July 2016 MTD News

July 2016 MTD News
Tom Suda (top row, fifth from the right) and the cast of Equus

The entire Music, Theatre and Dance family was shocked to learn about the June 13, 2016 death of a much loved member of our faculty, Thomas M Suda. Tom began teaching theatre classes at OU in 1995 and over the course of the next 20 years he mentored and befriended untold numbers of young actors. In the days following his death, his personal Facebook page was filled with hundreds of moving messages from old friends and former colleagues and students, expressing their sadness and their deep affection for him. We’ve chosen one such message to share with you, as a tribute to Tom from us all.

“As a theatre major in college, you build close ties with your professors and other students. Even though we move on in life, those connections still exist, so when one breaks, we all feel it. The world lost a shining star, a truly beautiful soul, our Thomas M. Suda. It's amazing to see just how many lives he touched so profoundly in his many years as a theatre professor at Oakland University. Tom, you will be truly missed.”

There will be a memorial celebration for Tom Suda on September 9, 2016 at 6:00 pm in Varner Recital Hall on the OU campus. We’ll post a reminder on our Facebook page as the date approaches.


NATS finalist Robert Skylis

OU will be represented at the July finals of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Competition by music student Robert Skylis, who was selected in an extremely competitive process. The finals are held in Chicago and OU alumna Ann Toomey (BM '14), who is currently with the Lyric Opera, will be performing at the event, as will opera legend Renee Fleming. During the competition, Associate Professor of Music Drake Dantzler will receive an Emerging Leader award.

In May our acting students traveled to New York City for their first Acting Showcase. Bobby Brooks, Gabriel Jamison, Sarah McEneaney, Marissa Pattullo and Lester Finley took workshops in the Business of Theatre, Acting for the Camera, Commercials and Voiceovers. They also took part in a closed showcase attended by four casting agents who each gave the actors detailed feedback, some of it very business oriented, according to theatre professor Anthony Guest, aimed at helping the actors find and define their “type.” The group received seven callbacks and a couple of the students felt they had serious interest from agents they plan to contact when they move to New York.

They also performed their showcase for Kelly Gillespie, associate casting director of the Manhattan Theatre Club, who talked to them about auditioning. Kelly is the daughter of Michael Gillespie, professor emeritus of theatre at OU.

A major highlight of the trip for everyone was the chance to meet actor Jeff Daniels for a talkback after seeing his performance in Blackbird at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway. Jeff spent more than an hour talking to the actors about his acting process and his craft. He also gave the group a tour of the stage. “It was,” said OU acting coach Mila Govich, “exceptionally generous of him, considering the demands of the role. The kids loved it and him!” On the last night of the trip the students met up with some NYC-based alumni.

From left to right: Lester Finley, Anthony Guest, Marissa Pattullo, Jeff Daniels,
Gabriel Jamison, Bobby Brooks, Sarah McEneaney, Milica Govich

Several of our theatre design and technology students have impressive summer internships. Craig Horning wrote, “I'm very excited to announce that I will be spending my summer in Massachusetts at the Williamstown Theatre Festival as a scenic art intern. This is an incredible opportunity and I am so grateful for it.”

Chelsea Criger is working as an embroidery intern at Hawthorne and Heaney in London, UK.  The company does bespoke work for couture fashion houses, the military, theatre, film, art projects and interiors.

Emily Christenson is working as a stitcher at the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, while Elaina Ciccone is working as a properties artisan and Jason Strong is working as a carpenter, both at Interlochen Center for the Arts.

The members of the Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble  

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the Oakland University Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble gave an outstanding performance at the International Tuba Euphonium Conference (ITEC) at the University of Tennessee.  Matthew Murchison wrote a piece especially for the ensemble and the musicians were grateful to have composer Steve Darling in the audience to hear their rendition of one of his pieces. Alumni Robert Benton, Daniel Turchyn and James Long joined the students for an especially beautiful performance of the Franz Biebl Ave Maria.

Piano performance major Karen Li spent the first few weeks of the summer break in Vietnam teaching English. She plans to spend the rest of the summer in Hong Kong. On June 28 she gave her debut Hong Kong performance, playing two Argentine pieces in the first concert of a monthly series hosted by famous pianist KaJeng Wong at the Fringe Club.


Take Root, the dance company co-founded and co-directed by dance faculty Thayer Jonutz and Ali Woerner, will once again be featured at Detroit Dance City Festival which this year runs from August 25 until 27.

They were also part of the programming for the special exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts, “Dance! American Art 1830-1960,” which featured 90 works from famed American artists including John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Isamu Noguchi, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. On May 15, Assistant Professor of Dance Elizabeth Kattner led a discussion at the DIA on the topic of “Conversations in Dance: American Ballet.” Also speaking on the topic was Beth Genne of the University of Michigan, while OU’s Debra Bernstein-Siegel moderated the discussion.

Karen Sheridan and John Seibert in Chapatti. Photo courtesy of
Williamston Theatre.

Associate Professor of Music Mark Stone’s latest CD Kakaire, featuring original and traditional compositions that blend musical instruments and inspirations from Uganda, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Southern India with American jazz, was reviewed in the most recent issue of the journal Percussive Notes. N. Scott Robinson ended his review with these words, “Mark Stone is one of the boldest and artistically satisfying performer/ composers of this trend I have heard in some time. His work has a depth and breadth rarely heard in such a successful and accessible context as Kakaire. The global soundscape this recording offers is sure to appeal to a wide variety of percussionists and music lovers alike.”

Professor of Theatre Karen Sheridan appeared in Chapatti at the Williamston Theatre for a month-long run beginning at the end of May. It was the Michigan premiere of this 2-person play by Irish playwright Christian O'Reilly. Karen received excellent reviews, including this one from Bridgette Redman in Encore. “She is full of life as she portrays someone who is generous despite how stingy life has been with her. She has a full, beautiful laugh that fits in perfectly with the character. She creates a character who is willing to take risks. Perhaps most powerfully is the way Sheridan has Betty listen. There is a depth about Betty that starts with the playwright’s words and then is made more richly textured by Sheridan’s portrayal.” You can read the full review on the Encore website.

John-Paul White with Kelly Holst

We were delighted to hear that Amanda Sparfeld Blaikie, one of our flute instructors, has won the DSO second flute position. She will take up her position full-time in September at which point, all the OU flute faculty will be DSO affiliates!

In other flute news, Sharon Sparrow will give her second Interactive Flute Retreat in South Haven, MI from July 28 to July 31 with Jeffery Zook assisting, and both Sharon and Jeffery will be presenting at the National Flute Association Flute Convention in San Diego, CA in August 2016.

Professor of Music John-Paul White is a veteran performer but he recently made his debut with the Louisiana Opera, singing Sarastro in The Magic Flute in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Also in the production was Kelly Holst as the Queen of the Night. Kelly was on the OU voice faculty before moving to a full time position at Oklahoma City University.

This last piece of news gives us a chance to give you a preview of our upcoming season! Next year’s OU Opera production will be The Magic Flute, a frequently performed favorite, full of mystical and fantastical features. Performances will be on Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 8 pm; and Sunday, January 15, 2017 at 2 pm. Mark your calendars now!