of fairies.

Director Michael Burnham wanted to take a new approach to a traditional piece and encouraged set designer and third year graduate student Ryan Howell to contact Canadian artist Amy Shackleton to collaborate on an original art piece for the show. With the help of CCM’s Division of Electronic Media, Amy Shackleton was filmed while painting the piece and the resulting footage will be used to create a backdrop that will paint itself as the story develops.

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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Scenic Design of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Amy Shackleton, Toronto-based gravity artist, demonstrating her technique to CCM students.

Amy Shackleton, Toronto-based gravity artist, demonstrating her technique to CCM students.

To ignite its 2012-13 Mainstage Season, CCM will be presenting one of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from Oct. 3 (preview) – 7 in UC’s Patricia Corbett Theater.

The play takes us on a wistful journey with four lovers and a weaver as they interact with some Puck-ish pranks in the wood. Director Michael Burnham and fellow designers add a spin to this version of the show as we find ourselves in the summer of 1963, right before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Learn more about how this spin influenced the show’s costume design here.

As previously reported, international artist Amy Shackleton joins the design team of CCM’s  A Midsummer Night’s Dream to engage in a unique collaboration, creating an original piece of art. Amy’s process was documented and will set the backdrop for this production.

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