The official blog of the Muhlenberg Theatre & Dance Department

Posts Tagged: Muhlenberg


Ciao everyone! My name is Jillian, and I am blogging from the Accademia dell’Arte in Arezzo, Italy! Each semester many junior Muhlenberg theatre and dance majors choose to study abroad at ADA, and come back with nothing but positive things to say about the program. After being here for four weeks, I can confirm that the wonderful rumors are true!

I, along with ten other Muhlenberg students and five students from other colleges, make up the undergraduate physical theatre program at ADA. Here with us are twelve music students from Furman University in South Carolina. All of the students live on a villa, right upstairs from all of our classrooms, practice rooms, lounges, and the mensa, which is where we eat all of our meals with the faculty. All of our meals on weekdays are provided, and the kitchen staff (headed by the fun-loving cook, Ricardo) makes the most delicious meals using only the freshest ingredients. The villa was built in the 1400s, and while it has been updated since then, it still has a beautiful, old-fashioned vibe. From the windows of our dorm rooms and classrooms, you can see the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside and the cathedral in the downtown area of Arezzo. Sounds like a dream, right? I’ve been here for a month, and still have not gotten over the view. Sitting outside to watch the sunset over Tuscany is one of the best parts of each day.

Surprisingly enough, Muhlenberg students do not just go to ADA to witness the beauty of Italy. Coming to the Accademia is a great way to continue your acting training while getting an abroad experience. Our core performance classes are Movement, Voice, and Commedia dell’Arte. Movement is exactly what it sounds like; we work on becoming aware of all of the things our bodies are capable of, and finding out how we can relate this to characters we will play onstage in the future. Our voice class is taught by Kevin Crawford, who was a guest artist at Muhlenberg two years ago and directed the mainstage production of Bartholomew Fair. In this class, we use our bodies to help us free our voices, both for speaking and for singing. Commedia dell’Arte is a newer class we have started, in which we study a traditional form of theatre that uses stock characters, improvisation, and masks to tell stories. I will explain this more in depth in a later blog post.

In addition to performance classes, all theatre students are required to take Italian and Philosophy courses as well. These have really helped me to feel more involved in the Italian culture, and have raised some important questions about why it is important to create art.

There are also many smaller courses that meet fewer times throughout the semester, but are still very important and fun! We had a few juggling workshops, and many of the students here picked up three ball juggling very quickly, along with some other fancy tricks! ADA also focuses on circus traditions, and throughout the semester we will be working on headstands and some light acrobatics to add to our juggling expertise! Another small unit is a dramaturgy class in which we learn how to write commedia scripts.

I hope this basic overview helped explain what generally happens at the Accademia dell’Arte! I cannot wait to blog some more about classes, the traditions of Commedia dell’Arte, group travel adventures, and other important villa happenings! (And of course, pizza and gelato!)

Pictures below: All of the ADA students bonding during the first week of classes, and me standing with the Arezzo sign!


Last week, I got to perform for the first time since coming to Muhlenberg!! I performed in pieces choreographed by Cat Chythlook and MJ Hodges for the Fall Informal Dance Concert. True to form, the tech rehearsal was a little crazy because we had to get used to lights and new spacing. The performance, though, went very well. Performing is so much fun because when you are on stage you can just feed off the energy of the other people dancing with you. The best moments are when it actually feels as though you are breathing and moving as one unit. The other great part about shows is getting to spend time with everybody backstage between numbers. Nothing brings a group of people closer then sharing nervous energy and excitement about what you are about to do. I was amazed at the quality of the final product. The hard work that the choreographers, dancers, and tech crew put into making these three shows happen was evident and definitely paid off. There were amazing and diverse pieces - some including flashlights, step, and even the Acafellas, the all-male a capella group on campus. This was definitely a show worth checking out!

The cast of Cat’s piece, “Untitled No. 1”, backstage before the first performance

A beautiful snowy day here at Muhlenberg!

A beautiful snowy day here at Muhlenberg!


So it is almost performance time for the Fall Informal Concert, and rehearsals have been in full swing. Both of my choreographers finished their pieces a couple weeks ago so we have been working on performance qualities. Both choreographers have been putting finishing touches on costumes, emotions, and facial expressions to help create the story they want to convey. We have debated how different costumes can add or change the meaning, an example being skirts versus pants and what each says about femininity.

Tech rehearsals start tonight, which are the one opportunity for the choreographer to play with lighting and see how the piece is going to look before it is actually performed in front of an audience. This creates a little bit of pressure for the dancers, because we only have one chance to do it correctly; but that’s just part of the process. Luckily, both of my choreographers were kind enough to film their piece before the holiday so that we had a reference point to go over the material since we have not had rehearsal for a week. It is going to be a busy week, but I am excited for the chance to perform!

One of the final rehearsals of MJ’s piece “Seeds”


Hey guys! I’m back to tell you more about the Red Door Play Festival, and am full of leftover turkey and mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving break! The festival took place the weekend before break, on Nov. 23 and 24, and it went very well. I was able to see all ten one-act shows, and it was great to see all of the work of my fellow students.

Each show got two tech rehearsals in the space, so we had to use our time efficiently in order to get everything done. There are only a set number of lights in the Red Door, but we were able to use the white and yellow ones in order to create a sunny environment, for Connections takes place outdoors in a park. We fit in four full runs during our tech time, and had additional rehearsals in other spaces throughout the week leading up to the performances.

During the performance weekend, the shows go on one after another with a 10-15 minute break between each one. I called my actors half an hour before showtime in order to fit in a quick physical and vocal warm-up, and once the show before us was finished, Megan and I set the stage and tested the lights. Students, family, friends, and professors are always in and out throughout the day, so the coordinator of the festival, my friend Alyssa, welcomed the audience and announced what was coming up next before each play starts. After all of the performances were over, the cast and crew of all ten shows helped strike the set and returned their props and costumes to the shop. Everything went very smoothly, and I could not be more proud of my cast and crew for all of the hard work they put into making Connections happen. It was a fun and rewarding way to make my directorial debut at Muhlenberg, and I learned a lot of valuable things through the process.

Below: Phil and Lydia show their Muhlenberg spirit with our mascot, the mule; the full cast and crew of Connections (me, Phil, Lydia, Megan) after one of our performances.


Hi again! Just wanted to give you all an update on how Moving Stories 2013 went now that the show has come to a close. Last time I blogged, we were closing up rehearsals and beginning our work in tech. Although it was a hectic week to say the least, the show came together wonderfully for opening night. The combination of Lara’s dazzling costumes, Paul’s brilliant lighting work and the fantastic choreography of nine students and one faculty member all came together to create an awesome night of work. As I have stated before, the works were greatly diverse in style and theme. This being said, my fellow Muhlenberg dancers stepped up to the challenge and performed wonderfully every night.

I personally was involved in two pieces of the show. The opening number, choreographed by Jaclyn Birkner, featured five dancers as Greek goddesses in beautiful purple gowns, fighting for power over the stage. A few pieces later in the show, I was also in Christine DeLuca’s work, featuring the struggles and triumphs of fitting into a group of friends. In this piece, each character was her own individual, allowing the cast to have lots of creative freedom. I can honestly say that I loved being in both of these works due to the hard work and dedication of my choreographers and the bonding I got to do with my wonderful fellow dancers. It continues to surprise me how much of a community Muhlenberg Dance really is, and I’m so honored to be a part of the family.

The actual run of the show seemed to fly by so quickly, especially with all of the fun ’Berg traditions every night. First came writing notes to place in each other’s Kiss the Cast bags. Then before every show was the shakeout, pass the squeeze, and a much-needed warmup by a member of the MDA, Teresa VanDenend Sorge, or Jeffrey Peterson. Physically coming together on stage as a cast before the show always seems to unify us and get us ready to perform to our greatest potential. After this, it was straight to the dressing room to touch up hair and makeup and get into costume. It seemed as soon as the shows began, they were finished, but I can honestly say that they were worth all of the time and effort that was put into them. I wouldn’t change my involvement in the MDA for anything.

In typical Muhlenberg fashion, the show must go on, even if you think it just ended. The day after our closing performance, I was up early once again rehearsing for my next performance in Master Choreographers. At this point, we have been through many rehearsals as well as one showing, and many of the pieces are choreographically complete. It is at this point that I get extra excited about pieces, because it is my work as a dancer to bring them to life. If you didn’t make it to Moving Stories, get excited for Masters 2014 in February. It is sure to be an incredible show!

Here are some photos of the pieces I was in from Moving Stories:


Hey guys! I’m back with some updates about Connections, the play I’m directing for the Red Door Play Festival. We have been refining our show by going in and fixing certain moments and doing fun exercises to help Lydia and Phil explore their characters more. Some of the main ways we have been doing this are by really focusing on their objectives, motivations, and tactics at different points in the play. Because we are all sophomores and have had the same acting teacher for Acting I, it has been really great to use what we have learned in class throughout the rehearsal process and to have the same vocabulary and experiences to work with. I am very pleased with the amount of commitment and dedication everyone has been showing while working on Connections!

Tech week is about to start, and I know that the cast and crew are ready to take on the challenge. This past week, I had Lydia and Phil bring in costume options so that we could pick what they would wear in the show, and Megan went to Muhlenberg’s prop shop to pick up any items that we could not just provide from our dorm rooms (in this case, the only thing we needed was a knife). Soon, we will move into the space so that we can add the final aspects to the show – lighting and sound. While I have training in technical theatre from high school and classes at Muhlenberg, I am very glad that Megan is more familiar with the light board in the Red Door and will be able to figure out most of that. I cannot wait to incorporate these last pieces and to present the show to the campus!

Here are some photos of one of our rehearsals in a classroom: Lydia and Phil mid-scene, and Megan being great at her job as a stage manager.



The Winter’s Tale production photos

Some of the production photos from Moving Stories 2013!


Since the last time I wrote, we have just been putting the base of the set together for The Winter’s Tale. However, on Monday we hung up branches in the Studio Theatre. These branches are made out of rods and white rope that has been painted. They extend to the very top of the theatre and then curve around toward the floor. I did not want to take any pictures because they are so beautiful, so you all have to go to the show and see them!

Today at work I became a master at braiding. I was at work for a total three hours and not once did I stop braiding rope. At first I was helping Curtis, the designer, with the long braids of rope, and when that was done we had to braid about 4-ft-long ropes. The pictures below are of Emma braiding the rope and then Emily cutting off the measured length of the rope with a hot and smelly machine. She was wearing a mask because the warning sign on the bottom said, “Fumes may be deadly,” or “Do not inhale fumes” (something scary like that). Curtis told us to braid hundreds of these 4-ft-long ropes because they are going to be used for large tassels. I am not sure exactly what he means by that, but I guess we will have to wait for the show to find out!