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By David West
NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University Theatre and Dance will present its annual Senior Dance Concert on Saturday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the A.A. Fredericks Auditorium. The concert is free and open to the public. Original pieces by senior dance students Taylor Young of River Ridge, Katherine Langlois of Greenwell Springs, Asher Van Meter and Jayzen Boger of Edmond, Oklahoma, and Brandi M. Corkern of Hammond will be presented.
Young’s work, “With Love for Fitzgerald,” will allow the audience to watch a fun story of three burlesque dancers from the 1920s “fighting” for the spotlight at the local cigar lounge. Young said the roaring twenties kicked off a strong girl power movement and this piece shows that and much more.
“We see the drama, the love and the funny in-betweens from the dancers as they perform a technical, sassy and jazzy burlesque number,” said Young. “F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors, as well as him be such an icon of the twenties, he is someone that the women were absolutely obsessed with. Ladies wanted to be with him, men wanted to be him. The same thing happened with his wife. And with that came the title of the piece.”
Langlois says her piece, “sognare” is a contemporary piece “that will send the audience through the experience of living one’s own personal dream.” She said the concept revolves around falling into a full night’s sleep but waking up within the dream and living it out.
“What happens in these individual dreams is completely up for interpretation and is expressed through the individualism between the five dancers,” said Langlois. “Also, the two pieces of music I chose show a distinct representation of when the dancers are in the dream world versus when they wake up and are back in reality. The moments of reality in the piece are indicated by excerpts of a speech from the widely known psychological speaker, Alan Watts. I have always loved his messages and I am extremely eager to have created something of my own, using ideas from his work.”
“Patience” by Van Meter is a coming-of-age story for a man who is learning and growing through his relationships.
“It deals with feelings of youthfulness and naivety with a first love and hopelessness and abuse as he explores what he wants from other people,” said Van Meter. “He finds himself dealing with loneliness and a longing for someone else, but they keep pulling him away from who he is. It’s his journey to finding himself and eventually someone who will embrace who he truly is.”
Boger’s “rosette” is a contemporary modern piece created with the intent of vibrating the audiences’ auditory and visual senses, in an attempt to unlock a stir of emotions that with resonate within the viewers mind and body.
“I was 11 feet up in the air one rainy evening, sitting out on a balcony and practicing the acoustic guitar, when a poignant question planted itself into my mind. “How is it that playing this instrument can not only produce a multitude of sounds, but depending on the music, can trigger a plethora of emotions all within one movement,?” said Boger. “This energized my creative mind with the hope of translating this fresh idea onto the stage with movement and dance in a theatrical setting.”
“Bisou” by Corkern is a contemporary jazz dance that focuses on the glimpses of the people’s lives that one would see passing on the street.
“My inspiration for this piece came from people watching on the streets of New Orleans,” said Corkern. “You never know what the stranger next to you is going through. You only get to see them for a brief moment as they pass you, but everyone has a story that is unique to them. I try to touch on these stories within my dance.”
The concert will also feature three dances that were presented earlier this year at the American College Dance Association festival held at Kennesaw State University, “Flirting with Light” by faculty member Crystal Lewis, “Creature of the Night” by freshman Mary Strickland, of New Orleans and “Comm/itment” by Van Meter.
Northwestern State University Theatre and Dance will present its annual Senior Dance Concert on Saturday, May 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the A.A. Fredericks Auditorium. The concert will feature original pieces by senior dance students Taylor Young of River Ridge, Katherine Langlois of Greenwell Springs, Asher Van Meter and Jayzen Boger of Edmond, Oklahoma, and Brandi M. Corkern of Hammond.
By David West
NATCHITOCHES – The Mrs. H.D. Dear Sr. and Alice E. D. Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts is welcoming seven new members to the CAPA Hall of Fame for 2019.
This year’s honorees are Burt Allen, Robert Alost, Joel Ebarb, James Ford, Richard Jennings, Shirley Jennings and Rivers Murphy. The latest group of inductees are being honored at various Creative and Performing Arts events throughout the spring semester.
Allen, who was hired in 1983, was director of choral activities at NSU for 32 years. He is responsible for laying the foundation for the outstanding choral program at NSU.
Allen was the first NSU faculty member to appear in Carnegie Hall, and the NSU Chamber Choir under his direction is the only NSU ensemble to appear there in a solo performance.
Allen was the first to lead an NSU musical ensemble on a European tour. He was the first CAPA faculty member to successfully author an externally funded grant, followed by several others, totaling more than $350,000 which created the first music computer labs, purchased a number of Yamaha Disklavier pianos and funded a class piano lab and multimedia capabilities for several classrooms. He initiated the local tradition of performing the Candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols in Natchitoches.
He retired from Northwestern State in 2015 and continues to be active in the choral music field. Allen serves as the artistic director for the Red River Chorale in Alexandria.
Alost was Northwestern State’s president from 1986 to 1996. Over that 10-year period, he led the university to an unprecedented period of growth, laying the foundation for future progress in all areas. Enrollment at Northwestern State increased from 5,272 to more than 9,000 while he was president. Alost was the president at the initial organization of the Department of Creative and Performing Arts. He was also instrumental in establishing the budget in the area of scholarships which has been so important to the development of CAPA programs.
Before becoming president, he served NSU as a faculty member, department head and dean. Alost was co-founder of the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts and director of the school from 1982 to 1986.
He was inducted into the Northwestern Alumni Hall of Distinction, the Long Purple Line, in 2005. Alost was named a Natchitoches Treasure in 2018.
Ebarb is professor of theatre in the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Design, Art, and Performance at Purdue University. He serves as senior associate dean for undergraduate education and international programs in the College of Liberal Arts. Previously, he served as chair of the Department of Theatre from 2011-2015, and Director of Undergraduate Theatre Studies from 2009-2011. Ebarb began his career at Purdue in 1997.
His teaching, research, and creative endeavor are focused primarily in costume design for the entertainment industry. Ebarb has costume design credits throughout the United States and internationally. He is an accomplished puppeteer, occasional director and playwright and novice performer.
Ebarb is a popular speaker and presents a series of lectures and workshops using theatre techniques to improve skills in teaching and interpersonal communication. He is an award-winning educator and was a 2011 recipient of the Charles B. Murphy Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching, Purdue University’s highest undergraduate teaching honor.
Ebarb is an alumnus of NSU’s Eta Omicron chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity.
Ford was a local businessman and community leader who was gifted with a beautiful operatic voice and who tirelessly gave to the community. A 1955 graduate of Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Music, he then married Jo Ann Breedlove of Natchitoches. After serving in the U.S. Army as a Korean Conflict helicopter pilot, he returned to Natchitoches where he was in the residential and commercial construction and development business for 33 years.
Ford had leading roles in numerous NSU productions and was a bass soloist with the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra and NSU Chorus. Ford also performed at Pops Concerts, several benefit concerts with opera star Eugenie Chopin Watson and at numerous weddings, funerals and special events, often with tenor Jim Bob Key.
From 1959 to 1971 Ford was music director at First United Methodist Church and also served on the Board of Stewards. He was active in local civic clubs served on the City Bank & Trust Co. Board of Directors. Ford served on the Natchitoches Industries and Chamber of Commerce Boards, Cane River Development, Inc. president and Associated General Contractors for Central Louisiana president.
Ford was president of the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Society for 1971-72. A November 2000 concert in his honor was presented by the NSU Symphony Orchestra and Choirs, performing Faure’s “Requiem.”
Richard Jennings joined Northwestern State’s faculty in 1971, teaching horn, serving as a band director and teaching music education courses. He served as a piano accompanist for his horn studio and recruited for the entire music department. In the early 1980s, he became music department head, and was instrumental in the building of the Fine Arts Annex. Richard Jennings met with architects daily and lobbied for many changes to the building plan that have proved to be essential to the success of the facility. He was responsible for the addition of the 40-rank Reuter organ for Magale Recital Hall. He convinced the architects to install doors big enough to fit a piano through each of the rehearsal halls, and, imagining the years of moving pianos and marimbas, he also convinced them to pave over the stairs and instead build a ramp to access backstage Magale Recital Hall.
Another proud accomplishment was serving on hiring committees that brought in a round of distinguished and successful music professors that grew the department into what it is today.
Richard Jennings was president of the Louisiana Bandmasters Association in 1966-67 and was elected LBA Bandmaster of the Year in 1967. He was inducted into the Louisiana Music Educators’ Association Hall of Fame in 1992. He served on the Board of the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Society throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s and beyond. After his retirement from NSU in 1994, he taught class piano and piano lessons to non-majors for several years.
Shirley Jennings taught harp, violin, and piano for the music department at Northwestern State University from 1971 to 2015, and also served in the Registrar’s Office for many years. She taught adjunct harp, violin and viola at the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts. She also maintained a large and vibrant music studio out of her home where she taught hundreds of students to play harp and violin. As a performer, Shirley Jennings was engaged by the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, the Natchitoches/Northwestern Symphony Orchestra, the South Arkansas Symphony and many other regional orchestras.
She was a member of the Louisiana chapter of the National Music Teachers Association, serving as state harp chair from 1995 to 2007, and receiving their Distinguished Service Award in 2011. Shirley Jennings was a member of the American Harp Society, the American String Teachers Association and the American String Orchestra Association. She was the director of the NSU Harp Ensemble for many years, featured annually at the NSU Christmas Gala. She was the Faculty Sponsor for the NSU chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota.
Murphy joined Northwestern State’s faculty in 1966 and retired in 2004. He has worked in a number of media including sculpture, stained glass, printmaking, design, drawing, crafts and glassblowing. Many of Murphy’s works have appeared in exhibitions or are in private collections throughout the United States and Canada.
Murphy was a member of a state task force on arts education in the state public schools and another task force which developed a test instrument for the evaluation of art-talented public school students.
He was the sculptor of a creation to honor playwright Bobby Harling, the author of the play and screenwriter of the film “Steel Magnolias,” and the artist and designer of a special commemorative coin to honor country music singer Roy Acuff on the 50th anniversary of his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry.
Murphy was the recipient of the Louisiana Art Education Association’s 1990 Outstanding Supervision/Administration Art Educator of the Year Award.
NSU Theatre and Dance to present “The 1940’s Radio Hour”
By David West
NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State Theatre and Dance will perform the musical “The 1940’s Radio Hour” April 17-18 and April 23-27 at 7:30 p.m. and April 28 at 2 p.m. in Theatre West. Tickets are $15 and $12 for senior citizens. NSU, BPCC@NSU and Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts students are admitted free with a current I.D. Seating is limited, so advance reservations are required by calling (318) 357-4483.
Dr. Jack Wann is the director. Dr. Grace Edgar is musical director with choreography by Taylor Young.
The play is set on Dec. 21, 1942 at a seedy 5,000-watt local radio station in New York City. A number of the members of the station’s band are about to go off to war. On this evening they are presenting their Christmas broadcast, which will be their final one before joining the armed forces.
“We did ‘1940’s Radio Hour’ several years ago in Summer Dinner Theatre and thought it would be good to bring it back,” said Wann. “The play has all of the stereotypical characters of a musical of the time and is a lot of fun.”
The play will also feature a number of popular songs of the era including “Kalamazoo,” “Our Love is Here to Stay,” Black Magic,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and more.
The cast is Will Woodworth of Hammond as “Pops” Bailey, Emma Rivet of Baton Rouge as Stella Gallagher, Thomas Hadzeriga of Edmond, Oklahoma, as Wally Ferguson, Emmanuel Dunn of Baton Rouge as Lou Cohn, Andrew Palmentier of Lafayette as Clifton A. Feddington, Bethany Lee of Baton Rouge as Zelda Doubleman, Trevor Brown of Metairie as Johnny Cantone, Kristi Contreary of Geismar as Connie Miller, Rosa Campbell of Baton Rouge as Ginger Brooks, Kyle Munson of Prairieville as Neal Tilden, Robert McCandish of Monroe as B.J. Gibson, Adele Hebert of Lafayette as Ann Collier, Payton Hartwick of Edmond, Oklahoma, as Geneva Lee Browne, Chase Crane of Livingston as Biff Baker and Daniel Ley of Bossier City as Clarence “Fingers” McGee.
The Zoot Doubleman Orchestra will include Ley on keyboard, Adam Hudlow on trumpet, Chris Ball on percussion, Richard Rose on bass, Emma Benjamin on flute and Parker Randall on alto/tenor sax.
Scenic design and technical direction is by Robert Richoux with lighting and sound design by Paul Pharris. Costume design is by Sydney Ryder. Ley is rehearsal accompanist and Logan Simoneaux is stage manager. Philip Kidd is technical advisor.
By ANNA BIRBIGLIA
Alphonse Engram is a sophomore in the brand-new dance B.F.A. program. Not only is he starring in the spring production of “Cat in the Hat,” he will also be featured in two Senior Dance Concert pieces, an ACDA piece and is also a member of the Demon Dazzlers.
How does he do all of this and maintain a 3.7 GPA, a business minor and maintain 6 scholarships/grants?
NSU wasn’t the only school Engram got accepted to. He highly considered Oklahoma City University and Arizona State University. Ultimately, he decided to choose NSU because it was closest to his mother.
Engram doesn’t regret his decision and in fact believes NSU to have been his best choice. He said that NSU “is an amazing school. The activities and atmosphere are amazing. The faculty makes everything easier and fun while giving a great educational background. Also, the campus is beautiful, and it makes it easier to just go walk around with some friends.”
From the beginning his mom was his biggest supporter. Engram’s mother comes to as many of his performance she can, which as you can tell for him is quite a lot.
Throughout his life, it has been his mom and him against the world. When Engram was young, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD. His mother, though understanding, was very admitting about making sure Engram was never able to use it as a crutch.
“She always pushed me and made sure that it was easier for me in the future,” Engram said. “She’s my best friend.”
Engram now also suffers from major depressive disorder, but if you were to meet him, you would never think that was a something wrong with him. Despite everything, he has a sunny disposition and a sweet smile for anyone willing to accept it.
Engram grew up in the small town of Deridder, Louisiana. Despite what it seems, he didn’t start dancing until his freshman year of high school. As recital was approaching at his local dance studio, he decided to go and watch with a few of his friends which led him to seeing another male dancer in his town perform.
This lit a fire for Alphonse, and he immediately enrolled.
“I started like the babies,” he explained. “I took tap and ballet at first.” He first began in classes with his two step-sisters at the time. Eventually about a month later, his instructors began to suggest that he bump up a level due to how quickly he was picking each skill up.
“I bumped up to the higher level, but I stayed in the lower level class as well to help out with my step-sisters.” Later in high school as a junior and senior he began to compete with his studio and also joined his high school dance line.
Nearly every day Engram wakes up for early morning Dazzler rehearsals and then proceeds to go to his three or four classes, depending on the day, which total to twenty-four hours. He then gets a small break before attending his evening rehearsals which are from 4:00-10:00 p.m. every evening and will continue until the show opens in March. On top of these daily commitments, Engram must also complete morning workouts and a two-mile run each week for Dazzlers.
Engram dreams of one day opening his own studio in Branson, Missouri. This is why he has added a business minor and is now even considering an HMT minor. He first became enraptured with Branson when he visited for a dance competition.
He wants to be able to teach others his passion for dance.
“I don’t want to be known for what I did. I want to be known for who I am,” Engram said.
I have had the absolute pleasure of working with Alphonse Engram personally on my own senior dance concert piece. He is one of the hardest working, kindest individuals I have ever encountered. If there is anyone on this campus that embodies and represents NSU, it is with no doubt Alphonse Engram.
Whether you see him walking around or on the field, his bright personality and upbeat attitude will always make you smile. When asked for a final quote, all he had to say was “and always fork ‘em demons,” and that says it all.
By David West
NATCHITOCHES – Three works from Northwestern State University will be performed at the American College Dance Association Southeast Regional Conference at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia on March 28-31.
“Comm/itment” by senior Asher Van Meter of Edmond, Oklahoma, and “Flirting with Light” by Assistant Professor of Dance Crystal Lewis will be presented for judging on March 29. Choreography by Mary Strickland of New Orleans is being performed at the informal concert.
“Comm/itment” is a trio with Maci Burt of Mandeville, Alphonse Engram of DeRidder and Sarah Talbot of Baton Rouge.
“It’s a piece that deals with the struggles of relationships and abuse, whether it be physical or emotional, and the effect it has on the two women in the piece,” said Van Meter, a theatre major with a concentration in dance. “The man in the piece moves in and out of their lives and you watch how it affects them when he’s with them, when they’re alone and when they deal with this jealousy and longing for him to come back. It deals with a lot of isolation for them and how they trap themselves within their own anxiety and let him control them.”
Lewis’ work is a light sensitive piece with two distinct sections and a cast of 11.
“The first section is lit entirely by tap lights controlled by the dancers,” said Lewis. “This creates not only a spectacle of light, but has a deeper meaning of being drawn to this light. The second section has a more ethereal and otherworldly feel as the dancers are lit by the tap lights, while simultaneously being bathed in a soft golden hue. The second section has more of a ritual feel as the dancers move in and out of partnering as they are circled around each other and the tap lights.”
Lewis originally choreographed this work as part of her graduate thesis concert.
“Initially when creating this work, I was playing with the notion of lighting dance through non-traditional lighting methods,” said Lewis. “I have set this particular work on several students and colleges over the years, each time it has morphed and changed to embody the dancers dancing the work. The piece is mostly abstract but does have an overarching theme of humanity and hope as the light bathes the dancers.
Other students from Northwestern State attending the conference are Taylor Young, Katherine Langlois, Jayzen Boger, Anna Birbiglia, Kennedy Butler, Brandi Corkern, Cathleen Oviedo, Brittany Davis, Kelsy Elkins, Vilma Castro Lopez, Tara Lane, Emily Ricalde, Luther Brooks IV and Alphonse Engram. Also attending are Ashley Henry, Vincent Spinks, Dustin Huffman, Erin Fallis, Mary Scott Pourciau, Leyla Fettweis, Haleigh Giorlando-Wall, Abigail Miller and Hannah Knoff.
While at the conference, students can take master classes and attend dance performances, research presentations, panel discussions and lectures. They can also meet students and faculty from a number of institutions. Faculty can present research and participate in professional development opportunities.
By David West
NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University’s production of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” has been invited to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Region VI Festival on Feb. 25-28 at the Abilene Convention Center in Abilene, Texas.
Forty productions from colleges and universities in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas were viewed in person by Region VI representatives this fall and NSU’s version of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” was one of six plays chosen to be presented at the regional conference. NSU’s production could be selected for performance at the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival National Festival in April in Washington, D.C. Pia Wyatt is the director. This is the second time in six years a Northwestern State production has been selected.
“Having been selected out of the entire Region VI of the Kennedy Center American College festival is a huge honor,” said Wyatt. “To have seen what our region produces and be part of the selected six productions that represent this region is truly a delight. ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ by Tom Stoppard is a literary whirlwind of words that allows the intellect to be stimulated and tickled.”
Behind the scenes of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” the play follows the antics of the Prince of Denmark’s two childhood best friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as they grapple with understanding their existence. This play deals with Shakespeare’s language in a delightfully humorous manner that allows today’s audience to grasp the heartache, the confusion and the plight of life on this rollercoaster of staying afloat in what can be very confusing and chaotic times.
Started in 1969 by Roger L. Stevens, the Kennedy Center’s founding chairman, the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) is a national theater program involving 20,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide annually. For 50 years, the organization has served as a catalyst in improving the quality of college theater in the United States. KCACTF has grown into a network of more than 700 academic institutions throughout the country.
The goals of the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival are: to encourage, recognize, and celebrate the finest and most diverse work produced in university and college theater programs; to provide opportunities for participants to develop their theater skills and insight; and achieve professionalism; to improve the quality of college and university theater in America and to encourage colleges and universities to give distinguished productions of new plays, especially those written by students; the classics, revitalized or newly conceived and experimental works.
Through state, regional, and national festivals, KCACTF student and faculty participants celebrate the creative process and share experiences and insights within the community of theater artists. The KCACTF honors excellence of overall production and offers student artists individual recognition through awards and scholarships in playwriting, acting, dramatic criticism, directing, and design.
In January and February of each year, regional festivals showcase the finest of each region’s entered productions and offer a wide range of activities, including workshops, symposia and regional-level scholarship and award programs.
By David West
NATCHITOCHES – Tickets are still available for Northwestern State University’s 30th annual Christmas Gala to be performed Nov. 28-30 in the A.A. Fredericks Auditorium. Performance times are 7 p.m. each evening with a 9 p.m. performance on Nov. 30.
Tickets are $15. NSU, BPCC@NSU and Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts students are admitted free with a current student I.D.
More than 300 Northwestern State students, faculty and staff in the School of Creative and Performing Arts combine their talents to present the Gala as a kickoff to the Natchitoches Christmas Festival. More than 10,000 people attend the Gala each year which is based on the long-running Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.
Gala Artistic Director Michael Rorex said this year’s performances are part of the celebration of the 30th year anniversary of the Mrs. H.D. Dear Sr. and Alice E. Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts. According to Rorex, the program will incorporate popular pieces from years past such as the non-singing monks who will be back with the “Hallelujah Chorus.” There will be an addition to the Toy Soldiers presentation and the NSU Men’s Chorus will have a new piece to present as part of the celebration.
The Gala opening will include the Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Orchestra, the NSU Spirit of Northwestern Marching Band, the NSU Dance and Ballet ensemble, the NSU Choirs, NSU musical theatre students and all the beauty of lights and colorful backdrops on stage.
Tickets can be purchased online at capa.nsula.edu. For more information, call (318) 357-4522.