Working in the Arts: MTD Alumni News, July 2016

Working in the Arts: MTD Alumni News, July 2016
Tenor Joshua Dennis as Tamino in The Magic Flute, courtesy of MOH and photographer John Grigaitis.

As usual, we have news of our alumni’s professional successes across a wide and exciting range of the arts.

Did you see the recent Michigan Opera Theatre production of The Magic Flute? Because he was completely immersed in a fabulous dragon costume, you may not have known you were watching recent musical theatre alumnus Jake Daley (BFA ‘16) make his MOT debut! OU costume design lecturer Leslie Littell, who saw the show, said the dragon was slain on stage and had to be immobile for some time. But Jake did return for the curtain call, and without his costume, so he got to appear on one of Detroit’s most venerable stages undisguised.

Sam Rohloff (BFA ’13), another musical theatre alumnus, is continuing his national tour of Kinky Boots. At a recent stop in San Francisco he was interviewed by The Bay Times.

We are so proud of the work many of our theatre technology and design students are doing. Four of our recent graduates have lined up some very impressive work for the summer. Chris O'Meara  (BFA ‘16) will work as an assistant master electrician at the Utah Shakespeare FestivalKyle Blasius (BFA ‘16) as the master carpenter at the Interlochen Center for the Arts; Jason Maracani (BFA ‘16) as the properties master at Interlochen Center for the Arts; and Vanessa Quigly (BFA ‘16) will spend the summer working as an assistant properties master at Music Theatre Wichita.

Rachel Hull (BFA '14 in Musical Theatre) appeared in a Ford commercial that aired right around Mother's Day. It was one of a series of “Call Your Mom" commercials. You can see Rachel around the 9 second mark.

The cast of Charlotte's Web

Rachel also just appeared in a production of Charlotte's Web at The Wild Swan Theater. She played Charlotte. The show, directed by Lauren Knox Mounsey (BFA, '12), also included MTD friends Synergy On Stage's Shelly Tocco and Jamie Fidler, who have shadow-signed numerous OU theatre productions.

Mitch Aiello (BFA ‘16) is spending his summer in Pennsylvania performing with Blue Gate Musicals. It you want to see how that’s going, you can! Mitch is vlogging. You can watch the first episode here on Youtube.

Music alum Oliver Thompson (BM ‘05) who began his career teaching music here in Michigan, just celebrated the release of his feature film Welcome to Happiness, a fantasy comedy-drama starring Kyle Gallner, (American Sniper); Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation); Keegan-Michael Key; and Molly C. Quinn (Castle). Gallner plays a children’s author who rents an apartment with a magical door that allows people who go through it to change their past mistakes. The film garnered a lot of attention on the independent film festival circuit and won the outstanding achievement in filmmaking award at the Newport Beach Film Festival; best ensemble cast at the Phoenix Film Festival; and both the excellence in producing and producers choice awards at the International Festival of Cinema. You can see a trailer on the film’s website.

Graham Roese

Allyson Smith (Ortwein) studied musical theatre and dance at OU. She has both a BFA and a BA, both from ‘09. Allyson stays busy as an actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, performing arts instructor and brand ambassador. Currently she is appearing in Mitch Albom’s new show, Hockey the Musical at the City Theatre in Detroit, and on May 18 Allyson joined fellow cast members in performing the national anthem before the Tiger’s game.  Allyson is in the Ensemble and she also shares the role of Dawn Cherry with the other woman in the cast. To see which dates Allyson is playing the principal role, check her personal website where you can also follow news of her upcoming gigs.

Graham Roese (MM ‘15) is all set to tour Japan with the Tony and Emmy Award-winning Broadway production Blast! beginning in July. You can see a sample of Blast’s trademark blend of high energy brass, percussion, dance and acrobatics in this YouTube clip.  Graham will play tuba in the on-stage cast and he’ll also perform choreography, and drum and bugle corps-style movement. The new show is Blast! The Music of Disney, which Graham said “will feature the hallmark visual and musical styles of the original Blast! re-imagined with an all-Disney soundtrack.

Graham is very excited to be a part of such a major tour. Throughout graduate school he was mindful of developing the skills to be a touring musician. He missed on a couple of previous auditions for shows. For this show he said, “I sent audition materials to the casting director and was thrilled when I received the offer after a week of interviewing and recording a demo reel featuring my musicianship.” He added, “This opportunity would have not been possible without the support of the faculty and staff of OU. At Oakland, I had the freedom to develop a wide repertoire of skills while also playing five days each week for my graduate mentor Dr. Kenneth Kroesche, and the director of bands Dr. Greg Cunningham.”

Josh Bobek (BM ‘15) just accepted a tenure-track teaching position as the director of bands and orchestra at Armada High School in Armada, Michigan. He said, “A special 'thank you' is in order to all who have helped me get to this point in my career. I am excited and thrilled to begin this next chapter of my life!”

For the past few years, Eric Kabacinski (BFA ‘07) has been working as a stagehand at Macomb Center for the Performing Arts as well as running his own audio services company, but this summer he accepted a job on the west coast. In June he started work as the assistant technical director at the Moonlight Stage Productions in Vista, CA. The company has a large outdoor amphitheater, as well as a 60s movie theatre turned playhouse, which Eric calls, “a little gem of a theatre.”

Ashley Rozanski outside Equity's Broadway officeAlissaBeth Jane Morton in Hairspray

Ashley Rozanski (BFA ‘11) who is living in New York City, recently announced that she was officially a member of Actors Equity and that she had taken the stage name Ashley Yvonne. Already a member of SAG-AFTRA, Ashley says she is now feeling a push to “take the next step and aim higher.”

Chynna Roose (BM ‘15) will perform with the Miami Music Festival this summer. She will appear in The Magic Flute as First Lady. Chynna has just completed the first year of her graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where her teacher is César Ulloa. You can read more about her life and work on her website.

Closer to home, AlissaBeth Jane Morton (BFA ’16) has earned some great reviews for her performance as mean girl Amber Von Tussle in the Hope Summer Repertory production of Hairspray, which you can see until August 13. Encore reviewer Bridgette Redman wrote, “Morton carries herself with just the right amount of prissiness and created an antagonist you loved to hate.” Read the full review here.

Jennifer Bretschneider (left) with OU's Alexandra
Plaskey at the Tonys

Also performing locally are theatre alums Anna Marck (BFA '15) and Joshua Steckelberg (BFA '16) who are appearing in a new production of Mary’s Wedding at the The Yellow Barn Theatre in Ann Arbor from July 14 to July 17. The play is directed by OU theatre professor Karen Sheridan.  Read more on the Broadway World website.

We want to congratulate Jayne Houdyshell, one of our most distinguished alumnae, on her third Tony Award nomination and finally, a win! She officially gave this year’s Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her work in The Humans playing Deirdre Blake, one of six characters sharing a Thanksgiving Day celebration. Jayne graduated from the Academy of Dramatic Art at Oakland University in 1974. You can read more about her program of study and subsequent career in this article in The Oakland Post by Rachel Williams and listen to Jayne talk about the play and give advice to young actors in this interview on WXOU.

Finally, Ms. Houdyshell was not the only OU alum at the Tony Awards. Alexandra Plaskey works for the Madison Square Garden Company which manages the Beacon Theatre, the location for this year’s ceremony. We were happy to catch this photo of Alex and friend on the red carpet. Who wouldn’t want to be there?